#TBR Challenge – No Place Like Home: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

I don’t live in New York City, but I’m close enough and I’ve been there enough that I felt The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (2020) worked for this month’s theme, No Place Like Home. The book expands on the story “The City Born Great” from Jemisin’s 2018 collection, How Long ’til Black Future Month?; in altered form, that story serves as a prologue.

The conceit is that cities will sometimes, rarely, achieve sentience. When they do, creepy other-dimensional predators await to battle and often destroy them. In the world of the book, for example, New Orleans’ birth and then loss to the predatory manifestation is represented by Hurricane Katrina. It’s a cool idea, but I found the end of the book a little unsatisfying. Presumably the sequel, The World We Make (2022) gives a greater sense of resolution to the story.

When the initial avatar of New York City is incapacitated, the city manifests in five New Yorkers who anthropomorphize the five boroughs on New York City, plus one more avatar, and they must work together to fight (explicitly) Lovecraftian horrors and evils such as racism, sexual abuse, and white supremacy; Jemisin stated some of the manifestations symbolize gentrification. Each of the avatars has their own special ability, and made me wonder if this book would be suitable to be turned into a comic or a video game.

I’d be interested to see if there are any academic studies of the fictional sub-genre in which real-life cities exhibit magical sentience. In reading this, I was reminded of the following books I read years ago, that give magical life to London, though not in the same way as Jemisin’s work: The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (2012) and the series beginning with A Madness of Angels: Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin (2009).

The City We Became won a British Science Fiction Association award and a Locus Award.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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One Response to #TBR Challenge – No Place Like Home: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

  1. Gurusex.net says:

    Wow, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of cities achieving sentience, and it seems like N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became explores this concept in a unique and thrilling way. As someone who is not from New York but has spent enough time there to feel connected, I can’t wait to read this book for our theme of No Place Like Home. Though I must admit, I was a bit disappointed by the ending, but I have high hopes for the sequel to provide a satisfying resolution. The idea of New York City manifesting in five individuals and fighting Lovecraftian horrors and systemic issues like racism and gentrification already has me imagining the potential for a comic or video game adaptation. It would also be interesting to see if any academic studies have been done on the sub-genre where real-life cities exhibit magical sentience. This book reminds me of past reads like The City’s Son and A Madness of Angels, which also give life to cities in a magical way. I’m not surprised to hear that The City We Became has won awards, and I can’t wait to dive into this unique and thought-provoking read.

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