The City We Became – N. K. Jemisin

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"I have hated this city. I have loved this city. I will fight for this city until it won't have me anymore. This is my homage to the city. Hope I got it right."
~ N.K. Jemisin
I always start a new book by a favorite writer with a bit of trepidation: Please be good, please stand up to the earlier ones, please deliver that satisfaction that you tend to feel after reading something that is solidly strong writing. With her 'Broken Earth' books N.K. Jemisin touched something in my soul that has never been the same since. She raised her own bar so dizzyingly high that I was afraid she would not be able to get there again.

Yeah, I didn't need to worry. Her talent does not disappoint. This book is lovely. It's objectively good. As different from 'Broken Earth' as you can only imagine - the setting, the mood, the narrative voices - but the gut punch is the same.
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Obviously, this is an ode to New York. One of the world's best known cities. A country in its own right, size- and spirit-wise. Unique enough to be its own living and breathing entity. Which of course is what happens. Because cities want to be born and live.


"Manny's been in New York for less than an hour and yet he knows, he knows, that cities are organic, dynamic systems. They are built to incorporate newness. But some new things become part of a city, helping it grow and strengthen-while some new things can tear it apart."
Many cities, once they reach a certain point, will try to be born. Only a few will succeed. It is New York's turn, and it's avatar has been selected, and São Paulo is there to guide him through this - but things go very wrong. It's not just the city itself - each of its boroughs has its own avatar, and at least one of them does not want to be a part of a greater whole. And the sinister outside force is The Enemy, and it has the plans of its own.
"A city is never alone, not really-and this city seems less solitary than most. More like a family: many parts, frequently squabbling but in the end, against enemies, they come together and protect one another. They must, or die."
Jemisin's worldbuilding again is ridiculously impressive. Her characters are complex, nuanced and realized, and incredibly human - with all the good/bad/ugly that entails.

"My God, why are you attacking us"
"Because I don't know you," [she] snaps, "and you were standing on my lawn."
This also is an angry book. It's an unapologetic fuck-you to the "racist sexist homophobic dipshits" that are everywhere. It's not subtle, no, but these things don't need to be. Because of course people are the worst monsters, especially when they tend to think of themselves as nice ones who only "try to be decent".
"The alternative is to challenge her own belief that the Woman in White isn't so bad. This would force her to question her own judgment and biases and find them wanting. And given how hard she has fought lately to feel some kind of belief in herself, she is not ready to doubt again. So it's fine. Everything is fine."
I loved this book. Jemisin is definitely an uncompromisingly brilliant voice in the modern science fiction. 5 stars.
"Discovering that one's roommate is actively undergoing a break with reality is high on the scale of "things one wants to learn before signing the lease."
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Found this since I wrote the review: a podcast featuring N.K. Jemisin discussing, among other things, racism in science fiction and the horrible legacy of H.P. Lovecraft, whose bigotry, racism and antisemitism are truly repulsive. No wonder he liked Hitler! Gives more of a perspective for this book and its answer to Lovecraft.


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