My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you'd told me about The City We Became in general terms, I wouldn't have thought it would be my kind of book. I would have been very wrong. This is a terrific book. It's a sci-fi/fantasy novel, and it's also a love note to New York City.
I felt that way for much of the book, where the city, manifesting itself through human representatives, is fighting off an existential threat from other universes, and I was certain of my view when I read one character saying this: “'Yeah, well, you know New Yorkers—everybody except the new ones—always say that. It’s dirty and there’s too many cars and nothing’s maintained the way it should be and it’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and it stinks like unwashed ass most of the time. But ever notice how none of you ever fucking leave? Yeah, now and then somebody’s elderly mom gets sick down in New Mexico or something and you go live with her, or you have kids and you want them to have a real yard so you bump off to Buffalo. But most of you just stay here, hating this city, hating everything, and taking it out on everybody . . . But then you meet somebody fine at the neighborhood block party, or you go out for Vietnamese pierogies or some other bizarre shit that you can’t get anywhere but in this dumb-ass city, or you go see and off-off-off-Broadway fringe festival play nobody else has seen, or you have a random encounter on the subway that becomes something so special and beautiful that you’ll tell your grandkids about it someday. And then you love it again. It glows off of you. Like a damn aura.' She shakes her head, smiling to herself a little wistfully. 'I get on the train to go home every day, and sometimes I look around and see all these people glowing. Filled with the beauty of this city.'”
Then there's the connection you feel with the characters, through their flaws and their nobility, and the tension of whether they can deal with this scary alien invasion.
The City We Became is a great novel, and I look forward to reading more from N.K. Jemisin.
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