The author of the Hugo winning The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin, has been in the news lately for her take on the current state of publishing and her reaction to winning “the Oscars” of her genre, but since last December she has also been sharing her views on Science Fiction and Fantasy in the NYT book review column “Otherwordly,” a bi-monthly roundup.
While the paper often assigns high profile authors to review high profile titles in the Sunday Book Review (Michael Connelly just reviewed Caleb Carr’s newest for example), Jemisin’s role is a bit different as she gets space to comment on a range of books within her genre specialty.
What kind of reviewer is she? A very precise, demanding, and appreciative one; a critic writing with vibrant engagement who is not willing to let much slide. What kind of reader is she? Based on her reactions to the works covered thus far, one that is interested in meaningful content rather than plot, values beautiful language, and appreciates in-depth characterizations.
For example, in her opening column she tries to figure out what China Miéville’s This Census-Taker (PRH/Del Rey) is all about, jumping from one possibility to the next before concluding, “This is a novel in which the journey is the story — but for those readers who actually want Miéville to take them somewhere, This Census-Taker may be an exercise in haunting, lovely frustration.”
Similarly, of Keith Lee Morris’s Travelers Rest (Hachette/Back Bay) she says the story is “not fresh” and thought “It’s beautifully written … Beautiful writing just isn’t enough to save any story from overfamiliarity.”
When a work does capture her fully, she gives it a rare “highly recommended” vote, as she has done for Andrea Hairston’s Will Do Magic for Small Change (Aqueduct Press), calling it a “beautifully multifaceted story … with deep, layered, powerful characters.”
All The Birds In The Sky (Macmillan/Tor/Tom Doherty), Charlie Jane Anders also impresses. She says it is “complex, and scary, and madcap … as hopeful as it is hilarious, and highly recommended.”
Below are links to her columns thus far: