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Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo…

Falling in Love with Hominids

by Nalo Hopkinson

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Wonderful collection of short fiction from a new-to-me author. Hopkinson has long been a part of the sci-fi/speculative/fantasy scene, and her fiction is incisive, intimate, chilling, and emotional. In the span of a few pages, she evokes foreign worlds with haunting familiarity, characters who plucked at my heart and still linger with me. While the entire collection is a bit uneven -- the standout stories really stand out -- this is a marvelous intro to Hopkinson, and a welcome volume for those who crave sci-fi and speculative fiction featuring characters of color and/or queer folks. ( )
  unabridgedchick | May 16, 2017 |
I've been interested in Nalo Hopkinson as a fantasy writer who draws on non-European traditions and includes diverse characters in her work. Unfortunately, after reading this collection I suspect it wasn't the best introduction to her writing. To be honest it felt like a fairly random collection of stories -- some old, some more recent -- without any compelling thematic connections between them. Several of them were obviously workshop stories, or stories written in response to a prompt. Others felt too much like "one idea" stories. While they no doubt shed light on the author's creative processes, I found they made for rather thin reading overall.

For me the centerpiece of this collection was the story "Shift," a delightful story featuring Caliban (from Shakespeare's The Tempest). Somewhat longer than the other stories, this one showed the thematic and stylistic complexity that Hopkinson is capable of.

I also particularly enjoyed "Soul Case," which is wonderfully atmospheric and suggestive, and it avoids the psychologizing (i.e., using fantasy elements as an expression of crises -- emotional or interpersonal -- which the character is experiencing, i.e., bullying or parent-child relationships) that I felt like limited some of the other stories.
  spiphany | Sep 4, 2016 |
This was pretty solidly great - my favorites were "Left Foot, Right," and "Emily Breakfast," but "The Easthound" and "Message in a Bottle" are close runners-up. I feel like I would like the Bordertown story if I ever liked Bordertown stories, but they all seem so obsessed with tangling up with other Bordertown stories that there isn't enough story there. ( )
  jen.e.moore | May 17, 2016 |
Review Originally Posted At: FictionForesight

In accordance with current FTC Guidelines, please let it be known this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a collection of short stories. Short fiction is an entirely different beast compared to novels, as any writer or educator can tell you. Short fiction has less room for – well, everything – and so each sentence must be carefully chosen and pointed in its purpose. Worlds and characters must be developed in a matter of words. There’s no descriptive excess. In a curated assembly of an author’s short stories, what the reader receives is a snapshot of the author’s common themes, opinions, and methods. It is the easiest way to dive headfirst into an author’s body of work and immerse ourselves in their voice. Nalo Hopkinson’s voice is exceedingly singular, in that she has experienced life in many of its varieties, and in the fact that she delights in turning those varieties into something fantastic, but still somehow relatable.

Falling in Love with Hominids is a collection that gives us an immediate feel for Hopkinson’s capabilities as a storyteller. Each piece puts us into the skin of a person who, although they may be different from us in culture, skin color, age, or sexual orientation, we find to be instantly recognizable. Each piece dumps us into a world that, however outlandish or departed from our own, still holds a thread common to each of us. Hopkinson uses the human tradition of oral storytelling to inspire the fantastical creatures and elements that turn life on its head for our protagonists. In the very first story, the apocalypse is brought on by a virus that turns all adults not into zombies, but werewolves. In another, an idyllic couple’s breakfast is interrupted by the disappearance of their chicken, Emily Breakfast – but these chickens are descended from dragons, and are more than capable of defending themselves. One of the stories describes the everyday life of ghosts who haunt an American mall. It’s difficult to choose which stories I like the most. They are all surprising, refreshing, and full of life.

I’m not sure of the timeline for these works – some could be from early in the author’s career and some could be very recent. Some are a little clumsy or derivative, but there is a great range in style and narrative choice. If one thing is immediately clear, it’s that Hopkinson writes for herself, first and foremost. You can see that she enjoys moving between first, third, and second person viewpoints. She jumps facilely between North American urban locales and the warm, exotic islands of the Caribbean. At least, they sound exotic to someone like me, who has lived in the northern U.S. for most of their life; but the stories that take place there are just another day, just people moving through life as they do around the world. I think that is part of the magic of Hopkinson’s voice – she transports us to an under-represented place and culture, but without glorifying it or holding the reader’s hand. Her writing is simultaneously nostalgic and no-nonsense. Her prose can speak to the senses, but it is also to the point. Nalo Hopkinson paints the places she knows in the way that Márquez embodies the soul of Central America, or the way Bradbury captures Illinois summers.

It is easy to see why Hopkinson garners such praise from authors and readers alike, but also why her name is new to many of us. Falling in Love with Hominids is a standout example of her body of work, and her novels will find their way to my shelves, right next to Dandelion Wine and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

(www.FictionForesight.com) ( )
  FictionForesight | Apr 26, 2016 |

*****"The Easthound" – Nalo Hopkinson
Previously read in Strahan's 'Best Science Fiction...' anthology. Was happy to re-read!
'OK, I previously said the Hopkinson selection in the previous volume of this anthology was my favorite. But this story is now my favorite Hopkinson. I wholeheartedly loved it. It is quite similar to the Star Trek episode, ‘Miri’ (also one of my favorites). However, it’s a lot bleaker – and there are werewolves.'

**** “Soul Case”
Victory comes with grief - and with a price. But freedom for the next generation is a thing of great value. Set in a defiant community of Caribbean 'maroons', this brief story packs a lot into a small amount of space.

***** “Message in a Bottle”
A wry commentary on art and how we invest it with meaning.
A young man, an artist, sometimes babysits his neighbor's child. He's a bit uncomfortable with the girl, but is it simply because he's unused to children - or does it have something to do with the child's rare disorder?
Time goes on, and he's the one she turns to when there's something that needs to be said.
Unexpected twists keep on coming, in this great sci-fi story.

** “The Smile on the Face”
Previously read in Neil Gaiman's 'Unnatural Creatures.' Then, I said: "Teenage girls should be happy with their bodies and stick up for themselves against attempted date rape. Yes, fine, I agree. But I didn’t love the story."
This time, I felt slightly more charitable toward it (I did re-read). It's very well-written, and you do feel for the main character. But the Message For Teenage Girls definitely overwhelms anything else about the story.

*** “Left Foot, Right”
Previously read in Kelly Link's 'Monstrous Affections.'
A young woman enters a store to buy a very specific pair of cheap shoes... Clearly, something dire has occurred, but we are not yet sure what... The gradual reveal is well-done, but this would have been rated higher, except for when it gets to the point where, in addition to the death of her sister, the story adds in her miscarriage. Maybe it's just that I'm not much for the ghosts of fetuses, politically, but I really feel that the story would have been stronger if it focused on the single tragedy instead of making it a double. The Caribbean setting and the elements of folklore are vivid and nicely-done.

*** “Old Habits”
Previously read in Strahan's 'Best Science Fiction..." anthology.
"Ghosts haunt the mall where they died. (Knowing someone who worked in a mall for a while, you might be surprised how many people DO die in malls.) Not bad; probably my favorite thing I’ve read by Hopkinson." (I've since read even better stories by her, but this one is still quite good!)

*** “Emily Breakfast”
What a weird piece. Not weird fiction, just odd. OK... it's like... one of those food-obsessed cozy mysteries meets m/m romance, with a bunch of stuff thrown in for the pet lovers, and a dash of the fantastic. Strangely charming.

*** “Herbal”
I suppose it's uncharitable to say this reminded me of Dumbo. Especially since I've never seen that movie, and this story is not at all cartoonish. But it does feature a magical flying elephant.

*** “A Young Candy Daughter”
Overly sentimental, but emotionally appealing. This story of the Second Coming is a reminder to Christians of the core values of their religion.

**** “A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog”
The author says this was inspired by the difficulties of 'dating while geeky' - but it takes it a step beyond. OK, a whole staircase beyond.
Our narrator is a very peculiar woman with detailed - one might even say obsessive - knowledge of botany. This is what happens when she encounters one very unusual vermin.

*** “Shift”
A jazz riff on 'The Tempest,' mixed with elements of 'The Frog Prince,' which flips from one perspective to another, touching on the subjects of race and relationships.

**** “Delicious Monster”
It's always hard to come to terms with your divorced dad's new relationship, even when you're an adult. But this story introduces a whole pantheon of unexpected issues, from 'monster' plants to the divine.

*** “Snow Day”
While out shoveling snow, a woman encounters a talking raccoon. That's only the first odd occurrence in what turns out to be a truly singular day. I found this a bit reminiscent of Sheri Tepper, in a good way. it's a topic I find intrinsically appealing: Oh Hell, yeah, I'd be an 'Adventurer!'

** “Flying Lessons”
Short, metaphorical piece about child abuse. I can't honestly say I liked it, but I wasn't really supposed to.

*** “Whose Upward Flight I Love”
In the midst of a storm, it can seem not as if the wind is striving to knock down the tossing trees, but as if the trees are flapping themselves, eager to take flight.

**** “Blushing”
A contemporary, not-even-one-tiny-bit-politically-correct re-telling of the story of Bluebeard, and his secret room.

**** “Ours Is the Prettiest”
Previously read in 'Welcome to Bordertown.' At that time, I said:
"Just because you make it to the Border, doesn’t mean your life isn’t a mess. In the midst of Carnival celebrations, a group of lesbians negotiate a complex web of love, jealousy, violence and resentments. And get blindsided by some unexpected magic. Probably the best thing I’ve read from Hopkinson."

*** “Men Sell Not Such in Any Town”
Inspired by Christina Rosetti's 'Goblin Market,' this short piece gives 'forbidden fruit' a science-fiction edge.

Many thanks to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this excellent collection. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nalo Hopkinsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hill, ChumaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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