Has anyone read it? I just finished it minutes ago, and I have no idea how to feel. I know the odds that anyone in my circle has read it are low, but anyone want to have a spoilery as fuck conversation in the comments?

ETA: Comments are now FULL of spoilers that will shift your whole reading of the book if you haven't read it. etc etc.
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alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


I'd be happy to talk about it. I actually just reread it. I enjoyed it greatly. I'm not sure I know how to have an "af conversation" though.

>> I just finished it minutes ago, and I have no idea how to feel. <<

In my opinion, that's because it is a great work of art about devastating topics, and therefore it induces shock in the mindful reader.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


I have flailed muchly in reply and should probably stop and actually let you read what I've written.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


No worries. Functional is a high freaking bar some day.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


I agree that the world building is fantastic! I feel that NKJ wove the physical/geographical, cultural/societal/economic, and magical bits together really really tightly so that they all made sense.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


- people of colour as the default, POV characters. Win!
This is why I will demand that people read this book. Because while it is an amazing freaking book with amazing world building, it is not a book that centers or defaults to whiteness as constructed in the U.S. in any way, and by doing everything it does *so damn well* it proves how totally unnecessary it is for people to read or write generic whitewashed medieval fantasy when you could have THIS. It's completely solid and realistic that people in a very different world would have different physical variations on human bodies and different ways of constructing about that. NKJ's writing here declines unrealistic utopias based on erasure and instead builds a world that is complicated in rigorously logical and emotionally truthful ways. It's also dark, and that bit makes perfect sense given the kinds of complicated she is delving into and the importance of the journey she is sending her characters on.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


On the non-generic importance of kids:

I think that the symmetry (death/death) and contrast (hate/love) and symmetry again (orogeny/oreogeny) between the Horrible Thing with Uche in the beginning and the Horrible Thing with Coru at the end is a structural strength.

And that absolutely depends on the way caring about children as individuals is treated as important and not part of a generic good-with-kids attribute.

(Essun as a small-town teacher who basically forgets/is forgotten by former students and student's parents? Is not generically good-with-kids, but is somehow more realistic just by breaking a minor stereotype and necessitating actual description because she isn't everyone's-favorite-teacher nor evil-witch-teacher, and her pain and burnout is entirely unrelated to (that) job she has in backstory.)

Having offspring is treated as different from but related to having/raising children, and having children is different from having a functioning family and community. While I understand why this part was omitted, I desperately wanted more of the good bits with Syen, 'Baster, Innon, and Coru. I didn't want to let them go! But Plot caught up with them.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


Nodnod nodnodnod.

I feel like the chunk of the story on the island is SO tailor-made for fluff-fic with an undertone of Drama and Doom...I just worry that it'll be too drastically difficult for anyone to pull off while seeming in character...but there are some very talented fic writers out there. The eternal cry of the fanfic reader: I live in hope that somebody will write it. And alongside it: oh gosh I need to go write a thing. :)

>> god, that passing mention of it being Jija who wanted kids, <<

Yes, it retrospect it's absolutely stark. I feel like she was deliberately trying to obliterate her past self/selves and individuality at that point, if she'd been listening at all to her own feelings and need to heal I don't think she would have been willing to have kids because someone else said so. And it seems so innocent the first go-round.

Not innocent on first view but still deeper and darker in retrospect: I keep rereading the scene with Damaya's hand, the layers on layers of twisted motivation and power there are incredibly well done and get more disturbing the more you read it. "Never say no to me" is such a red flag and yet, for me, there's a kind of twisted sympathy for Schaffa too.

>> I need to let it settle <<

Sure.

Thanks for listening to me babble about Hey Listen This Cool Book Is So Cool!
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


>> That was horrifying, and nearly made me stop reading <<

Yep. That was a point where I reeeeeaaallly had to check my level of trust in the author that this wasn't going to devolve into normalizing/celebrating Awful Things.

>> because I feared that dynamic was going to not only keep going but escalate, thankfully it didn't explicitly escalate. <<

Rather, it was mostly off-stage, deliberately, but the effects were clear and the ways in which it was a functional component of an abusive system working as intended, rather than one person's private evil, became clear. I think having that stuff be on-stage and physical towards the start of the story, moving to more off-stage and psychological/systemic, worked well to imply just how bad things are without making the reader numb or losing the audience.

>> But even wanting to stop reading was a complement to NKJ, because it was like<<

How scary something feels is often more a function of how it is presented and how much empathy we feel for the characters rather than the actual severity of the situation. Or entire genres of comic, video games, etc would be totally nonviable. I think we defensively, subconsciously refuse to empathize fully because there is too much pain and awfulness in the world, and a clever author gets around that my getting us to identify with the characters.

>>... here is a horrifyingly abusive situation presented as a horrifyingly abusive situation. And I'm not sure I should be giving out cookies for that, <<

I understand the reluctance. But! This is a good example of exploring a difficult topic rather than exploiting or trivializing it. Which is needed for many reasons...

>>but given Uprooted... yeah. Yeah we apparently need to. <<

...one of the biggest of which is the pervasiveness of tropes that glamorize or normalize some really awful ideas. The "Stalking = Love" meme is so toxic and it's everywhere. In part because it serves the interests of many people who are fine with abusive, nonconsensual power dynamics as long as they get what they want out of the situation. And many more people don't realize or care that it is chipping away at their capacity for positive human interactions, or just the creativity to come up with their OWN good and bad ideas, every time they mentally apply that template to real life.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


>> same-sex attracted characters! <<

Who are neither Utterly Gay TM (option on Tragically Utterly Gay) nor Utterly Bisexual TM (option on Hedonistically Indiscriminately Utterly Bisexual).

>> I feel legit hesitant to attribute here-now sexual politics to a world that is so clearly not ours <<

That's a triumph of the world-building. Talking within the book, we can't use our terminology because it so clearly doesn't apply. Talking about the book as a book within our current politic landscape, though, I can be really ridiculously happy at the queer representation. And trans representation! NKJ made a point of that, and Binof is a well-written supporting character.

>> A THREESOME rather than a love triangle. THANK YOU. <<

And it's not even a perfectly-symmetrical threesome, where all the relationships are either (a) equally perfect or (b) equally fraught! It's sort of but not quite a V, with some of the characters in the trio leading on some matters and connecting more strongly on some topics, with outside obligations and relationships, and everyone being an individual. A+ for realism and for avoiding stereotyping and queering the default literacy construction of both functional and dysfunctional families (that family is neither functional nor dysfunctional in itself - it has the ingredients for either, but not the time to settle into functioning or fall apart on its own before the world intervenes and breaks it because dead people and running and betrayal and more dead people).

I'm so sick of love triangles I want to not read/watch most stuff with romantic love and/or sex. Which is a shame because I love complex character development and legit interpersonal conflict and opportunities for growth and models of successful and unsuccessful life choices within fiction. And I'd miss that if I went to entirely gen, friendship or problem-solving centered fiction or to nonfiction. Fortunately there is so much good stuff now accessible if you go digging that my real problem is forgetting to check back in with the mainstream and wave signal flags for Good Stuff Here. Unfortunately it's still buried in a mountain of things that aren't necessarily bad but are less thorough. NKJ basically said "F YOU" to ALL the sucky normative (subtly patriarchal/racist/etc) tropes in Sf&F and made the fans like it. I love her work so much.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline

Re: The bits that I don't know how to feel about!


The last line is a total sequel hook and I'm fine with that because I want MORE.

I didn't think he wanted her to make a moon. I think there probably was one in the past and it was destroyed - Father Earth's only child, killed by orogenes - and the deadcivs are a potential source of incredible power and also probably a reason why origins are so screwed over, although humans being awful is the real reason there.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline

Re: The bits that I don't know how to feel about!


It's a guess. But I have textual evidence for my opinions! Of which I have several! And exclamation points!
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline

Re: The bits that I don't know how to feel about!


I think that with the whole "the three different characters" thing - you could decide to feel cheated because you wanted to find out what they'd do separately, BUT, now you get to reread it and see how different it is when you know that and it's like an entire new book, which is a big bonus. Seriously, rereading it with an eye to that nuance is in my opinion the ONLY way to cope with something that so drastically reorganizes one's comprehension of the book.

It made me flail too.

I clued in a chapter or two before it was revealed that Damaya was Syenite (thus suggesting the third logical piece) and I was on board with it. Because even though Essun is incredibly compelling and dynamic, she's also hollow. She is all about what she is refusing to think and what she is insisting on doing because she can't not. The tripling gives her the underlying betrayal AND the underlying experience of love and courage AND the prior trauma to make it all make sense. In a way, that allows the character of Essun to demand empathy rather than seem like a pointless Energizer Bunny (the way so many characters who are supposed to be superhumanly inspiring often come off to anyone who has seen some real shit rain down).

Both the sections in second person AND the tripartite structure are difficult to pull off but they ARE pulled off, which in my mind is a tour de force on NKJ's part.

So reread, and then see how you feel.
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)

From: [personal profile] transcendancing


Quickly and without reading the other comments I'm really looking forward to reading this, but am waiting until I have more emotional resilience because I expect it will be hard going.
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)

From: [personal profile] transcendancing


I'm glad to read this! I look forward to the book so much, even if it's going to be hard in places.
poisontaster: (Belle Book and Candle)

From: [personal profile] poisontaster


I read it. It reminded me both why I gave up on other high fantasy reading, and why I love high fantasy in the first place. Fantasy has gotten so codified and boringly similar to each other; medieval, Tolkien knockoffs. This felt so much like something new, something exciting, something that FELT like a strange, new, fascinating world. It had weight and heft and texture. But it was also relatable and human and emotional. So many writers veer so much to one side or the other; it's always a pleasure to find writers who can do both (though to be fair, I'd been a fan of Jemisin's already; I'd already read her first series).

Also, from the perspective of a writer, the moment of realizing the connection between the three different timelines/perspectives; it was like a brain bomb, an explosion of admiration and delight and envy, that she could carry that off so smartly and effortlessly and well.
poisontaster: Screencap of Moana, leaning into the wind (Default)

From: [personal profile] poisontaster


Yes! That was definitely another thing, where there was a slow build on how much you cared about the characters. Like, initially, you're reading it because it's cool, and then something happens (yeah, I think for me, it was Damaya and the hand, too) and then you really, HOLY CRAP, I REALLY CARE what happens to these people!

I figured out what she was doing ahead of the reveal (though not crazily ahead) and I think, more than anything, the way she could take a person at these three different portions of their life and how much they could seem like a different character is what impressed me the most? I think so few authors allow for that kind of growth, especially with a woman's character, that it was so huge to me that Jemisin did it, and carried it off, and got it published. I mean, again, she'd made something of a name for herself by the time this came around, but still. It's so much of everything that mainstream publishing and people in general say is impossible and can't sell and isn't realistic. It's complicated and messy and hits on such hard, ugly truths. I love it.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


EEEEE NKJ apparently got the Hugo and EEEEE I got the next book and SQUEEEEE.

Thought you might appreciate.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline


Yay! *looks at your blog in hopes of finding my next read*
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