The City We Became

The City We Became

Book - 2020 | First edition.
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"Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She's got six. When a young man crosses the bridge into New York City, something changes. He doesn't remember who he is, where he's from, or even his own name. But he can feel the pulse of the city, can see its history, can access its magic. And he's not the only one. All across the boroughs, strange things are happening. Something is threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY :, Orbit,, 2020.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316509848
Characteristics: 437 pages : map.


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Sep 21, 2020

The City We Became is original, imaginative and contains some really beautiful moments of prose. I will admit it took me about 100 pages to fully immerse within the story and feel like I understood what was going on, but I did get sucked in after that. I do think the book is a little over-stuffed, and could have benefitted from a heavier editing hand - there's *a lot* of descriptive paragraphs that don't necessarily push the plot forward. However, overall the book is quite delightful, and the different personalities of NYC struck me as incredibly accurate.

multcolib_rachaels Sep 19, 2020

Very different from the other books by Jemisin I have read - the setting is contemporary, and it's replete with cultural references. While it is a response to Lovecraft, it is not *at all* like Lovecraft - it's lively and the characters are rich. A great read.

OPL_DavidD Sep 12, 2020

I love science fiction and fantasy stories about the nature of modern cities. Jemisin is one of the best writers working today, so its cool to her lyrical and thought-provoking take on that subgenre. The large and diverse cast of characters come together to face racism and gentrification head on, which felt very satisfying to read this year.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Aug 24, 2020

Jemisin. She is just that good. While this is entirely its own thing, it will appeal to fans of fantasy with a strong attachment to place: Gaiman's American Gods and Aaronovitch's Rivers of London.

JessicaGma Aug 18, 2020

I'll freely admit to being completely over stories about New York, but I did like this one which was SO NY. I am sure there were jokes and observations that completely escaped this poor Canuck. But this is definitely one of the most unusual books I have read in a long time where people become the avatars of cities when the city passes a certain point of growth - lots to think about there. And it's the start to a trilogy so I am here for more about this whole universe

IndyPL_SteveB Aug 03, 2020

Wow. Jemisin continues to write stories that are different from anyone else’s. This urban fantasy love-letter to the City of New York opens up new ground again. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I’m hooked.

When cities become large enough, with a distinctive culture and attitude, they become *alive*, with a soul of sorts that becomes linked to a human “avatar.” But it seems that some Lovecraftian power from another universe also battles against the formation of Earth cities, trying to destroy their avatars before the city can become whole. Since New York is five cities in one (the five Boroughs), five new avatars are created. They don’t just become representatives of their cities – they literally become *the personification of the city*.

By itself, the plot and characters would make this an enjoyable novel. But Jemisin has many things to say about what creates a culture, what makes a city worth living in, parenthood, art, sexuality, race, and survival. She is an intense, creative user of language. And she sure loves New York. If you like fantasy, this will make your brain cells dance.

IndyPL_CarriG Jul 21, 2020

This multi-faceted, superhero style novel is a wonderful read, an inescapable and timely metaphor for the violence and everyday bias that shapes the lives of people of color, and peopled with characters with compassion who you want to root for. Perhaps less dense and outwardly complex than Jemison's other work but no less brilliant for that. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Jul 05, 2020

Maybe it's because of all my bad experiences in New York, but I thought this book fell short of Jemisin's previous masterpieces. The characters are brilliant, the caricatures a bit over the top, but something about the story fell flat for me.

Jul 04, 2020

I think Jemisin enjoyed writing this book, the first in a new City trilogy. Human avatars embody the essence and character of New York’s five boroughs with sass, perspicacity, wokeness, and anti-establishment attitude as they learn to work together to defeat an alien threat to their city. Jemisin’s trademark raw energy writing packs a punch as she addresses underlying themes of injustice, prejudice, and elite power. Multi-racial characters, science fiction/fantasy, and exciting action sequences (bridges tumbling! car chases! explosions!) all set in New York City - this would make a great movie if done right!

Jun 25, 2020

They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I often do. Maybe I shouldn’t…The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin has a cover that doesn’t do justice to the lyricism and emotional depth of its contents. Wonderful emotional writing about the mysterious wonders of urban life, the magic of road rage, the poetry of the street, quiet pockets of anonymity amidst the throng, and the power and challenges of confrontation.

There is a lot of Lovecraftian related speculative fiction...My current favorite is Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country, soon to be a HBO show by Jordan Peele; but Jemisin provides my favorite examination of Lovecraft's racism and xenophobia as the bedrock of his horror oeuvre. While NYC is deified in this first in a trilogy, and the surprising reveal of the enemy's true name caught me by surprise, I hope Chicago is next. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, or Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series.

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