I saw this book at the library and picked it up for Mr. Curiosity and myself to read. It’s the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I’ve heard good things about the series, including the fact that Jemisin won three Hugos in a row for each of the books in the series (a first!).
Genre: science fiction
Length: 449 pages of text, 468 pages total
Setting: various locations in the Stillness, which I think is a far future Earth
Summary: Short version: Can I just say, “OMG read this book now!!”? No? Then how about: The world only thinks orogenes are controlled.Long version: We follow three different threads of a story. With the youngest narrator, Damaya has been identified as an orogene. She has the ability to turn energy into the movement of the Earth. Schaffa, a Guardian, has come from the capital to take her to Fulcrum where she will learn to use her skills for the betterment of society. In the middle story, Syenite, a four-ring orogene, is traveling with Alabaster, a ten-ring orogene ostensibly to clear a Coaster city of a coral buildup. It’s also so she can get a baby by such a powerful orogene. She accidentally triggers a volcanic eruption when she finds a damaged obelisk under the coral. A stone eater transports them both to a nearby island where they live happily for a while. However, the Guardians arrive to take them back to Fulcrum and disaster follows them. With our oldest narrator, a great Rift has been opened in the Stillness, triggering a new Season. Essun, an orogene, is searching for her husband and daughter after her husband killed their son for being an orogene. She picks up a few fellow odd travelers on the road south. They end up in an underground community full of orogenes and stone eaters.
Final thoughts: Such a good book. First off, there’s the trifold unspooling of the story. About half way through, you realize all three characters are the same person in different times of her life. That changes everything because then you’re reading each story to figure out what happened for Damaya to turn into Syenite and then into Essun. None of those transitions were easy ones for her. The name change is significant since each time, she’s nearly a new person compared to what she was before.
Then there’s the whole situation with orogenes and their place in society. Orogenes are either killed by a scared comm or tightly controlled by Fulcrum and the Guardians because of the awesome power that they wield. If you scare an orogene that hasn’t been well trained, they could suck all the warmth out of their surroundings, icing and killing anyone near them. Of course, they can also stop earthquakes and volcanoes by shunting that power to elsewhere. This skill is extremely important because of the amount of seismic disturbances that often trigger a Season. They certainly represent the experience of many minorities, although if they could band together, they could easily dominate a society.
If that isn’t enough to get you interested, you could read the book for all the non-cis, non white characters. Or the love of a mother who refuses to let her child live in bondage. Or the tension of how society is going to survive a millennia-long disruption in the climate. So much going on, and a driving plot to boot.
Title comes from: The fifth Season is a season of large-scale climate disruption from a seismic event. Society is designed to go into martial law to ensure at least some survive the coming famine.
Awards won: Hugo Award for best novel in 2016
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #61 for 2018 and a J in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge
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