• Emergency Skin

  • Forward
  • By: N. K. Jemisin
  • Narrated by: Jason Isaacs
  • Length: 1 hr and 4 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (2,988 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

2020 Audie Award Winner for Best Science Fiction

Audible narration by Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery)

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 ages 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.

©2019 N. K. Jemisin (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

Emergency Skin, by the award(s)-winning Jemisin, is part of a sensational project called Forward, which brings together six writers, each telling a story about Earth’s imagined future.” --Spine Magazine

“Narrator Jason Isaac’s voice is the perfect mix of insistent, pedantic, and scornful…This brief but clever tale is truly best enjoyed on audio.” (AudioFile - Earphones Award Winner)

“The tale is a fascinating experiment in story structure…Thoughtful and interactive.” (LOCUS)

  “This is exactly how I like my techno-anxiety…Happy bingeing!” (Audible, an October Editors Pick)  

Featured Article: Outstanding Black Authors Across Various Genres and Styles


Stories have the power not only to transport us, but to allow us to connect, understand, and feel represented. The work of phenomenal Black authors—like those featured in this list—has expanded the ambition, scope, and perspective of storytelling. These must-hear titles from some of the best Black authors of all time are also indisputably some of the most remarkable works of literature in both the contemporary and historical canon.

What listeners say about Emergency Skin

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Try to avoid getting clubbed by the message...

Another short story from the Forward collection. This one has a message that is delivered with all the subtlety of a brick to the side of the head. Rich, white, racist men are bad and if about two dozen of them would just leave Earth the rest of us would magically all come together, play nice and save the world from climate change, nationalism, gender crisis, and overall bad behavior.

18 people found this helpful

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Cute. Ignore the racism, sexism, and socialism!

It's a fun concept...our spacefaring protagonist is on a dangerous mission to a long-dead planet to retrieve biological samples critical to the survival of his homeworld. He is accompanied by a voice in his head that provides instructions, warnings, and the prejudices of his home world that are of no use on the world he finds.

This new world is not dead, but thriving! It began to thrive when the white-blond-male overlords fled from the planet they had pillaged, plundered, and raped shortly before they estimated the planet would be dead. Freed from this despicable serfdom, the remaining inhabitants saved their planet by becoming the perfect model citizens of a Utopian communist ideal.

Applause and knowing nods and winks. A story so right for our time!

But wait...if the horrible overlords had been described as female the story would have be loudly shouted down, rightly, as sexist. And if the bad people had not been safely white and blond the story would have been rightly seen as a racist affront to an exploited people. And, unfortunately, the utopian concept of people-helping-people-in-a-perfect-socialist/communist harmony has only ever resulted in larger tyrannies, inequities, and environmental destruction than its horrible capitalist counterparts (review the history of the Soviet Union and China). But it sure sounds great!

Oh, I remember, this is science fiction fun.
Except when it preaches sexism, racism, and the failed, false, and jealous god of communism.

The reader does a good job of navigating a difficult script as the jarring voice-in-the-protagonist's-head becomes more strident and threatening and conflicts with the other voices in the story.

17 people found this helpful

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NK Jemisin is a genius

The prose on this one was interesting, as you never hear the voice of the protagonist. Like always, the author explores the things we take for granted in our society. It's a good intro into the author's work of you're unfamiliar.

16 people found this helpful

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Blown away!

The amount of inventiveness and detail in this story is staggering. Pride excellence. I want to read the written version because the plot sometimes went too fast for me to catch everything. I will definitely listen to this audiobook again.

13 people found this helpful

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I am an outlier, I guess.

I thought the premise was interesting, but the story was underwhelming. To me it seemed to be a screed against white supremacy, capitalism, and individualism. Sure, white supremacy is vile. But it is hardly the cause of all humanity's problems. And the idea that all we need to do to solve all the world's problems is to get rid of awful, nasty, selfish people is absurd.

I guess my basic problem with the story is that it promotes the idea that the only problem with the world is that there are bad people in it, and that's it. Get rid of a few thousand selfish folks and nirvana will arrive? Hardly. Even the most cursory familiarity with history dispels this myth.

I'd love for us to achieve nirvana. But pushing the idea that what stands between us and nirvana is a few "bad" people is not only puerile, history shows that when people buy this BS the result is a push to get rid of those "bad" people. And since sending them off in FTL ships isn't available, less peaceful means are used.

Writing is OK, but the political message is more appropriate to a Sophomore year bull session.

9 people found this helpful

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Lazy effort from a brilliant writer

N. K. Jemisin is one of my favorite writers, but this was a lazy effort. The concept was clever, and I was drawn in initially. But it quickly turned into a heavy-handed political lecture that was uninteresting, even if you agree with the message.

9 people found this helpful

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What a grand tale, almost wish it were true!

The author really blew me away with this story. I hate to use another reviewers words bit someone said this book was the smartest story she had ever read and I totally agree. Jason Issacks' narration was wonderful.

8 people found this helpful

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Good until the heavy handed political lecturing

I was actually enjoying the story until the author decided to push their unrealistic political fantasy.

Narrator did a great job.

This story will make me think twice before listening/reading something else by this author.

6 people found this helpful

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A Perfect Trifecta

Disappointing. Anti-White, Anti-Male, Anti-Capitalist. A perfect trifecta of Woke horse manure. With Antifa peaceably burning down our cities, shame on you, Audible.

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

post-apocalyptic, sci-fi-fantasy, short

Bought on the recommendation of a sci fi fan even though it is not my preference. I found it a brilliant tale of hope for geopolitical mankind and very thankful that it also came as audio.
Jason Isaacs was perfect as narrator!

6 people found this helpful

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  • Diane Severson
  • 09-26-19

Absurd, subversive, fun

I really, really enjoyed this short story! It’s hilarious. Using absurdity Jemisin illuminates a hopeful attitude of how we could change our world for the better. I listened to the audio book narrated by Jason Isaacs who is nothing short of brilliant.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anela Anne
  • 09-21-20

Incredible

Why have I never heard of this author before? This story was briliant. I didn't know it was possible for someone to write so amazingly. My review of this story can't do it justice because I haven't the author's way with words. I too am obsessed with immortality, but this story delves into what the consequences of eternal life might be, and what such an existence would entail. Should we want for longevity at any cost? And yet the vibe of the author's storytelling is also quirky in a smart clever way. So glad I've found a new favourite author to read! Well, listen to audibooks. And this one being narrated by Jason Isaacs is brill. He's so good at accents it seems he's really born where he's talking from.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Miss P.
  • 02-16-20

Funny and extremely thought provoking

Really enjoyed this short story. Excellent narrationaw well. Must look out some of their other work.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Holford411
  • 03-27-22

Loved It

A fascinating little story that was very interesting and amusing at the same time and Jason Isaacs makes a great story teller.

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  • Heather Trow
  • 03-27-22

Solid bit of sci-fi

I just really enjoyed this. I loved the premise of the plot, I loved how the story was told. Solid bit of sci-fi, albeit it short.

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  • MR PADRAIG MAC DONNCHADHA
  • 11-16-21

Enjoyable and thought provoking

The narrator really brought this story to life, particularly the later part where we were introduced to the character of the old man.

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  • B. Mckenna
  • 10-24-21

Disgusting Race-Communist Propaganda

A transparent race-baiting communist propaganda piece, disgustingly trite and deeply hateful of modern society, which it strawmans as an all-male white supremacist fascist splinter group responsible for all the worlds ills. NK Jemisin is a vile sexist racist demagogue and I will never read another thing by her again. She is the epitome of the word "scum" and her writing is a direct reflection of her political hate.

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  • Frieda
  • 04-06-21

Fantastic idea.

I did really enjoy this idea and the POV it was told from. The execution and performance by the narrator was fabulous.

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  • Tom D
  • 03-25-21

told from an interesting perspective

alot of the text is one side of a conversation, which I thought worked very well. enjoyable and interesting short story.

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  • jan winter
  • 02-28-21

Fascinating concept.

A highly original concept that masks a morality tale. This strange imagination provides a very human hope. I enjoyed it immensely and will seek this author out.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-17-19

Just TERRIBLE. dont be tricked..

Didn't realise it was only 1 hour long. I wasted a credit on this. This is my genre but it was unlistenable. I am an idiot.

1 person found this helpful

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  • N. Hill
  • 10-18-21

Really cool

This was a really cool little story that is told uniquely. Jason Isaacs narrates it very well, and I loved the petulance of the AI.

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  • ctedds
  • 09-24-21

Well written

Very clever story. Gets you thinking about current societies and the issues that they face.

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  • Shelly
  • 12-11-19

NK Jemisin is actually a genius

Everything she writes it’s brilliant—the prose is accessible, yet complex and layered if you are prepared let it take you deeper. So when I saw this short story on audible, there was no question I would add it to my library! Jason Isaacs performs it beautifully, this was a joy to listen to. Will re-listen again for sure, wish I could give it 10 stars!

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  • Susan
  • 10-08-19

Stunning reading

Great story, unbelievable reading. In the hands of Jason Isaacs I suspect this story is more powerful as an audiobook than as text.

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