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51 minutes ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 0 replies · +1 points

The 'daily life' test is not about whether or not the characters will return to that life. It's about testing whether or not the characters seem like they have a life apart from what we see of them on-page. This is a test that's applicable to all forms of fiction really (and the most egregious cases of its violation that I've seen are usually in movies and TV, not books). It's about testing whether the characters and their world (in case of fictional worlds, such as in speculative fiction) seem like they have a larger existence apart from what the author chooses to show us of them.

59 minutes ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Obelis... · 0 replies · +1 points

I've tentatively decided to read this book, though I've lowered my expectations for it. Expectations not regarding its literary quality, but regarding the possibility that anything remotely positive will happen in it. After all, this is the second book in a trilogy, which is typically when things get worse in a story, before getting better at the end of the trilogy. Though I'm not sure how this horrible world could possibly get any worse ... then again, I'm sure Jemisin will think up some new ways of torturing her characters.

Prediction: Anffha jvyy qvr ol gur raq bs guvf obbx. Rffha jvyy erhavgr jvgu ure - gung'f abg n fcbvyre, nsgre nyy - ohg gura Anffha jvyy qvr fubegyl nsgre. Be ryfr fur'yy fbzrubj or ubeevoyl znvzrq be eraqrerq pbzngbfr ol jungrire Wvwn cynaf gb qb gb ure gb 'ghea ure vagb n yvggyr tvey ntnva'.

Yes, I know I'm being horribly cynical, but that's my way of trying to emotionally prepare for what promises to be a miserably dark book.

1 day ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 3 replies · +5 points

Description of how the characters live - which includes their clothing, homes and food - in a fictional world is part of the worldbuilding. And worldbuilding in a fantasy novel is a vital aspect of the story* not some sort of frivolous or optional extra. We can disagree about how much worldbuilding is necessary, but the fact that it is necessary is surely not in question? WanderingUndine, Terpsichoria and I all seem to think that the worldbuilding in this book was not good enough, and that spoiled the story for us overall.

In my case, this wasn't a dealbreaker - the emotional aspects of the story were much more frustrating for me - but it did diminish my enjoyment of the book considerably. I'm a very visual reader - that is, as I read, I picture the events of a book playing out in my mind like a movie. (I used to think that's how everyone read, but apparently that's not the case.) When a book lacks visual descriptions, my mental movie remains very patchy and incomplete.

Knowing how people live in a place - whether real or fictional - also helps it come alive for me. One of my personal tests for worldbuilding in speculative fiction is: 'Can I imagine what an ordinary day for these characters is like? That is, what do they do all day, when their lives are running as expected?' IMO, The Fifth Season fails this test most of the time. The closest it comes to answering that question adequately is in the two Damaya chapters set at the Fulcrum. Other than that ... what did Syenite do on a daily basis before she was sent to Allia? Or in the three years she spent on Meov? What did Essun do on a daily basis in Tirimo during the decade she lived there? I don't expected detailed answers to these questions, but I would like at least some clue about how ordinary lives are lived in this place.

I know the above points are subjective. I don't expect anyone else to agree with these specific points. But I've gone into such detail in order to show that the problem so many of us are having with this book isn't just that it doesn't compare to some other book/s that we like, but rather that it fails criteria that we feel are important to the genre as a whole.

*(I would argue that worldbuilding is vital in all kinds of fiction, not just fantasy or speculative fiction in general - it's just that in books set in the real world, authors can count on the readers' general knowledge to fill in the blanks, and so don't need to provide so much description. Everyone knows - more or less - what people in, say, New York City in the early 21st century wear or eat or where they live. Even in case of historical fiction, these things can be found out. But we can't find out what the people of the Stillness eat or wear and so on unless the author herself tells us.)

2 days ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 0 replies · +2 points

Frankly, it's pretty obvious from the moment that Alabaster is introduced (and even before he's named) in Syenite's first chapter that he's the man in the prologue. They both have similar attitudes towards their society and how their fellow orogenes are treated in it, and they're both extremely powerful orogenes themselves. The introduction of Antimony much later is what confirms it, IMO.

3 days ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 8 replies · +5 points

Your comparison of this series with ASOIAF is apt. I love the latter too, despite its bleakness, but I had a really hard time getting through this book (and am wondering whether to continue with the next two). The difference is not so much in tone (though I'd argue that ASOIAF is not so bleak overall, especially as it has plenty of moments of levity), but rather in terms of vividness of characterization and worldbuilding. People often criticize GRRM for his almost interminable descriptions of food - not to mention, clothing, weapons, sigils, castles, and everything else that can possibly be described. But the end result is that these descriptions create a very thorough picture of the world he has created. There's just nothing like that in this book. Jemisin provides description so sparingly that I sometimes wonder if she thinks she'll run out of it if she gives too much.

3 days ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 2 replies · +4 points

Yeah, that was my assumption too, based on the whole 'Father Earth's child was killed' story and the first Interlude, which talked about people not noticing what's missing in their sky. My takeaway is that this planet once had a moon, but it was somehow destroyed - maybe by orogenes, or maybe simply by some natural astronomical disaster.

My guess is that Essun's role in the next two book will involve somehow bringing back or recreating the moon, thus bringing some amount of geological stability to the Stillness (or rather, the whole planet). Though how this gels with Alabaster's injunction to her to make things worse, I don't know.

4 days ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 1 reply · +4 points

My feelings aren't quite as extreme as yours, but I concur with your general point. The unrelenting bleakness of this book is making it hard to care about anyone in it or anything that happens to them. The author seems to be going out of her way to emotionally manipulate her readers - for instance, the moment that she started mentioning the names of some of the Meov islanders in this chapter (after everyone except Innon and Harlas had remained nameless for several chapters), it was obvious that they would all be dead by the end of the chapter. She has pulled similar tricks earlier in the book with other characters, such as Rask or Heresmith or Crack - she first humanizes them in one way or the other, and then kills them off (or disappears them, in case of Crack) in order to wring a cheap emotional reaction from the readers.

I do intend to read the next book at least, and probably the third one, though that remains to be seen. But that's mainly because I'm a completionist and hate leaving a story unfinished.

6 days ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 1 reply · +2 points

She calls her 'S...Essun'. Which suggests that she might have known Essun when she was Syenite, but in no way suggests that she knew her when she was Damaya. I wouldn't call that foreshadowing at all. (I see from your post below that the reveal worked for you. Which is great! It just didn't work for me.)

6 days ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Broken... · 0 replies · +1 points

Huh? What 'consequences' are they going to be able to deal with if a tsunami levels their island and kills everyone on it? Obviously stopping tsunamis, and other such geological disasters is the main function of an orogene. If they literally cannot do that, then it's fair to question how exactly putting orogenes in charge helps Meov in any way.

Or to be more precise, putting untrained orogenes in charge. Because that's the real issue here: the fact that people like Innon may have some instinctive orogenic ability, but they clearly cannot control it, nor use it as 'magic powers' in a more general sense, the way that Fulcrum-trained orogenes like Syenite can (Alabaster seems to be in a league of his own, so I won't count him). It's Syenite who uses her powers to actually help the Meovians in their piracy - until then, their methods don't seem to be any different than those of Stills. She clearly states in this chapter that Innon is incapable of using his orogeny for anything other than quelling shakes. She's the one who comes up with ideas for using it more creatively, such as cloaking the ships in fog.

6 days ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Fifth ... · 3 replies · +5 points

I liked the title of this chapter, but other than that it's a big shrug-emoji for me. The Tonkee=Binof twist was just ... I don't know, weird? poorly handled? Something like that, anyway. It barely worked as a twist for me, because the answer was revealed even before there was any suggestion there was a question. That is, while there was some vague mystery hinted at about Tonkee's identity, there was absolutely nothing linking her to Binof. The connection just comes out of the blue. It almost feels like Jemisin looked at the chapter number, realized she was nearly at the end of the book, and stuffed in a couple of reveals that were necessary before getting to the end, without adding in any of the work earlier in the book that would have made those reveals meaningful. The re-introduction of Lerna, after no mention of him whatsoever after the beginning, feels like a similar non-twist. It's just the author going 'Oops, I need this character to be around for the end of this book and/or the next one, so better put him in the same place as the protagonist, and make up some crap about how he managed to turn up there coincidentally.'

... Eh, don't mind me, I'm just mildly annoyed that this book seems to be set to end abruptly, without any real payoff for the questions that it has been setting up, as those questions are clearly not going to be answered until the next book, or more likely, the third one.