Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Nalo-Hopkinson
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-05-14 19:08
Falling in Love with Hominids
Falling in Love with Hominids - Nalo Hopkinson

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

To be honest, I had no idea who Nalo Hopkinson was until I requested this book. But I was definitely interested to read stories by an author who seemed to have an approach stemming from a different culture than mine. I didn't know what to expect; I wasn't disappointed.

This collection features stories inspired from various sources, situations and ideas—the author mentiones some of those before each story. Ghosts haunting a mall keep reliving their deaths. Plants that find an unusual soil to grow. Retellings of “The Tempest” and “Bluebeard”. A story set in Bordertown. Another one in a world ravaged by a strange epidemic, forcing children to band together until they all fall sick as well.

Urban fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, magical realism: Hopkinson weaves a lot of ideas in various settings, while never losing sight of human beings: their complexity, the depth of their feelings, all their doubts and ambiguities. A mother tries to make her teenage girl realise that “taming her hair” may amount to rejecting where she came from. Fairy beings, humans and “half-breeds” mingle in Bordertown, but do they all really accept each other? Beings preying at each other, feeding on each other, going through phases of desire and guilt, of doubt and acceptance. Beings with both monstrous and loving sides, displaying alien features yet also deeply human ones, like the girl turning into a dragon, but whose deep desire remains, all in all, to be accepted by others... her own self included.

Here are the stories I liked best in this anthology:

“The Easthound”: a children-oriented vision of a post-apocalyptic future, where everybody turns into a monster when they reach puberty. A band of kids doing their best to survive, knowing all too well, though, that sooner or later they'll have to kill one of their own, lest it kills them first.

“Shift”: a retelling of “The Tempest”, with themes revolving around identity, underlying racism, unfulfillable desires, and relationships that may be doomed to fail as soon as they are born.

“Old Habits”: ghosts trapped in the mall where they died, forced to go through their own deaths again and again, pining at the smells they can't perceive anymore.

“A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog”: pretty creepy, in a fascinating way. A woman very well-versed in orchids has developed... interesting ways to find a partner.

“Blushing”: another retelling, this time of “Bluebeard”. We all know what the new bride is going to find in that room; how she will react, though, is always another matter.

“Ours Is The Prettiest”: I've never read any Bordertown stories, but I don't think the lack of background here would prevent someone from enjoying this stories. On a backdrop of enchantments, celebrations and impending danger, a woman is trying to help those around her... but is she right in doing so, or only making things worse?

“Message in a Bottle” was good, too, though I felt it lacked something—probably that something is “being turned into a novel”.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-04-08 16:32
[Book Review] Midnight Robber
Midnight Robber - Nalo Hopkinson

It's Carnival on the planet of Toussaint, and young Tan-Tan dons her favorite guise, that of the Robber Queen.  But bigger games are afoot, and Tan-Tan is inadvertently caught up with her father's trespass and taken into exile as he escapes to New Half-Way Tree.  From a world where manual labor is a lifestyle choice to one where it is a necessity in ever aspect of life, Tan-Tan's world is forever changed.  Challenges never imagined now become a reality, and Tan-Tan must become the Robber Queen in truth to meet them.

A good article over at Strange Horizons here.

This year I included a few outside suggestions for the Virtual Speculation reading list, and our March read was one such suggestions.  I'm really glad of it, as I was only peripherally aware of Nalo Hopkinson before this (it appears I had an opportunity to review a new collection of short stories a few months back, but I didn't yet recognize the name so I passed).  I definitely recommend trying out her works.

Midnight Robber is a rich and painful story.

Discussion Fodder:

  • What do you think of the narrator, narration style, and reveal?  Would you consider it a reliable narrator?
  • Folk tales and history are intertwined in Toussaint lore.  How has slave trade and racism shaped this future culture?
  • The society of Toussaint is high tech to the point of manual labor as a life-style choice rather than a requirement.  How do you envision the effects of such technology on society?  How does that compare to society as described here?
  • What do you think of the book's handling of abuse and rape, and the reactions of those in the community?  How does the trauma effect Tan-Tan?  What do you think about her coping mechanisms?
  • How does the the Robber Queen fit into the different narratives of the story?
  • When Tan-Tan first arrives on New Half-Way Tree she calls out the inequality in respect between the douen and humans, to which Claude says "is a human that?... So how he could call we Compere?"  Later on we read "A simple gift, but Tan-Tan had come to understand over the years that douens were simple people; Aislin had told her so.  They did everything with their hands and never thought to advance themselves any further."  What do you think of the relations between humans and douen?  What about the douen deliberate deception of humans as a method of self-preservation?
  • What are the implications of the reveal at the end of the book?
Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2016/04/book-review-midnight-robber.html
Like Reblog Comment
text 2016-03-12 17:26
getting started on the March book club read
Midnight Robber - Nalo Hopkinson

Usually I'm not the biggest fan of books written in patois/dialect, but so far it has a good flow.  Definitely hearing a narrator's voice in my head as I read.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2016-03-04 20:49
Fabulous Five Friday: (Sub) Genre Kryptonite (3/4/2016)
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Bad Feminist: Essays - Roxane Gay
Falling in Love with Hominids - Nalo Hopkinson
What French Women Know About Love, Sex and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind - Debra Ollivier

I haven't been posting these regularly like I had originally planned. My workload has been increasingly unwieldy lately, plus I've taken on some freelance. I'm hoping this new installment will be a renewal and I will be able to start posting weekly again.


(I got the term “genre kryptonite” from Book Riot. It is essentially defined as a genre/type that is a personal weakness, i.e. something that you just can’t resist. The term confused me at first, as I associate kryptonite with something that can destroy you, but that’s not how it’s being used here. These are also a combination of genres and subgenres.)


Nonfiction books about Jane Austen. I have a Jane Austen shelf. I must have read at least 30 nonfiction studies of her work by now, and I never get tired of it. Of all my reading habits, this one makes me miss my college library the most. Since I’ve already done a F5F for Austen I won’t bother listing titles. The link if you would like suggestions: Fabulous Five Friday debut.


Georgian/Victorian/Gilded Age fantasy. Fantasy is often focused on medievalism and pre-modern tropes, which is great but overused. I love that fantasy set in the 19th and early 20th century mashes together my favorite historical period to study with magical elements, and the best examples often have that delicious social complexity that makes novels from that period so enjoyable for me. My ultimate favorite in this category is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.


Books about feminism and gender. This covers an immense array of possibilities across fiction and non-fiction. I’m especially partial to essay collections and literary studies that use gender studies and feminism as the key reference point. The representative title for me currently is Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.


Short story collections and anthologies. I’m especially partial to short speculative fiction and “weird” stories, often by authors like Kelly Link, Nalo Hopkinson, Hannu Rajaniemi, Jane Yolen, Alison Nutting, Neil Gaiman, and many others, though I’m also partial to themed anthologies that give you a lot of variety. I’ve collected way more than I’ll ever read, but I’ll keep getting them anyway. My current favorite (most likely since it’s the most recent collection I’ve read) is Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids.


Books about Parisian and overall French culture. Francophilia is not rare, but I still find my attraction to these books a bit weird. I’m especially drawn to those “how to be French” lifestyle books, even though they really offer nothing more than surface-level, unrealistic aspirational stuff. But I find something fascinating in looking at a culture that is so incredibly focused on assimilation, and yet cares so little for people’s opinions. One of my favorites is What French Women Know by Debra Ollivier, since she combines her outsider view with an insider’s access (she is an American married to a Frenchman).


Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-01-20 22:16
Review: Falling in Love with Hominids
Falling in Love with Hominids - Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson’s stories are hybrids, blending science fiction and fantasy, Western and Afro-Caribbean influences, pain and joy, the real and the unreal. She has a particular talent for blending the magical and the mundane in surprising ways.


As a writer of short stories that are specifically fantasy and science fiction, Hopkinson demonstrates her understanding of how a story needs to follow it’s own internal logic to be successful; any outside, novelistic standard of structure or expectation is thrown out the window in favor of internal integrity. Any collection of short stories will have tales that are stronger than others, and that is especially true in a case like Hominids, where the stories have been written over a long span of years and not designed to be thematically linked. Of course, they are thematically linked in many ways, as the work of a single author tends to be, intentional or no. Many of them share common ground in terms of character types (young girls, middle aged gay men) or repeated imagery and phrases (the question “salt or sweet?” recurs in at least three stories, likely more).


Most of the stories are set in a Western 21st century milieu, but are infused with folk tale spirit and speculative flair. A great example of this is the penultimate story in the collection, “Ours is the Prettiest,” which riffs off of the Borderland series of speculative story anthologies first introduced by Terri Windling in the 1980s and revived by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner in the last few years. Bordertown is the aptly named liminal zone between the “real” world and a realm known as Elfland, populated by magical types of the faerie variety. Hopkinson infuses the typically Euro-Western approach of the past collections with new vibrancy by establishing other countries and races in Elfland, and brings a mish-mash of diverse cultures and backgrounds to the characters that inhabit Bordertown itself.


While I tend to be partial to short stories that fall somewhere in the ten-to-fifteen page range, I also enjoyed her shorter stories that were more like brief vignettes. “A Young Candy Daughter” is a reimagining of the childhood of Jesus- if he were a she and the child of a single black mother. The story is so sweet and immediately got to the heart of what it would mean to have the power of a god in the mindset of a child, as well as how we look differently at a single mother as religious symbol vs. the real world single mother. Other stories tackled things like self-image and ancient female power (“The Smile on the Face”), or the banality of death in the modern world (“Old Habits”), or the implications of art and the possibilities of time travel (“Message in a Bottle”). Each has an emotional core dressed up in speculative trappings and sprinkled with history. Hopkinson is also highly skilled in using dialect in ways that make characters and environments feel richer and more realistic, never devolving into caricature.


Though there weren’t many of them, the weakest tales are those whose endings don’t feel earned- where the story is either too short or the motivations of the characters too assiduously hidden from the reader. I would say “Blushing” is one of the few that fell flat for me. It is a modern retelling of Bluebeard, and while the twist in the end is fascinating, it comes so suddenly out of left field that I found it ultimately unsatisfying. And I don’t know if it is my reading or the story itself, but the final title in the collection, “Men Sell Not Such in Any Town,” had a similar effect, and ultimately felt somehow unfinished. These were really the only two I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and in a collection of 18 stories, that isn’t a bad outcome.


I could draw a lot of comparisons between Hopkinson and other current short story artists-- like Kelly Link or Elizabeth Bear-- as far as the ideas of internal vs. external logic and the strength of so many different voices, but Hopkinson also has a non-Eurocentric approach that sets her apart and further distances readers from well-worn tropes and techniques. This is my first experience with Nalo Hopkinson, but it certainly won’t be my last.





More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?