I <3 this book.
This is pretty amazing, and alarming.
In the not-so-distant future, life has continued on the path we're on now. Rampant despoiling of the earth, rampant despoiling of the people. Well off people are living in walled compound/mini societies protecting themselves from the poor, the abused, the uncared-for violent (which, btw, is happening right now if anyone is paying attention), and corporations are everything (ditto).
The main character, Lauren, is a girl living through these times, her parents would be my contemporaries, which really brings the story home. She survives the downfall of her compound/community and gathers with a small band of people traveling north from the LA area looking for work and survival.
The general degradation and downfall of society is happening all around and they're trying to survive.
What I loved about the book was how real it was. I love Butler's writing, and she does a phenomenal job, not only making me feel the reality of what's happening, but showing how we can get there from *right here*. It really is amazing, and scary.
A lot of dystopian writing showcases society after some major event or downfall, but this book takes you *through* the actual downfall.
What I didn't like about this book? A large part of it is Lauren's religion - how she "discovered" or created it. How she wants to use it to build a better life. And I understand that in a world of hell where you need to pass on values and knowledge (especially if the knowledge isn't available as books and on computers), creating a religion bothers me. Religions are easily corrupted, and used more often than not to control people, so as sane as her particular flavor of God is, I just can't get on board with it.
And a random aside - The Road by Cormac McCarthy has a lot of similarities (post-apocalyptic, travel down the highway), but this is way, way better.