The Stone Sky is N.K. Jemisin’s stunning conclusion to “The Broken Earth” trilogy. Books one: The Fifth Season and two: The Obelisk Gate both were awarded the Hugo Award and I expect that The Stone Sky will complete a hat trick for Jemisin by earning her a third Hugo.
“The Broken Earth” trilogy examines familial bonds, both created by birth and those we choose to create. They are a cautionary tale about what can happen when a society chooses to treat people as lesser and then takes away the humanity of the “lesser”. Jemisin also gives warning of the potential catastrophe of exploiting the Earth by giving the Earth a voice and power of it’s own. These messages are highly relevant to the current state of the world and had a powerful impact as I was reading the series.
Separated by a world falling apart, Essun is desperate to be reunited with her daughter Nassun but through her own actions has tainted the relationship with her daughter, such that Nassun doesn’t want to be found. Bereft of both parents Nassun clings to the one person who seems to truly care for her, Schaffa. “One day soon, she will learn the word symbiosis and nod, pleased to have a name for it at last. But long before that, she will have already decided that family will do”.
How is it that one people/civilization can look upon another people/civilization and see them as lesser? Jemisin deftly lays out how that happens. “How did it begin? You must understand that fear is at the root of such things. (They) looked different, behaved differently, were different – but every group is different from others. Differences alone are never enough to cause problems….Perhaps it began with whispers that white irises gave them poor eyesight and perverse inclinations, and that split tongues could not speak truth. That sort of sneering happens, cultural bullying, but things get worse…..This was what made them not the same kind of human as everyone else. Eventually: not as human as everyone else. Finally: not human at all.” I sometimes ask myself how the United States has gotten to the extremely divisive place it is today. This, this is how, when fear transforms a person in a someone’s mind from human to less than. Lack of representation, the way media present news stories, and the biases that are instilled in institutions are part of the reason for the fear that is being instilled into society, dividing us.
In “The Broken Earth” series, the Earth is literally angry with all humankind. The Earth wants revenge for what has been done to it. Not caring whether one is still or orogene, or about the color or combination of your skin, hair, and eyes, humanity is humanity no matter how people may sub-divide themselves. As this is the last book in the trilogy, there is a successful solution to the war with Father Earth. With all the natural disasters this year it certainly can feel like our Earth has been telling humanity to change its ways or she will obliterate you. How I wish that there was a single action to heal the hurt that we have caused our planet.
Jemisin’s fantasy series continue to be nothing like any other fantasy I have read. This entire series has been an incredible journey and The Stone Sky is an amazing conclusion. Do yourself a favor and put the whole series at the top of your To Be Read pile.