Book Review: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin Fantasy, Post-apocalyptic/#1 of 3, The Broken Earth Trilogy
“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all. People die. Old orders pass. New societies are born. When we say ‘the world has ended,’ it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.
But this is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends.
For the last time.”
One of the benefits of not having a rating system is that when I feel like it, I can arbitrarily make one up. With that in mind I would like to give The Fifth Season FIVE MILLION STARS. I loved this book.
The basic premise: the ironically named Stillness is a world in constant motion, wracked by earthquakes, volcanic activity, and tsunamis. Some people – called the orogenes – are born with an innate ability to manipulate the earth, calming or exacerbating the seismic that is part of daily life. They are the most feared and yet most valuable members of society, and are isolated and tightly controlled from childhood or birth – whenever they are first discovered.
The Fifth Season is remarkable in every way; it is brilliantly and beautifully written. I love the combination of fantasy/science fiction/post-apocalyptic influences in the story, and the unpredictability the unusual hybrid of genres creates. The sweeping drama of the world is a fantastic backdrop to the true drama, which is intensely personal in nature. It’s one of those rare and especially rewarding books where a new bit of information, dropped well into the book, suddenly makes all the pieces of the story fall into place and connect in a way that they didn’t before. (I am guessing that a lot of people, like me, exclaimed “Aha!” out loud at one point while reading the book. Though hopefully they didn’t do it on a bus full of people and startle the stranger sitting next to them, like I did.)
“Floating high above the city, dipping and swooping through the valleys of cinderblocks and concrete, landing on the edge of a rooftop to look down upon the inhabitants below. Watching seeing, learning. They walk along the streets, alleys, and avenues. Moving here, going there, in a constant state of rush. Appointments to be kept, people to see, things to do. And Adrianne was one of them. She had somewhere to go.”
Assuming you didn’t read a synopsis or a review of this unusual and remarkable book before picking it up—neither of which I did—it takes some time to figure out what is going on in Elysium. It’s basically impossible to summarize or review the book without spoiling that main premise, so I’m going to warn you now that if you would like to be surprised by it, do not read the rest of this review. I’m not sure what I recommend doing either way; I think that knowing some of this stuff ahead of time would have been very helpful, but I also think it will make for much more rewarding second reading some time, so the choice is yours.
Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel Post-apocalyptic / Standalone
“An incomplete list: No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities. No more films, except rarely, except with a generator drowning out half the dialogue, and only then for the first little while until the fuel for the generators ran out, because automobile gas goes stale after two or three years.”
Actor Arthur Leander dies onstage during a production of King Lear; hours later, an epidemic of Georgian flu begins killing people and eventually wipes out most of humanity. In Station Eleven, we learn about life of Leander, and about those people whose lives intersected with his, both pre- and post-apocalypse. In particular, Mandel focuses on Leander’s first wife, Miranda, who spends years of her life perfecting her comic “Station Eleven”, as well as Kirsten, a child actor who witnessed his death and whose most treasured possession in the apocalypse is Miranda’s comic.
This is a haunting and incredibly moving narrative, and is one of my favourite reads in recent memory. Station Eleven is an exploration of the things we use to mark or measure our lives; all the mundane and strange, superficial and profound things that we derive joy and meaning from. It’s an introspective take on a genre that is often grim and action-packed. This is not the exciting tale of survival in post-apocalyptic times, but a mournful and lyrical elegy for what has been lost. Continue reading Book Review: Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)→
Review: Feed by Mira Grant Post-apocalyptic / #1 of 3, Newsflesh Trilogy
“This is the truth: We are a nation accustomed to being afraid… Fear justifies everything. Fear makes it okay to have surrendered freedom after freedom, until our every move is tracked and recorded in a dozen databases the average man will never have access to. Fear creates, defines, and shapes our world, and without it, most of us would have no idea what to do with ourselves. Our ancestors dreamed of a world without boundaries, while we dream new boundaries to put around our homes, our children, and ourselves. We limit our potential day after day in the name of a safety that we refuse to ever achieve. We took a world that was huge with possibility, and we made it as small as we could.”
Feed is the story of Georgia and Shaun Mason, a brother and sister team of bloggers who have lived all of their lives in the zombie apocalypse. They get their big break when they are assigned to report on the American presidential campaign, but in reporting the campaign they uncover a conspiracy that threatens all of their lives. The setting of is atypical of a zombie novel in that humanity has adapted its technology and culture in order to (semi-successfully) manage the zombie outbreak. For example, people use a variety of security and field testing procedures to try and prevent the spread of zombification, and only those with the proper permits are allowed into unregulated danger zones.
I am mostly a novel reader, but I do try to mix things up from time to time—so here are three of my favourite short stories I’ve read recently. And the best thing is that all of them are available for free online!