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Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Orbit, 512 pages, $15.99 (c2015)

This is not a mystery, except in the sense that science fiction books are about the mysteries of the universe. However, it has a strong sense of adventure and daring. Also, maybe you like trilogies. For me, unless an author closes off some of the major storylines in each book, I find it hard to wait for the new installments. That said, “The Fifth Season” is the first volume in N. K. Jemisin’s projected new series, and I liked it a lot. She does a good job of answering some major questions in this book but, of course, also leaving open some big questions for later on.

Young Damaya is taken from her home by a “Guardian.” She is enrolled in a school for children with a strange talent: the ability to draw power from the earth. This is very valuable because in Damaya’s time, the earth (presumably our Earth in the way, way future) is volatile. There are volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, steam vents, and all sorts of potentially catastrophic natural occurrences. People like Damaya have the ability to mitigate these events. One would think that this would be a laudable quality, but in the outside world her kind (the “orogene”) are feared and abhorred. Although she in the “Fulcrum” to learn to control her power, it appears that the organization offering her sanctuary may not be benign.

There are two other storylines running alongside Damaya’s. Syen, a young, Fulcrum-trained woman has been assigned to be the consort and trainee of a ten-ring (the highest level) orogene. It’s a position of servitude and submission, a situation that rankles Syen. Essun has the third storyline. She is a young mother whose husband has murdered their young son and kidnapped their daughter. She, too, is an orogene but living a normal life in a village, without the villagers knowing her true identity. Her journey is to get her daughter back. Unfortunately, the world seems to want to tear itself apart in a major way just as her search begins.

Jemisin has created a world trembling on the verge of extinguishing human life. She makes it thrilling. Her female characters are strong, vulnerable, and learning to deal with their faults as they attempt to save those whom they love.

If you are inclined towards science-fiction and have never read N. K. Jemisin before, here is a worthy beginning.

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