Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. 

The World We Make is the sequel to The City We Became, and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

The avatars of New York may have temporarily delayed their destruction, but the war against their existence continues on the streets. Brooklyn, council woman, former rapper, wielding music against the enemy. Manny, an outsider who doesn’t feel he belongs representing Manhattan. Padmini a student from Chennai standing in for the multicultural Queens. Bronca, The Bronx, a Lenape woman and recipient of the city’s lexicon. Veneza, there for Jersey City, and of course, Neek, the Primary.

New York cannot remain New York if it loses its art, its diversity, its welcome of outsiders, its daring.

Honestly, The World Me Make was a bit of a stressful read at first, the influences of Squigglebitch (aka the Woman in White) mirroring real world hate and making picking up the book akin to doomscrolling on the birdsite, something I try to limit for my own mental health. I found it apt that in the acknowledgements Jemisin states she shortened the Great Cities from a trilogy to a duology because it was all starting to collide with America’s very real descent into fascism, minus the interdimensional enemy.

Padmini finds herself out of a job and hiding from ICE officials, a right wing candidate is running for mayor, backed by the Woman in White, and convoys of extremists are piling into the streets causing trouble for minorities. There is violence and hate, and the boroughs hover on the brink of existence. Can New York stay honest to itself with so many outside influences pushing at its borders?

She also refrains from mentioning that in most cultures of the world, those stories end in tragedy. They need the unrealistic American version of the archetype this time, for their universe’s sake.

Fortunately, there is hope in this story. New York can no longer be touched by the Woman in White, even if her minions still operate there. The boroughs are finding ways to reassert themselves on the city, through music and constructs. Padmini uses her maths skills to find out answers, macrostepping across realities, discovering cities that once were and are no more.

Everything is pleasant on the new Staten Island, but arguments aren’t pleasant, and there isn’t even enough Staten Islander left in this woman to tell Aislyn off.

The personification of Staten Island is starting to see the home she loves changed by R’lyeh, yet she doesn’t want to turn her back on the only friend she’s had. I just wanted to shake Aislyn, was she not aware her friend wanted to destroy their reality?

I loved that other cities’ avatars were introduced in this second book. We had already met São Paulo and Hong Kong of course, but here we see glimpses of London, Istanbul, Tokyo, Paris and Faiyum. The older cities have little patience for the young American upstarts and are not keen to help. Their hubris could be their undoing. I especially enjoyed the chapter from London’s point of view.

London bares her teeth, shoves Faiyum behind her, and then she – the rush of the Tube, people packing the car, excuse me can you le me out, EXCUSE ME, shut up we’re all trying to get home here – sends a great blast of pure, formless London-ness at the Woman in White.

The World We Make is published by Orbit and is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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