Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin
Series: Women Destroy Science Fiction! (Lightspeed #49)
Published by Skyboat Media on November 18, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 15 hours, 11 minutes
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Buy It Here! •
The summer of 2013 was a rough one for women in science fiction. Every few weeks there was a new reminder that to a certain subset of the field, women are not welcome. There were multiple articles returning to the tired accusation that women aren’t writing “real” SF; disputes about the way the field is represented by vintage cheesecake art on the cover of a professional trade publication; the glib admonition that if women are to succeed, they should be more like Barbie, in her “quiet dignity.” For many readers, it was a very nasty surprise to discover this undercurrent running through the ocean of imaginative fiction we love.
And it just. Kept. Coming.
We got tired. We got angry. And then we came out the other side of exhaustion and anger deeply motivated to do something.
Thus the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE was conceived. We did a Kickstarter campaign in early 2014 to help make the issue into a double issue; we crushed our fundraising goal in about 7 hours and ended up funding at more than 1000% of our original funding goal, with more than 2800 backers. Because of that tremendous success, we unlocked two major stretch goals which resulted in the publication of companion volumes Women Destroy Fantasy! and Women Destroy Horror!, which are being published as issues of LIGHTSPEED’s sister publications, FANTASY and NIGHTMARE.
FROM THE EDITORS — Christie Yant, Rachel Swirsky, Wendy N. Wagner, Robyn Lupo, and Gabrielle de Cuir
Editorial, June 2014: Women Destroy Science Fiction!
ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES — edited by Christie Yant
Each to Each by Seanan McGuire – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
A Word Shaped Like Bones by Kris Millering – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe – narrated by Grover Gardner
Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin – narrated by Bahni Turpin
The Case of the Passionless Bees by Rhonda Eikamp – narrated by Jonathan L. Howard
In the Image of Man by Gabriella Stalker– narrated by John Allen Nelson
The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders – narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Dim Sun by Maria Dahvana Headley – narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
The Lonely Sea in the Sky by Amal El-Mohtar – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir with Cassandra Campbell, Cassandra de Cuir, John Allen Nelson, Stefan Rudnicki, and Molly Underwood
A Burglary, Addressed By a Young Lady by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall – narrated by Judy Young
Canth by K.C. Norton – narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir
ILLUSTRATORS — art direction by Galen Dara
Li Grabbenstetter (“A Word Shaped Like Bones,” “Each to Each,” and “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death”)
Elizabeth Leggett (“Cuts Both Ways,” “Salvage,” and “Like Daughter”)
Hillary Pearlman (“Walking Awake”)
Christine Mitzuk (“The Case of the Passionless Bees”)
Galen Dara (cover artist)
I own quite a few books written by N.K. Jemisin – and I’ve not read a single one. Why? Because I am strange that way, that’s why. I buy books and I dance around like an ant with anticipation…but once I GET the book…six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.
But I’ve always been aware that Ms Jemisin is a powerhouse. And damn it if she didn’t kill this one!
Walking Awake is a mixture of Science Fiction and Fantasy – most of the plot hinges on Science Fiction but there are some pretty large components I would say are closer to Fantasy. Walking Awake follows Sadie and Enri. Sadie is a 40 year old woman who is a “care giver” in a children’s facility and Enri is a 14 y/o boy whom she loves. Sadie and Enri and the rest of the planet are under the control of the “masters” – parasitic crab-like creatures who rule humans. The “masters” live mostly inside human bodies that they control – wiping out the human’s conscience/personality, etc. The children’s facility that Sadie works/lives at is closer to a holding facility: they keep groups of children – cataloged by physical attributes – that the masters then come and take over whenever they want (called a “transfer” – the “masters” transfer to a new human body).
Walking Awake was soooo good. I was crying before it was even really 1/2 complete: when the “masters” come to take Enri for “transfer” and Sadie has to deal with giving away a child that she has basically raised to be destroyed. Man. I was driving to work while reading that and it gutted me. Tears are never good at work, by the way. Neither is the associated snotty nose. O_O
I would say that Walking Awake is pretty complete – both story wise and emotionally. With a single small exception at the end, I felt that every question I had was answered. Every single one. Even when the answer made me shudder and itch. O_O
I wasn’t a huge fan of Bahni Turpin’s narration – I felt Sadie’s voice sounded a little too young and soft to have mothered and lost so many children (I *think* the story says she’d supervised hundreds of “transfers”). Outside of Sadie’s voice, I felt that the remaining narration was nice. The narration of a “10 female” speaking after transfer made my skin crawl a little.
I really enjoyed Walking Awake and I wish I could discuss it in more detail – but part of what made this so powerful for me was the revealing of world Ms Jemisin created.