The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2020
Jemisin is known for her stories of fantastic powers and gods among us. Stories that also speak to modern themes of oppression, race and conflicts of cultures, supported by deep, layered worldbuilding that draws you into her beautiful but harsh landscapes. It may come as a surprise to some fans, then, that her latest book is set, not in a distant future world or another one entirely, but in New York City, right now. Or at least, a version of New York.
The City We Became is Jemisin’s first book in her Great Cities series, a series that asks: What if a city had a soul? What if it could come alive, embodied in a human avatar? And though inconvenient for a commercial release, this book’s theme and the story could not have landed at a more necessary time. The coronavirus is currently spreading across the country and the world. New York has been hit hard, and people in that lively, densely populated city are being asked to stay home, socially distance and take precautions to protect themselves and their neighbors from an invisible terror.
Jemisin’s New York faces a more fantastical but no less insidious threat, something that wants to engulf the city in fear and darkness, stop its awakening and kill its avatars — unless the people of the city can join hands to stop it. She lays out the stakes in stark terms:
“A city is never alone, not really — and this city seems less solitary than most. More like a family: many parts, frequently squabbling … but in the end, against enemies, they come together to protect one another. They must, or die.”
That coming together is what forms the core of the story.
– from the NPR review by Steve Mullis…
[ READ the full review ]
*** WATCH an interview with the novelist about this book