If nothing else, I will make it my mission in life to see the Broken Earth series on the big screen, if I have to write the scripts myself. That’s how good those books were! According to Jemisin’s twitter page, there is a TV series hitting TNT sometime in the near future based on these books…but I need films!!!
How should I describe this sci-fi series? Think the intelligence of Octavia Butler’s sci-fi, with the empowerment and inclusiveness of Nnedi Okorafor’s sci-fi, with the endurance of J.K. Rowling’s sci-fi, with the excitement of Tolkein’s sci-fi (Hobbit and Return of the King, at least). These books were everything, so if you like sci-fi (or even if you don’t know yet if you like sci-fi!), read these.
Let’s start with the plot: the setting is a Dystopian future in a land called the Stillness. To be determined if this is a future earth, or a different planet altogether. Several different beings inhabit this planet:
- Humans, also called stills. No further explanation needed…they are just as trash in the Stillness as they are on present day earth.
- Orogenes are humans born with the ability to manipulate energy and, therefore, the very earth under their feet. Stills don’t understand or like them…surprise, surprise.
- Guardians are the human(ish?) beings that protect the world from orogenes and orogenes from the world.
- Stone-eaters are statue-esque beings that are made of stone, eat stone, travel through the earth at will, and pop up to do random shit amongst humans randomly.
- Father Earth (I wondered why this wasn’t Mother, but hey, I’m just a reader) it seems hates the little peasant people that live on his surface, and let’s just say that he comes with the funk.
In the first book, the Fifth Season, we follow three women. Damaya is a young girl who has recently been picked up by her Guardian, Schaffa, and taken to the Fulcrum, where orogenes are trained. Essun is a woman whose husband murders their toddler child (after the child displays orogenic abilities) and kidnaps their daughter just at the beginning of a Season. Syenite is an adult orogene sent on a mission for the Fulcrum with an extremely powerful orogene, Alabaster, that takes her further than she imagined. These women’s stories merge over the course of the first installment in this series, all against the backdrop of an impending season. A season is basically a clusterfuck of natural disasters that make life on earth very difficult and deadly for his inhabitants…and they apparently happen with some regularity in the Stillness.
There is action plenty in this series. Over the course of the three books, we see people travel through the earth, raise volcanoes, quell waves, fight with kinetic energy, and scramble to live on the crazy roads of the Stillness. It’s like Mad Max, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and X-Men wrapped in one! There is also an inclusion in the writing that I find to be present most particularly in the writing of Black women; we have transgender (whose presence is matter of fact instead of notable) and bisexual and gay characters woven into the story and society as normally as any other characters, and folks of all different sizes and colors (literally, for real). There is also an intelligence in the writing; this isn’t about good and evil, as most stupid sci-fi boils down to. This is about prejudice, and greed, and misunderstanding, and misplaced ambitions, and difficult choices.
Further, you know how in a trilogy, sometimes you feel like the middle book is simply a placeholder or a scene-setter? Not so here with the Obelisk Gate! My favorite part could easily be the battle to the death involving stills, orogenes, and stone eaters alike towards the end of the second installment, but there is a lot of other good here too. Primarily, the story of Nassun, Essun’s “kidnapped” daughter, develops into something of actual interest. The bits you get of her journey south with her father leave you wanting nothing but more.
By the time we get to the last book in the series, the Stone Sky, there is an impending dread building in the chest of the reader. The end of the series is coming, and that is the worst part about the last book in the Broken Earth series. There are so many interesting relevations about the true history of some central characters and their motivations (familiar to any human) that shift the fate of the Stillness. By the final scene, I don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but I care a lot about what does. That let’s you know this was a great finale to the story.
I was thinking about cancelling my cable package, but now that I know this series is coming to TNT, guess I’ll have to keep shelling my money out to Verizon. I also just got a ticket to hear Jemisin speak next month, so you can’t find a happier reader than me right now.
Read this series, even if you are not a sci-fi person, and I guarantee that you will become one.