Short Take: “Emergency Skin,” N.K. Jemisin

Pros: A beautiful look at what the future could be!
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

N.K. Jemisin’s novella Emergency Skin (Forward collection) is told by a “consensus intelligence” implanted in the mind of a soldier. We get to see what the intelligence says to the soldier, and what others outside of him say to him. It’s unique and quite effective. The soldier comes from a colony of survivors from the planet Tellus (Earth). To be blunt, they’re basically a bunch of bigoted, misogynistic white guys who decided to take the “best and brightest” of Earth’s people and leave the planet behind to die it’s ugly death. They’ve sent the soldier to retrieve certain samples that they need–but the soldier discovers that the planet isn’t dead. It isn’t unoccupied. In fact, it’s very much alive!

I can’t go into detail about the delightful turn of events, because this isn’t a very long story. I will say that part of the reason I love this story so much is because Jemisin’s notions of what might save the world are ones I deeply appreciate. People of certain political leanings will not agree. In the middle of so much dystopian fiction, this is some good old-fashioned utopian fiction, and it’s beautiful! It’s particularly interesting because it contrasts two different populations’ ideas of what constitutes a utopia.

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