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Friday, April 3, 2020

The City we Became by NK Jemisin review






Order The City We Became over HERE (US) and HERE (UK)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: N. K. Jemisin is an author living and writing in Brooklyn, NY. This is fortunate as she enjoys subways, tiny apartments, and long walks through city parks. Her short fiction has been published in a number of magazines and podcast markets, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award. Her novels have also been nominated for (collectively) the Hugo, the Nebula, the Tiptree, the Crawford, the Gemmell, the... hell, I lose track. I actually won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award. Yatta yatta yatta


Look, I like to write. In particular I like to write about ordinary people -- all kinds of ordinary people -- in extraordinary situations, preferably in non-Earth worlds which nevertheless reflect our own. I'm trying to write decolonized fiction, for our postcolonial world. And at the end of the day, I just want to tell a good story.


FORMAT/INFO: The City We Became is 448 pages divided over sixteen chapters. The book is currently available in all formats. It was published by Orbit on March 24, 2020. Cover Design by Lauren Penepinto.

Cities are an endemic problem of life amid these branches of existence: put enough human beings in one place, vary the strains enough, make the growth medium fertile enough, and your kind develops…hybrid vigor.

Set in a modern-day New York, The City We Became is a book about a city fighting for its soul against eldritch abominations personified by the Woman in White. To fight the forces of evil, NY gives birth to five avatars (for each of the city’s five boroughs). They have to band together and discover their respective powers to save their beloved metropolis. The inhabitants picked by the city belong to minorities (Bronca, for example, is Lenape, Padmini is of Indian origin).

Jemisin engages with the stereotypes of the boroughs - Queens has got the attitude, she reacts to stress with aggression and readiness to fight. Manhattan is a charming but ruthless black guy who manifests his powers by flashing cash around like a weapon. Brooklyn's magic comes from music and Staten Island wants to be left alone.

The story works as both a boldly imagined and fiercely written Urban Fantasy and a manifesto - a Woman in White uses the forces of racism (neo-Nazi artists attacking the Bronx Art Museum) and gentrification in her invasion. The plot draws on incidents that happen right now in the NY - violent police reactions on people of color, or deed frauds in Brooklyn.

I had the impression that the author wanted to make a strong statement, perhaps even more so than to tell an engaging story. Don’t misunderstand me - the world is imaginative, the story unique, and Jemisin’s prose fresh and wonderful. And yet I felt the plot did meander in places. As much as I love the concept of cities as living, sentient organisms, I would like things to be more focused. Sure, we get a series of fast-paced encounters with the Enemy and observe each embodied borough’s path to discovering new powers, and it’s fun. I feel, however, things could use some trimming and less rhetoric.

Conclusion: Even though I wasn't fully engaged in the plot I couldn't put the book down - Jemisin's a gifted writer with a knack for elegant and punchy lines. I think readers interested in challenging themselves and their imagination will find The City We Became thrilling and rewarding. Those of you, however, who enjoy more streamlined stories, may find themselves lost amid bizarre constructs.

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