I wasn't impressed by my first encounter with Jemisin's writing in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. In her interviews though, she comes across as super-intelligent and creative. Even if she isn't any of these things, her voice (as a black female fantasy writer among mostly white male peers) is bound to be unique. So, I decided to give her another go. The Killing Moon book shares its title with a song by Echo and the Bunnymen, an obscure band from the 80s. The song was briefly made famous after it was included in the opening sequence of the cult movie Darko Darko (one of my all time favourites). The song's first verse declares
Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you'll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
There is no mention of the song in the notes at the back of the book but it could possibly be this tale's jingle. The city of Gujaareh is situated in a world that has two moons, the dreaming moon and the waking moon. Dreaming moon, the larger of the two, is believed to be a goddess, exerts all pervading influence on the citizens of this desert kingdom. Priests of the dream-goddess harvest dreams which they use to heal. Specialized priests called Gatherers euthanize citizens while they sleep guiding their souls peacefully into the afterlife. There is no crime, disease and suffering it would seem in Gujaareh. Members of its caste-bound society seem content with venerating their jealous goddess and paying obeisance to their god-king. Ehiru, a veteran gatherer is tasked with harvesting the soul of a pale-skinned foreigner from the north. Ehiru enters the foreigner's dreams only to discover that all in not well in the content dream-fueled kingdom of Gujaareh.
Gujaareh's civilization is inspired by ancient Egypt. Egyptian culture is rich in inspiration for a fantasy writer and has a fascinating connection to dreams. In ancient times, Egyptians would often spend a night within a temple's precincts to receive divinely charged dreams. A priest would record their dreams the next morning for interpretation. Many of these records have survived allowing us into the heads of people who lived three thousand years ago. Strangely, their fears and aspirations, about love, money and safety are the same things people dream about today. Human beings have always been fearful of the world they enter when they go to bed. I think Jemisin exploits this idea fairly successfully to give us a world sustained by dreaming. There isn't much by way of explanation for the dream-technology, if I may call it that. Instead Jemisin showcases a rich mythology as a backdrop for the events in the book.
The Killing Moon made for interesting reading. I am glad I decided to give Jemisin another go.