The Broken Earth Series – N. K. Jemesin

(ke) It is breath-taking, puzzling, scaring and wise. This Sci-fi-triology of the New Yorker author N. K. Jemesin was already twice awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novel (2016 and 2018), won the Sputnik Award, and was nominated for the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award for best novel.

The earth with one single continent, called the „stillness“, is itself a major protagonist of the story. Earthquakes frequently and unpredictably shake the earth. The landscape is constantly changing, chasms are opening up, and volcanic eruptions darken the sky leading to climatic disasters. When this happens the whole nature is covered with ashes, which lead to cold periods and then the dreaded “seasons” occur, accompanied by civil war-like conditions.

The people of the „Stillness“ live in “comms”. More important than their personal names are the functions attached to them, as for example the “strongbacks” that are supposed to protect the communities, the “lorists”, for the historiography, or the “orogenes” …

„Orogenes“ can manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events –   in the „Stillness“ often a matter of life and death. On the one hand, „orogenes“ may exert immense power because they are sometimes crucial to the security of the world, on the other hand, their skills are feared, socially despised and controlled. “Guardians,” find orogenes at a young age and tame them into submissiveness.

The book begins with the outbreak of a “season”. At that time, Essun, a female “orogene,” who hides her ability from her community, discovers, on coming home, that her little son has been slain and her 10-year old daughter kidnapped. Will she find the murderer, and will she recover her daughter?
A dangerous journey begins, with pieces of the past and the future coming together bit by bit …

Jemisin’s characters, male and female are multifaceted and they have strengths and weaknesses, both of which are used to drive the plot and narrative forward. As the story progresses, political allusions become more visible, gender stereotypes are challenged, and it’s not hard to spot a clear critique of racism in the narrative.

„The Broken Earth“- triology (consisting of The Fifth season“, „The Obelisk Gate“ & „The Stone Sky“) deserves an absolute reading recommendation!

(2015-2017 , Orbitbooks)


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