Falling In Love With Hominids
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
I received an advance e-book copy of this short story collection from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I have yet to read any of Ms. Hopkinson's novels, and to the best of my recollection, the only short story I had read prior to this is "Jamaica Ginger" (from the Delany tribute anthology, Stories for Chip) which she wrote in collaboration with Nisi Shawl. That was my favorite story in that collection, and there are several here that come close in quality, while others fall short. Most are fantasy with tinges of horror. Only one is undoubtedly science fiction, with another a combination of SF and horror. There are eighteen in all, none of them longer than short story length, with several that would have to be considered flash fiction (less than two pages).
While fantasy is not my typical genre to read, I can still appreciate Hopkinson's talent at prose, along with her unique lyrical voice. Her characters are vivid and real, full of life and energy, even if sometimes that energy leans toward the macabre. Many of the characters speak in the patois of Jamaica, utilizing unique slang and colloquiallisms from that country, and native folktales also figure into several of the stories, although one is based on Hindu mythology. Since all are short, and most are strange and weird, I started thinking of them like Twilight Zone episodes, or in some cases the even shorter Night Gallery gems. I don't want to provide any spoilers, but I'd like to highlight a few of my favorites with just very brief descriptions.
"The Easthound" - a clever new take on a zombie story, or if looked at another way, possibly a retelling of The Werewolf or Jekyl/Hyde stories. They should have saved this one for last because it was the best.
"Message in a Bottle" - Is Kamla really from the future, or is that just a delusion brought on by her Delayed Growth Syndrome condition?
"Left Foot, Right" - A heart-breaking story of love and loss, of guilt, forgiveness and redemption.
"Old Habits" - A unique look at ghosts trapped at a mall, reliving their deaths and unable to move on.
"Shift" - a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, as Caliban seeks to escape the ocean and find love with a beautiful woman, if only his sister Ariel would leave him alone.
"Blushing" - The new bride wonders about the secret her husband keeps locked away in a mysterious room. He is surprised to learn she is the perfect one to share in his hobby.
"Ours Is the Prettiest" - based in the 'Shared World' of Borderland, of which I was previously unaware. Many authors had contributed to the series years ago, and it was recently revived after many years of dormancy. Hopkinson took some liberties with certain characters created by others, and introduced a few new wrinkles into the milieu.
A few others that were interesting but not that memorable. I wish several of the ones I've mentioned had been longer, they were over much too soon but were very poignant. Some were comical, others tragic, horrific. If any of this sounds like stories you enjoy, I feel confident you will appreciate Hopkinson's talent. I might not have read this if it hadn't been free, but now that I have I will have to look at reviews of some of her other work.
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