Author: N. K. Jemisin
Genre: Science fiction and fantasy
Age Range: 18+
Published: By Orbit on November 27th, 2018
Content Warning: Racism, sexism, homophobia, violence and death
Format I Read: E-book
In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.
I had high expectations from this as Jemisin is an award-winning and highly acclaimed author in the SFF genre. I was looking to get a feel of her writing through this collection before I moved on to her more famous works.
The stories in this book not only introduced me to Jemisin as a writer but her evolution as a storyteller as well. As I had a cursory knowledge about her longer works, I could see how these stories developed into novel-length ideas. All of the stories had original and thought-provoking premises and the execution was mostly amazing. It showed me the range of her writing capabilities and I was blown away by her skill. There were a lot of variations in voice, tone, themes and narrative devices and all of them were well-written with a distinct style. My favourite stories were The City Born Great, Red-Dirt Witch, The Effluent Engine, The Trojan Girl, Stone Hunger, The Storyteller’s Replacement and Sinner, Saint, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters.
What I enjoyed, in particular, was how Jemisin effortlessly incorporated diversity into her stories. Many were set in the past, some had touches of magic and the others were set in futuristic or post-apocalyptic eras but they all featured characters of colour, people of various sexualities, genders and religion. They also had mental health issues and disabilities and all of them were portrayed with nuance and respect. It was refreshing to see this because most of the sci-fi I’ve read so far contained “perfect” superhuman beings, were deeply rooted in patriarchy, only had cis, white, straight people and so on. With these vividly imaginative stories, Jemisin exposed the flaws of modern society by exploring different realities in depth. Overall, this was a captivating collection that made me fall in love with Jemisin’s writing and made me even more excited to pick up her other works.
I highly recommend this book as both an introduction to Jemisin and her fans. If you’re new to the speculative fiction genre, this might not be your cup of tea. Some ambient sci-fi soundtrack mix and a refreshing cup of tea, coffee or hot cocoa would make excellent accompaniments.
Have you read this book? Have you read any of N. K. Jemisin’s books? Do you like the sci-fi genre? Let’s discuss in the comments section below!