I finished reading Parable of the Sower this week; I’d chosen to read that next because I wanted something as different as possible from Catch 22 to help cleanse my palate, and it certainly did the trick.
I loved Kindred and I’d heard nothing but positive things about this one, so I knew I’d love it – what I didn’t realize was how current and relevant it would be. It was published in 1993 (is that really almost 25 years ago? Really?) and the wastelandish future it paints takes place in the 2020s – startlingly close to where we are now. And she clearly made a conscious choice that she wanted to write a future that, even in 1993, didn’t feel too distant. If she’d wanted to create more separation she would’ve set it far more than 30 years in the future.
Now, right around the corner from the dates she’s writing about, it barely feels distant at all. The world has a post-apocalyptic feel but there’s no actual apocalypse; the world has gone to hell largely as a result of climate change. Water is scarce, people are clannish, mistrustful and violent and the United States is faring particularly badly. Racism is rampant, slavery is becoming more and more commonplace and the only people able to live safely are the extremely rich.
So not exactly an escapist novel, but hey, Book Riot didn’t call this the Read Easier challenge, did it? And I did love it – Lauren is a wonderful character; I definitely identified with her struggle between being realistic and wanting to protect her own, but also wanting to be open to opportunities to help others, even when doing so might be a risk. Not that I face any actual danger in trying to help people, but I relate to the mental back-and-forth of thinking that the world is a catastrophe and people are a fucking mess and to think otherwise would be naive – but also being determined to not let that keep you from seeing, fighting for and trying to protect the good in the world.
I’ve already bought the audiobook of the sequel and have it downloaded to my phone – I might not get to it until 2018 because I’m determined to complete every single Read Harder challenge with an individual book by the end of 2017, so anything that doesn’t fit into the challenge is getting nudged to 2018. I’m looking forward to it though – I want to know more about Lauren’s journey and the future of her religion, Earthseed, which actually prompted me to ask Google whether anyone actually practices Earthseed (turns out yes – at least one belief system partially based on Earthseed and one site meant to round up practitioners of fully Book of the Living-based Earthseed, though it seems like it might not be very active). Unsurprisingly, it seems to attract hippie pagany progressive folks.
I might not be ready to jump right into an oddball spiritual community, but I do love the ideas – God is change. Shape God. I’m not sure how well the belief system as a whole would translate to reality, but there are parts of it that are definitely going to stick with my extremely patchworky sense of spirituality. It wouldn’t be the first time that concepts from fictional religion or mythology made their way into the fabric of my beliefs; hell, I’ve got “there are other worlds than these” tattooed on my arm. Ka is a wheel. See the turtle, ain’t he keen – all things serve the fuckin’ beam.
I suppose that the idea of taking any religion as actual factual truth – as the big-ass one-and-only – is just so unimaginable to me that incorporating bits from fiction doesn’t seem at all odd. To me, they’re all stories – stories that help us figure out the world as we experience it, and the ones that speak to me are the ones that encourage us to be kind to each other, but maybe to watch our backs at the same time. The ones that don’t put a deity out there as a micromanager or a problem solver. The ones that recognize that we get ourselves into – and have to figure out how to get ourselves out of – our own damned messes, but that give us some tools to help us find our own North Star. God is change. Shape god.