Thursday, January 3, 2019

Book Review: The Obelisk Gate

N.K. Jemisin's middle book in The Broken Earth Trilogy continues to build a world that may be second to none in what I think of as science-based fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed its fast pace, vivid characters, and surprising moments. I also found it to have a more accessible overall structure with two mostly parallel stories rather than the three mostly disparate stories in the first novel. As for the surprises, I didn't expect to have a whole new "power system" introduced in this one, and I would have preferred to know more about the first "power system" rather than to have a mysterious new one revealed step by step. The first system (orogeny) was especially resonant, because it appeared to obey the Laws of Thermodynamics and felt like a solid science. But the second system (literally called "magic"!) feels as false to me as the first system feels true. It's vitalism and dualism and undercuts the realism of the narrative. For all that, it means that the introduced elements feel like things I've seen before, where the first book felt empirically solid and new. I'd be curious to know if there's others from other walks of life who felt the opposite, because I think this is colored by my scientific profession through and through. Also, the third book may reveal scientific elements to the "magic" that would make me change my mind. I'm eager to finish this off, nonetheless. The fact is that expectations have been lowered a bit, but they're still very high.

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