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The City Born Great

(Great Cities #0.5)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  3,281 ratings  ·  497 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 the
ebook, 22 pages
Published September 28th 2016 by Tor Books
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Amanda All but the final bit (fifty years later) became the prologue of The City We Became.

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

I was delighted to see a new online fantasy short story on Tor.com 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
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I am planning to read The City We Became soon and I discovered this prequel which can be read for free here

Jemisin has an amazing imagination and is a talented writer and she brings both skills to this story. She presents the city of New York as a living, breathing entity which reminded me of another book I love, A Madness of Angels. In that one Kate Griffin treats London in a similar way.

If this short story is anything to go by then I cannot wait to read the first book!
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
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:

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Kon R.
Jan 11, 2022 rated it liked it
This starts off super confusing. There are a lot of new concepts to grasp and only some are truly explained. By the end I had more questions than answers. This was written in a teaser fashion and as such it lacks a satisfying ending. At least it wasn't a cliffhanger ending. As a standalone story it is fairly weak, but it's unique enough to spark the reader to want to explore more of this foreign world. The amount of profanities rival that of Pulp Fiction and I for one am digging it so far. Onto ...more
May 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Great cities are like any other living things, being born and maturing and wearying and dying in their turn.

In this story we witness the birth of New York City, with the narrator, a homeless, gay African American chosen as its midwife, and to protect it from its enemies who cannot tolerate new life. Reluctant at first, he is going to find the strength, and the belief.

“Ain’t about being alive.” I’ll starve to death someday, or freeze some winter night, or catch something that rots me away
2020-05: My library just added this story to their collection, and because I enjoyed it so much some years ago, I decided to reread it. And I enjoyed it all over again for a) its main character and b) how cities have protectors who are not necessarily part of the usual political structures and judicial systems.
The main character practically leapt off the page. He lives by his wits, HAS to paint, and as a homeless person of colour has a different relationship to his surroundings and traditional
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
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Included in my review of the 6 short story Hugo nominees: https://1000yearplan.com/2017/06/09/r...

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
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this fast paced story of the living soul of a great city coming into being.
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
Dannii Elle
This is a prequel short story for The City We Became.

Urban fantasy is rarely a sub-genre I gravitate towards but the concept of a sentient city in Jemisin's The City We Became was too innovative and intriguing to pass up on reading. I was glad to have this short prequel to sample, with similar content, before beginning the full-length novel.

Narrator, Landon Woodson, seemed the perfect choice to voice this character's story and I loved the inflection and tone he used to bring him to life. The sto
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.
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
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the lesson: Great cities are like any other living things, being born and maturing and wearying and dying in their turn.

I am once again impressed by N. K. Jemisin’s ability to change her writing style so effortlessly. If you have read The Broken Earth Trilogy, you would have noticed how she switches from second person perspective to third person perspective and back again. While The Broken Earth Trilogy has a heavy-handed writing style, The City Born Great is the opposite. The writin
Lizzie Stewart
Ugh, N.K. Jemisin is so good. I read The City We Became, the full-length novel based on this short story, last year and just now got around to reading this 2016 beginning to this series. This was JUST as good as the book, and was almost exactly the same as the first part of her novel. This short story, however, included an homage to the birth of Los Angelos 50 years after the birth of New York. I am obsessed with the concept of this story and can't wait to read more N. K. Jemisin. ...more
Surreal work, touching on racism, homelessness, sexual favors, etc, but clearly not my cup of tea especially because of the weirdness and the slang.
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? ...more
Amanda Prado
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
i cant believe jemisin made me kinda ship new york and são paulo
Terese Mailhot
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"I don’t have to believe in something for it to fuck up my life."
Jenny Baker
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s a bright, clear day, not a cloud in the sky. People walking past the cops leave short, stark afternoon shadows, barely there at all. But around these two, the shadows pool and curl as if they stand beneath their own private, roiling thundercloud. And as I watch, the shorter one begins to . . . stretch, sort of, his shape warping ever so slightly, until one eye is twice the circumference of the other. His right shoulder slowly develops a bulge that suggests a dislocated joint. His companion ...more
Mery ✨
Feb 24, 2021 rated it liked it

Read it before The City We Became, just to see if it will add some context to the novel. This definitely wears its politics on its sleeve. Some people like that in fiction, some don't. It was fine, but nothing particularly good or bad about it. And yes, a new choice of protagonist, but I am SO SICK of urban fantasy in NYC and London, that a new kind of protagonist doesn't do that much for me. If it was set in New Orleans or Galveston or Houston, that would get my attention.
Alec Lyons
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Exhilarating, colourful, a little twisted and a little strange.
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read this for free on tor.com.

I really liked the voice in this one. It's engaging and keeps you reading from the very first word. The concept was also intriguing, and I liked that she wove in some present days issues, such as the police violence against people of color that is currently ongoing in our country. It also had a great sense of place, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who lives in or loves New York City.
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The City Born Great, a short story, and my first read by N.K Jemisin and am I hooked with her writing. It's an imaginative and brilliant piece of fiction and most definitely a worthwhile read. ...more
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N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.

Other books in the series

Great Cities (2 books)
  • The City We Became (Great Cities, #1)
  • The World We Make (Great Cities, #2)

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