Saturday, January 28, 2023

Review: THE WORLD WE MAKE by N. K. Jemisin


Rating: 2/5 stars

The World We Make is the sequel to The City We Became and the conclusion to the Great Cities duology. I definitely liked the first book better, but this one was still not bad. 

This series is very weird. It’s a mixture of urban fantasy and science fiction. The books are technically classified as fantasy but I feel like they are more sci-fi because there are discussions of the multiverse and there is no real magic and they take place in modern-day New York rather than in a fantastical world.

I ended up listening to this novel via audiobook and the audio production was excellent, with multiple voices, background music, sound effects, etc. to make it a full listening experience. I wish more books had a top-notch audiobook production like this one did. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t love how the plot progressed in this book. It picked up soon after the first one ended, with an invasion of an otherworldly being invading the city and the different boroughs of New York having to band together to save NYC and defeat the evil. But some of the minor details of the story just weren’t working for me, and I wasn’t super comfortable reading a fantasy novel that incorporated some elements that so closely mirrored our own real-life world. 

For example, one of the enemies trying to sabotage the mission of the borough avatars is a man who wants to “make New York great again.” Like I wonder who that character is supposed to represent… So while I appreciated that Jemisin touched on important topics like the history of gentrification and racism in NYC, the way it was done felt more like a contemporary fiction novel than a science fiction / fantasy novel, and I thought the execution could have been more nuanced. That’s just my opinion though. 

My biggest complaint about this book, however, was how vulgar it was. I can’t remember if the first installment had as many expletives or not, but this one had constant swearing throughout the whole thing, coming from nearly every character in every conversation. While I know that’s realistic characterization for this story, it still bothered me while I was listening to the book. I felt it was a little bit too much, but again, that’s just my opinion. 

I stand by the statement I made in my review of The City We Became: I think people who are more familiar with New York, like residents or frequent visitors, will enjoy this story more than I did. I have never traveled to NYC so I am entirely unfamiliar with all the different cultures there or how the boroughs differ from one another in any way. There were a lot of references to New York-related things, and I would have loved to feel connected to the story on that inner level, but I wasn’t able to. 

This book would be great for the right audience. I don’t think I was ever the right audience since I read this series solely because it’s by N. K. Jemisin, whose other series I have read and loved. Her Great Cities duology certainly has a unique concept and is well-written, but it still didn’t resonate with me the way her other works did and the way I know it will with other readers. I know I will never reread this series, but I’m glad I read it at least this once. 

Overall, I still feel pretty conflicted about the series as a whole because there were parts I loved and parts I didn’t like. The plot in the first book was much more engaging and much easier to follow than that in this book, but this book adds a lot more character development. So each has pros and cons. It’s just a really weird series though, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I love N. K. Jemisin and I will continue to read any future books she writes, but I would not recommend this series be your starting place with her works. 

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