Saturday, February 10, 2018

Wow -- N. K. Jemisin

I first encountered Jemisin through her novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I didn't care much for it, I remember. Really, I only read it because she seemed to be earning as much praise for being an African-American fantasy author as for writing good books,*** soI was curious about her work. But, although the book wasn't good enough for me to continue the series, it was nonetheless good enough that I didn't mind giving her most recent series, The Broken Earth, a try. I read The Fifth Season (2015) about a year after it came out, and it utterly absorbed me.

Now, over the last week, I finished The Obelisk Gate (2016) and The Stone Sky (2017).

Let me say -- well, damn. Wow wow wow. Words fails me. The term "masterpiece" can be thrown out too cavalierly, but I don't know if even that quite cuts it here. It's been a long time since I read something so original and so gut-wrenchingly powerful. 

Part of me cannot help wondering how more deeply I would have reacted to the book had I read it twenty or even ten years ago, when the sense of grief the books articulate would have been even more poignant for me.

I won't mention my thoughts on the series here -- I suspect it'll take me a long time to process them completely. The experience of having read The Broken Earth is still too raw, Jemisin's themes too complex and deeply layered. I had a similar experience reading Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia, although Jemisin's series is longer and more immersive. For now, though, I think it safe to say that this may be one of the best works of speculative fiction ever written -- maybe even a landmark of modern literature period, no matter the genre categorization.

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***At least, that was the case in the online articles where I first encountered her name.

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