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The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth) Paperback – August 4, 2015
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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"Intricate and extraordinary."―The New York Times
"[The Fifth Season is] an ambitious book, with a shifting point of view, and a protagonist whose full complexity doesn't become apparent till toward the end of the novel. ... Jemisin's work itself is part of a slow but definite change in sci-fi and fantasy."―Guardian
"Astounding... Jemisin maintains a gripping voice and an emotional core that not only carries the story through its complicated setting, but sets things up for even more staggering revelations to come."―NPR Books
"Jemisin's graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world."―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"A must-buy...breaks uncharted ground."―Library Journal (starred review)
"Jemisin might just be the best world builder out there right now.... [She] is a master at what she does."―RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!)
"The Fifth Season is a powerful, epic novel of discovery, pain, and heartbreak.... It is a novel that demands much of its readers; it rewards them aplenty and is one of those novels that becomes more powerful after deep consideration and subsequent readings."―SFF World
"This is an intense, exciting novel, where survival is always on the line, set in a fascinating, original and dangerous world with an intriguing mystery at the heart of it. I can't wait to see what happens in the next book!"―Martha Wells
"Brilliant...gorgeous writing and unexpected plot twists."―Washington Post
"[A]ngrily, beautifully apocalyptic."―B&N.com
About the Author
N. K. Jemisin is a Brooklyn author who won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for both The Obelisk Gate and The Fifth Season, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of 2015. She previously won the Locus Award for her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and her short fiction and novels have been nominated multiple times for Hugo, World Fantasy, Nebula, and RT Reviewers' Choice awards, and shortlisted for the Crawford and the James Tiptree, Jr. awards. She is a science fiction and fantasy reviewer for the New York Times, and you can find her online at nkjemisin.com.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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I bought this book for my husband who loves science fiction and fantasy books as much as I do. I saw it won the Hugo, and immediately had it shipped as a Christmas gift.
Sadly, it doesn't live up to the hype. To be honest, I'm not even sure how it won the Hugo. While the prologue was intriguing and pulls you right into the story, the first chapter is chock-full of exposition and silly plays on words and phrases that would be clever left alone, but the author clobbers you over the head with them. I couldn't even get past the first chapter, which after reading how dark and depressing this book is, is probably for the best.
This is the first time I've ever been disappointed by a Hugo award-winning novel. I plan on doing better research next time.
There are some things that miss the mark, however. Jemisin has developed a sort of jargon for her world that I found to be unrealistic. It's hard to describe exactly why it didn't work for me; it just felt cheesy in that way that sci-fi lingo can become cheesy. For example, northern latititudes and southern latititudes are referred to as nomidlats and somidlats or something like that. The word 'rust' is often a swear word, which just sounded lame when reading through it: "rusting hell!" See what I mean? Communities are called 'comms.' Every facet of the society depicted in The Fifth Season is centered around long term survival after periods of extreme environmental adversity, but I could never make sense of why they would have lost other vocabulary to describe settlements; why does it have to be "comms" to describe any hamlet, village, town? That simply didn't seem very realistic. The characters in the novel certainly use advanced vocabulary in all other respects. I got to where I could somewhat overlook this extensive lame jargon, but it never stopped killing the immersion for me. It made it much harder to suspend disbelief throughout the read.
Another thing that bothered me was one character's points-of-view being written in the 2nd person. This character's chapters are the only ones that are like this, so it is jarring to read several chapters in the 3rd person to then suddenly be thrust into a chapter that literally sounds as if someone is telling what YOU are doing/seeing/thinking/saying etc. I think it was simply incorrect to use the 2nd person. Although it becomes apparent why Jemisin employed this perspective, it would have been more effective to have used the 1st person perspective for this character's point-of-view.
It was the above two flaws that had me debating putting the book down and moving on to something else. I am happy I didn't, it's a pretty darn good book. There is another problem with the book that needs to be discussed.
Consistent with her style, Jemisin included a homosexual relationship in this book; you know if you have read her other work that it is going to feature a homosexual main character, so I was expecting it sooner or later, which is really part of the problem: the homosexuality is presented as a sort of accessory that the characters wear instead of guiding who they are. To be clear, homosexual main characters don't bother me at all. She added a twist this time around by turning the homosexual relationship into a bisexual threesome, I guess to push the envelope. What bothers me is that her writing in this regard has become obligatory; in this book, her need to add a new twist made the relationship somewhat gratuitous. The relationship arose suddenly and unnaturally, and seemed contrived and unrealistic, especially in the larger context of what was going on at that point in the novel. In one very well done chapter, two characters are involved in epic, stunning events, then all of a sudden in the next they are having a threesome with a newly introduced character. It just did not fit with anything that the reader was given about either of the two involved. I actually think the homosexuality would have been much more interesting without the unrealistic threesome situation because it would have been a great opportunity to illustrate the homosexual character's angst and internal torment. Instead, it was just filler that ended up having almost no effect on the story. Finally, there is a lot of discussion throughout the book on breeding between men and women being necessary for survival; some women even have sort of an official use as "breeders." In a society where breeding offspring are absolutely essential for the survival of the species, I found it incongruous that homosexuality would be so liberally accepted; not because of my own views on the topic, which are quire liberal, but because of the context of the world I was reading about in this book. I think this is another missed opportunity. The homosexual character could have been used to illustrate persecution of homosexuals.
The story, however, is so amazingly good that even these flaws do not detract from its telling enough to ruin it, once one gets used to them. I loved this story, and will be reading the rest of the series as well.
"The Fifth Season", takes us far into the future, to the Still, a seismically active world with one Pangea-like continent. The inhabitants of this world take for granted constant earthquakes and volcanoes. They matter-o-factly prepare for Fifth Seasons, when large earthquakes or volcanoes will poison the air and water, killing most of the population. Even their bodies have adapted to this restless world with a sensory organ in the brain that warn of a pending quakes. Some of the inhabitants, called Orogenes, have evolved this ability to the point they can alter seismic activity with power of thought. These people are exploited by the government for construction and demolition, quarrying and other large earth moving projects. But they are also despised, because they can bring instant death to thousands at whim. Orogenes are classified as nonhumans, and they are hunted down and killed. A lucky few are taken, at a young age, to the Fulcrum in the heart of the Still. There, they are enslaved by the Guardians. Only those with exquisite self control and proven loyalty to the Guardians are ever allowed outside the gates of the Fulcrum again.
The world of the Still is given to us through Orogenes in three part harmony, maiden/matron/crone. A child kept in a barn by her family after her orogenic nature is made to feel guilty for her own victimization. She is taken by a Guardian to the Fulcrum to become a trained (obedient) Orogene of the state. A cynical "four-ringer" is assigned to serve a ten-ringer she immediately despises. Compelled to travel with him to a coastal city to break up coral in order to open a harbor, her orders include more than routine demolition work, staining her loyalty to the Fulcrum to the breaking point.
And finally, a mature Orogene woman, Essun, completes the triad. Writers are often warned against using second person because it alienates readers. But in Jemisin's highly skilled hands, this point of view binds the reader so tightly to Essun we can feel the mounting pressure of a buried chamber deforming the hard baked crust of her exterior, ready to erupt ancient rage at any provocation. And that provocation comes on the first page. Passing as a normal woman in a small village, she comes home from work to find her husband has beaten their son to death, because he discovered the boy was an Orogene. Now, both her husband and daughter are missing. Alone with the body of her son, she senses a large quake and averts damage from her town, giving herself away. Knowing her daughter is also an Orogene, and in grave danger, she becomes a quake refugee on the hunt for her husband, whom she will murder, and her daughter, whom she hopes rescue.
In my humble opinion this is strictly an adult offering and not suitable for young adults. The novel contains graphic sexuality and limited but disturbing violence. Both the sex and the violence are integral to theme and character and I did not feel they were gratuitous.