the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘N.K. Jemisin’ Category

the obelisk gate coverThe Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin

published August 2016

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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Welcome to another not-a-review!   There is so much happening on so many levels Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, and my brain is spinning all over the place that a simple “review” just wouldn’t do.  All of these thoughts in my head about Obelisk Gate, I need to get them out.  Be warned of spoilers ahead for Obelisk Gate, The Fifth Season, some other titles by Jemisin and others, and stream of consciousness babbling. Also ahead are predictions, wordplay thoughts, heartbreak, and things this book made me think about, places it took me.  Jemisin does so much more than just write a book, so I wanted to do more than just write a review.

 

I read The Fifth Season around the same time i was reading Cixin Liu’s The  Three Body Problem, and I found unexpected parallels between both books.  I had my guesses about what was really going on in The Fifth Season, and a handful of them were right. Maybe I came up with those guesses due to Jemisin’s sublime skill with  foreshadowing,  maybe it was because I was reading two extinction level event books at the same time and my brain was adding things up, who knows.

 

I read The Obelisk Gate alongside Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Children, and again, found unexpected parallels between the two novels. The “new children” in the Bear have something in common with young orogenes – they are blamed for the problems of the world, even problems entirely outside their control.   These are children who have been chased, hunted down, put in “schools”, all for their own good. Sometimes their parents fight for them, but just as often their parents say “good riddance”, and all these children want is to be accepted and loved for who they are.  Even more similarities is how those in power disagree on how the new children/orogenes should be educated, if they should be forced to live in a certain way, for everyone’s protection.  I’ve also just realized, that if presented just right, Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy and the Greg Bear books could take place in the same storytelling universe, due to the evolution of, how best to say it, people doing things a little differently.

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Is it just me, or did 2015 fly by in like two weeks? How did that even happen? It certainly was a crazy year – I started a new job, we moved into a bigger apartment, i learned a whole new definition of the work “workaholic”, I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted.

Anyway, here is my annual “Best of the year” list, presented in no particular order, with links if you’d like to read my reviews.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, easily my favorite novel of 2015.

The Bone Swans of Amandale – by C.S.E Cooney, in her short story collection Bone Swans

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

Binti, by Nnedo Okorafor

Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad

Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany

The Life of the World to Come, by Kage Baker

 

Honorable mentions for the year go to:

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. I read it in 2015, but can’t actually talk about how freaking amazing it was until 2016. So I guess it’ll have to make my best of 2016 list.

and this stuff, which is omg, what I always wished ginger ale would taste like. Also? it’s alcoholic.

ginger ale

2015 was a crazy year, and I don’t mind that it’s over.  I’ll see everyone on January 1st for Vintage Science Fiction month!

the 5th seasonThe Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin

publishes Aug 4, 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Orbit!)

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I’m going to be purposely, cruelly vague in this review for a few reasons. This  book is too ambitious for me to risk spoiling anything, and I like playing games with my blog readers. I like the idea that maybe, just maybe after you’ve read The Fifth Season you’ll come back to this review and chuckle at what I was vaguely pointing at.

 

I tried my best to avoid any spoilers in this review, but I know some of you won’t read much further so that the entire book be a surprise for you. So I better say early on in this review how much I loved The Fifth Season. I loved the world, the characters, most of all I loved how the story unfolded. Like the other Jemisin novels I’ve read, I loved every word, every page, every chapter. If you aren’t reading Jemisin, I have to ask you: why not? And why not start here? For those of you who have read quite a bit of Jemisin, I bet you’ll pick up on what’s going on, or at least have some educated guesses.

 

To paraphrase the press release, The Fifth Season takes place in a land known as The Stillness, a place in which extinction level events such as earthquakes, plagues,volcanoes, and floods occur every few generations. It’s a miracle anyone survived these events. Some people are born with the ability to control stone and earth. Known as Orogenes, they are seen as  dangerous but tameable savages and are taken from their families as children. Trained and educated in the capital, they are manipulated towards working against their own self interests.  Noncompliance is met with violence, or worse. And to be a rogue orogene with no training? Dangerous and unheard of! Who would allow such a creature to live in their village? Because of course it is the Orogenes who cause all these horrible events to happen. Everyone knows that.

 

(Did anyone else think about Three Body Problem while reading The Fifth Season? both books involve Extinction Level Events, yet the populace’s reaction to said events is completely different)

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2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

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the-awakened-kingdom-by-nk-jemisinThe Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin

published Dec 9 2014 as part of The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus

where I got it: received eArc from the publisher (thanks Orbit!)

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For those of you who are new to N.K. Jemisin, her newest novella The Awakened Kingdom takes place after the events in The Inheritance Trilogy.  I highly suggest you read the trilogy before reading this bonus novella. Luckily, it all came out today in handy dandy omnibus format! (Oh, you’ve already read the trilogy, and are joining me in singing its praises? No problem, The Awakened Kingdom is available on it’s own as an e-book)

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In some ways, godlings are just like us.  Sometimes, they want the same exact things we want. They want the love and approval of their parents, they want to make friends, they feed bad when they mess up and people get hurt. The newest godling, Shill, is no different.  She desperately wants to see her parents happy. She assumes they made her to help them be happy.   Her naivety is utterly charming, and the novella begins with Shill not even knowing to how to tell a story properly.

 

Have you ever had a four year old tell you a story? They tell it out of order, lose track of what’s happening, explain things in detail that you already know all about, and don’t explain the things you would like to learn more about. There’s plenty of backtracking, of remember of details and forgetting of others. it’s completely adorable, and there’s a part of you that doesn’t even care about the actual story, you just want to spend more time with this little person who is so very excited to tell you about their day, because you hope some of their joyful innocence will rub off on you. When we first meet Shill, she’s a little like that. Don’t worry, she’s gets better.

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the-kingdom-of-gods-by-nk-jemisinThe Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance trilogy, book 3)

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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This is the third book in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.  It’s straight up fantasy, but it’s the kind of fantasy that’s tough to categorize, which means it’s the kind of fantasy I really like.  You can’t go into this novel blind, you really do need to read the first two books in the series.  Each book in the series is told from a different characters point of view. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is Yeine’s story, her journey from mortal heir to goddess. The Broken Kingdoms is Oree’s story, a blind artist who becomes the mother of a demon.  This final book is Sieh’s story, that of a godling who refused to grow up.

 

And why should he “grow up”? Sieh is the godling of childhood, after all. He’s the godling of tricks and white lies, spying, and coming home to loving parents. Above all, Sieh craves loves from his parents. He’ll never admit it, but he’s also the godling of not understanding the consequences of his actions. Not unlike your average ten year old.

 

The gods have been free of the enslavement of the Arameri family for generations, yet Sieh still finds himself drawn to their palace. This is where he grew up, where hidden caches of toys are mingled with horrible memories. These days, the palace is nearly empty. Sieh meets two young mortal siblings, Shahar and Dekarta, who are lost in the underpalace. He helps them, and befriends them.  The kids of course, want to be “friends forever”, like all eight year olds promise to their friends, but to Sieh, this smells of the enslavement of old. “Friends forever” means something different when you are Sieh. But he can’t blame these kids for the sins of their ancestors. What they want from him is completely innocent, right?   They seal their agreement with blood, and in a flash, the world ends.

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the-broken-kingdoms-by-nk-jemisinThe Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance trilogy, book 2) by N.K. Jemisin

published 2010

where I got it: purchased new

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A quick warning: this review contains unavoidable spoilers for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first book in the series.

 

It’s been about a week since I finished reading The Broken Kingdoms, and it’s taken me this long to put into words what I experienced. Put shortly, I loved every word of it, and I know no review I write will come close to doing this book justice.  As I neared the halfway point of the book, I began avoiding picking it up, because I didn’t want to face that moment where I’d have to turn the final page and have it be over forever.  I knew the end was going to be heavy, and I wasn’t wrong.

 

The Broken Kingdoms picks up about ten years after the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  Sky is now colloquially referred to as Shadow, due to the shadows caused by the huge tree that now dominates the city.  When once only three enslaved gods roamed the palace, now the city is full of godlings who have returned from the realm of the gods, some of them living rather normal lives, while others still aren’t used to be being around mortals.

 

At the beginning of this second installment, we meet Oree, who moved to the city ten years ago, after her father died. At first blush, this sounds a little familiar – country girl moves to the city, gets very surprised by what she finds there.  And that’s where the similarity ends. Oree isn’t interested in learning about the royal family, and she could care less about the differences between the gods and the mortals for the most part. Her first priority is selling her artwork and paying her rent.

 

Oree is an artist, and she’s blind. Well, mostly blind. She can’t see me, or you, or her mother, or the house she grew up in.What she can see, is magic, and Shadow is lush with godlings, so she can get around halfway decently most of the time. One night, she finds a dead guy outside her house. It’s a little more complicated than that, and he’s not quite dead. She takes him in, cleans him up, and lets the strange, silent man crash at her place until she figures out what to do with him.  At sunrise he glows with a godling hue, and he seems to be invulnerable to pain and injury. No one knows his name or where he came from, and in an attempt to elicit a reaction from him, she starts calling him Shiny. To his face.

 

If you’ve read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, you know who Shiny is, and that he’s probably not all that offended by the nickname. But Oree has absolutely no idea who he is, and in all honestly she just wishes he’d stop being such a pain in the ass.

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time. If you’ve been paying attention, nothing on this list will be a surprise to you.  If you happened to stumble by because you like “year end” lists,  these are my top ten speculative fiction books I read this year.  Looking for a good read? go find one of these.

Some of them are old.

Some of them are new.

Some of them were borrowed.

None of them are blue.

😉

I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  In no particular order:

Sky Coyote by Kage Baker (1999) – the second in The Company series, this novel is told from Joseph’s point of view (and yes, Mendoza is still really, really pissed off at him). Joseph gets to do one of his favorite things – pretend to be a God. But this time, he’s got to get even the skeptics to believe his act.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (2013) – No surprise this one made it to my best of the year list, as this is one of my favorite fantasy series.  It’s true, I ranted a little about a character who really annoyed me, but holy shit, that ending??  holy shit!  Also, I do just happen to have a Cinnamon colored dress/jacket combo and a four cornered grey hat in the making.

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White (2013 )- Secret societies, multiple personalities, sublime prose, metaphysics, unexpected romance, characters that rip each other to shreds.  What more could you possibly want? I got meddled with, my switches got hit, and I never wanted it to end.  Just go read it already. Everything about this book was spot-on perfection for me.

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks (1990) – only the best Culture novel of the best space opera series in existence.  Not the easiest book in the world to read, but the subtlety, and the reveal at the end, and oh god I knew something was so horribly wrong as soon as he said he was going to cut his hair. . .

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Well my friends, this is it.  We’ve come to the end of our read along for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  Make sure to watch Dab of Darkness for announcements about a continuing read along in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

Will someone please make a time machine for me, so I can go back to 2010 and read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms back when it first came out? Calling this book amazing just doesn’t cut it, because it’s also innovative, ground breaking, gorgeously written,  and I could talk for hours and hours about the characters.  Ehh, maybe I should actually write a formal review?  But before that, I better get to this week’s questions, which were provided by Lauren from Violin in a Void.  Head over to her site to see what everyone else said.

btw, let it be known: I’m an idiot. Because many of us had finished the book early, Lauren so kindly sent out questions early so we could write up our responses while it was fresh in our minds.  Was it fresh in my mind when I got her e-mail? you bet!  is it still fresh in my mind 5 days later? not so much. Lauren = brilliant, me = idiot.

Questions, answers, and buckets and buckets of spoilers (and me rambling) is after the jump!

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Hi Everyone,  we’re up to week three  of our Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read along!  The book hit incredible around page ten, so I bet everyone had as tough a time as I did stopping at the end of this week’s section.   I’m our host this week, so leave your link in the comments, and everyone can hop around and read everyone’s answers.

What everyone else said:

Violin in a Void

All I Am, A Redhead

Books Without Any Pictures

On Starships and Dragonwings

Dab of Darkness

(I will add more as I find them)

Here’s this week’s discussion questions. . .   spoilers abound!

1. T’vril takes Yeine to the servant’s party. What did you think of that party, and of Sieh’s part in it?

Well, we find out a little later how the high nobles amuse themselves, so I’m happy T’vril took her to a more fun type of party. And what a great magic trick by Sieh! It’s sobering that Sieh’s attitude is “we’re all slaves”, but it was neat to see him in a different physical body. I’d like to get more of Sieh’s point of view, he seems so confused by Yeine, he has to constantly remind himself that she’s not Enefa. I think this is the first time Yeine has seen him in anything but his child’s body? I wish Yeine had been able to have more fun at the party.

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2. Yeine presents herself as such a nice, compassionate person. Did your feelings about her change after the meeting she and Nahadoth had with Gemd? Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.