15 February 2016

Buckets: A Review of The Fifth Season, N. K. Jemisin

Happy loves day has been an extended affair in this house; with the son showering his dear Momma with kisses for over a week, my Valentine's bucket overflows. Of all the moments of brightness that Kindergarten has brought, the bucket analogy our son's teacher wisely taught has been the most fulfilling. The children's book How Full is Your Bucket simplifies the conceptual idea of well-being, action and kindness through the metaphor of a bucket to symbolize a child's emotive self. I have been informed many a day that I have emptied the child's bucket for such indiscretions as asking him to put his shoes away, or interrupting an attempt to jump down the stairs from the very top. Cuteness aside, the bucket has unlocked a window into my son's soul, providing a means for him and I to express emotional health.

Although my heart bucket burst the moment my son arrived into this world, my reading bucket is a vast aquifer, slowly filling, drop by reading drop. Either by luck or research, my end of year pile has been a perpetual reading adventure resultant with me eager to declare each book the best yet. Thus is my predicament of today, freak the freak over N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season or stay cool, reserving my glee for the next possibility.

Ever age must come to an end, and so the novel opens with the destruction of the Earth, the fifth season. Cultures reliant upon lore as their only deliverance and a land that is less a provider and more a wielder of death, communities persevere in the knowledge that the end of days will most definitely arrive. The Earth is angry, Stillness the largest continent is a graveyard of past civilizations buried deep within the folds of strata. Amidst the carnage there are the orogene, humans able to tap into the powers of the Earth, drawing strength from it's core, either bearers of hope or of fear. And so we follow the lives of three:  Essun, the grieving mother, Syenite, a four-ring adept and the child Damaya, taken from her family to be trained in the ways of the orogene.  Each narrative masterfully crafted to weave into each other, highlighting the horrors that truly mark this world.  

Upon completion of only the first two pages of The Fifth Season I realized that this was not just an interesting story but an explosive tale that would overwhelm me to the very last moment. N. K. Jemisin is a master story-teller, convincing this geek that fantasy has as much to offer as my beloved speculative fiction. This is a story with three narrators, three plots, existing and finally cumulating into one. We open to the horrific scene of Essun, a mother discovering that her husband has brutally killed their young son and has vanished with their daughter. And while the grief bleeds from the pages, the novel was not an overwhelming display of violence. Rather, Jemisin's ability to fracture the exposition draws the reader in, forcing us to piece the puzzles of this world together, making for one incredibly entertaining read. 

This girl cannot say enough good things about this book.

6 February 2016

Hi-Five: A Review of Aftermath, Chuck Wendig

It came to pass that this family saw The Force Awakens and peace settled upon the house-hold. Truth be told, the kid really wasn't swayed to the light or dark side of The Force, continuing his love-affair with The Hulk while us, his parental units disassembled the screening with any sentient being that crossed our paths weeks past. Too much has been said about the seventh installment to the franchise that I am reluctant to add my voice to the monster of dialogue. The verdict is perched on a sliding scale of popular culture, fluctuating from liking to loathing dependent fully on the reviewer and whose audience it targets. As for this girl, I had a romping good time but I wasn't looking for anything beyond that. My childhood does not need to be validated by whether the Millennium Falcon could survive a jump to hyperspace so close to a planet's gravitational pull. 

What I prefer to contribute to the on-line mayhem is not my cinematic stance but my hi-five enthusiasm for the newest addition to the Star Wars book franchise, Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. 

A visit to any large bookstore chain's science fiction section will familiarize yourself with the phenomena that are the fan inspired Star Trek and Wars novels. These books seem to breed on the shelves, sadly giving the entire genre a bad name. It should be noted that at no time has this girl actually read a Star Trek novel, hence having no leg to stand on and should be taking accordingly. The little, however, I have read from the Star Wars universe inspired a similar level of annoyance that only the new Dune books have been able to rise in me, thus providing a sliver from a shelf to pontificate on. Timothy Zhan's Thrawn trilogy was a brilliant failure, exemplifying an author's ineffectiveness to see beyond the pre-existing narrative. Most of my reading time was spent equally internally editing the blandness, and pining for proper sentences. 

The war is so very not over in Aftermath. The Empire having lost the Battle of Endor, the death of the Emperor, Darth Vadar, and countless of soldiers and support staff is supposedly limping to it's demise. A new world order struggles to secure through the galaxy as planet after planet begins the slow process of renewed identification. The brilliance of Chuck Wendig's adaptation is the harsh realism he envelopes over pop-culture's beloved G-rated space fairy-tale. This is not the Star Wars we have been weaned on for decades, this is the Star Wars your mother would definitely not let you're 10 year-old self watch. 

Aftermath offers an adult version of our childhood heroes and villains. Power is not Dark nor Light but a reflection of political economics. A holovid of Princess Leia beams across the galaxy proclaiming the destruction of the Death Star over the forest moon of Endor, willing the myriad of local governments to align with the New Republic. Is this the proclamation of peace or well-crafted propaganda? The fall of any great civilization is more than a one-act play. The Battle of Endor is the keystone; of and to what degree is unclear. With power as the novel's theme, it provides the necessary framework for a narrative that moves to the fantastic, offering seemingly impossible feats of luck for the rag-tag protagonists. A novel that could easily become trite is saved by layers of governmental intrigue on both sides of The Force.

If you are looking for a light read, something that dabbles within the Star Wars universe, while managing to expand your imagery of a world already well-defined, Aftermath is your book.