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The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, 1) Paperback – August 4, 2015
"In An Instant" by Suzanne Redfearn
A deeply moving story of carrying on even when it seems impossible. | Learn more
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"[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
"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
About the Author
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Paperback : 512 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316229296
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316229296
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
- Publisher : Orbit; Reprint edition (August 4, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Being such a critically acclaimed darling and widely read already, there's not much my review can add, but I'll throw my few cents in anyhow.
For me this was a 4.5 star book. This is the second N.K. Jemisin book I've read (the other was The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms). I liked this book appreciably more, but there are definitely a few commonalities that I'll just chalk up to the authors style. She seems to favor chopping her narrative up chronologically, and not really explaining to the reader what's earlier or later in the timeline, you just get to piece it together as you go. She also seems to favor some tougher to read perspectives (one of the POV storylines in The Fifth Season uses 2nd person, which is not so common, but I thought it worked well in this context). Lastly, she's not an author that spells out all the twists and turns of the plot, again, the reader is left to infer and piece things together. I thought this was much more effective in The Fifth Season than in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
This book did have fair amount of made up words. You will pretty much catch on to all of it by context, but it's a little disorienting at the start of the book when they come in fast and furious. For those reading the ebook edition (like I did), it may be helpful to know there's an index at the back of the book. As usual, I only found it when I was done. One day I'll learn to check.
Quick plot overview without getting into spoilers - this is a dystopian novel, set on a far future Earth. The continents have been smashed together again and the world is menaced by extremely active tectonic shifts and the resulting hot spots/volcanoes. The titular "Fifth Seasons" happen when a massive natural disaster occurs (volcano/earthquake) that impacts life over most or all of the continent for a long period of time (anywhere from six months to hundreds of years) - impacts can be acidic rain, famine, fungal blooms, crop extinction, etc. There's an index of the various Fifth Seasons at the back of the book as well.
The narrative revolves around people in this world with an extra ability to control the earth (specifically seismically, in quelling or causing earthquakes/tsunamis/volcanic erruptions). These people are called orogenes (politely) or roggas (informally/derogatorily). In the current timeline, an empire called Sanze controls most of the continent. At the capital of Sanze, there's a school/training facility called the Fulcrum. The Fulcrum is designed to train/control orogenes.
In philosophical themes, the book gives you a lot to chew over and think about in regard to the true meaning and results of slavery and freedom and the intention of actions and the results. The book also touches on race (a lot of comments will note the description of most of the population reads as African or Asian) and sexuality (there is a gender fluid character as well as some bisexuality and a three-way, sort of, relationship).
The book is most certainly dark, but worthy of reading. There are several instances of abuse centered on children which always seems harder to read and a few grisly deaths as well as some mass death events. The world of The Fifth Season is a harsh one. There was not a lot of humor to lighten this book up but it was nonetheless an engaging read that left you with something to ponder.
Edit: I finished this book several months ago but I'm still thinking about it. Added an extra star for the narrative's lasting power.
This is the first Jemisin book I've read and her writing style is apparently not to my tastes. After finishing much of the painful writing makes sense why it was approached but this led to me actively disliking the book. See others 1 and 2 star reviews to get a summary of issues.
The main character of the book wavers between myself not caring and actively disliking reading about her and being engaged then going to marginally engaged. I'd put more discussion about this here but due to spoilers I'll refrain.
The world is full. However it felt like pulling teeth pulling bits and pieces out. I think it is fairly coherent and being a science fiction book through obfuscating it like a fantasy distracted from the book.
The focus on characters appearance became tedious quickly. Going on for several sentences about how to determine which part of the world a passing stranger is from with whom there is no interaction became a common place event and felt like word padding.
I have no ruled out reading the second in this series but I am hesitant to commit to it.
As for this book being Hugo / Nebula nominee I can see how people could think it might deserve such. However I did not find the writing or plot or story to be a driving it into my list of great books. I also can not say it didn't deserve it. I think this should sum up my final feel, it is complicated and mixed. But my final reaction is more relief I finished it after nearly marking is DNF at 10% and not enjoyment. That is truly one of the most condemning summaries I can give a book. It wasn't bad enough to not finish but I'm glad it is over.
It’s almost like listening to some trip on acid. Lots of imagery and color, but no overarching meaning.
In short, this book has no identifiable plot, not a single substantial character (they are all shallow, but flashy), and is randomly narrated from third person, experienced from first person and jumps from one character to another so fast you don’t know who is doing what or even the characters location at many points. Bad form.
Top reviews from other countries
I don't want to go into plot details, because this is a better read if you don't know a lot going into it, but the story starts with something big and somehow manages to ramp things up. The book switches about, and the narrative structure is very cleverly done, at least I felt quite clever when I figured it out and was impressed with the method. There are sections of the book that are told with an immediacy and intimacy in a style that isn't often used in fiction. It's the kind of thing that seems like it shouldn't work, but the author skilfully uses an unusual writing style to make the reader identify strongly with a character who is going through something brutal. The characters go through a lot of changes and take various emotional blows and the reader feels each keenly meaning that this isn't an easy read but it is a thoroughly engaging one.
The book explores how society controls certain groups of people who are considered to be dangerous through hatred, fear and exploitation of their resources. Some of this is direct and lethal prejudice, but some of it is subtler and secretive, using the skill and resources of people to support a system that hates them. It also shows how the people who are victims of this hatred and exploitation can come to believe what's said about them and buy into their own oppression. It presents alternative ways of living that exist on the edges of, and hidden beneath, mainstream society. There's also exploration of how friendship, family and community can sustain a person and how these change in times of extremity. The story and characters don't stick to the traditional ideas of love, family and gender that exist in the mainstream of our own society, which is refreshing. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fresh, powerful fantasy.
This novel is a masterclass in world-building – even as it rips its own world apart – layered with compelling characters, central mysteries, a mercilessly clear-sighted take on privilege and prejudice, and a tone that shifts seamlessly from cheeky to eviscerating without skipping a beat.
Is it fantasy? Is it science fiction? It’s a genre-busting apocalypse novel of impossible powers, a shattered moon, forgotten technologies and flushing toilets (until the world ends, at least). I have no idea where you shelve it other than under awesome and epic.
Now excuse me, I have a sequel I need to devour.
I kept reading waiting for something to happen. A pretty uneventful road trip, a one minute sea battle, a sojourn in a weird cave then it ends. All a bit unsatisfying with too many unanswered questions so I won’t be buying the following two books.
This is a world of casual cruelties piled one on top of the other. Those cruelties pass, for the most part, without comment or, worse, a welcomed with gratitude. This is a world where the way things are goes unquestioned, even by those who are treated abominably. It is a world of where grim and heartbreaking decisions are all too common.
But there is also hope here. This is the story of a few people who have found a place where they can imagine a new and different world.
Although I found it hard to read at times, I found both the world and the characters that inhabit it compelling. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next books in this series.