feel shifts in stone and hear vibrations of the ground. And to control the orogenes from harming humans, we have the Guardians, who have been charged with taking care of the orogenes. The Stillness is a ravaged world, made savage through its suffering. Not unlike our world, it uses blind violence to get what it wants.
One day, a giant rift hits the ground, signalling the start of yet another Season, and demolishes many communities in the Stillness. But this is not the greatest of Essun’s troubles. For the same day, she comes home to find her husband and daughter missing and her little boy strangled to death. And that can only mean one thing: their secret is out. Essun can sense that her daughter is still alive somewhere, a mother’s instinct, and she sets out to find her husband and daughter and avenge her son’s death. But Father Earth has other plans for Essun.
The plot is complicated and the timelines could get confusing. But it will keep on the edge of your seat, that’s for sure.
THEMES: This book and the rest of the trilogy is very intelligently crafted. I had asked friends to recommend books that were ‘unputdownable’ and this series was one of the suggestions. I don’t usually read series especially when I haven’t heard of them, but man, I’m so glad I read this. While I have only spoken about one story here, it is the series I wholeheartedly recommend. It is so well bound together that I cannot think of one book without its companions, an infinity gently split into three narratives. The series is about so many things, it’s about everything – family, life, death, love, forgiveness, kindness, race, politics, discrimination, war, survival, hatred, fear – from bare human emotions to grand worldwide conflicts. And it is about time, and how it affects everything in the most epic proportions…
THE CHARACTERS: It is through Essun’s eyes that we experience this world throughout the series, told largely in second-person perspective. She is a beautiful character and the best thing about this book for me – many fantasy stories today showcase powerful and flawless heroines that seem to exist to make a stand. (Two years ago, I had many speculative fiction magazines reject my first story, The Dew Eagle, because the main character, a tribal woman, didn’t seem strong enough, whatever that means.) Essun is strong. She is also flawed, and not always aware of her shortcomings – her temper, her ideas of motherhood, her selfish pursuits. She is not always in control, of herself or her surroundings. And the story demands that you relate to her, identify with her, because she is ‘you.’
The Broken Earth Trilogy is reminiscent of Earthsea in its conspicuous lack of whitewashing. The characters, spread across different communities in the Stillness, are of different race, colour and sexuality – Jemisin takes great care in describing the characters as both individuals and representatives of their creed. And she tackles the prejudices present in the characters carefully as well – giving us a truly well-rounded believable world, not without its faults, but overall, understandably so. Perhaps the biggest achievement for Jemisin is that you cannot characterize any of her characters as inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’; that kind of black-and-white judgment absent in her writing. Our characters range from prudent and self important, to impulsive and lacking in faith – and they’re all simply trying to survive, one way or the other. This is not a moral story, not a preaching session. It’s a lot more complicated than that. Any lessons are for you to deduce.
“But human beings, too, are ephemeral things in the planetary scale. The number of things that they do not notice are literally astronomical.”
Warning – Minor spoilers: but none for the plot. I am very glad to have heard of this book only through Jess Mariano on Gilmore Girls, though this should have given me a clue of its cult status. But I don’t suppose watching Blade Runner would have pushed me to read the book, so I am quite happy I hadn’t.
fortune to meet him once. Our steamboat put me in mind of a poem he once
wrote.” York began to recite.
like the night
and starry skies;
dark and bright
her?” York asked, his eyes still fixed on the boat, and a slight smile on his
face. Does the poem suggest anything? I had in mind something like Dark Lady,
River Packets, after all, and this boat is all I ever dreamed come true.” He
lifted his hickory stick and pointed at the wheelhouse. “We’ll put it right
there, big blue and silver letters, real fancy. Fevre Dream.” He smiled.
York’s gray eyes. Then it was gone as swiftly as it had come. “Fevre Dream,” he
said. “Don’t you think that choice a bit… oh, ominous? It suggests
sickness to me, fever and death and twisted visions. Dreams that… dreams
that should not be dreamed, Abner.”
that animal. You know what that makes me feel like?’
shaft. Like I passed up the mushrooms at dinner and someone else died of toadstool
poisoning. And it makes me feel dirty. It makes me feel filthy. I guess maybe it also
explains why I finally called you. I’d do anything right now to nail this guy. Anything at
(Let this be part of R.I.P XI which pulled me back to horror after a far-too-long hiatus.)
In Language, unlike in our languages, there is complete non-arbitrary sound-meaning correlation, in that:
For humans, say red and it’s the reh and the eh and the duh combined, those phonemes in context, that communicate the colour. That is not how it is for the Ariekei. The sounds aren’t where the meaning lives. Language is organised noise, like all of ours are, but for them each word is a funnel. Where to us each word means something, to the Hosts, each is an opening. A door, through which the thought of that referent, the thought itself that reached for that word, can be seen.
(from Reveling in Genre: An Interview with China Mieville)
There’s simultaneously something rigorous and something playful in genre. It’s about the positing of something impossible—whether not-yet-possible or never-possible—and then taking that impossibility and granting it its own terms and systematicity. It’s carnivalesque in its impossibility and overturning of reality, but it’s rationalist in that it pretends it is real. And it’s that second element which I think those who dip their toes in the SF pond so often forget. They think sf is “about” analogies, and metaphors, and so on. I refute that—I think that those are inevitable components, but it’s the surrendering to the impossible, the weird, that characterizes genre. Those flirting with SF don’t surrender to it; they distance themselves from it, and have a neon sub-text saying, “It’s okay, this isn’t really about spaceships or aliens, it’s about real life,” not understanding that it can be both, and would do the latter better if it was serious about the former
ask me what good and what evil are, we knew what it was each time we had to act
when blindness was an exception, what is right and what is wrong are simply
different ways of understanding our relationships with the others, not that
which we have with ourselves, one should not trust the latter, forgive this
moralising speech, you do not know, you cannot know, what it means to have eyes
in a world in which everyone else is blind, I am not a queen, no, I am simply
the one who was born to see this horror, you can feel it, I both feel and see
Never a truer word, that could not be truer, we were already blind the moment
we turned blind, fear struck us blind, fear will keep us blind, Who is speaking,
asked the doctor, A blind man, replied a voice, just a blind man, for that is
all we have here. Then the old man with the black eyepatch asked, How many
blind persons are needed to make a blindness, No one could provide the answer.
Lutwidge Dodgson. Completely denied having anything to do with the Alice books.
Daft as a brush. You’d have liked him! Loved inventing words. Ever read Jabberwocky?
Loads of good words in there. “Tulgy”, “whiffling”, “galumphing”. And “burbled”. How come “burbled” gets to be in the Oxford English Dictionary but “tulgy” doesn’t? Hm?'”
My first Doctor Who novel. Late, I know. But the idea of books based on TV series has always made me uncomfortable. The annoying Buffy Season 8* did nothing to help; but if I write about that, I’ll probably burst into angry flames. These, though, are highly addictive, I have since read two more, the third arrives any day now!
killed by a hideous creature from beneath the waves. When the Doctor and Rose
arrive, they discover a village where the children are plagued by nightmares,
and the nights are ruled by monsters. The villagers suspect that ancient
industrialist Nathanial Morton is to blame, but the Doctor has suspicions of
his own. Who are the ancient figures that sleep in the old priory? What are the
monsters that prowl the woods after sunset? What is the light that glows in the
disused lighthouse on Black Island? As the children’s nightmares get worse, the
Doctor and Rose discover an alien plot to resurrect an ancient evil…
*Another Buffy connection: There is an audio version of this read by Anthony Stewart Head, but I’m not the biggest fan of audiobooks, and his voice still says Giles, and that just wouldn’t have seemed right.
part of January 1882, brushing away all your awareness of the present century
and replacing it with the past, convincing yourself that you are travelling in
time, that 1882 is your present, is the key to going back. As is explained to Si, our present is the constant
subconscious awareness we get from all the knowledge fed into us and around us
and all our modern surroundings and memories. Without this knowledge or
with the ability to extract ourselves from this constant certainty, to remove
the continuous feeding of ‘presentness’ into our subconscious, we might find
ourselves in the past. Time travel in this book involves a self hypnosis of sorts, under the right conditions.