The Fifth Season is an epic story of survival in an unstable planet, oppressed by nature - Father Earth, and human against human. Earth is the main antagonist where seasons are separated between simmering volcanic, seismic, atmospheric and geomagnetic disturbances and utter devastation. Human mutants, orogenes, are used to subdue the violent earth, delaying the inevitable tide of cataclysmic extinction. The controlled environment known as the stillness allows a temporary beleaguered civility for its citizens, but still the orogene’s power is feared and hated by the humans they protect and exploited by an elite ruling group known as the guardians.
The Fifth Season spans three seemingly disparate times on Earth. All three protagonists are orogene women: the child, Damaya, being trained to properly develop her orogene powers; Syenite, a 4 ring orogene, who is sent on a mission with the experienced 10 ring orogene, Alabaster; and Essun, the older mother who leaves home to find her husband who murdered her son and took her daughter. There’s a secret in this multiple point-of-view story that surprises and enhances this epic story. Told in the second-person narrative, Jemisin effectively submerges the reader into her imagined future Earth that sits atop our own civilisation, long ago buried. Life barely survives a genocidal Father Nature where memories of honouring the once revered Mother Nature are long forgotten.
This bleak, savage world is akin to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, where humanity is assaulting its own, even though life on Earth borders on extinction. However, unlike The Road, Jemisin offers a glimmer of hope for civilisation that nature can be changed.