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Erin Reads: the Broken Earth trilogy, by N.K. Jemisen December 11, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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Some thoughts about this multi-Hugo-award-winning trilogy. The parts I liked, and the parts that mean I’m going to end up complaining anyway.

I’ll mark the point where the spoilers kick in.

The series takes place on a dystopian far-future Earth where geology has gone horribly awry, leading to a pattern of disastrous “Seasons.” Communities that still exist have developed long-term survival techniques like “maintain store-caches with a decade’s worth of food at all times.”

A subset of humans are born with the ability to sense and control earthquakes by redistributing energy. You would think this would be a great and useful skill that communities compete to attract, but nope, they’re hated and feared so much that discovery of the skill can prompt people to murder their own children. There’s an isolated training center that trains and controls them, and residents of that center are hired and tolerated — just barely.


  • The writing is very good
  • The worldbuilding is cool and unique
  • Frank, unashamed inclusion of queer+trans characters
  • Lots of pretty stuff going on with magic rocks


  • Don’t get too attached to anyone, because main characters keep dying right and left
  • [see spoilers]

One cool layer in the worldbuilding is how much disparate strands of culture are influenced by the worldbuilding. There’s no sense of religion, other than an anthropomorphization of the Earth itself as a malevolent force. All their swearwords are derived from rocks/dirt/geological events. Organized study of astronomy is gone, because everyone’s survival depends on looking down to such a degree that nobody has time to look up.

(Spoilers start here.) (more…)