In Earthseed: The Books of the Living, created by a woman with a powerful will to survive and flourish, is evidence that individual persons can make a difference. Indeed, a novelist can make a difference. The inference is that some people will be helped by definition of a ritual with which to fix meaning in life. They want a spiritual discipline. They want it especially in the late twentieth century in which culture and civilization are fundamentally unstable. The secular culture satisfies too few of the needs of people, leaves too many poor and without hope. The result is a proliferating underclass increasingly contemptuous of laws, especially of those that protect property — none of which belongs to the underclass millions. People steal, vandalize, assault, and murder. Property is increasingly vulnerable. The wealthy withdraw into fortified enclaves, only to fight a losing battle that must end when the walls are breached and the gates broken. In July 2024, the outset of the story, Lauren Olimina is sixteen. It is her birthday and the birthday of the Christian minister father she loves very much. Her mother Cory is a teacher. Lauren is lucky to have such parents. She loves to read and write, and keeps a journal that becomes in fact the text of Parable of the Sower. They live in a fortified enclave. Very soon, the disenfranchised mob breaks in, and Lauren's parents die. Lauren escapes into the dangerous world. All she has is the love her parents gave...

(The entire section is 442 words.)


Lauren rejects traditional religion. Based on her experience, she sees no relevance in a belief system focused on the Christian God. Instead, she forms her own religion based on her observation that everything in the universe changes. Change is the one constant in life. People can either accept change and work with it for the betterment of themselves and their community, or they can resist it, hoping in vain that things will carry on the way they always have done.

For Lauren, change is God. This God shapes humans and is in turn shaped by them. God is dynamic process, not a static, transcendental lawgiver and judge. Change is an irresistible force, and humans can harness it to promote the spiritual evolution of the race. According Lauren’s Earthseed religion, each human life is a seed that can sprout into something valuable and productive if it can adapt to changing realities. By yielding to change, this human earthseed can also shape it constructively. The consequences of failing to do so are death and chaos. The ultimate expression of Earthseed, its destiny, is “to take root among the stars,” to spread human life to other planets and galaxies.

Lauren’s trek north is a journey toward freedom. She is escaping the prison of a walled community in which there is no hope for a full, productive, free life. Most of the people her group accumulates on the way are fleeing from some kind of slavery or exploitation. Zahra Moss is escaping an oppressive marriage that rests on a belief in male superiority. Harry has turned down a chance to go to the company town of Olivar, in which the residents give up their freedom and their rights in order to buy security. Jill and Allie flee from a life of prostitution in which their pimp was their father; Travis and Natividad escape from menial service to a rich man who thought he had the right to seduce Natividad; Emery Solis and her daughter are escaping virtual slavery to an agribusiness that keeps them in permanent debt and even takes Emery’s sons away. Bankole, too, is escaping from conditions of life similar to those that Lauren was enduring. He seeks freedom on the land he owns in the coastal hills. The members of Lauren’s Earthseed community who decide to settle there will at least be free to shape their own destiny, although there is no guarantee they will...

(The entire section is 968 words.)