2017 Hugo Reading:
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. Fuck around and find out.

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June 27, 2017

I read this book over a year ago—I was lucky enough to get an advance copy—so my memory of specific plot points is a bit on the blurry side, so you’ll have to excuse any inaccuracies on that front.

What I do remember, though, is finding The Obelisk Gate completely riveting and I had a hard time putting it down to do things like sleep, eat, and talk to other people.

The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season ended, with Essun, Hoa, and Alabaster living in the underground community of Castrima (which I imagine as an enormous glowing geode), where there is an uneasy peace between orogenes and stills. Alabaster is trying to teach Essun how to draw power from the mysterious floating obelisks before he turns completely to stone.

At the same time, Nassun has ben taken by her father to a community which promises a cure for orogeny, a community headed by a man from Essun’s past. The cure soon proves to not be a cure so much as a path that is different from her mother’s. The choices Nassun is able to make are in conflict with what Essun was taught, what Essun needs to unlearn in order to use the obelisks.

I loved the parallels between Essun and Nassun’s situations–they are both having to learn, as best they can, in a world that is not-so-slowly dying. .

The world of these books is so large and complex; there are layers over layers and one of the great joys of this series is seeing how the pieces fit together and how, sometimes, all your choices are bad and you do what you have to do. Both Essun and Nassun do monstrous things in this book–things borne of necessity that, in lesser hands than Jemisin’s, would make them somewhat less than sympathetic. Things aren’t so clear cut in the Stillness.

I’m very much looking forward to The Stone Sky in a couple of months.

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