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The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season

by N. K. Jemisin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Broken Earth (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,6531982,357 (4.2)301
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world's sole continent, a great red rift has been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes -- those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon -- are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back. She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.… (more)
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English (196)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (198)
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Worldbuilding plot twists sharp writing queer people trans people polyamory complex relationships lots of mystery and suspense and tension cool fights and adventures!!! The amount of detail, I can't even imagine the planning and genius. Really sticks in your mind after the last page (and then the first few again shh!). Immediately on to the next one! ( )
  piquareste | Jun 3, 2020 |
Edit, 10:52 pm, tonight. :) N.K. Jemisin is the WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) Was there any doubt?

Old Review (from a few hours ago):

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! :)

Original Review:

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, 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. 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!

Update 4/27/16

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 [b:The Aeronaut's Windlass|24876258|The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)|Jim Butcher|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1425415066s/24876258.jpg|24239884], 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 [b:The Fifth Season|19161852|The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)|N.K. Jemisin|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1386803701s/19161852.jpg|26115977], 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 [b:Ancillary Justice|17333324|Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)|Ann Leckie|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1397215917s/17333324.jpg|24064628] 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 [b:The Fifth Season|19161852|The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)|N.K. Jemisin|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1386803701s/19161852.jpg|26115977] should shake the whole ceremony up. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
A major problem is that a third of the book is written in second-person. That initially made me discard the book for a few months - I simply couldn't get through the first second-person chapter, which happens to be the first actual chapter after the introduction. But the book kept being recommended to me, so I figured I'd give it another chance.

The magic system is interesting. The book is very well written. The first two-thirds of the three stories is engaging. When the story twist happens, it's a major letdown. The signs were there so I expected it, but I just hoped it wouldn't actually be that. That the three protagonists are all the same person also doesn't ring true. They are too different. And it peters out from there, culminating in nothing solid.

Also, the book starts with a child's brutal death, and you'd think that would be enough. There is no more shock value to gain from it. Nevertheless, the book is filled with children dying and/or being abused, often by their own parents.

For some reason it was showing up in my sci-fi feeds, and it's really not sci-fi. Or, if this is sci-fi then the Death Gate Cycle is also sci-fi. This belongs squarely in fantasy.

Rating 2/5. Despite this poor rating, I do want to read the next book. I figure it can only get better from here. ( )
  TinoDidriksen | May 27, 2020 |

N.K. Jemisin - The Fifth Season: Almost wholly original, which is saying something in the fantasy realm. #cursorybookreviews #cursoryreviews ( )
  khage | May 26, 2020 |
"The Fifth Season" is a remarkable book on the evil of slavery the ruthlessness of empires, the hunger for freedom and the persistence of hope.

"The Fifth Season" deserves all the praise it has received. It uses non-linear but easy to follow storytelling to explore heartbreaking themes by telling the story of people I grew to care about against the backdrop of an original, fully-realised, far-future version of Earth.

The struture of "The Fifth Season" requires you to trust the author enough to settle in your chair, enjoy each scene and wait for all the pieces to fall in place. The quality of the writing made this very easy for me to do.

The story is told directly to an unspecified reader for whom this is personal history. There are three stories, told in parallel, with slowly emerging links. I found this parallel exposition to be more powerful than a linear narrative because it initially increased the tension and gave me a puzzle to ponder and subsequently, as I understood more of what was going on, because it enabled me to put the strong emotions felt in each story storyline side-by-side and because the three stories together amplified the sense of loss as bad things happened again and again.

The world-building is strong but focused. Almost everything we learn deepens our understanding of the situation the main characters are in and why people behave as they do. It also delivers a continuous sense of foreboding as tense and inescapable like living beneath an active volcano.

The cover calls "The Fifth Season" an Epic Fantasy but I think that is a misnomer. An epic narrative celebrates heroes and glorious victories. This narrative dissects the cruelty of the powerful and the hero myths they use to feed their sense of entitlement to rule and as a technique for repressing and controlling everyone else. This book is not fantasy. There is no magic or magical creatures. There is only science and a long-enough timescale for the dance between science and nature to produce millions of iterations of change. The scale of the book is huge but the focus is always deeply, painfully personal.

This is Science Fiction doing what Science Fiction does best, holding up a mirror to us and imagining the nightmare we are capable of creating because of who we are and the actions we might take to become who we should be.

At first it may seem that the centre of the story belongs to the things that don't exist in our world: people with the power to control earthquakes, sentients non-humans that can move through stone, a planetary crust that is almost always unstable, the ruins and artefacts of dead civilisations and an Empire that has survived for thousands of years by being tough enough to do whatever was necessary to survive the Seasons of apocalyptic geothermal activity that killed all the civilisations before them.

All of that is the cleverly constructed filigree setting for the jewel that the power of the book comes from: a bone-deep understanding of the evil of slavery and the ruthless hunger for power that corrupts the heart of every empire, making it cruel and hateful.

There's no preaching, just a slowly dawning realisation of how this world really works and with it, a growing anger, carefully nurtured and stoked, the way you ignite a fire that will last a while.

We see what it means for an adult to be owned, to be an asset, to be used as a weapon, to have no power over their own bodies, to have even their children taken away and owned by others.

We see how emperors and slavers institutionalise abuse by dehumanising those that they make slaves while domesticating the slaves themselves by leashing them from childhood to hopes of being worthy of love and respect. As one emperor explained it, you control those with power that you fear but which you can use by enslaving them and telling them.

"...they can be great someday, like us. Tell them they belong among us, no matter how we treat them. Tell them they must earn the respect which everyone else receives by default. Them them there is a standard for acceptance; that standard is simply perfection. Kill those who scoff at those contradictions, and tell the rest that the dead deserved annihilation for their weakness and doubt. Then they'll break themselves trying for what they'll never achieve"

Yet what stays with me most are the characters in the book. These are real people, not always likeable, deeply fallible, cruelly twisted by the world they live in, who nevertheless persist. They continue. They strive. They take love where they can find it. They expect little and they hope less but they cannot bring themselves to give up.

The audiobook version of "The Fifth Season" is more than fifteen hours long yet it never dragged and I never wanted to set it aside and come back later. This is because it is so well written but also because Robin Miles delivers a superb performance as the narrator.

( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
N. K. Jemisinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miles, RobinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Panepinto, LaurenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Elk tijdperk moet tot een einde komen.
For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question
First words
Let's start with the end of the world, why don't we?  Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Dit is wat je moet onthouden: het einde van het ene verhaal
is alleen maar het begin van het volgende.
Dit is immers al eerder gebeurd. Mensen gaan door.
Oude ordes vergaan. Nieuwe samenlevingen worden geboren.
Als we zeggen dat 'de wereld is vergaan', is dat meestal een leugen, want de planeet maakt het prima.
Maar zo vergaat de wereld
Zo vergaat de wereld.
Zo vergaat de wereld.
Voor de laatste keer.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Three terrible things happen in a single day.

Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world's sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes -- those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon -- are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.

She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
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