Review of The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
There are no spoilers in this review.
I decided to combine my reviews for the remaining two books in N. K. Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy because for me they are all seamless continuations of a fantastic overall story. As with my review of the first book, The Fifth Season, I really can't say enough good things about the second and third books, or The Broken Earth as a whole series. It's the best series I've read since the Lord of the Rings, and it has proven to me that the sequels in a series can be every bit as good as the first one.
I'm not going to get into the details of the epic challenge the characters in these stories face, as it would reveal too much that I think readers should discover on their own. I will say that it offers a brilliant, incisive commentary on human hubris and our collective attitude toward the Earth. Namely, how most of us treat it as an endless resource to be exploited, rather than something to be cherished and nurtured.
The characters, world-building, and writing quality of the two sequels are every bit as good as in The Fifth Season, which is to say, fantastic. Again, my only quibble is at times the pace gets a bit slow for me. Particularly during action sequences, the characters often have extensive inner monologues that would more appropriate when someone else isn't trying to kill them with a knife or whatever. Of course, I would say the pacing in The Lord of the Rings gets somewhat poky sometimes as well, so I guess no book is perfect.
In the end, I think what resonated for me with these books was the author's view of humanity that I would call objectively pessimistic. Although the world portrayed in these stories is the Earth thousands of years in the future, it is still the Earth, and still the same old humanity, only now struggling to deal with a changed set of natural and technological rules. Jemisin sees this world as still being very much like our own, and she depicts it as she sees it, without enhancement, diminishment or distortion through any obfuscating mythologies. Her epic story is a parable about the consequences down the road if we continue to divorce ourselves from nature by using ever more powerful technology to penetrate its depths and then extract and exploit the riches for no better reasons than to satisfy our curiosity and convenience.
I mustn't forget to add that I listened to the audiobook versions of these books as well, and once again Robin Miles did a splendid job narrating them. Frankly, I'm shocked that she didn't win the Audie award for the best science fiction narration (although I consider this is epic fantasy, not sci-fi). Regardless, I can't recommend the audiobook versions of all three of these stories highly enough.
Science fiction writer