The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
In honour of the third book of this trilogy winning a Hugo Award this week (the first time a trilogy has won the award for every book! and very well deserved!), I had to share this series today. I highly recommend you watch N. K. Jemisin's winning speech at the Hugos, which really encapsulates the incredibly power of these books.
This is - well, it's a science fiction and fantasy series set in a world where extinction events destroy civilisation every hundred years, the survivors have to try and relearn how to create a society from the remains of cultures that surround them. This is exactly my sort of thing - archaeology as a means of survival. It's about legend and science, and how to work out which is which. It's about found families and slave races and something like magic.
It's diverse and full of plot twists and changes in perspective and the most wonderful characters. But what makes this series really special is that it uses the writing in a completely different way from anything I've ever seen. It's a masterclass in originality.
After you've read it, I recommend listening (/reading the transcript of) this podcast episode, which is my all-time favourite podcast, Be The Serpent. It analyses the science of writing - specifically, in this episode, it looks at how The Fifth Season uses storytellers and limited perspective to really great effect. They said it so much better than I could, so here's a quote:
"The Fifth Season gives you a prologue, and on the very first page, it gives you five paragraphs of a story, like a book would give you, and the the very last line says, “But you need context. Let’s try the ending again, writ continentally.” So it tells you up front, “I am the narrator and I am going to change how I tell the story until I get you to understand what I want.”
I remember reading that prologue… I started out, you know, curled up comfortably, relaxed. And I got to that line, and I sat up absolutely straight and I was like, “You have my attention. You’re doing something weird with narrative and I am all about that. Show me what you’re doing.”"
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