#REVIEW: THE CITY WE BECAME, by N.K. Jemisin

I’ve only been to New York once. I was living in Chicago at the time, so it was probably fourteen or fifteen years ago now, and I was only there for a few days. I went to visit a girl, and I honestly wasn’t terribly interested in doing a lot of sightseeing with the limited amount of time we had, which I think disappointed her a little bit. She lived in Battery Park City, which is on the extreme southern tip of Manhattan (you could see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from not far away from her apartment) and other than the travel needed to get to Manhattan from whatever airport I arrived in, I didn’t really see any of the other boroughs. We went to Central Park, visiting the Zoo and finding the apartment building and the church from Ghostbusters, so you can tell whose priorities were driving the few places we did visit. If I were to identify myself with a city it would still be Chicago, despite the fact that I’ve now been away from the city for longer than I lived there.

The City We Became is, in a lot of ways, Not for Me. Jemisin has described the book repeatedly as a love letter to New York City, and as someone who doesn’t know the city I don’t know that I was missing anything, necessarily, but I suspect New Yorkers will get more out of the book than I might have. Except maybe for Staten Islanders. I would love to know what people from Staten Island think of this book, actually. It will be fascinating to see if this book is greeted with the near-universal acclaim that her previous work and particularly her Broken Earth trilogy received; if you’re not familiar with her, you should be: she is the only author ever to receive the Best Novel Hugo award three years in a row, and she is, hands down, the single most important author working in science fiction and fantasy today. And this, while still certainly fantasy, is very different tonally and structurally from her previous work, to the point where I’m not entirely certain I’d have pegged it as a Jemisin book if I didn’t know she’d written it.

None of that, mind you, is a complaint. The City We Became is the first book of a new trilogy and the basic storyline is simple enough that you can cover it in a sentence: New York City comes to life (roll with it) and chooses five individuals to act as avatars of each of the five boroughs.

(Pauses to put Beastie Boys on; To the 5 Boroughs has always been my favorite of their albums.)

Anyway, the Beasties thing broke this into two sentences rather than the promised one, but: there are complications. Turns out the birth of a city is a somewhat fraught and dangerous process, and there are those who tend to oppose it when it happens. You may have heard of Atlantis, for example, which did not survive the birthing process. There are a handful of other living cities as well; the avatars of São Paulo and Hong Kong make an appearance. There’s also a hell of an Oh Shit moment at the very end when the true nature of what they’ve been calling the Enemy throughout the book is revealed; a more careful reader than me may figure it out in advance (I should have; minor spoiler: take the myriad Lovecraft references seriously) but it’s still a great moment.

This is not one to sleep on, y’all. Jemisin is a powerhouse of an author no matter what, and a project like this that she’s openly admitting is some of the most personal work she’s ever done is not something to be missed. Go pick it up.

Luther isn’t available right now

See y’all in a day or two.

In which I left the house!

… I didn’t go far, mind you. I literally went out the front door to go get the mail and then sat on the porch and read for a while because somehow all the snow that was out there the last time I looked outside was gone and it was like 62 degrees. But I literally don’t think I’d been outside for any longer than it took to snatch a package off my front porch in … well, many days. I don’t know how many days. I only barely know what day it is right now.

(That’s not true. It’s Wednesday, and I just recorded tomorrow’s instructional video and got tomorrow’s e-learning assignment ready, completing them early for the first time since we’ve been in this whole mess. I know what day it is, I just can’t relate that to anything else I’ve done on any other days.)

Also, WordPress appears to have “updated” again, which right now means that the image looks like it’s broken and is pushing up against the words up there. If that’s what’s going on once this posts it’s not my fault. The whole time I’ve been with WordPress every time they try to “improve” something it starts with breaking what they have, so here we go on a new cycle, I guess.

Anyway.

I did a thing earlier today that I really don’t like to do, which is bail on a book by an author, not only whose work I generally really like, but who has achieved a level of acclaim and accolades for his work that I can say with no fear of condemnation or argument that I will never, ever achieve.

(No, this isn’t me being down on myself. Dude has been knighted. I may have many accomplishments left in the time that is left to me, but I will never be a knight.)

Anyway, this particular example of his work wasn’t going to be something that was going to work right now for several reasons:

  1. It foregrounded several aspects of his writing that I have never been terribly fond of, while ignoring and/or leaving out the themes that I really like about his work;
  2. It turns out that the shitgibbon is not only the inspiration for a major character, but will be at least indirectly playing a more direct role in the final third of the book, and, uh, no thank you; that motherfucker does not get to show up in my fiction that I read when I’m trying to escape from the hellscape he has transformed the actual world into;
  3. I am trying very hard to clear up a huge backlog while I’m home as much as I am, and that’s going to leave me less patient than I might be otherwise for things about a book that are annoying me.

Why am I being coy about the author? Because the last time I wrote a bad review about a book by an author I liked the post got way more popular than I wanted it to– more popular than any of the good pieces I’d written about that person’s work, and, well, my Goodreads is right there, and I am not about to have a post that becomes the This Is The One Where Luther Siler, Utterly Unknown Person, Shits on Famous Author XXX XXX again.

So, yeah, if you’re super curious, click the link, and look for recent books by people who can legally call themselves Sir, and … it won’t be hard to find.

In which I forgot to post yesterday

Literally just forgot. Like it never even occurred to me. How the hell does that even happen?

(I know exactly how; the answer is “my entire routine is screwed to hell, along with everyone else’s,” but still.)

Anyway, I’m only posting right now to briefly vaguebook for a moment, since it popped into my head to do so: sometimes, you avoid having a conversation with someone for a while because you think it’s going to be obnoxious and lead to drama, and then when you finally say “fuck it” and have the conversation, the person on the other end of the line literally just goes “Oh! Okay, that’s fine,” and then it’s over, and the voicemails are going to actually stop, even though you didn’t think that was actually on the list of ways the situation might go.

I know. It’s 2020; things aren’t supposed to go right any longer. I’m sure this will find a way to end up pear-shaped sooner or later, but right now it feels like something might have actually been taken off my plate. Crazy!

Nioh 2: Halfway Done Review

I’m in the neighborhood of a third to halfway through my first playthrough of Nioh 2, and to a very real extent I don’t even need to write this review, as it doesn’t take long to say “Other than the inventory system the game is damn near perfect, and I’m used to the inventory system by now.” Like, that’s the review. Nioh is one of my favorite games of all time– it’s kind of amazing how many of those games I discovered during this console generation– and the sequel improves on the original in damn near every way, adding a ton of new enemies, a few new overlapping systems, a couple (not as many as I’d like, which might be my only complaint) of new weapons, and other than that just keeps everything rolling. The original game’s horrifying, punishing, kill-you-in-a-second-if-you-stop-paying-attention difficulty is still there, for sure, and the boss fights so far have been really satisfying. About half of them I’ve managed to pull off within a couple of attempts, and the other half have been those great kind of boss fights that start off with getting obliterated in seconds without laying a finger on anything and then you just keep learning patterns and getting better until you win. The fact that I don’t have to be back to work for five weeks and I still wish I had more time to play should tell you something. I suppose it’s always possible the back half could go repetitive and dull, but I doubt it; everything’s been amazing so far.


Finally getting around to wiping the hard drive on my old iMac– or, at least, I’m staring at it as it slowly reformats itself. The computer has been replaced long enough that the computer I replaced it with has been paid off, but is still sitting, forlorn, on my desktop waiting for me to do something with it so I can have it recycled. I need to get the office under control– my wife pointed out that there was a litterbox clearly visible in the background of one of my instructional videos the other day, and I actually started one of them with the words “Welcome to my filthy office!”

That’s gotta stop, and the first step to getting that done is reclaiming the desk so that I can take everything else that used to be on the desk and put it back, which will, along with some heavy decluttering, go a long way to making the room look a lot better. Again, I’m off for weeks. It’s not like I don’t have time.