“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”
BANG! POW! Dang. That’s how you start a novel. My goodness. MMM.
The Broken Earth Trilogy (The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky) by N.K. Jemisin is rich, dark, brutal and hopeful. You should read it right now.
It’s tempting to say Jemisin takes the tropes and structures of science fiction and fantasy and subverts them, but I think that isn’t quite the right way of saying it. Not quite the right atmosphere. It felt more like Jemisin took the tropes of sci-fi/fantasy that I’ve grown up with and filled them to bursting with a nuance, depth and immediacy I had barely realized I was missing.
Of course, I grew up reading stories about people who looked like me. Expressed their gender like me. I grew up with fantasy heroes from worlds built on the foundation of an idealized, glossy, magical version of medieval Europe that mirrored the glossy version of history I was taught in grade school. If you grew up reading sci-fi/fantasy and the heroes weren’t so clearly modelled on your identity and your history, all those things I barely realized were missing were probably glaringly, painfully obvious to you.
Broken Earth tackles what feels like the two most pressing issues facing the world today: racism and environmental catastrophe. And Jemisin does it brilliantly. Jemisin is the first person to win the Hugo award three years in a row and the first person to win it for all three books in a trilogy. Despite all these accolades, I picked up The Fifth Season in Powell’s and put it down what must have been a dozen times. I think I was a little intimidated by how serious it sounded, and I would walk out the door with something lighter. I’m so glad to have finally read it. Jemisin asks what it means to be human, what it means to be a part of a community, what it means to love, and what it means to attempt the impossible. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.