A Descent Into The Depths Of The Earth

In the last book of her Broken Earth trilogy, N.K. Jemisin describes an apocalyptic future where some people have the power to control earthquakes and volcanoes.

The following is an excerpt from The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin.

At first the darkness is absolute, though broken periodically by a ring of light that blurs past as they hurtle through the tunnel. Their speed continues to increase; presently these rings pass so quickly that they are just flashes. It takes three before Nassun is able to discern what she’s seeing and sessing, and then only once she watches a ring as they pass it: windows. There are windows set into the walls of the tunnel, illuminated by the light. There’s living space down here, at least for the first few miles. Then the rings stop, and the tunnel is nothing but dark for a while.

Book cover of The Stone Sky

Get The Book

The Stone Sky

Buy

Nassun sesses impending change an instant before the tunnel suddenly brightens. They can see a new, ruddy light that intersperses the rock walls of the tunnel. Ah, yes; they’ve gone far enough down that some of the rock has melted and glows bright red. This new light paints the vehimal’s interior bloody and makes the gold filigree along its walls seem to catch fire. The forward view is indistinct at first, just red amid gray and brown and black, but Nassun understands instinctively what she’s seeing. They have entered the mantle, and her fear finally begins to ebb amid fascination.

“The asthenosphere,” she murmurs. Schaffa frowns at her, but naming what she sees has eased her fear. Names have power. She bites her lip, then finally lets go of Schaffa’s hand to rise and approach the forward view. Up close it’s easier to tell that what she’s seeing is just an illusion of sorts—tiny diamonds of color rising on the vehimal’s inner skin, like a blush, to form a mosaic of moving images. How does it work? She can’t begin to fathom it.

Related Segment

Writing The Fantastic In 2017

Fascinated, she reaches up. The vehimal’s inner skin gives off no heat, though she knows they are already at a level underground where human flesh should burn up in an instant. When she touches the image on the forward view, it ripples ever so slightly around her finger, like waves in water. Putting her whole hand on a roil of brown-red color, she cannot help smiling. Just a few feet away, on the other side of the vehimal’s skin, is the burning earth. She’s touching the burning earth, thinly removed. She puts her other hand up, presses her cheek against the smooth plates. Here in this strange deadciv contraption, she is part of the earth, perhaps more so than any orogene before her has ever been. It is her, it is in her, she is in it.


From the book The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin. Copyright 2017 N.K. Jemisin; reprinted with permission of Hachette Book Group.

Find out what’s happening on Science Friday…on Thursday. Subscribe to our preview newsletter.

Meet the Writer

About N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is a Hugo-winning bestselling speculative fiction writer and reviewer. Her most recent work is The Stone Sky (Orbit, 2017). She’s based in Brooklyn, New York.