The Great Cities Trilogy, Book 1: The City We Became – N.K. Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin is a Power: a black, female author who won the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row for the three entries in her Broken Earth Trilogy. There is simply no one with whom to compare her, so naturally I was hype for her take on Lovecraftia and wasn’t disappointed.
It is worth noting that there’s a big conversation about replacing the term “Lovecraftian” with “Cosmic Horror” because fuck that guy and his dead racist skeleton bones, and I understand and don’t necessarily disagree with that idea, but 1.) This story deals with specifically Lovecraft-brand things and addresses the problems with them, and 2.) It’s funny as hell that he would hate all of these women like Ruthanna Emerys and people of color like Victor LaValle doing amazing work in a genre that only bears his name because he got to it first and in which he is an increasingly irrelevant contributor. To that point, City’s characters are overwhelmingly ethnically diverse (to reflect New York itself) and is a Cast Full of Gay. Eat shit and stay dead forever, Howard, and get in, losers, we’re telling interesting, realistically-colored stories with people who look and talk like all of us.
The City We Became is an expansion of The City Born Great (which is included in the novel), a short story from Jemisin’s collection How Long Til Black Future Month, which I’m reading presently and enjoying very much. City deals with people who are chosen to be genius loci, avatars of Cities that have Awakened, such as Hong Kong and São Paolo, and as New York awakens it faces a complication: it is not one city, it is five boroughs, each with its own avatar and all of whom must find one another before the city can complete its coalescence. And they have to find each other fast, because they’re vulnerable in this liminal state, and there is an Enemy, a predator city that has felt New York’s birth-stirrings and will stop at nothing to devour its new life and energy, infect the shell it leaves behind and grow another of itself from its corpse.
I’ve never been to New York! City does a pretty good job of staying accessible and explaining stuff you need to know in order for the story to work, and between that and the general knowledge about the city that one gets through cultural osmosis as an American I was fine. That said, the book is in love with its city, which is certainly not a bad thing but if you aren’t a New York Person, like I am not, that wavelength of the book can begin to…grate a little.
Finally, City ends super abruptly, which jarred and frustrated me until I realized it’s because this is the first book in a trilogy, not a book with two planned sequels coming; it’s The Golden Compass leading into The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, not Dune being followed by Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. Trilogy Creep is very common and not usually a great thing, so it’s very refreshing that City has a comfortable sense of pace and doesn’t feel the need to wrap everything up neatly and hope you’ll be back next time; instead it sets a long, sometimes a little slow hook in you, gradually tightens the line and you run out of book JUST as it’s about to pull you out of the water.
Score: 8/10 Melty-Ass Breakfast Sandwiches
The Locked Tomb Trilogy, Vol. 1: Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
I”m gonna let my tweets from when I read this do the talking:
In the end I did have to deduct a couple of points because it does get frustratingly confusing for a while, albeit in a “this will all make sense in the end” way, which it does, but that doesn’t really help you when you’re paging through and literally can’t understand wha’s happening with the information you’re being provided. NEVERTHELESS: A hard recommend for anybody who needs more swordfights, more cool magic systems, more space-nonsense, more LGBT+ representation and more wordplay so incredibly sharp and hilarious it almost negates the need for the swordfights.
Score: 8/10 Asses Kicked So Hard The Locked Tomb Opened And A Parade Came Out To Sing Lo! A Destructed Ass
I’m beginning to think that it runs in the family