The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Re-Read 8/20/16, the day the Hugo Awards Ceremony is to take place for the novel I voted for. :) Coincidentally, I'll be reading the sequel tomorrow. :)
So was it as good as I remember? Actually, better. But that's mostly because I'm in on the trick and the secret of the MC is is laid bare and the whole novel then becomes a character exploration for me as well as a jaw-dropping mountain-load of quakeworthy World Building and awesome implications.
Since I first read this, I read her trilogy and loved it, but what can I say? I still loved this one even more. It speaks to me right down to the absolutely horrible revelations, the personal impacts, the hopes, the fears, the successes... oh, especially the successes... and of course, the question of WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. :)
To say this book is full of questions is to say that a Jane Austen book is full of lace. It's kind of obvious. The question is: What the hell is the lace up to?
Jemisin is fantastic for mythology and mythology building, but what is best about this book is the sense of long history and cycles and the deep feeling like it is all headed somewhere huge. And it is. Just let me ask you... What DID happen to the moon? ;)
If you haven't read this yet, then you're a fool. :) It's deeply textured in all ways, and its not just the fact that the gods are chained or that we killed Father Earth's only child. It's pretty obvious that this is a deep time future Earth, too, and everything seems to seriously point toward a mind-blowing explanation beyond recurring extinction events. :) Which happen anyway, so yeah, let's get down to the real reasons, shall we?
WHY. :) Oh so yummy. :)
Looking forward to the awards ceremony tonight. Let's see if my top choice made it! :)
This is my first N. K. Jemisin, and I'm truly ashamed that I hadn't gotten around to her writing before now. I'm just putting that out right away, because this shame is all my own, and it is deep.
Secondly, this feels like an intensely personal novel, to me, and for me, although maybe nobody will ever know why, except me. The way she treats the volcanoes and the earthquakes make me seethe with jealousy and rage, because it is just so damn good.
And thirdly, I'm stuck straddling the line between how much I enjoyed the POV developments and how they eventually revealed something truly great by the end and how much I wish I had known the secret from the very start. It wouldn't have taken much. Just another line following each heading. There would have been no confusion, no mystery. But no, it is as it is, and I'm very likely going to have to reread the novel to pick up any possible failings of my inconsiderate attention span before I dive into the second novel that follows this.
So what am I trying to say, here? That I'm a miserable failure who is taking this novel way too seriously and admits that he may have missed too much on the first read because the novel was too dense for his little brain? Possibly.
But what I'm really saying is that this novel has skyrocketed to one of the topmost favorite novels that I've ever read, that I'm squeeing about it, and that I think I've just found my newest favorite author of all time.
I like to think that I'm fairly well read. I like to think I have a fairly discriminate palate that shows in my reviews, even if they don't always show in something as simple as a star on a bar. I like to think that I can pick out works of deeply fine quality and works that have obviously been borne quite bloodily from an author's head, like Athena, only with much more gore. This is one of those damn fine novels that just REEKS of imagination, forethought, CRAFT, and one hell of a fine setup, a fine conclusion, and finally, a fantastic and sharp new setup.
I remember the moon. I thought of it throughout this novel. Its having been missing throughout all these damn cataclysms caused me as much grief as the idea that the Fifth Seasons are actually huge diebacks on the Earth, recurring endlessly ever since we killed the moon in some mysterious and immense SF past. We have people with amazing powers, almost godlike in scope, having undergone so much social and historical upheavals, themselves, that no one even knows their history any longer, or why they chose to chain themselves.
We have our main character and her shadow, (view spoiler)[seen semi-confusedly through different names and time periods, from childhood to adulthood to middle age; the last being the present, shown to us through the POV of her shadow in second-person. (hide spoiler)] developing to a final convergence that is a truly wonderful reveal, while leaving us with even greater questions and a truly immense possible conflict. As if supervolcanoes and earthquakes and their control or release weren't enough conflict, right? We've the makings of one of the biggest revenge stories I've ever had the pleasure to read.
It's almost as if I'm reading a quality SF novel that has been allowed the freedom to go Super Sayan on me.
And so my jaw drops.
Am I utterly amazed after reading this? Yes. Hell yes.
Do I have any reservations with the author's writing, timing, storytelling, subject, characters, or reveals? No. Hell no.
I do want so say one thing after reading the afterward, though. Thank you, Ms. Jemisin for not giving up on this amazing novel. All of your blood, sweat, and tears have brought forth something truly great. I am indebted to you, personally, for changing my life and my expectations about what can actually be pulled forth from a great novel. You did something Big. Thank you!
And so now we learn that this novel has been nominated for both the 2016 Hugo and the Nebula!
By my review above, I'm pretty certain I've expressed how much I love this book, and that has not changed one bit. If I was in a position to scream from my soapbox to say to the Nebulas that this is the clear winner, I would. As it *is*, I CAN scream from my soapbox to the Hugos and say it. :)
I mentioned in my review for The Aeronaut's Windlass, another book that also got the Hugo nomination for this year, that there really should be two separate categories for Standalone Novels and another for Novels in a Series, because most series novels have the luxury of taking things extremely slow and build character, setting, and plot in such long sweeping epics that when we look back on them, they fairly overwhelm us if they've done their job right.
Standalone novels can do the same thing, of course, but they have to do so economically and usually with a great deal of panache and brilliance and editing that probably makes it an entirely different kind of beast from the series novels. At this point in the SF/F genres, we have amazing examples of both and we're getting crowded in one single category that more often than not has to artificially balance series novels 3 out of 5 in 2016, crowding out a plethora of brilliant standalone novels.
I'm fairly naturally prejudiced to separate these two forms in my head, because I'm totally invested in the characters and settings in the series, while I'm learning everything new for the first time in the standalone.
When I think of the Hugos, I generally think of standalone novels, but I *know* it isn't true. I've recently finished reading all the Hugo winners and a very significant portion of the nominations all the way back to the start of the award. Still, I feel a bit prejudiced. I want excellent standalone novels to be recognized as such, uncontaminated by preconceptions.
BUT. I also have to make a decision based on just how F***ing Awesome a book is, too, and The Fifth Season, even if it is the first in a new series, is F***ing Awesome.
I'm sure a lot of people felt the same way about Ancillary Justice when it came out, and I can't say that was the wrong choice for that year, either. :) Good is Good is Good is Good.
So regardless of whether the category should be split up or not, out of all the choices we're presented, I think The Fifth Season should shake the whole ceremony up. :)
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