I don’t write a lot of book reviews anymore, because it’s hard to write them without spoilering and I hate to be spoilered. Occasionally though, I read a book that catches my attention so fully that I need to tell people about it.
The Fifth Season by N.K.Jemisin is such a book. It is a SF/Fantasy novel, it won a Hugo award last year, and I downloaded it from audible as part of my endeavours to read more BAME women.
The book begins with the end of the world, which is suitably dramatic. But it also begins with a lead protagonist who is a black mother in her 40s, which isn’t something I’d usually associate with fantasy – or any other genre. Something terrible happens which sets her off on a journey, and I will give you no further plot than that because me trying to describe it will seem flat and lifeless in comparison to you just reading it for yourself.
But look, the writing is good. The title of this post, ‘the time for dithering is past’, did make me think of the Tundra episode of The Mighty Boosh, although in fairness that is probably specific to me and isn’t indicative of the tone in general.
However, here’s a description I particularly liked:
Imagine that his face aches from smiling. He’s been smiling for hours, teeth clenched, lips drawn back, eyes crinkled so the crow’s feet show.
There’s an art to smiling in a way that others will believe. It is always important to include the eyes.
Otherwise, people will know you hate them.
Now, this thing about people not smiling with their eyes is a fairly common claim in fiction. But it’s generally to introduce a baddie of some kind – here it’s used differently and, by the end, you realise it was a great way both of describing it and introducing that character.
There is a lot of humour and rage in The Fifth Season. There is also some beautiful world building – the Wikipedia summary does not do it justice so don’t even go there. The characters are interesting and strong and nuanced and flawed. And if you do have audible, I strongly recommend that version because the narration by Robin Miles is on point.
I cannot remember the last time I finished a book and went ‘imma read that again right away’. And by that I mean I can’t remember the last time I did it before The Fifth Season – which I have now listened to twice. Prior to that, I think we’re probably looking at primary school times – so actual decades ago.
I have now downloaded the second in the series, The Obelisk Gate, but the third isn’t out until August so I foresee a proper book hangover til that point. But if YOU time it right, dear reader, you could probably do them all in a row since you’ve had this early warning.
You’re very welcome.