I’m linking up with Steph and Jana for the first time this month for Show Us Your Books. The book linkup is supposed to be Tuesday and I’m late, but I thought I’d be able to finish this trilogy in time – still got about 100 pages to go and I don’t want to be left out!
Sometime during my transition to adulthood I lost my taste for fantasy novels. The stories all seem to be about about a bunch of bros wandering around and fighting other bros. And everyone and every place has a name like “Zxsthyrhydth” which makes me want to die. And I just can’t get the hang of the maps.
But I remember loving the feeling of getting engrossed in a magical world and I miss it. So when I heard a recommendation on a podcast for The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin, I immediately put it on my library hold list. It was described as a dystopian end-of-the-world fantasy. I love that stuff.
This is definitely worth taking the time to get used to the weird language and geography. Jemison imagines a world far in the future where environmental damage has caused the earth to go through a series of near-extinction-level “Seasons,” with periods of peace in between where society rebuilds itself and prepares for the next season.
In this future, gender and sexuality are of so little of a concern that it took me a hundred pages or so to realize, hey, most of the active characters (not all) in this book are women. Most are shades of brown/black. There are a variety of sexual expressions (this is not erotic fiction, but sexuality is an acknowledged part of life.) Do you realize how wonderful it is to escape into a world where gender politics aren’t an issue?
The dystopia in this future (in addition to cataclysmic seismic events) is built around classism. The society is built on a caste system where people are born into their roles in the community. The most powerful people are enslaved, considered non-humans, and forced to use their powers to keep equilibrium and fend of environmental attacks.
This story is not an allegory or a cautionary tale, but it does have a strong point of view about what happens when people suck the earth dry of resources and when people themselves are treated as resources. There are parallels with how we now are polluting the planet without a plan to deal with the consequences. And how our comfortable Western society with cheap conveniences is only possible because people who live far away and who we don’t think about are working in factories.
But this is first and foremost a beautiful and well-crafted story that I’m happy to lose myself in. I’ll be seeking out more of N.K. Jemisin’s work in the future.