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Forward Collection #3

Emergency Skin

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What will become of our self-destructed planet? The answer shatters all expectations in this subversive speculation from the Hugo Award–winning author of the Broken Earth trilogy.

An explorer returns to gather information from a climate-ravaged Earth that his ancestors, and others among the planet’s finest, fled centuries ago. The mission comes with a warning: a graveyard world awaits him. But so do those left behind—hopeless and unbeautiful wastes of humanity who should have died out eons ago. After all this time, there’s no telling how they’ve devolved. Steel yourself, soldier. Get in. Get out. And try not to stare.

N. K. Jemisin’s Emergency Skin is part of Forward, a collection of six stories of the near and far future from out-of-this-world authors. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.

38 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 17, 2019

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About the author

N.K. Jemisin

112 books54.7k followers
N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.

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5 stars
9,809 (37%)
4 stars
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3 stars
4,559 (17%)
2 stars
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533 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,051 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
December 24, 2020
I went back and forth on this rating because I seriously loved the story, but there was this cynical little voice in my head questioning whether it was too oversimplified. In the end, though, I rate based on personal enjoyment and I enjoyed Emergency Skin so much. It was my personal favourite from the Forward collection.

When I started to see where this story was going, I think I actually let out a little delighted laugh!

Many years into the future, a small group of humans have fled a dying Earth and built a new (and very different) society on another planet. However, something from old Earth is of utmost importance to them, so one soldier is sent on a mission to find it. He will have to brave the Earth's destroyed atmosphere and - worse - deal with the devolved humans that were left behind.

It's told in second person, which worked really well for me. I don't want to say too much about the story or its themes - - because it is told very well and you deserve to find it out on your own. I think it was a very clever approach to a simple idea. Yes, again, maybe too simple. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Randomize by Andy Weir - ⭑☆☆☆☆
Ark by Veronica Roth - ⭑⭑⭑☆☆
You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles - ⭑⭑⭑⭑☆
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay - ⭑⭑⭑⭑☆
Summer Frost by Blake Crouch - ⭑⭑⭑⭑☆
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,315 reviews44.1k followers
June 10, 2020
Yes creepy as hell, do you smell the smoke? Yes, it’s coming from my brain cells and they’re BBQed now, ready to serve inside bun! Four amazing, smoking, mind killer, making you an urgent order for fresh new grey cells kind of great stars for different kind of weird, political, ideological but definitely enjoyable story!

Wow! This series of stories, written by multiple talented and mostly my favorite authors are really intriguing. And the best part of it, before you feel to urge for dnf-ing, you realize you already finish it. And this is my first dance with N.K.Jemisin but as soon as I finished this story I turned into hyperactive cat embedded into her laptop, using claws as fast as I could muster to search the other books of the writer to be read! (Thanks God, my neighbors’ kids didn’t catch that embarrassing moment of mine and record it to the video for sharing on Youtube! Those evil stalkers already made so much money from me!)

The story starts with a spaceman’s arrival to the Tellus a.k.a our world. The spaceman is not a regular guy, coming from really far away and created sorry colonized by a group of rich and white men who had left the world urgently when the sh*t hit the fan (I don’t know one of the man’s name is John Galt but I got real Atlas Shrugged vibes from them! You dirty little opportunists!)

So the spaceman’s brain is already invaded by Al who talks to him incessantly, giving commands, telling him what he has to do! Seems like a little schizophrenic, right? But at least, Al doesn’t admit he’s God! (Probably he is atheist or he’s only worshipping to material things!) Al warns him the earth he landed is suffering from pollution, climatic change.

But as soon as our spaceman sees everything has been told him is lie, he is not determined enough to complete his mission.

We only read the dialogues coming from Al and the people on the earth but our spaceman’s lines who has a composite that is able to turn into human skin ( oh yes, the story’s name coming from that composite!), are omitted. We cannot read his answers so we need to use our imagination to fill the blanks. Let the most creative line writer wins!

The message of the book is clear that socialism could be the way of survival! Well, I had some doubts about that because even the early super power had tried it and we’d seen the results. We’re living in a wilder world suffering from side effect from globalization. Instead of political work, scientific, social, psychological improvement would be more helpful for the human kind at their fights against extinction. That’s what I think!

As a summary, if you skip the political message, I enjoyed the writing. I loved the story and its conclusion. My next book from series will be Blake Crouch’s stories. I think I should arrange an early meeting with my doctor to be put out my brain cells on the ice for a little break!
Profile Image for chai ♡.
322 reviews156k followers
January 5, 2022
One of the most brilliant short stories I've ever read. There's so much in this tale that I cannot possibly hold enough of it in my hands. I will recommend it every day.
Profile Image for carol..
1,576 reviews8,236 followers
October 23, 2022
A little soft and quite overt for Jemisin's capabilities, but I do appreciate the flip of the wish-fulfillment fantasy. An interesting tone, somewhat playful, that accomplishes that time-honored goal of holding up the mirror so that one recognize's one's own prejudices and environment.

An intrepid explorer has landed, expecting a devastated Earth peopled with savages. As he works through his encounters, the reader comes to understand what happened way back when.
Profile Image for Anomaly.
523 reviews
October 3, 2019
I wanted science fiction, not a comically heavy-handed political statement with caricatures of the extremeists on both sides. The evil people are all rich, white capitalists who check of literally every possible ticky-box for bigotry there is: gender, race, age, disability, financial/working class status, hair type, sexuality, body size. The good people are all purely communist, non-white, predominantly female, patronizing and blindly accepting of violence from outsiders. There's no moderation here. There's no compromise, no believable middle ground, nothing but pure extremism on both sides.

The story was interesting until it got heavy-handed political, at which point it was just immensely uncomfortable from every possible angle. Being written in second person, it means the reader has a disembodied voice directly addressing them while talking trash about others who are fat, brown, disabled, old, female, etc. It means the reader has someone directly speaking to them to disregard the gender of another character and insist she's a man. It means that there's no reprieve from the heavy-handed, mustache-twirling villain level bigotry... and when finally the reader character breaks away from the idealogy of the disembodied voice (an AI embedded in their head), then comes the other side bearing down with insistence that as soon as the white capitalists yeeted themselves into the galaxy far, far away, Earth was suddenly able to make itself better and be a perfect utopia.

What about all the non-white governments with oppresive regimes? What about all the non-capitalists who are still greedy and self-serving? What about people in general who fall somewhere between the two extremes? Shh, don't think about those, the world was suddenly able to overcome an apocalyptic level of doom just by getting rid of the caricatures of rich white men.

I think what frustrates me the most is that, if the absurdly overdone, anvil-on-the-head level politicism had been toned down to far more believable levels or left out completely, this would have actually achieved the statement it seems so desperate to make without getting into obnoxious levels of politicism. (I read to escape, not to have more of the overwhelming crap in the real world thrown at me, ESPECIALLY when it comes to science fiction.) The storytelling style itself is interesting and inventive. The worldbuilding is intriguing. The concept in general is amazing. The execution, however, is nothing short of a complete and utter disappointment.

I feel like I wasted my time reading this one, and that makes me sad.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
785 reviews12.5k followers
September 3, 2020
“Can’t start a revolution with the enemy shouting in your head, after all.”
It’s a story told by that little nagging voice inside your head - the one that you can spend your whole life trying to get rid of. You know - one that is an amalgam of the small-minded, closed-off and judgmental influences that are everywhere; the crotchety old guy telling those kids to get off his lawn.
“We left because it would’ve cost too much to fix the world. Cheaper to build a new one.”
Here that voice is an AI built into a head of a soldier - a slave - from a distant off-Earth colony that returns to the now certainly ravaged by the natural cataclysms and populated with devolved species planet in search of a precious cargo needed to keep the new world going. A long time ago the Founders left what they thought was a doomed planet - and surely without them, without the elite, the place *had* to go to hell, right?
“There were just too many people, and too many of those were unfit, infirm, too old, or too young. Even the physically ideal ones were slow thinkers, timid spirits. There was not enough collective innovation or strength of will between them to solve the problems Tellus faced, and so we did the only merciful thing we could: we left them behind.
Of course that was mercy. Do you think your ancestors wanted to leave billions of people to starve and suffocate and drown? It was simply that our new home could support only a few.”
But once the soldier slave lands on Earth, the disconnect between what you are taught to believe is and should be true and the actual truth begins its subversive work.
”It is the guiding principle of our society. Rights belong only to those who earn them. When you complete this mission, for your bravery you will have proven yourself deserving of life, health, beauty, sex, privacy, bodily autonomy — every possible luxury. Only a few can have everything, don’t you see?”
The point is simple: Once we start questioning the presumed truths, we learn to think. Once we actually think, we can be free.
“We realized it was impossible to protect any one place if the place next door was drowning or on fire. We realized the old boundaries weren’t meant to keep the undesirable out, but to hoard resources within. And the hoarders were the core of the problem.”
No, the story is *not* subtle. Yes, it exaggerates - but does so cleverly and with a good dose of humor and slight absurdity. It’s much simpler than Jemisin’s usual fare - and yet still feels so well-done and effective and galvanizing.
“ For all these centuries, the Founders told us that the Earth died because of greed. That was true, but they lied about whose greed was to blame.”
Clever. Quite clever. Loved it!

The Forward Collection, in the order read:

‘Emergency Skin’ by N.K. Jemisin: Lovely. 5 stars.
‘Randomize’ by Andy Weir: Meh. 2 stars.
‘The Last Conversation’ by Paul Tremblay: Eerie. 4 stars.
‘You Have Arrived at Your Destination’ by Amor Towles: Perfectly adequate. 3 stars.
‘Summer Frost’ by Blake Crouch: Very intelligent (artificially?). 4.5 stars.
‘Ark’ by Veronica Roth: Underwhelming melancholy. 2.5 stars.


My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
September 28, 2019
3.75 stars. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

A single spaceman arrives on Earth (which he calls “Tellus,” a Latin word similar to Terra) on an important mission from a far-off planet that was colonized by a group of rich white men who left Earth centuries ago. The spaceman, as well as the collective AI that was implanted in his brain and constantly speaks to him in his mind, expected to find a world completely barren of life, decimated by climate change and toxic pollution. What they actually find is far different, and both the man and his chatty AI have huge problems adjusting to this new reality.

But can the man still fulfill his mission? If he succeeds, he’s been promised a beautiful pale (read: Aryan) skin when he returns home. On his planet, everyone except those in the highest class of society wears a featureless, high-tech artificial skin called a composite. But this man’s composite has the ability, in an emergency, to turn into human skin … though not exactly the skin he’s been promised.

Emergency Skin, a science fiction novella by the highly-talented N.K. Jemisin, is cleverly told, with a timely and crowd-pleasing message (at least, the more liberal part of the crowd). It’s written in an unusual, slightly tricky style that takes a little getting used to. Primarily the narrative voice is that of the collective AI talking to the space traveler in his mind, and you also see what Earth’s inhabitants are saying to the spaceman. But Jemisin skips over what the man actually is saying back to them, so you have to do a healthy amount of reading between the lines.

The AI in the man’s brain incessantly badgers, instructs and indoctrinates the man (or at least tries to). The AI is described as a “dynamic-matrix consensus intelligence encapsulating the ideals and blessed rationality of our Founders”: essentially, it’s deep-coded with their planet’s social philosophy, and its one-sided dialogue is highly revealing about their society.

Emergency Skin is a hopeful book, and I loved that about it. It’s strongly anti-prejudice — in stark contrast to the spaceman’s society — and pro-socialism — also in contrast to his society. This novella is fundamentally message fiction that doesn’t care at all to be subtle about its message. On a personal level I’m dubious about the idea, but you can’t argue that this story doesn’t have a point of view. Given Jemisin’s past conflicts with Vox Day, I like to think she had great fun picturing Day, Trump and all their ilk jumping on a spaceship (taking as many of Earth’s resources with them as they possibly could, of course) and how that would play out. I had fun reading it, and I think most others will too.

Emergency Skin is part of the FORWARD collection proposed and curated by Blake Crouch. It’s a set of six stand-alone novellas, each by a different author, that explore the “resounding effects of a pivotal technological moment.” The other authors are Crouch, Veronica Roth, Amor Towles (author of A Gentleman in Moscow), Paul Tremblay and Andy Weir. You can buy the individual novellas in ebook form for $1.99 each or $5.94 for the whole set. I’ve bought the set and am looking forward to reading the rest.
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
418 reviews364 followers
March 14, 2022
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin my fourth read of this amazing Forward Collection Series is my favourite one so far.

An unnamed main character, sometime in the very distant future, is sent to Earth by a small colony of ex-inhabitants called The Founders. These people left Earth (they now refer to it as Tellus) due to the planet being un-liveable, presumably due to over-population and climate change. The reason for this character being sent to Tellus is not immediately clear, but it is revealed they need a substance to take back to their colony to ensure their ongoing survival.

This colony are obviously super-advanced, technologically. They seem to be able to generate different types of skin (they call composite) the quality and features depend on the rank or status of the individual concerned. They also have a very, very dim view of the people currently inhibiting their former home planet. One observation of the current Tellus inhabitants is:

”Nothing’s changed with these people. They still build societies around their least and worst instead of their best and brightest”

In fact, The Founders seem to have evolved into a highly intelligent, almost perfect variation of the standard human being. The latter, pretty much being what we are now – that is, all shapes and sizes, variations in height, girth, hygiene. Current Tellus inhabitants are seen as a motley, primitive lot. No wonder they left them behind in search of a new home to create perfect people.

But are things as straight forward as they appear? All I will say is, I was well ad truly hoodwinked by this author – things are certainly not as they seem.

”The idea of doing something without immediate benefit, something that might pay off in ten, twenty, or a hundred years, something that might benefit people they disliked, was anathema to The Founders”………………sound familiar?

This is such an intelligent and insightful story. To be honest, I was wondering where it was going initially but towards the end its message came at me like a thunderbolt. What a message it is too.

This series has certainly piqued my interest in science fiction. Oh dear, I am going to need another set of eyes to read this new genre (to me) – now there’s an idea for a story!!

5 Stars
Profile Image for Kinga.
479 reviews2,255 followers
February 23, 2020
Look, I'm as woke as the next intersectional Twitter feminist, but this.. just no.

Would I want to see all the libertarian, right wing nutjobs shooting themselves into space in the Elon Musk's rocket? Yes, yes of course.

Would it be fun to see them flounder and stutter when they realise they were wrong, we were right and everything is just so much better without them? You bet.

But this sort of daydreaming doesn't make good literature. It was a very heavy-handed piece propaganda, that was already preaching to the choir in my case.

The writing was awful, there was a whole lot of telling, and not much showing. The premise wasn't bad and with a more nuanced and careful execution, it could've been a very decent piece, but it just felt like Jemisin phoned it in.
Profile Image for Dennis.
658 reviews276 followers
August 2, 2020
***Winner of the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novelette***

The world’s elite, who call themselves the Founders, has left the dying planet and most of its population behind. However, centuries later they send back an explorer to collect some samples which are crucial to their colony’s survival. What he finds, though, is not the graveyard world the Founders expected, but a planet that has flourished. How could that have happened?

The thought behind this story is a nice one. Its not very subtle message one I would like to believe in. But personally I do not think it would work.

How the story is written is also only partially satisfying for me. It is told in second person. What we hear is the AI that had been implanted in the explorer‘s brain – a sort of collective voice of the Founders that encapsulates their ideals - as well as the voices of the people he encounters back on earth. The explorer‘s dialogue itself is left out of the narration. While this has a nice effect, especially towards the end, I ultimately found it cumbersome.

Bottom line: Appreciated. But didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

2020 Hugo Award Finalists

Best Novel
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Best Novella
• Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom by Ted Chiang ( Exhalation)
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Best Novelette
• The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2019)
• Away With the Wolves by Sarah Gailey ( Uncanny Magazine Issue 30: Disabled People Destroy Fanatsy! Special Issue)
• The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye by Sarah Pinsker ( Uncanny Magazine Issue 29: July/August 2019)
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin
For He Can Creep by Siobhan Carroll
Omphalos by Ted Chiang

Best Short Story
• And Now His Lordship Is Laughing by Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons 9 September 2019)
As the Last I May Know by S.L. Huang
Blood Is Another Word for Hunger by Rivers Solomon
• A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde (Uncanny Magazine, Issue 26, January-February 2019)
• Do Not Look Back, My Lion by Alix E. Harrow (Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #270)
• Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare Magazine, Issue 80)

Best Series
The Expanse by James S. A. Corey
• InCryptid by Seanan McGuire
• Luna by Ian McDonald
• Planetfall series by Emma Newman
• Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
• The Wormwood Trilogy by Tade Thompson

Best Related Work
Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
Joanna Russ by Gwyneth Jones
The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara
The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn
2019 John W. Campbell Award Acceptance Speech by Jeannette Ng
• Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, produced and directed by Arwen Curry

Best Graphic Story or Comic
Die, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles
LaGuardia, written by Nnedi Okorafor, art by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin
Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda
Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker, letters by Joamette Gil
Paper Girls, Volume 6, written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher
The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 9: "Okay" by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,981 reviews1,991 followers
March 13, 2020
Real Rating: 4.75* of five

The Publisher Says: What will become of our self-destructed planet? The answer shatters all expectations in this subversive speculation from the Hugo Award–winning author of the Broken Earth trilogy.

An explorer returns to gather information from a climate-ravaged Earth that his ancestors, and others among the planet’s finest, fled centuries ago. The mission comes with a warning: a graveyard world awaits him. But so do those left behind—hopeless and unbeautiful wastes of humanity who should have died out eons ago. After all this time, there’s no telling how they’ve devolved. Steel yourself, soldier. Get in. Get out. And try not to stare.

N. K. Jemisin’s Emergency Skin is part of Forward, a collection of six stories of the near and far future from out-of-this-world authors. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.


My Review
: The voice you hear in your head, you know the one that tells you how awful/bad/ugly/unworthy you are compared to...well...I guess that's a moving target, isn't it...takes on a special and especially malevolent life in this tale of what a low-class raider from one of Earth's long-gone colonies finds when the Mothership of Humanity is in its sights at last. There is an AI in the slave being's head narrating the Founders' take on what was Earth (they use the name Tellus for the planet, just go look at the storytelling sources for that term!) in its final death-agonies:
There were just too many people, and too many of those were unfit, infirm, too old, or too young. Even the physically ideal ones were slow thinkers, timid spirits. There was not enough collective innovation or strength of will between them to solve the problems Tellus faced, and so we did the only merciful thing we could: we left them behind.

The Founders, a few thousand of the most awful amoral greedy rotters the Earth is infested with, have made it off-planet and engineered a perfect slave economy. All the slaves are, well, cyborgs is the best word I've got for them; they are promised the gift of SKIN when they complete their raid of Earth's supplies of HeLa cells that the Founders need to make themselves immortal. Skin. A gift. A reward for being the obedient little slave who brings home what she can't have so her masters the Founders is...skin, ordinary human skin, the natural interface between us and the world, the very idea that this is a reward:
If you complete this mission, you’ll be a hero. Why would we refuse you what you’re due?

The narrative voice of the AI programmed by the Founders to keep their slave obedient and unquestioning spouts casuistries thus. The reward of skin, of being like the Founders, is at last causing the slave to question, to wonder why the Founders would keep their word.

At last!

The chattering horror of the AI's minatory, judgmental view of the Earth's inhabitants, those who were left behind as the Founders left and who the slave has been told are degenerate savages left to wallow in a broken, terrible world devastated by the Founders themselves for their own selfish benefit:
The Founders were the geniuses, the makers who moved nations with a word. We left because it would’ve cost too much to fix the world. Cheaper to build a new one.
At home, we maintain only as many people as we can safely sustain: six thousand total, including servi and mercennarii.
Only a few can have everything, don’t you see?

...and, the slave begins to wonder, what would make those who see the world in these terms offer membership in the literally immortal elite to a slave...

So the story wends its way from the slave's enbedded AI spouting awful stuff into the slave's unquestioning self to oversharing just enough to cause a cloud of suspicion to form to...well. That would be telling.

While this story is not subtle in making its points and drawing its thick, ruler-straight lines between the ideas it wants you to absorb, it is a fun and funny take on what "staying woke" really means. It is no wonder that the whiny Founders left today's incels and race warriors to die in their waste products. One would need to be of unusual dimness not to see the truth of Author Jemisin's comedically exaggerated points.

I take a quarter-point off for her one narrative infelicity: the AI only responds, and never do we hear the thought the slave creature formulates. It creates an unnecessary and slightly if increasingly unpleasant sense of being thwacked on the nose in order to be kept in line by an untrusting author. Presenting the subordinate being itself speaking, even if internally, causing the AI's addresses to us the readers to fit into a responsive mode instead of a hectoring one, would lessen that "THINK THIS NOW" sensation. I find its absence of subtlety undesirable; it can, when overused, make the brevity it allows the author to maintain to become more a kind of cursory-ness. "I won't fill in this shaded area, I will make it impossible to see it instead."

It suits the story in many ways. The reader is not persuaded but instructed exactly as the slave is. But Author Jemisin is a far, far superior craftsperson to need to rely on that level of didacticism to create the urgent, and urgently needed, message of this screed against greed.
Profile Image for Char.
1,682 reviews1,558 followers
October 15, 2019

I don't know how to categorize it, and I don't know what else to say about it. It was intriguing and then it changed into something else altogether. A fable of sorts? Maybe. A warning of sorts? Maybe. Then again, maybe it was just created as a mirror so we could take a good look at ourselves? How about all of the above?

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Thibault Busschots.
Author 3 books82 followers
March 27, 2023
The protagonist of this story is sent on a mission to the ruins of the planet mankind once originated from. When the survivors left the planet, the situation was critical. An environmental collapse was very imminent. Only the best of the best were evacuated from the planet to save the human race. Billions were left behind. The protagonist has an idea of what to expect. The seas will have become acidic and the atmosphere will have become toxic. And not a single person could possibly still be alive. Or could they?

A strong premise that definitely makes a statement about our present day situation and what the future could look like if we’re not careful. An engaging though also a bit slow-paced story. And a very mysterious but intriguing protagonist. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, a pretty cool and short science fiction story that deals with some very important themes and makes you think about some things.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,176 reviews98.9k followers
March 30, 2023
the collection on amazon
the collection on goodreads

"Not kings. Just selfish men."

nk jemisin is so brilliant and such a gift to our world. i really recommend going into this one without reading reviews, just enjoy this wonderfully crafted story that is very clever and... ahhh, i just love jemisin so much.

also, personal to me, i love an unexpected colorado river mention :)

tw/cw: racism, colorism, misogyny, misgendering, slavery, mention of cancer, ageism, ableism, fatphobia

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Profile Image for Lena.
1,152 reviews255 followers
February 18, 2021
“Six billion people working toward a goal together is much more effective than a few dozen scrabbling for themselves.”

Reread: Fun and worthwhile!

N.K. Jemisin needs to write more Solarpunk because this little taste was delicious.

When things went downhill the rich left Earth, which was all the motivation the rest needed to come together for The Big Cleanup. It was simple:

“People just decided to take care of each other.”
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,331 reviews2,145 followers
January 13, 2021
I am a huge fan of Jemisin's Broken Earth series so I jumped at the chance to read this short story.

Emergency Skin is a tale about a traveller sent from an advanced future race to retrieve something vital that they need from Earth, now supposedly a dead planet which they abandoned way in the past. Said traveller is fitted with an AI which is supposed to inform and lead him through the process.

This AI is the best part of the story and the dialogue between it and the traveller is hilarious. Jemisin must have written this tale tongue in cheek because, despite her message of salvation which I am sure is sincerely meant, the solution is far too simplistic and the proceedings too amusing.

Very, very enjoyable. I just wish she wrote more books.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews9,000 followers
September 16, 2020
3.5 to 4 stars

Emergency Skin was my next (and fourth) journey into the Forward series. I have been enjoying these little bites of speculative science fiction. So far, I would highly recommend this group of short stories to any science fiction fan.

This entry from N.K. Jemisin focuses on the question of who would really be at fault if we are forced to abandon a ruined Earth someday? In addition to this, do the people with the most money and power know what’s best for our planet as a whole? The one-sided delivery of the narrative with a lot of the responses implied is unique and not too hard to get used to. There is a lot of food for thought contained in a small package here.

Not much more to say! :) Short story, short review - but, a story worth an hour of you time!
Profile Image for CC.
97 reviews87 followers
December 24, 2022
An interesting short read, creative in narrative style as expected from Jemisin, but a bit too preaching for my taste. Somewhat surprised that it won a Hugo.
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews234 followers
October 3, 2019
Political manifesto/sci-fi.
I think this read was too soon after Light Brigade. Whilst political ideas are actual in the current climate, with Brexit madness and all I feel there there is too much politics stuffed down my throat as it is. I want more escapism from my sci-fi and fantasy.
That said at least it's short and not grim.

Free with Kindle Unlimited.
Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
December 16, 2019
A compelling short story on a traveller returning to earth
”Sometimes that’s all it takes to save a world, you see. A new vision. A new way of thinking, appearing at just the right time.”

The stories in the Forward short story collection of Amazon are till now turning out to be quite optimistic.
Emergency Skin narrates a story of an unnamed traveller going to an abandoned earth. What unfolds is firmly in the spoiler area, but we are drip fed information skillfully by Jemisin.
Our scout is accompanied by an omniscient (but clearly not omnipotent) AI, that tells the story in a tone of voice which is a cross between a smug C3PO and Wikipedia. Some quotes are below:

[Reference request denied.] You don’t need to know about that yet. Please focus, and limit your curiosity. All that matters is the mission. You can’t fail. It’s too important.

Certainly you may reject our advice, but—

Only a few can have everything, don’t you see?

It has to be one or the other. Either some fly, or everyone gets stuck crawling around in the mud. That’s just how it is.

In the end the political message in Emergency Skin is simple, that if we just rid ourselves of parasites (a.k.a. The Rich, Entitled and Established) we’d become our best altruistic self and everything will turn to the better. It’s like an answer to Anthem of Ayn Rand in a way, more exciting and less preachery, but still overly simplistic and maybe a bit too complacent for the problems we face in our here and now.
Three stars.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,253 reviews182 followers
August 12, 2022
Excellent short story that I couldn’t resist re-visiting.

Not only does Jemisin concoct a brilliant tale, one full of derision and irony, commenting on many recognisable prejudices, but she does it through a distinctly different narration. It is very smart and yet so entertaining. I kept smiling at what is said in between the lines, listening to Jason Isaacs’s perfect rendition. Ultimately, I loved it for the glimpse we get of this new world...
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews904 followers
December 22, 2019
This is my favorite from this collection so far and I only have two more missing.
Profile Image for exploraDora.
553 reviews271 followers
August 12, 2020
***3 stars***

This is the third story I'm reading from the Forward Collection.

I didn't know what to expect based on title, but it has an interesting premise. It might have been better if it was a longer book, with more details and backstory. Jumping into the middle of the plot made me feel like I was missing something.

My biggest issue with this short story is that it had some confusing dialogue. I found the multiple voices difficult to follow/to understand who was talking when.

Comparing it to the other two stories I've read, I didn't like this one quite as much, but the premise was thought-provoking.
Profile Image for Eva.
189 reviews107 followers
August 1, 2020
This is a short story which is either arguing against, or perhaps ignorant of, this famous Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quote:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But gradually, it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil runs not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Here, humanity on earth has

Anyone who's studied history in depth, who's studied revolutions, or has studied the hearts and minds of people and how they work and why they do the things they do, *must* know what's wrong with this belief and attitude, this 'othering' of evil, with making evil hereditary and inherent to a particular societal group that merely needs to be exiled, destroyed, made powerless, and we'd have no more problems. This attitude was also exactly the way the nazis thought, who also selected their scapegoat, had the same belief in their moral and ethical superiority, who also thought that society's problems could be eradicated by eradicating one of its groups. Here, in extreme leftist thought, this scapegoat, this problem group we need to get rid of, is the elite, the 1%, the rich, the white. But the basic premise is the same and I wish Nemisin had read Solzhenitsyn.
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