Wednesday, June 8, 2016
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth) by N. K. Jemisin
This is the second Hugo nominee I have read this year.
The book takes place (at least apparently) in fairly far-in-the-future Earth, where seismic activity is much more powerful than today. There are periods of catastrophes, “seasons” which happen about every few centuries, when practically everything is destroyed and only the most prepared (and ruthless) communities survive. But a few people have an innate ability to control the Earth, quell earthquakes and even tame developing volcanoes. As they may be very dangerous, all “orogenes” (or “roggas”) are taken to a special school and controlled very carefully by “guardians,” who have an ability to negate their powers. Most communes fear and hate the roggas, and if the guardians don’t find the gifted children, they often are killed by locals. (Often the children have by that time accidentally caused some deaths with powers they can’t yet really control).
In the beginning, the book follows three apparently separate plot lines. Pretty soon it starts to seem fairly obvious how the plots connect--and they do eventually connect with each other just the way I was thinking they would.
In one plot line, a young girl is found to be an orogene, and she is picked up to be taken to the special school.
In another, an older woman with several children runs away from a country town to find her child, who has been captured, and a season seems to be bringing chaos everywhere.
In the third one, a young woman with fairly good orogeny skills is paired with an extremely powerful, slightly older man with apparently the best skills anyone has ever had. They are supposed to get children--children with their powers, even if neither of them is very keen on that idea.
The writing was very good and the converging plot lines were fascinating and interesting and even exciting. The characters were well drawn and engaging, as was the world with relics left behind by past, destroyed, civilizations. The way orogones “communicated” with Earth and geological layers was also well described and novel. This is one of the better books I have read in some time, and it certainly will be pretty high on my voting list. There is one fascinating detail: the book might by chance have an accidental connection with another of this year’s Hugo nominees...
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