Fifth Season Ch 10 & 11


Chapter 10

Another hint about Essun's complex past, but she decides her love for Nassun means she has to stay who she is. Essun and Hoa flee the roadhouse in the night, rather than get involved in the fight that breaks out. They return in the morning, Essun confident in her orogeny to keep them safe. They have a wary but friendly encounter with a commless geomest. Hoa is attacked by a feral kirkhusa; Hoa turns it to stone, saying he didn't want to reveal that ability "yet." They continue south, with the commless woman.

Chapter 11

Damaya settles in to life as a grit in Fulcrum. Maxixe, another grit, sits with her for lunch. Following that, Damaya is bullied. Damaya enlists the help of Crack to find out who's behind it. This exposes a secret trade in shoes, alcohol, sexual favours, and letters home. Maxixe has his hands broken, Jasper is exiled, and Crack is disappeared.


  • The roadhouse encounter between Essun and the commless woman: does this ring true as something that would happen in an unfolding apocalypse?
  • Ch 10 reinforces @Apocryphal 's idea that these chapters are the gathering of a superhero team. Who is the commless geomest, and what are her powers?
  • The kirkhusa is another instance where Jemisin describes the unusual without describing the normal. (There could have been descriptions of pet kirkhusas in Tirimo; Essun could have had one.) Is the technique still effective?
  • There's a throwaway mention of one of the grits being a boy without a penis. Any thoughts on this?
  • Is it plausible how Damaya deals with the bullying, and the outcomes of it?
  • Is there any speculation about Crack's fate?


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    Thanks for posting these.

    Chapter 10 - I really liked this one. I've now gotten used to the second person. I'm reconciling this by thinking that I'm reading a letter has written to Essun - so the author is addressing Essun, not me. Which also helps me make sense of some of what was said in the last interlude. I'm finding the characters of Hoa and the 'geomest' interesting, and liking the dynamic between the three - excited to see where this goes. Also, liked how the scene of running and hiding and wondering about returning for water was handled. Hoa seems more mature that his age.

    Did the roadhouse encounter ring true to me - yes, I don't see why not. Everyone suspicious of one another, but not overtly hostile. And, I think, the geomest is curious about the others, so she'll stick around. None of them seem like hard-boiled survivalists. I have no idea what a geomest is. Honestly, my opinion of the world-building continues to be that it's weak. Why are so many of the setting-specific words obviously derived from English, but others seemingly not so (and what is the reason for that? TheEnglish roots seem to be pangaeic.) Yes, the kirkhusa - no idea what that is or why it appears to be named in a different language, but there isn't really a hard reason it needs to be the same. Still, one wants the local language and names to convey a sense of place, and so far they don't. My guess is that a kirkhusa is a mammal, but I suppose it could be a reptile? We didn't get enough description.

    Chapter 11 - didn't care as much for this one. I think the bullying itself was plausible enough, but the resolution was pretty implausible - no way a bunch of colluding bullies would cave suddenly like that and turn on one another after one accusation was aired. I think rather they would all have kept silent and handled it internally later. Probably Jemisin wanted to wrap this up quickly and not make a big deal about it, but I'm afrain I didn't buy it.

    I assume Crack was booted from the institute - but maybe he's turned into a node (more sinister answer). No opinion on the penisless boy.

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    My thoughts: the pace moved on a bit better in these chapters, but I think overall my thoughts echo those of @Apocryphal in that there are lots of interesting ideas, but the world-building and language is kind of all over the place. Jemisin is obviously no Tolkien in terms of creating a consistent linguistic basis for her world.

    2nd person usage - I keep wondering who the narrator is supposed to be? Are we to conceive of us recounting Essun's tale to her, as though she is so far gone emotionally that she cannot really remember it? Or an older version of Essun retelling the tale to her younger self to try to make sense of it? Perhaps we'll get to know in the end, but I'm not holding my breath.

    The commless woman was an interesting addition, not least because she seems to represent another and different cadre of talented people (in the fey rather than commonplace sense). I assume she is not an orogene, as (I think) Essun would have detected this. But she clearly has training and abilities that are not ordinary. It is odd, and perhaps indicative again of Essun's state of being, that the whole focus remains on her commless status, and what that might mean for everyone, rather than her individuality.

    I'm still sticking to my theory that Hoa is the boy who emerged from the rock very early on.

    We did actually meet kirkhusa in passing, in the Syenite passage where Alabaster refers to the inn which has the "stone kirkhusa in front". I assumed - I guess we all did - that it was just a random statue, but you could now interpret it as a kind of oblique foreshadowing. I tried doing a search for kirkhusa as a word and drew a blank, except for things that were obviously referencing this book. I kind of felt that the beast itself is kind of irrelevant, and the episode is only there to show us something of Hoa's powers. Which again suggests that world-building is far secondary to plot movement.

    The bullying scenario. I thought the setup was good, but the resolution absurdly quick. And also I can't yet understand the social setup that gives rise to it. In UK institutions where bullying takes place as a routine thing, or has done in the past, there are a couple of features. First is that the senior staff all know and collude with it, seeing as how they went through it themselves a while back. So from that perspective it's a way of testing new intake to see if they are up to the standard to join the in crowd. But the reaction of the senior staff was that they didn't really seem to know anything about it. and simply muscled in to stamp it out when it became abundantly obvious. I would have expected maybe Crack to carry the can, but Maxixe as the apparent ringleader to have got away with a public caution and a private promotion. And Damaya, by breaking ranks and calling in the authorities, has clearly not understood the whole structure and would be quietly marginalised.

    But the other feature I would expect is that the institutionalised bullying would lead to an important place in society at large. So (in days gone by) the public school crew would put up with being called names, forced to do menial service, or whatever, specifically so that they could a) do the same to the next lot of juniors, and b) earn their place in the civil service or whatever when they came out the other end. But in this world, the senior orogenes are themselves victimised and bullied by society at large, so there doesn't seem to be any real target to aspire to. I would expect in that scenario that the orogenes would form their own self-supporting cabal akin to a trade union movement, and begin to make demands for better treatment.

    All of which is to say that I can't really understand what the wider social structures are that have created this little environment. Ignoring that, and treating it simply as written, I don't imagine that Crack survived the discipline chosen for her. We've had ample clues that the mentors see their primary role as protecting the world, not the students, and that death or similar punishment is an acceptable and often-chosen option.

    (PS apologies for what I realise is now rather a long ramble)

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    I forgot to mention: my current pet theory is that Damaya, Syenite, and Essun are all the same person - Damaya the youth, Syenite the young adult, and Essun the mature adult.

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > I forgot to mention: my current pet theory is that Damaya, Syenite, and Essun are all the same person - Damaya the youth, Syenite the young adult, and Essun the mature adult.

    Interesting. We don't yet know how (or even if, under normal circumstances) anyone ever gets to leave The Fulcrum. I mean for Syenite to become Essun. Also, we are being set up to expect Syenite to get pregnant with Alabaster's baby, yet so far as I recall both of Essun's children are from Jija. So there seem to be some narrative hoops to jump through before we can get there.
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    @RichardAbbott But we do know that Essun has changed her identity more than once in her past, which I took to be a clue. And we also know that Essun story takes place after the earth ending cataclysm, but the others seem to be before it, which is my other clue. No smoking guns yet, though.
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    I'm enjoying the speculation about how the three stories are connected, but I'm not going to say anything to confirm or deny any ideas.

    As for @RichardAbbott 's comments on bullying, I agree with most of them. Most bullying is just people being mean to each other because that's what people do. But there is a strand of informal fraternity in the public school system, where surviving then enacting the bullying sets up relationships for later in life. (Witness the "pig gate" mini-scandal from a few years ago.)

    I'm disappointed that the bullying seems resolved so quickly. It could be an interesting additional element of Damaya's story, beyond seeing what she learns in the Fulcrum. It also doesn't seem believable that the bullying would collapse so quickly. The bullies would have allies, who would bear grudges.

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    I am having my troubles with this still. Don't like the 2nd person, and the world building is pretty much not. I am enjoying some things - Syanite's and Damaya's storys and some of the characters, so I'm still sticking in there!

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    @clash_bowley said:
    I am having my troubles with this still. Don't like the 2nd person, and the world building is pretty much not. I am enjoying some things - Syanite's and Damaya's storys and some of the characters, so I'm still sticking in there!

    Reading this the names collided in my mind and I realised that when joined together, Damaya and Syenite almost make dynamite...

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