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The City Born Great

(City 0.5)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  947 ratings  ·  186 reviews
In this standalone short story by N. K. Jemisin, author of The Fifth Season, the winner of this year's Hugo Award for Best Novel, New York City is about to go through a few changes. Like all great metropolises before it, when a city gets big enough, old enough, it must be born; but there are ancient enemies who cannot tolerate new life. Thus New York will live or die by th ...more
ebook, 26 pages
Published September 28th 2016 by Tor Books (first published 2016)
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3.82  · 
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 ·  947 ratings  ·  186 reviews

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
2.5 stars. One of the 2017 Hugo nominees, in the short story category. This story is free online here at Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

I was delighted to see a new online fantasy short story on by the talented N.K. Jemisin. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t to my taste, but I think it’s likely to appeal to many readers.

New York City is in the process of being literally “born,” as all great cities must be when they get sufficiently old and large. A person is magic
Althea Ann
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my Hugo nominees, short story, 2016.
It's the third time this has happened: I heard the author read this at a public event, and for a few minutes couldn't figure out why it sounded so awfully familiar upon reading it, when I *knew* it was a just-published story.
It's a wonderful story. It draws upon a rich literary concept: that of the city as an entity with its own unique personality and *being*. And cities here - those with a rich, living culture and deep history, are literally embod
Elena May
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Each city must emerge on its own or die trying.”

This story made me realize something about speculative fiction.

The tale started and went on, and, for the first few pages, there were no fantasy or science fiction elements in sight. But I was already into the story, I was attached to the characters, I cared what would happen. And this is one of the elements that make a great fantasy story – the characters and the writing need to already be good and to be able to stand on their own. The supern
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This '17 nom for the Hugos started out in a way that made me worry, just a bit, that it might not have the right SF or F twist to it that I was hoping for, appearing more like a love/hate letter to NYC, but, indeed, I should never worry.

This is Jemisin, after all.

It quickly became something reminiscent of pieces of Railsea with the tagging and the birth-pains of a city as it comes alive, gets consciousness, rises up with soul. What's more, it really does rise up with eldritch horrors and deep c
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sci-fi fans, Stephen King fans
Recommended to Evelina | AvalinahsBooks by: Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Shelves: short-reads
I loved this one! Which makes me really excited about reading The Fifth Season next. By the way, any of you can read it for free here.

I think Jemisin did a really good job fleshing out the story in such short form. Beautiful writing as well. And I would like to see this elaborated into something bigger. Somehow, it felt like fantasy with horror elements - reminds me of Stephen King a little bit. So much promise in such a short piece of fiction!

If you're reading this review, well - ditch this and
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it

I’ll starve to death someday, or freeze some winter night, or catch something that rots me away until the hospitals have to take me, even without money or an address. But I’ll sing and paint and dance and fuck and cry the city before I’m done, because it’s mine. It’s fucking mine. That’s why.

review to come

read it for yourself here:
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Included in my review of the 6 short story Hugo nominees:

In Jemisin’s short fantasy adventure, cities that have grown old and large enough get to live, if the chosen midwife succeeds in birthing it. A homeless man is given this role for New York City, and he races to sing the city to life against an ancient enemy that wants to stop him.
This story is a little too compact for its grand premise, and maybe a bit heavy-handed at times, but is still a riveting
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would like to be able to provide you with a deeper review. Yet, I don’t want to delay getting this before you.
A Winner

This is a special story that, in a positive way, makes me think of some of what Italo Calvino was doing in his Invisible Cities.

Our un-named protagonist is an urban survivor: "I’m skinny, dark; that helps, too. All I want to do is paint, man, because it’s in me and I need to get it out."

The mission is simply stated: “This city will die,” he says. He doesn’t raise his voice, but
Didn't work for me.
An inconected start , pretty meh, gets better to the end, but leaves many things hanging.
Who is the 'Enemy', anyway?

Tendria que entrar a pensar yo en la busqueda de un significado a esta historia y entrar a especular que un jovenzuelo que vive en la calle y se vende para vivir representa a los anónimos que conforman la parte viva de una ciudad ... o algo asi. Pero esa es solo cosa mia.

I rather prefer in matters of magical alive cities Kate Griffin in A Madness of Angels Wher
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
#5 in personal short story challenge.

Loved the voice of the main character; I could feel what he was feeling, see what he was seeing.
The idea, too, of a city birthing, living and dying, and having protectors was great.

I love this author's style of writing in this short story.
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-fiction
Excellent voice, I think this can only be described as "fierce". I wonder if her next series will be set in this world?
An unnamed young man who devotes his days and nights to singing, painting, and surviving in New York City is called upon to midwife the city into magical sentience. I really like the concept and some of the writing. The main character has a lot of personality, and I love the ways he interacts with graffiti and cops. The explanation of how cities "quicken" and the birthing experience are fantastic. When the narrator starts fighting with "the Enemy" it all got a little diffuse for me--even at the ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alina by: Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
Surreal work, touching on racism, homelessness, sexual favors, etc, but clearly not my cup of tea especially because of the weirdness and the slang.
Jenny  Baker
This is my first experience reading N. K. Jemisin. She just recently got on my radar when I discovered that her novels have been nominated for awards many times for World Fantasy, Locus, and Hugo Awards. I'd heard of The Fifth Season, but I didn't really look into it. It was just a book title that I'd recognized.

Overall, this is a good story. I like the narrative voice and the overall flow of her writing. It just sounds so natural, nothing forced. The City Born Great has gotten me excited about
Get X Serious
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
"And just to add insult to injury? I backhand its ass with Hoboken, raining the drunk rage of ten thousand dudebros down on it like the hammer of God. Port Authority makes it honorary New York, motherfucker; you just got Jerseyed."

Ha, the drunk rage of ten thousand dudebros. Four stars just for that.
Incredibly high-energy fantasy in which a city is born as the protagonist/midwife runs through the streets making it so by force of will and presumably some weird magic. An unusual premise that cities, at some point in their existing, become living entities themselves, to die horribly. (I hesitate to say "urban fantasy" because it has none of the tropes, though it's definitely urban and definitely fantasy.) The story is narrated first-person with the speed, energy, randomness and attitude of NYC ...more
Lauren James
cities become sentient when they reach a certain age and size. This short story is the basis for an upcoming full length novel, so read it now to get in early.
Akwa Timba
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, rounding up for the quality of writing.

That was an interesting ride. An urban fantasy short in the vein of American Gods. Now obviously that's oversimplifying things but I think it's a pretty apt comparison, with the obvious caveat that being a full length (and monstrous length at that) novel, American Gods is vastly more complex.

Having not been to New York I cannot speak to the authenticity with which the city is portrayed, however as N.K. Jemisin is a New Yorker I assume she knows
Amanda Prado
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
i cant believe jemisin made me kinda ship new york and são paulo
Elle Maruska
I am a person prone to hyperbole.

But believe me now when I say I am not exaggerating a single bit: this is one of the best things I have ever read. Ever. Best. EVER.

I love cities. I love cities-as-characters, cities-as-people, cities-as-magic and ohmygod in such a small space, Jemisin has done all of this and this is SO DAMNED GOOD I want to cry thinking about the perfection of this story.

So yeah, I liked it.

Sonja (aka Yashima)
If cities are alive, then how are they born? This is the story about the young man who helps New York to its full potential. The story evokes an incredibly strong sense of the city through the eyes of a street kid who is afraid of the cops, feels out of place and out of color all the time. It made me sad and made me smile at the same time. And it showed the huge differences between people living in the same city but the latter was subtly done more part of the scenery than driving message.
Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it
“Tears mean you’re alive.”

It’s got energy. It’s got street cred. But … I can take it or leave it. Really short, so I didn’t waste much time on it. Okay. Better than okay, but I guess you’ve got to be one with a city--any city, but preferably NYC. I’m not. Not into the profanity either, but that's me.

“Any NYPD you can walk away from, hallelujah.”
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great concept, images, writing, none of which is surprising, considering the author. A friend heard Jemisin read this out loud, so I imagined I was listening to her speak this in my head.
The weirdest thing Jemisin has ever written, but I liked it! I was going to give it three stars until near the end, when it finally got me.
Got it when it was published on Tor. GREAT story. To the friends that know me well. READ. THIS.
It's only 23 pages.
Sidsel Pedersen
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Weird, magical with a lot of beat and rhythm to it. Quite gripping. I am not sure where I would put it genre wise - it was a weird one.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cities are alive in a sense, but what if that sense were a bit more literal than we tend to think?
Suzanne Rooyen
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think readers who know and love NYC will appreciate this even more.
Evan Pickett
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's a bit hard to understand what is happening in the short story format. Jemisin's strength is making complex worlds, so we only get a glimpse of that. But it makes me excited for the new series.

A little bit too New York.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a good first draft with an interesting idea that has ironically enough not been carried to term.
I think this would have gained a lot to have an "American Gods" like mythological/epic quality to it by taking it to a novella lenght. Also, I'm a big social justice warrior myself and I agree with all the values this short story sells, but man this was poorly sold
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N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.

Other books in the series

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  • The City We Became
“The world can’t hurt you if you just ignore everything that’s wrong with it; well, not until it kills you anyway.” 0 likes
“I live the city. It thrives and it is mine. I am its worthy avatar, and together? We will never be afraid again.” 0 likes
More quotes…