Monday, May 22, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Novel - The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin is about an earth shattered by an event in the distant past, and people who not only are dealing with the repercussions of that past, but are trying to fix it.

This picks up right where The Fifth Season (last year's Hugo winner) left off, and that's the problem with it. The story is rich and engrossing, and easier to read than the first book. But unless you've read the first book, I find it very hard to imagine being able to figure this one out at all. Don't get me wrong, it's a great book - I got halfway in and couldn't put it down until I finished, staying up late to read the ending of a book for the first time in months. But without the introduction of characters and facts of this world made in the first book, I'm not sure anyone could really enjoy this one.

The good: With only two main tracks, this was much easier to read than the first book. It also revealed who the narrator is and gave much more depth to the history of the world. Some of the assumptions made in the first book were turned upside-down in this one. Add in the incredible use of language to paint vivid images of the scenes, and the book is a masterpiece.

The bad: Most of the story of the main character in this book is just a massive info-dump. The big character development that happens is with the daughter, while Essun stays in a single place figuring out the plot. It's not really bad, but the ending has a lot more promise for book three. The other problem is one I already mentioned - without having read the first book, I would have been completely lost in this one. Even having read the first book, it sometimes took a few pages into the mention of a character before I remembered who they were and the significance of their appearance. This is fine for the second book in a trilogy, but I'm not entirely sure that Hugo finalists shouldn't be able to stand on their own (I'm divided on this issue).

Conclusion: The moment I finished this, I put the third book on hold at the library. If I hadn't been suffering through an anxiety-induced period of no reading the past few months, I probably would have already read this one before the Hugo finalists came out. I like this book, but I haven't actually read any of the other finalists, so I don't know where it will stand on my ballot.

Best Novel: I've read The Obelisk Gate. I need to read All the Birds in the Sky, A Closed and Common Orbit, Death's End, Ninefox Gambit, and Too Like the Lightning.