The Obelisk Gate is the second installation in the Broken Earth series by NK Jemisin. We finally know why Essun’s husband, Jija, killed their toddler son and made off with their daughter, Nassun. For Nassun, this is a coming of age story. Her world is changed in one afternoon. To survive, she learns to play on her father’s emotions. This is the loss of her innocence. She struggles with accepting what she is. Which is the thing her father regards as a killing machine and drove him to kill his baby brother. She wants to remain a lovely little girl in his father’s eyes.
In the Fifth Season,
Which is the first book in the series, her mother went through a similar identity struggle, now it’s Nassum’s turn. However, unlike her mother, she is not struggling for the acceptance of a society at large. She is in a life or death struggle for her own father’s approval.
This installation is darker than the first one. In it we learn more about the Stillness and what caused Seasons (periods of catastrophe usually initiated by earthquakes). We meet Synite, who has reinvented herself into Essun and was living a quiet life in a backwater town on Torimo. That was until her husband killed her son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, as she sets off, her old mentor and lover, Alabaster, rips the earth apart, sending the Stillness into a new season. This season will last thousands of years. But she can change all of that, her mentor tells her. All she has to do is bring back Father Earth’s son, the Moon.
“It’s coming back.“
Oh, Earth. Oh, no!
“You want me to catch the fucking Moon?”
The story, like the first one, is hard to read. NK Jemisin delves a lot in describing how orogeny (a form of magic) works with the geology of the earth. Some settings were made by dead civilisations and she writes in such a way that makes it difficult to visualise what’s been described. Most times I couldn’t. On the other hand, it brings across that survivors of the seasons have lost the ability to read the language or use the technology left behind by the ancient dead civilisations. But it is hard to make out what they are for me as a reader and for the protagonists.
In the end
However, same as the last one; this series is the most unique and novel piece of science fiction literature that is in existence. It certainly could bring forth a whole sub-genre in future.