Fifth Season Ch 2 & 3


Chapter 2
Damaya's parents have locked her in a barn for two weeks, when she revealed her nature as an orogene. We learn more about orogenes, why they're dangerous (they can easily and instinctively kill), and how they are useful to the whole world. But they're too dangerous to leave untrained at home, so Guardians come to take them away to the Fulcrum in Yumenes. We also learn more about how general society regards them: outcasts, to be killed; those who shelter them, even the rogga's parents, are exiled. Damaya's mother was fully expecting the Guardian to kill the child.

Chapter 3
Essun is overcome with grief and decides to leave Tirimo, seeking Jija; she's not sure whether she'll ask him about Nessun before killing him. Rask, the headman, agrees to give Essun a gate pass and reveals that Nessun was alive when she and Jija left. Rask escorts Essun to the gate, some of the villagers try to kill her, and Essun reveals her orogene powers. In her rage over Uche, she destroys most of the town and kills many of the inhabitants. 

  • In chapter 2, the narration changes to the more standard third person, but back to second person for chapter 3. Is the narration still "too cool for school"? Is that an impediment, or something you could get used to?

  • We see more of the prejudice against orogenes, and some of why that fear might be justified. We also see people without the prejudice. Does the prejudice seem reasonable in this world? Do the non-prejudiced have compelling reasons for their lack of prejudice?


  • 1

    I have a few negative impressions which I'll share below, but just want to preface them by saying that I don't have an overall negative impression of the book so far and am keeping an open mind. I'm pretty confident I'll get past them and enjoy the story as it unfolds. These are just all piled up in one place. I don't mean to be discouraging.

    Chapter 2 - I much preferred this narration. No idea what a rogga is, though, if it isn't the same thing as an orogene. If the whole book was like this chapter I'd probably be quite happy.

    Chapter 3 - It's not just the second person narration which is too cool for school, but the writing style in general. And only in these second person chapters so far. I find the second person narration quite jarring. The narrator keeps saying 'you' but clearly isn't talking to me, so why am I here? Am I reading a choose your own adventure?

    As for the too-cool writing, here's an example:

    You sway with the ground , but because you know it's rhythms, it's easy for you to shift your balance with it. You do this without thinking, because there is only room left in you for one thought.
    These people killed Uche. Their hate, their fear, theirs unprovoked violence. They.
    Killed your son.
    (Jija killed your son)

    I find this a bit silly, and using one word sentences when wanting to emphasize things is starting to feel like a tacky cliche. Is it supposed to convey confusion? If so, I'd say the 'show, don't tell, and certainly don't play formatting games' rule applies. I'm not normally against attempts at being literary in writing, but this little example just didn't work for me.

    As for the prejudice in the story, my impression is that it's only here for meta reasons. I'm struggling to see the in-setting reason, though the author is trying in these chapters to convey that the powers are too dangerous not to be feared, but we haven't really been given enough context to see why that might be, so it's too soon to really pass judgment on this. In a setting about the Devil or zombies, we might accept that a parent might kill their possessed or diseased child to prevent the evil from spreading. Same with the Borg or alien xenomorphs. But right now I'm not seeing that justification. Right now I'm feeling that the author wanted to write about downtrodden people with underappreciated superpowers, and that's the reason there's prejudice.

  • 1
    Rogga is a derogatory term for orogene. And chapter 2 gives a bit more context for the world.

    As for the prejudice... In this chapter I can fully see why people react to orogenes with real fear. Essun lost control and killed a whole town. Of course, the prejudice is what made the danger, and Essun's circumstances are extreme.

    The narration I find fine, but of course I read and enjoyed it before.
  • 3

    I am having a lot of trouble with the narration, for basically the same reason as @Apocryphal - the writer is telling me what I did, but I didn't do that and I wouldn't have done that! I become acutely conscious that I am reading a book, not experiencing a situation, and I feel subconsciously angry that this person is making false accusations about me. If the whole book were in third person, it would feel much better! Also, the feeling of being too cool for school comes through these oh so clever formatting games Apocryphal points out. I did this self-indulgent crap in ninth grade creative writing, for chrissake! Grow up, Jemisin! You are too good a writer to be this way!

    In other words, This is a very creative and interesting story, in spite of the fact that the storyteller is annoying the crap out of me.

  • 0
    The overall structure seems to be alternating 3rd person narrative flashback scenes to trace the history with 2nd person "now" scenes to move the story forward. Like the rest of us, I'm still struggling a bit with the 2nd person bits.

    That aside, there's a disjunction in my mind at present between the flashbacks where the main character seems to be on her way to get trained in the use of and restraint of her talent, and the now scenes where she (you!) seems to be on her own without any oversight or support, and where the talent is largely unexercised and uncontrollable.

    The specific passage with 1 word sentences: I read that as indicating a process of mental turmoil in which she (you!) Is trying to make sense of multiple factors of blame. Is it the specific man who killed her child (he)? Or the prejudice of society at large (they)? Or is she herself the destroyer, by having the talent herself and passing it on to her son? But I'm not convinced that this narrative style is the most effective way to present that internal struggle.
  • 0

    @RichardAbbott - Is Damaya the same person as Essun? I didn't see that!

  • 0

    @clash_bowley aha... I realised on looking again that I had simply assumed that the two were the same... I don't think there has been anything explicit that tells us that

  • 1
    One thing I do appreciate about the narrative switch is that it helps separate the characters somewhat, who are otherwise kind of samey. And a new female orogene viewpoint character is introduced in chapter 4.
  • 1

    @RichardAbbott - Oh! I thought I had missed something important! Thanks! :D

  • 2

    I'm enjoying the narrative style, but maybe I just have weird taste. The bit that @Apocryphal quotes is when Essun is so stressed that she loses control of her powers. The fact that the narrative voice loses control of itself at the same time makes sense to me. It's similar to Expressionism, where the conveying the emotion overtakes everything, even the medium itself.

    I'm wondering if the type of discomfort that @clash_bowley mentioned might be on purpose? The feeling of "the book told me what I did, but I didn't (and wouldn't) do that" is similar on an emotional level to what Essun is going through, as she faces "my village is telling me that I'm the monster and my husband is the hero, but I know that's not true."

    Likewise, the irony of the prejudice that @Apocryphal points out may be intentional, as well. Yes, the village is prejudiced against orogenes while orogenes are the ones with the power to save them. It makes no sense. But prejudice makes no sense. That's the point.

    Maybe it's easier for me to see, being an American. As just one example: So much of my country's prosperity and position in the world has been built upon scientific understanding and the technology built atop that understanding, and yet scientific truth is reviled by huge swathes of the population. I mean the Flat Earth Society has a website! Which means their stupid, harmful, anti-scientific ideas are being transmitted through satellites that orbit the spherical world! Closed-mindedness, prejudice and discrimination are profoundly messed-up and I think that's the point.

  • 0
    > @Michael_S_Miller said:
    > I'm enjoying the narrative style, but maybe I just have weird taste. The bit that @Apocryphal quotes is when Essun is so stressed that she loses control of her powers. The fact that the narrative voice loses control of itself at the same time makes sense to me. It's similar to Expressionism, where the conveying the emotion overtakes everything, even the medium itself.

    In literary theory, often called mimetic... the form of the writing in some ways mimics the content.
  • 1

    @Michael_S_Miller - I'm sure the discomfort is intentional, but that doesn't make me like it! I mean punching me in the nose may make me feel what some protagonist felt, but it's still a punch in the nose and unpleasant as hell. :D

  • 1

    I’m not minding the expressionistic aspects of the narration. I think identifying it this way is quite insightful, @Michael_S_Miller .

    I am not enjoying the second-person aspects, though. If it turns out that someone is telling the story to Essun for reason, I might re-evaluate this, but I otherwise am not a fan. And how would someone be able tell her what she was thinking? Unless Essun is telling herself the story about herself.

    I’m interested in thinking about the distinction between / connection between individual and societal guilt for prejudice that @RichardAbbott points out. I look forward to seeing where Jemisin goes with that aspect.

  • 3

    It's interesting that the slow read format is already allowing greater exploration of the book than when I read it first. In my first read, I got so caught up in the book that I didn't stop to think about anything that was happening. But by taking it slow, people are teasing out more of the book than I did.

    Rereading the book is also interesting, as I can see where the author is setting up things that will happen in the future.

  • 1
    @NeilNjae I'm finding that last part too. I'll also say on my first read through, of the narratives of the three characters, I took to Essun's the least because of the second person point of view.
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