I procrastinated today by thinking about things that I read this year that were really exciting and that I wanted to shout into the void of the Internet about. Thinking about all of the books that I read (or listened to), I realized that there are books that came to mind right away (like N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season which is amazeballs OMG READ IT NOW) and some books that I enjoyed but took a little bit longer to come back to memory. That doesn’t mean that I enjoyed them less… they were maybe just a little less memorable in the long run. (It’s really hard to be more memorable than The Fifth Season because I’m sorry that was geophysical magic drama sadness adventure and it was glorious).
I figured that I would start to recap my favorite new to me books (some of which were actually published this year and few that were published a while back that I just read).
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – Goodreads entry
(Also I feel like I should probably have done this in reverse order, but I’m doing in the order of “I remembered this book first so I’ll talk about it first.”)
I wrote a little tiny blurb of a review the moment I finished reading this book here. But three sentences hardly does any justice to this 449 page book. The thing that hooked me about this book was the first sentence of the blurb on the back:
This is the way the world ends. Again.
And then you read a little more and it turns out that the world is coming apart literally and there are maybe volcanoes. And I was so there because as much as I am a little weary of post-apocalyptic stories, this seemed so interesting because this was a world where apparently apocalypses (is that the plural of apocalypse?) happen fairly regularly.
Basic plot (it’s hard to describe it without spoiling too much): we’re on a world that is constantly shifting seismically and it just happens to be called the Stillness because someone had a sense of humor. There are people that can control the tremors called orogenes but people kind of don’t like them for reasons. A woman named Essun’s son is murdered by her husband and her daughter is kidnapped and she has to try and piece her family together while surviving the geological turmoil that threatens to kill everyone. So really this is a book about family. Except with cataclysmic earth-shattering happening the entire time.
I borrowed this book from the library and started reading it on the way to a fencing tournament. It was so difficult to put it down. The story is actually three stories and part of why the story is so powerful is the way that the stories are connected. The characterization and the world-building is so so strong. This is the first book I’ve read from N.K. Jemisin and I am definitely going to read more. The book comes with a glossary in the back, because some terms are going to be unfamiliar, but they all make sense as you read more and more into the book. A whole society is built, but without lengthy sections of exposition. Everything comes out as it is needed and just as you start to wonder what the heck something means, it’s explained in the book.
I think the strongest point of this book was its world-building. The story is set in a different world, I think, but there’s enough of it that is similar to Earth that I was constantly guessing. There’s a history built in the words and it sucks the reader in and makes it real while you’re reading.
Another strong point was the narrative voices. They were distinct and fascinating and I felt like I really got into the narrator’s mind for each section. I was at times really sad and content and distraught and scared and betrayed… this book… is pretty emotional.
I’d have to say that I would be wary of this book if you are easily affected by dark and grim storylines. Because this is very dark. A woman’s child is beaten to death. She has to deal with that. It’s not happy. But there are happy parts. My favorite phrase from the book is “an affection dihedron” and that is a glorious thing.
So. Overall: Read this book if you like stories with seismic challenges, fascinating world and society structures, familial love(?) in dark times, affection dihedrons and action. Avoid this if you hate earthquakes. I gave it a 4/5 on Goodreads but that really should be a 4.5 or 5/5 because it’s been in my head for so long.