Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hugos 2011: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin

I'm not going to write a review of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I don't think I'm very good at reviews, and there are lots of them on the internet anyway. Like here, or here. Or here. Instead, I'm just going to say a few words about my impressions.

I liked The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms better than Feed. Mainly, I think that's because it feels like there's a lot more going on. More depth to the ideas, and to the prose. There are similarities in underlying themes -- both books seem to contain reactions to the prevailing sense that we need to be protected from some amorphous evil outsider, potentially at the cost of some of our freedoms. I think those themes are explored much more subtly in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

The stars of the book are Gods -- of night, war, wisdom, trickery -- jammed down into the bodies of mortals as punishment for losing the Gods' War. That's a difficult concept for an author to deal with, I think. On the one hand, you've got to make them alien enough that the reader believes they're immortal beings (at least one of whom existed before time), the embodiments of ideas. On the other, they have to be comprehensible enough to make interesting characters. Jemisin handled this balancing act really well.

The prose was pretty attractive, too. Certainly more than just functional. Jemisin played a few tricks with structure, which could have been confusing, but managed to resolve themselves at pretty much exactly the right time. Her narrator was believable, and although she was perhaps one of the least interesting characters, I was never bored with her.

Both Feed and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms have sequels. While the former -- Decline -- doesn't really interest me, I do intend to read The Broken Kingdoms. That's mostly because it sounds like it's going to be a completely different type of novel to the first. Almost entirely new characters, in a completely different situation (away from the halls of power). That the sequel isn't just more of the same bodes well for Jemisin's chances of becoming one of my new favourite fantasy authors.

Next Hugo nominee off the shelf is The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald. I'm a little nervous about starting it, actually. I adore McDonald's novella-length fiction, but I've got a much more fraught relationship with his novels.

No comments:

Post a Comment