Friday, February 17, 2017

The Obelisk Gate - N. K. Jemisin [The Broken Earth]

The Obelisk Gate - N. K. Jemisin [The Broken Earth]
Source: Library
Original Review: February 17, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

The Magic
The moment everything clicked for me. The sudden realization that the real story wasn't at all about Essun/Nassun, the Stone Eaters, the Orogene, the Guardians... the real story, here, is about the Earth. Yes, it's approached so much as mythology, or a theology, depending on who's perspective is speaking, but that's what this whole story is about. The reason I couldn't connect with the characters being displayed is because those stories aren't important in the grand scheme of things.


And if I had to point out one thing that demonstrated the utter skill Jemisin possesses as a writer, it would be in the use of second person POV. Even without the revelations made in this part of the story, it never really registered as being awkward or strange at all. It seemed natural, and a great way to tie everything together. Even matters left hanging in the first book were finally brought to light here, and if it had been any other POV other than second person, I don't know that it would have worked out as well as it did.

I am starting to develop more of an interest in some of the characters, though maybe not the ones that might seem the most likely. Schaffa, for one. I'm disappointed to see so many reviews that don't even mention how much more insight we get into his character - and that of the other Guardians - in The Obelisk Gate. Into them, and into the Stone Eaters.

The most magical thing about The Obelisk Gate, however, is the fact that, when I sit down and really think about it, and the information I have so far... I can't tell which side is the one I'm supposed to be rooting for. I can't even tell which side I want to be rooting for, because... well, there's death, destruction, and a self-perpetuating exclusionary mentality that pervades every side, which seems to be the very thing everyone is railing against. Which right, is right?

The Madness
I'm still catching vibes of the Aes Sedai from Robert Jordan's WoT series. The way the Orogene's can link, the way the Obelisks can work with Orogenes, the "potential" in Guardians vs. the manifestation in Orogenes.

And while I adore getting so much more information on the Guardians and the Stone Eaters, it unfortunately makes certain things about this book so much more confusing. Then again, the way The Obelisk Gate wrapped up confusions from The Fifth Season, it could just be a way to tie this book into the next more smoothly.

The Musings
The Obelisk Gate has completely turned my gripe about the lack of characterization on it's head. Jemisin characterized where it counted - where it really mattered - to the overall scope of the story she's writing. The Obelisk Gate has cemented her place as one of my favorite authors, for her brilliant use of perspective, characterization, world building and yarn spinning. I was so engrossed in this story it took me a mere few hours to read, with the conclusion that I would willingly go back and listen to it, despite my aversion to audiobooks.

I knew I would give this book five stars before I was even half of the way through it.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Fifth Season - N. K. Jemisin [The Broken Earth]

The Fifth Season - N. K. Jemisin [The Broken Earth]
Source: Audible
Original Review: February 16, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

The Musings
I have some key issues with certain elements of the book. I find the characters flat, two-dimensional, and lacking any kind of real depth or scope. The kinds of things I really need to be able to get engrossed in a book. I need it all – world building, characterization, clean writing and a clear purpose. Jemisin did a fantastic job with the world – I haven’t ever read anything like this before. The premise is unique and grabbing, and she definitely has skill with the written word. However, for all her skill, there is something utterly lacking when it comes to her characters.

Ultimately, though, I would read it again. And I’m currently hunting down the next book in the series, hopefully at a local library, so that I can keep reading.

The Magic
I take such a big issue with the lack of characterization in The Fifth Season because there are moments where you can tell that Jemisin does understand her characters. Nesun is a prime example, as she was done so well that, while listening, I could almost forget I was me, and found myself listening through her ears, seeing through her eyes, and experiencing what she was going through as her. For me, she is what makes this book special. Not Cyanite, or Hoa, or the child that comprises the third perspective along with Cyanite and Nesun (I’ve forgotten her name already, in favor of all the others).

In fact, the whole book could be viewed as nothing but character development for Nesun – but then that would take away from how large of a roll the fact that the world is ending plays in the whole story as well.

And the world. The World. “This is the way the world ends… For the last time.”

Honestly? That’s what got me. That’s what got me interested in the book. That is what kept me going when the characters were disappointing and the momentum stalled. The fact that the world was going to end. That meant that, somewhere, at some point, something was going to have to happen of more significance than ***SPOILER*** Nesun stifling a shake when nobody was supposed to know who she was. ***ENDSPOILER***

There’s not a lot of description given for the world. Nothing that fed my imagination enough to be able to see it in my minds eye, but the world being integral the story wasn’t about it’s terrain or geography or any of that. It was about the battle between the earth and its inhabitants, what started it, what caused it, how it was going to end – if it was going to end. The stone lore. I want more stone lore!

The Madness
There’s really quite a few elements that don’t match up. On several instances there were statements made or data given, that within a few paragraphs was re-stated, but completely different information. (One instance I believe was in reference to the number of miles Alabaster and Cyanite had travelled. Somehow it doubled – or more – depending on who was speaking). It’s a little jarring when being listened to, though I don’t know how distracting it would be had I been reading it in text instead of listening through audio.

The relationship between the Guardians and the Orogene’s almost immediately made me recall the damane and marath’damane from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The interaction, the relationship, and the intent and purpose of the two, the origination… there are very many parallels between the two.

One of my biggest issues is this – I’ve read books where people were put into horrendous situations – and I felt appropriately horrified. I mean, there have been scenes I simply have not been able to read because I felt so much empathy for the characters involved I couldn’t bear it (Kushiel’s Avatar being a prime example). I know, at certain points in this book, I should have felt, at the very least, disgust. Or something, perhaps, beyond intrigue. Yet, there wasn’t anything I could create a strong enough connection to in order to feel emotional about. This, I can’t blame entirely on being an audiobook as I have had appropriate responses to scenes in audio as well as in text. This book just simply didn’t reach me as well as others have.