Book Bars: The Seedbearing Prince (Part Two)

Chapter Three- Chapter Nine

So in these chapters we get a better idea of how Wia Wells and Shard as a world operates.  If anything, the planet reminds me a bit of The Shire from Lord of The Rings.  You have these simple farm folk suddenly beset by these larger than life forces and one special one amongst them must confront it.   DaVaun is definitely drawing inspiration from the classical model of The Hero’s Journey.  I think that is why the story resonates from the beginning because it has some of those familiar, bedrock elements to it.

Dayn definitely becomes a more sophisticated character over the stretch of these chapters.  He’s a non-conformist and it almost seems to be the nature of heroes that requires non-conformity.  Dayn isn’t above challenging his friends and loved ones when he sees something is wrong.  But I think authors can have a tendency to romanticize non-conformity and make it into this whimsical thing we should have all strive to be.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m down with bucking the system, but there are consequences for it.   DaVaun takes the time to show those consequences and emotionally they are brutal for the character of Dayn.

When he finally does leave his world, you can tell he’s been battered and bruised for his choices.  Now I’ll be honest here and say that I found myself a bit edgy to get off world.  I think the book may have lingered a bit too long on Shard if only because I think the prologue sets up a space adventure and that’s what you kind of expect early on.  So when we finally get to the Ring I’m in a good reading space because I feel like things are really going to get into gear.  Everything else before this just seems like a prelude.

So I’m ready to see how things progress for Dayn and what kind of worldbuilding we’re going to get from DaVaun.  So far he’s done a great job because Shard feels truly fleshed out so I imagine he’s going to get to spread his wings a bit here in these upcoming chapters.

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Men We Reaped and Why It Should Make People Uncomfortable

I finished this book a month ago.  Usually, I try to write up my responses to the stuff I read in a more immediate manner.  You know, while it’s still raw and right there in my focus.  But not with this piece of art.  Why?  Because I don’t think I would have been coherent if I wrote this right after I finished the book.   This memoir left me an absolute mess.  The words you see now, if written then, would have been without composure.  It would have just been an emotional outpouring that would have lost you on the majesty of the work at hand.

Young black men are dying.  If I had to sum up the memoir in one sentence that would be it because it is the sobering reality we are left with.  Ward lays out the truth of her life on the page as she tries to navigate the why and the how of them dying.  She explores not only her life, but the lives of five young black men dear to her who all were torn from this world in unfair circumstances.  I read these words and couldn’t help but to feel them pulling me through my own thoughts and my own existence.  Because like Ward, my family roots are also in the Deep South.  And while black men are dying all across this country, it is in the Deep South where it feels like this cancer runs completely unchecked.

You know what’s funny?  As I’m writing this, I realized I was trying to keep the potential white reader in mind.  I wasn’t thinking about them in order to not offend them, but I was thinking about them in terms of how to keep them from immediately going to their normal assumptions.  For I’m sure when I speak of young black men dying, the typical thoughts turn to glorified gangster violence and misogynistic hip-hop.  It’s easier to think of us and our tragedy in that manner because it dehumanizes us.  After I finished reading this book, I wished I could find the money to shove a copy into the hands of every white person who ever shouted the bullshit of “All Lives Matter” or uttered the phrase “I’m not racist but…”.  And forced them to sit there and read it.

That’s the power in this book.  It gives us humanity.  That’s why this memoir is dangerous because it makes us human.  And Ward shows that the reasons “they” think we’re dying are far from the truth.  Yes, there are drugs but not merely because it’s recreational fun and out of an abundance of choices we choose drugs.  No, drugs are the medicine trying to mask the disease.  The disease that is poverty and joblessness.  The despair that comes from young men who want to be able to stand on their own two feet and get knocked down at every opportunity.  Drugs and drug dealing aren’t glamorized in this book, but instead are dealt with the harsh lens of reality.

Ward digs into the insidious nature of racism and how it sits below the surface.  It’s the racism that the majority of white people would like to pretend doesn’t exist.  The only racism they acknowledge is the kind that’s hot, visible and in someone’s face.  The kind that requires harsh words and spittle flying.  They don’t want to deal with the racism that allows the black side of town to not get necessary infrastructure repairs.  Repairs that might have saved the life of a young black man killed by a train for which he had no warning.  They don’t want to hear about how that man died in agony as flames consumed him.

They don’t want to hear about the racism that leaves a young black man doing the right thing on the hook.   This young black man helped police catch a bad guy and forever had to look over his shoulder because of it.  They don’t want to hear about the protection a white witness would get versus a poor, black one and how that lack of protection ultimately got him killed.  They don’t want to listen to the story of why the philosophy of “no snitching” arose from the fact that police want you to help them and ultimately leave you hanging out to dry for doing so.

Hearing about that kind of racism is inconvenient for your average white person because it makes them have to deal with their part in continuing the system.  They don’t want to hear about how a white drunk driver killing a young black man gets a slap on the wrist.  Those things don’t happen because of racism they’ll be sure to tell you.   They need that bubble of ignorance because it is in that bubble which they thrive.

Ward confronts that bubble head on without trying to point fingers.  She doesn’t have to do that because her words are more powerful than mine.  She’s able to speak to the tragedy of a generation and the continued system which is reaping our young people like wheat in a bloody cornfield.

Book Bars: The Seedbearing Prince (Part One)

Prologue – Chapter Two

This story starts right off in the action and after a couple of the things I’ve read this weekend, getting right into the action is a good thing.  It’s fast paced, you know you’re in a space opera setting and it sets the tone for what you expect the whole novel to be.  I think its good things slow down a bit right after though because the emotional connections haven’t been established yet and it might be hard to do so in that breakneck an opening.

Our eyes in this story is the character of Dayn.  So far, Dayn feels a lot like Luke Skywalker to me.  He’s obviously going to be our hero, he’s young and he’s looking to go do something that his parental figures don’t approve of.  Dayn wants to participate in something called course blading, which you kind of got an introduction to in the prologue.  It was smart of Sanders to throw that bit of action in at the beginning because you get a very good taste of exactly why his parents might not be so keen on letting Dayn do it.  Hell, I wouldn’t want my kid up there in space jumping from one insanely fast moving rock to another.

Sanders has found that delicate balance that many world building authors struggle with.  N.K. Jemisin talks about the levels of immersion a story will take and I think today’s audience is looking for something that hovers between mid and high immersion.  Meaning that Sanders knows when to explain something to us and when to just let the details of the backstory unfold.  He makes better use of his time setting up the conflict for us as opposed to explaining how the farming system works on this world.   A smart writer knows to when to give and when to let the reader fill in the blanks.

I’m committed to the story now and that’s in part due to the author’s ability to excite and then to pull you in with a universal conflict; the coming of age.  I look forward to seeing how this plays out and how else this story might be a spiritual friend to Star Wars.

Book Bars: The Fifth Season (Part Three)

Chapter Eight- The End

So I got a little hype with the book and had some free time on my hands so I carried my reading all the way through to the end.   I felt like as I was reading this story, I had certain suspicions about the timelines of the different narratives and they ended up being true.  I won’t spoil anything, but you will end up being satisfied once it call connects

For me, I think that is Jemisin’s greatest strength.  She knows how to pull all the different plot threads together and kick you in the teeth at the end.  You walk away from the book feeling satisfied with how everything comes together and she leaves you with quite an interesting prelude to the next book.  Though I’m starting to think she has a thing with moons, which is perfectly cool with me.   All us writers have those themes and imagery we gravitate to.

I wish we would have gotten a little more action in this novel.  There were parts that I felt things dragged and I waited for something to come along to really pick up the pace.  Part of me thinks that may be in part to Jemisin wanting to harp on the depression and the sickness of the world she took us through.  This place isn’t at all somewhere I’d ever want to go.   Constant earthquakes, an oppressed minority that has horrible things done to them and they’re filled with this looming self-hate.  Yea it’s just too much to take in at times in the amount of bad things happening here.  There really are no happy endings here.

It could just be the focus was taken away from the potential bits of action because the emotional weight of the story already put such a heavy loaded on the reader.  Even as I write this, some of that depression from the story lingers.  I’m playing music to kind of lift the dark cloud that story left around my essence.  Don’t get me wrong because these darker moments are necessary but this novel rubs it into your skin like dirt you can’t get rid of without a couple of showers.  So just be prepared for it.

Will I get the next book?  Yea and I’ll tell you why.  Given how bleak things are at the end of the book, I’m honestly not sure where Jemisin can go with the story now.  The world is pretty much gone for by the end of the book so I’m interested to see how she decides to up the ante.

Book Bars: The Fifth Season (Part Two)

Chapter Five- Seven

At this point I think we’re going to be sticking with just the viewpoints of the ladies.  Which, I have absolutely no problem with.  I mean how many freaking books are there were all the main characters are male?  So yea, not an issue at all with the reader getting all women.  And these are varied characters regardless of their gender.  In fact, I give Jemisin praise for how she chose which characters would serve as our POV here.  The variety of them is really going to allow her to explore her world.  I’m curious to see if their various threads even come together in one place or not.

There’s a part in Chapter Six that is going to piss just about anyone off and it shows the depths of discrimination the orogenes face.  Damaya, the little girl who I hoped was being saved from a terrible life, is probably in a much worse situation now.  She’s in the care of someone who I’m going to equate to a police officer here and he’s breaks the damn girl’s hand to prove a point about who’s in control.  It made me immediately think of all the terrible things done to black children during the eras of slavery and Jim Crow.  I think Jemisin wanted me to feel that horror and not casually walk by that scene.  I swear it stuck with me for days after reading it.

So on the flipside, we have the broken mother Essun finding herself in the company of a lost child that doesn’t seem to fit any known physical norms and can sense orogenes like a tracker.  The kid is definitely a mystery and a perfectly fitting one for the situation of Essun.  And damn it if Jemisin isn’t keeping this second person POV going strong.  I am so jealous of the talent she’s exhibiting here.