I was a little leery of this one for two distinct reasons. One, when an author tells us in the first pages that they don’t like or know how to write short stories…uh oh. And two, I might be one of the few people who didn’t particularly enjoy The Broken Earth (first) book(s). I might go back to them now, because I did enjoy this one.
I was worried of getting my time wasted with what I misperceived as a possible dilettante attitude about short stories, and because I have read story collections by people who should not have been writing short story collections. Well, like I said, I was leery.
But this collection is good. In fact, I liked some of the stories so much so, that I was hoping there might be novel versions coming out, and I think I will be disappointed, but that still works.
For the most part Jemisin avoids cliched writing. She also narrowly succeeds when she’s reacting directly to other stories or writers or tropes. Her answer back to Ursula K LeGuin’s “Those Who Walked Away from Omelas” works because it’s singular. Had she attempted something similar in a different story like “Actually I DO have a mouth and therefore I will scream” or something like that I wouldn’t have cared for that.
Very few missteps or false starts over all, and what worked best for me is that she did work with tropes, but reversed course on them a lot of times. For example, what’s it like to have the invading alien race be the protagonist of the story as opposed to the side character? That kind of thing.