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The Killing Moon

November 25, 2013

After reading Eva’s post for A More Diverse Universe about how much she likes N.K. Jemisin books, I was reminded of why I’ve had The Killing Moon sitting on my shelf for a while, and got it down. I found it a bit of a slow read, and it ended up on my bedside table, which was the right place for a fantasy tale about a world with Egyptian flavor in which devotees of one of the extremely weird gods of this fantasy land learn how to steal into peoples’ dreams in order to kill them, but only if they’ve been judged “corrupt” by those the devotees serve (which may not always be the god, it seems).

One of my favorite moments of reading came about 11 pm one cold, November night, as the cats lay draped over my legs and my eyes were getting heavy-lidded while flickering from the end of one chapter to an “interlude” in italics on the opposite page. I was deciding whether to read on as I read this:
“Now that you have heard the greater stories I must begin the lesser—for I see that you have grown weary and distracted. No, don’t apologize. We are men of the Hetawa, after all; sleep is no hindrance. There, take the couch. Sleep if you wish. I’ll weave the tale into your dreams.”
So I closed the book and went to sleep, although as it turned out, my dreams were not as interesting as the brightly-colored world of the book, and I woke to gray Ohio.

Basically, this is a travel story, with two Gatherers, servants of Hananja, going along with a foreign spy who has talked them out of “gathering” her in order to find out who is giving the orders in their own land. Part of the cleverness of this narrative structure is that the foreign spy, Sunandi, has the same kind of horror of their calling, Gathering, that a modern reader will, at first: “she resisted the urge to swallow at the menace in his tone. He still intended—no. He still believed wholly in the rightness of killing her.”

It takes an old foreign woman to whom the older Gatherer intends kindness to tell him what is obvious to those outside his country and his peculiar devotion to Hananja:
“I can see how they made you,” she said, her voice soft despite its hoarseness. “They took away everything that mattered to you, che? Upended your whole world and left you alone. And now you think love blooms in a breath and silencing pain is a kindness….I could let you kill me now, lovely man, and have peace and good dreams forever. But who knows what I get instead, if I stay?”

The Gatherers, Ehiru and Nijiri, learn the price of their power if the devotion of every single one of their brothers is not pure—they can become “reapers,” who can kill almost effortlessly, reaching into a person’s mind from a distance, without caring why or how. They must become less cloistered and even, to some extent, political to solve the mystery of who has been using them, along with all the followers of Hananja. By the end, it’s clear that it will be another long age before their Gatherer descendants allow their power to be used by any single person.

At the end of the book, it seems our dreams are safe. Mine were more entertaining and memorable than usual while I read The Killing Moon. I dreamed someone gave me a baby, and woke feeling the way she clung to me and how much I wanted her. I dreamed I came into a room with Nathan Fillion and said to everyone there, “stop that!” and then “Hey, Nathan Fillion wants you to stop that!” which, of course, made them immediately stop and look up.

My mother always told me that if you tell a dream before breakfast, it will come true. I think it’s because that makes you remember it, or maybe she just didn’t want to have to listen to long dream-tales every morning of my childhood. We try to listen to dreams at my house, most of the time. Does anyone listen to yours?  Have you had a good one lately?

23 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2013 10:23 am One of my favorite Echo and the Bunnymen Songs

    • November 25, 2013 10:37 am

      I wonder if the author knew that song when she chose her title. (It doesn’t really work as a soundtrack, if you ask me!)

  2. Karen D permalink
    November 25, 2013 10:35 am

    I bet you would think twice if someone REALLY tried to give you a baby.

    • November 25, 2013 10:40 am

      Yes, I thought about that when I woke up. I’ve had those years of being so intensely needed and would not be in it again for the long haul. My subconscious, which is about as subtle as a hammer to the head sometimes, just wanted that feeling again, I guess. And I certainly wouldn’t object to holding your little one for a while!

  3. November 25, 2013 3:16 pm

    I’ve had a few baby dreams on and off through the years, and was mostly horrified. I already did the baby thing, I didn’t want to repeat it!

    • November 25, 2013 5:15 pm

      Were you actually horrified in the dream itself?

      • November 26, 2013 9:21 am

        No but it was a burden I didn’t want. And last night I dreamed that I was in a building that exploded and I was knocked to the ground. I crawled out of the debris and although there were people around, no one helped me. That was not a fun dream either.

        • November 26, 2013 10:54 am

          So many secrets in dreams. I think that one is pretty easy to read, and comes from your current job situation.

  4. Jenny permalink
    November 25, 2013 5:10 pm

    I had an absolutely wonderful dream recently. Did you just want to know whether we’d had any, or did you want us to tell them to you?

    I really like your Nathan Fillion dream.

    • November 25, 2013 5:14 pm

      I want you to tell them to me, assuming you’re willing!

      • Jenny permalink
        November 25, 2013 6:48 pm

        In real life, I have absolutely no sense of direction. I get lost in a minor way a couple of times a week — turned around on campus, or turned the wrong direction coming out of the driveway, or whatever. I have been badly lost many times, though these days GPS is a big help.

        I dreamed that I was hanging out with Benedict Cumberbatch — we were friends — and he told me he could absolutely cure that problem: all I had to do was learn to ski. “I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never been skiing before.” “Don’t worry!” he cried, smiling at me tenderly. “I’ve taught lots of beginners. You just come to my house in the mountains, and I’ll teach you to ski — you’ll be a natural — and then you’ll never, ever be lost again.”

        I woke not only with the utter happiness that my dear friend Benedict Cumberbatch was going to teach me to ski at his house, but that I could be cured. It was the loveliest dream I’ve had in ages.

        • November 25, 2013 9:02 pm

          Hahahahahaha, I am laughing out loud very hard right now. That is my favorite dream I have ever heard.

          • November 25, 2013 10:18 pm

            As Arwen says to Aragorn in Rivendell in the movie “it is a good dream.” I love the part where he smiles at you tenderly.

            • Jenny permalink
              November 26, 2013 11:30 am

              It wasn’t a romantic dream — not that intense feeling — but I think he wanted to be more than friends, you know?

          • Jenny permalink
            November 26, 2013 11:30 am

            Sometime, Jenny, I’ll tell you about the spy dream I had involving my sister. That’s the best dream I’ve ever had.

  5. November 25, 2013 6:07 pm

    I had a dream that a bird of prey was watching me from a tree recently. Otherwise just really involved work dreams.

    • November 25, 2013 10:19 pm

      That sounds kind of ominous! Unless it was the vultures from The Jungle Book.

  6. November 25, 2013 9:23 pm

    My family is very into dreams. We like talking about what they mean, because the symbolism is often very obvious once you start thinking about it. But if you don’t start thinking about it, it sometimes is less obvious, and that is why my mother and my sisters and I all have stories about people telling us their dreams and inadvertently revealing way more about their state of mind than they intended.

    Once, Indie Sister said that she had kept a dream journal for a few weeks and noticed several recurring motifs in her dreams; and I was jealous that she had, like, subconscious leitmotifs. So I kept a dream journal for a while, to see if I had them too (I thought I probably did), and indeed! I do. Well, one. Trains. I dream about trains all the time. Whatever that portends.

    I’m excited to read The Killing Moon! NK Jemisin sometimes goes a little slow on plot for my tastes, but her writing is lovely, and her world-building is superb.

    • November 25, 2013 10:24 pm

      Do your trains go, um, you know, into tunnels? Because, as you say, the symbolism is often very obvious.
      We don’t tend to analyze dreams at our house; we tend to enjoy them purely as entertainment. This might be because Eleanor, since she was very small, would get up and tell us the most amazing stories, long and involved and very detailed. Her response to reading this post was to tell me (on FB) about a dream she had. She keeps a dream journal, too.

  7. November 27, 2013 3:15 pm

    Sounds like an interesting book. So do you think you will get to meet Nathan Fillion? Wouldn’t that be a hoot! I’ve not had any particularly interesting dreams lately. Maybe I should read this book in hopes it will inspire a few 🙂

    • November 29, 2013 9:02 am

      Of course I did tell my Nathan Fillion dream before breakfast, but I have no expectations of meeting him!

  8. November 27, 2013 3:17 pm

    The last dream I had was two nights ago and it was a weird horror-ish type that woke me up. I’m still trying to work out the ‘inspiration’ for it. I like your idea though, of listening to them. I once created a poem from a dream, it often feels a waste when you’ve had a good one and then you just forget it.

    How spooky that you found that extract as you were falling asleep! I’ve The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms still to read, I’ve not read The Killing Moon yet, and I’m looking forward to it a lot.

    • November 29, 2013 9:07 am

      I find that my dreams often color my mood for the day. It was kind of the opposite when I came to that bit about how the character said it was okay to go to sleep; he’d just keep telling his tale–it colored my dreams for the night, at least a little bit. It often seems to be true (and I think I read this somewhere; can’t think of where) that dreams lag behind real life, sometimes for almost a week. Like when you’re on vacation you dream about home, and once you get home, you dream about where you were on vacation.

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