N.K. Jemisin’s The World We Make is maybe the most disappointing book I’ve read in a while—both because Jemisin has written some absolutely incredible novels and the potential was high, and because it’s genuinely a bad book.

The problem with it, fundamentally, is that it’s just a collection of the most banal, shallow leftist ideas possible: Cops are bad, ICE is bad, techbros are bad, Wall Street is bad, Trump is bad. And I’m not even kidding about that last one; literally the motto of the bad guy in this (a mayor, not a President) is “Make New York Great Again.” At the end of the day, it reads more like a Twitter feed than a novel—crashingly obvious, tendentiously polemic, and just absolutely lacking in the subtlety and deep humanity that pervades Jemisin’s better works (including the first book in this series!).

And I think Jemisin sorta knows it. The afterword talks about how difficult the book was to write for her, how she scrapped the idea of a trilogy to wrap the series up after this second book, and how she was tempted to not even write it at all, but felt obliged to finish off the plot for readers that didn’t want to be stuck in the middle with no resolution. TBH, I think she should have stuck by that impulse; yeah, this “wrapped up” the overarching plot, but the metaphysical bits are honestly just not that interesting. There’s a bit of niftiness from a lost city pruned from reality, but other than that, everything about the metaphysical plot stuff feels obvious, the straightforward and dull way to finish the story the first book started.

So yeah, not recommended. This lousy sequel makes me even more convinced that the original short story is the best form of this idea.


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