This was my second Jemisin and my first full novel. I really liked Emergency Skin and went into this with very high expectations. Perhaps I just picked the wrong book to start, because this was a huge disappointment for me.
The city of New York wakes up as a sentient being and is attacked by a Lovecraftian horror, bent on destroying it. Its avatars, the boroughs of the city, have to find each other, figure out who they are, what their purpose is, unite and defeat their foe.
Great idea, especially for fans of New York. And just the start to a series and a longer story arc, aka a book with an open ending. This is also a book about racism, that hammers home its message in an unsubtle way. Which is not necessarily a bad thing—subtlety is lost on some people.
The audio is great, the premise is equally good, the beginning packed a punch and took off right away. What followed was good content, story telling and atmosphere, but also too much exposition (for me). Slow, slow progress to gather all the boroughs. It was just such a slog, despite the fight scenes, lively characters and imagery.
I have never read Lovecraft, so I can‘t say anything about his work being the basis for this and how it impacts the story. I thought about reading him a while back, but I have a hard time sometimes to disconnect the author and his work (in this case apparently very homophobic and racist).
Still trying to figure out what wasn‘t working for me. Chapters too long? Too much filler and exposition? Lack of Lovecraft knowledge? Most of the time I couldn‘t relate to any of the characters and did not like any of them. And then, a few chapters later I liked them all. Yeah, I don‘t know. Some characterizations were great, so were quite a few of the individual scenes. The setting at the art gallery and Queens‘ house were among them. And the scene in the park at the beginning, even the beginning of Staten Island…
I get that a lot of people love this book and the message it sends. I myself checked out of the story telling after a little over half of the book and almost tossed it at 65%. I hung on, with some skimming and high listening speed. The last chapter wasn‘t bad and made me appreciate the book a little more, but it‘s unlikely that I will pick up the sequel.
Kudos for the audiobook
The audiobook narrator, Robin Miles, is extremely good. This will not be the only book narrated by her that I listen to. Maybe by giving Jemisin another try and listening to the Broken Earth trilogy? (https://youtu.be/4NKDHqWiPN4)
The background soundtrack is quite nicely done as well.