The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin is the second novel in the Broken Earth Trilogy and a great follow-up to The Fifth Season. We are back on the Stillness, which is a geologically unstable, far-future Earth, where culture has reverted to the steam-age after countless cataclysms.
The latest disaster seems like one that could affect the world for hundreds of years. Imagine ash occluded skies. Dropping temperatures. The human instinct to survive and plants and animals that have evolved for such chance occurrences. One of the characters, Tonkee, who’s a scientist, notes this change in flora and fauna and relative lack of change in humans. It reminds me of the argument regarding human evolution and the viewpoint of culture and technology slowing down the process. The humans of the Stillness have Stone Lore, where they record all of the rules to surviving an extinction event. But, they also have people who are Resistants, naturally resistant to disease; and, of course, there are the orogenes, which Tonkee may have overlooked due to the propaganda that orogenes aren’t human.
The question of the orogenes isn’t answered in this novel. We’re still left wondering if it’s evolution due to the Stillness or a genetic modification performed thousands of years ago. We do learn more about the Stone Eaters, those statue-like beings who can travel through solid objects and seem to exist in their own perception of time. Other questions covered include: who are the Guardians and how are they made? Who is against whom? What will happen to Alabaster and Essun? Where did Nassun and Jija go?
Right away the narrative revisits the perspective sharing of the first novel and remarks on that united vision. The Obelisk Gate is likewise told in three different points-of-view, but this time the main characters are Essun, Nassun, and Schaffa. While the first novel travelled inward to a degree, this one expands outward. Essun accepts her larger role and pursues her place in the new comm.
Themes that The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin explores are parenthood, love, racism, self-loathing, survival and community. It is unlike any fantasy series / speculative fiction series that I’ve read. If you’re looking to get lost in a rich world, full of complex characters, then open the pages to this book.