Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The 20 best novels of the decade

Emily Temple is a senior editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, will be published by William Morrow in 2020.

Temple and the Literary Hub staff picked the twenty best novels of the decade. One title on the list:
N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (2015)

It’s not always possible to tell that a novel is great while you’re reading it. I mean, obviously you can usually tell if you like something, but to for me, you only know that a novel is capital-g Great when you find yourself, weeks or months or years after the first reading, still thinking about it. Most books, even delightful and brilliant ones, do not pass this test, at least for me. But I have thought about N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (and its two sequels, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky) at least weekly since I read it a few years ago.

Perhaps it’s unfair. The novel imagines an alternate Earth that is periodically torn apart by apocalyptic weather—like suffocating ash, acid clouds, fungal blooms, mineral-induced darkness, magnetic pole shifts—that lasts for decades at a time, often threatening to wipe out humanity entirely. So you can see how it might come to mind these days.

But I also think about it for its incredible world-building, its unfortunately relevant cultural critique (caste systems, power hierarchies, fear and oppression of the other or unknown, particularly when that unknown other has dreamed-of skills), and its unforgettable characters, particularly, of course, Essun, with all her anger and fear and strength and softness and power. I love her.

And hey, if you don’t want to take my word for it, consider that all three books in the Broken Earth series won Hugos. All three.
–Emily Temple, Senior Editor
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Fifth Season is among Mark Skinner's eleven top works of science fiction & fantasy by black authors and Emily Temple's ten best road trip books. The Broken Earth series is among John Scalzi's six best examples of sci-fi worldbuilding and Joel Cunningham's eleven top sci-fi & fantasy books or series with a powerful message of social justice.

--Marshal Zeringue