The Fifth Season, book 1 of of Broken Earth, is written with a verve that rocked me the first time i read it. I had to revisit it, line by line, to acknowledge prose written so gorgeously that I lacked the werewithal to notice they were plot points. That beauty continues through the second two novels. NK Jemisin gave my all my favorite things in The Broken Earth trilogy; politics, Hard Science, and a dystopia in which black characters are neither the antagonists nor decor on the periphery.
Plot and writing like shit:
in the far future, the world has “ended” but humanity still survives because you’re crafty fucking parasites. horrible tragedy befalls you and you blame yourself; you lash out with abilities you’ve hidden from yourself, your family, and he scraped-together bootprint of a community that accepts you for the child bearing hips the Earth blessed you with.
you’re also one of the most powerful humans on earth and you’ve a long history of being fucked over. (in Jemisin”s world, the most talented are able to control the very earth around them. Orogeny is the ability to manipulate stone, and rock and minerals, et cetera.) when the world ends AGAIN you and all of surviving humanity does what it does best. surive. to boot, it becomes apparent that you have a daughter to chase down and a husband to kill. try to save yourself on the way if you can, eh.
aiight so (literally) boom. The aforementioned end of the world was a real thing that happened, and our protagonist Essun has had a previous life as the student/ lover of one of the most powerful mental-movers-of-earth, as well as a ton of trauma. When somebody blows the whole world up, again, but this time significantly WORSE she’s gotta, idk, make somethin shake.
AS much as I want to tell you about this crazy ass world… the rest has to be spoilers… soo, as per ữsh.
Who is a good guy when the earth is life, itself, is personified, and is rooting against you? the planet is the series’ antagonist, and even has its own magician/orogene/soldiers in the war. the whole planet is pissed because we, like, destroyed the moon?? like how fuggin brilliant is that? the technology that desrtoyed Essun’s world was crazy advanced, like harvesting the Earth’s core for energy and, super surprise in the second book, harvesting people’s magic.
Essun starts the first novel chasing her daughter, Nassun, and by the end of the trilogy, Nassun has turned out to be the most pwerful orogene on the planet, and is the goddam antagonist, so hurt by life and people that she wants to crash the moon back into the earth and end it all. shit was wild.
*****END SPOILERS FOR NOW******
Writing style & some themes & whatnot:
Jemisin’s novel makes us asks us to think about some heavy questions like who protects the babies from those who are supposed to protect the babies?
This trilogy says so much about family and motherhood and belonging. And through my favorite lens, it asks us to think about the human condition, and our predilection to use people and convince them that their incessant labor to make the world run is their fault.
Honestly it’s heartwrenching in its subversiveness: in a world that was created and continues to survive on the labor of those it treats worst, a woman of color, always already othered and ostracized will sacrifice everything to save the grubby remnants of humanity. It’s sad and dope (and really how life works, if you’re paying attention.) What’s crazy is that I get that feeling, while reading some of the most descriptive and accurate and beautiful prose I’ve ever come across. Jemisin built a whole new world and gave it rough society and tectonics and just enough grudges and sex to remind us that her superhumans were human and frail, like us.
*infinity symbol*/5 mudslides: because these novels, like the immortal zap Brannigan, will ROCK your world
cannabis oil, for that time when an east coaster like me was 17 and suuuper baked and first thought I felt an earthquake at my mans’ house and freaked the shit out about it.
Until next time,