Stone Sky discussion

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I know a few people have been reading The Stone Sky, book of the Broken Earth trilogy. I've now finished it, so would be happy to have a discussion about it.

Who else is reading it? How far through are you? When would be a good time to discuss the book?

Comments

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    I haven't been reading it but am commenting so I can follow anyone else's thoughts

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    I finished it - not sure who else is reading it. Maybe @WildCard ?
    For those who, like me, didn't care much for the first two books - the third books doesn't break form, but it does have a very nice little end with a redemption and an afterword by the author that explains her approach on certain matters. I need to find time to (at last) read that article I linked to back in book 1.

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    I’ve read a couple of chapters, but, if I move it up in my priority list, I can be ready to discuss this weekend.

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    We're scheduled to discuss Tehanu starting this weekend. How about we aim to talk about The Stone Sky after that discussion has finished?

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    Good idea.
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    Works for me.

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    I think it's safe to come back to this, now.

    I can't say the last book changed my opinion of the overall work much - the main negatives for me were implausible and paper-thin worldbuilding and unlikable characters. The writing was mixed - at times annoying for those annoying (and cliched) tricks. One. Word. Sentences. For. Example. But there were also a few times I was impressed with the writing. 90% of the time I found it competent but unremarkable.

    Redeeming in this book for me was the end, which I thought was nicely done. I might even have been moved if I had cared more for the characters. The little afterword where Jemisin talks about her own relationship with her mother was revealing and interesting.

    I'll try to read that article over the weekend.

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    I think Essun matured a bit in this book, or perhaps she just started her transition into something other than human. She seemed less vindictive in this book than previously, but also more detached from the people around her.

    I was a bit disappointed with the Syl Anagist reveal that the hatred of orogenes was just ordinary racism all along. On the other hand, it was good to have that backstory revealed.

    What did people think of the book when reading it quickly? It's a fairly pulpy book, and perhaps reading the book at its "intended" pace makes for a better experience?

    I have other comments to make, building on what's in The Article, but I'll wait for you to read it.

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    What kind of racism were you hoping for? I guess you mean - you were hoping for more ideological depth?

    Honestly, reading more quickly made no difference to me. In general, I haven't found that reading slowly has changed anything for my appreciation or comprehension over these 'slow reads', but where I'm in love with the book/setting (as with LOTR) or the book is complex or symbolic (as with the Book of the New Sun) I found I've benefited immensely from the interstitial discussions. They help me catch up on concepts or details I might have missed, and engage in a little fanboyism.

    With this book, though, there wasn't much world to look at, now were there a lot of allegorical references (there were a few - i enjoyed discussing those) so we mostly fell to trying to speculate on why things were the way they were, and wondering why characters did one thing and not another, and what they might do next. This former was frustrating because the author was deliberately delaying reveals, and the latter also frustrating because it was so hard to identify with the characters.

    So, if nothing else, I did learn more about what kind of book I'd personally like to see in future 'slow reads'.

    As for my reading habits in general, I try to read all books purposefully. I don't skim books. So there isn't really a difference between 'reading fast' and 'reading slow' - the pace is the same for me, just with more pauses when we go slow. In my opinion, if a book doesn't stand up to a slow read, it's probably because it's not a good book. And reading the book quickly so you don't notice how bad it is isn't really a remedy to a bad book. But at least it helps you put that book behind you if you decide to persevere.

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    OK - I read the article: https://tolkienaboutscifi.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/layered-themes-in-the-broken-earth/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CBroken%E2%80%9D%20is%20the%20Earth%20split,evolving%20identity%20from%20the%20beginning.

    It's a good article - enlightening even. I wish I had read it sooner an not worried about the spoilers, because I think I would have appreciated the book more. Much of this was thematically lost on me since it relates to experiences I can't possibly.

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    I like the way the book questions if the world is even worth saving. The way things are painted in the trilogy, the answer is not a definite “yes”. That’s pretty remarkable.

    I don’t know if 2020 me can cope with that sort of bleakness...

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    @dr_mitch said:
    I don’t know if 2020 me can cope with that sort of bleakness...

    That's an interesting (and provocative :) ) meta-question... I wonder if there has been a rise in non-bleak super-optimistic fiction over the last 6 months? Or to people on balance like dystopia and bleakness more when they're surrounded by it?

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    @Apocryphal said:
    What kind of racism were you hoping for? I guess you mean - you were hoping for more ideological depth?

    The destruction of the world (of Syl Anagist) was caused by ordinary, boring, mundane racism and genocide. Utterly banal. I don't know if it's important in the novel that the problems were caused by exactly real-world problems, or if the story would be stronger if there was a more otherworldly cause.

    So, if nothing else, I did learn more about what kind of book I'd personally like to see in future 'slow reads'.

    I think that's right. On the other hand, I don't think anyone was aware of these shortcomings in the book before we started. Which is a way of saying that we're going to have to take a risk with whatever slow read we do next.

    As for my reading habits in general, I try to read all books purposefully. I don't skim books. So there isn't really a difference between 'reading fast' and 'reading slow' - the pace is the same for me, just with more pauses when we go slow. In my opinion, if a book doesn't stand up to a slow read, it's probably because it's not a good book. And reading the book quickly so you don't notice how bad it is isn't really a remedy to a bad book. But at least it helps you put that book behind you if you decide to persevere.

    I don't know. There are some books that are just shallow entertainment. Not everything has to be deep. Sometimes its enough to be just an enjoyable romp. I don't think there's a lot of depth in venerated stories like Conan or John Carter, but they're still fun.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    OK - I read the article: https://tolkienaboutscifi.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/layered-themes-in-the-broken-earth/

    It's a good article - enlightening even. I wish I had read it sooner an not worried about the spoilers, because I think I would have appreciated the book more. Much of this was thematically lost on me since it relates to experiences I can't possibly.

    Yes, it is a good article. Perhaps it's one I should have kept in mind more as we were doing the slow read: bringing out some of those themes might have given us more to discuss.

    One thing that's strong in the books is the notion of changes in identity. There's Damaya - Syenite - Essun - stone eater, Binof - Tonkee, Houwha - stone eater - Hoa child - Hoa stone eater, and I'm sure others. A lot of stories have characters developing over time, but this book makes is more explicit by having people change name and/or composition. It's also mirrored in how Essun's horizons change from her children to Castrima to the entire world.

    The other theme is people accepting circumstances as they are, and not considering how things could be different (and possibly better). But the whole sorry mess was caused by the original Tuners deciding that things should be different and attempting to annihilate the world, and then resolved by Hoa taking steps to put it right. So even that theme isn't clear, that we should be looking for ways to change things to resolve injustice.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    I don't know. There are some books that are just shallow entertainment. Not everything has to be deep. Sometimes its enough to be just an enjoyable romp. I don't think there's a lot of depth in venerated stories like Conan or John Carter, but they're still fun.

    Totally agree with this. If I'm tired or zoned out for some reason, my read of choice is often an author like EE (Doc) Smith. I would never defend his writing as deep, or accomplished, or anything like that... but as a light, improbable, pacy read (shallow is a good term) then every now and again they are just right.

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    There are lighter and heavier books, yes, but this has no bearing on how many reading speeds Apocryphal Chris has.
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    The Broken Earth trilogy has a lot to say about racism and living under the oppression that it causes. Do we think it has anything important to say? Should we look at the books differently given the prominence of the BLM movement?

    I'm a white UK-resident man, so my experience of racism is very different from a black US-resident woman (Jemisin). I think everyone here is closer to me than to Jemisin on these axes. Do these books tell us anything new about racism?

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    I’m not sure there are unimportant things to say about racism, but I didn’t get that much from my surface reading of the book. But if the article is right and the main thrust is that racism is hidden under the surface and therefor easily overlooked, then I think that’s a very important message, because it’s so easy for the majority to ignore or take for granted what happens to the minority.

    I’m really not sure there’s much NEW to say about racism. It’s been around for a very long time, and always will be.
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    edited September 21

    I think pace means I get different things out of a book, and some books (for me) need a certain pace, For example, something pulpy I need to consume rapidly,

    As for what the trilogy says about racism, it felt like a cry of fury. It wasn’t at any stage comfortable, and it was all-encompassing. I don’t know what to say about that. Maybe there’s something about the feeling of being oppressed, and how it leads to an attitude to smash it all up.

    In light of this, the world building takes a back seat. It’s not as important.

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    Out of curiosity (I don't mind a spoiler as I'm very unlikely to read the book) did Essun end up as a stone eater herself, like (I assume) Alabaster did?

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    @dr_mitch said:
    As for what the trilogy says about racism, it felt like a cry of fury. It wasn’t at any stage comfortable, and it was all-encompassing. I don’t know what to say about that. Maybe there’s something about the feeling of being oppressed, and how it leads to an attitude to smash it all up.

    A quick search failed to turn up any sites of "SF book reviews by Black/PoC reviewers." It would be interesting to see what they thought of the book.

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Out of curiosity (I don't mind a spoiler as I'm very unlikely to read the book) did Essun end up as a stone eater herself, like (I assume) Alabaster did?

    Yes. The conversion mostly suppresses memory, so Hoa's narration to to bring the stone-eater Essun back to herself after conversion.

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