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Falling in Love with Hominids Paperback – August 11, 2015
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Los Angeles Public Library Best of 2015 Fiction
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Locus 2015 Recommended Reading List: Best Collection
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A Bustle 20 Books Every Star Wars Fan Will Love
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A Bustle Short Story Collection You Should Binge Read This Weekend
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Hopkinson's stories dazzle”
The stories all share a common thread of magic, which is often woven, whether subtly or blatantly, into the fabric of everyday reality, allowing characters to react to the strange or the impossible as it crosses into their world. Hopkinson also draws frequently on her Caribbean upbringing and heritage, and her characters’ voices are distinct and authentic, both in their speech patterns and in their ways of looking at their surroundings. Hopkinson’s fans will be delighted by these examples of her wide-ranging imagination.”
The power of Hopkinson’s stories lies in their capacity to help us reimagine our own movement through the world and to wonderfully innovate new trajectories for speculative fiction as a whole.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
A Barnes and Noble Bookseller’s Pick for August 2015
The award-winning author of Midnight Robber and Brown Girl in the Ring returns with a collection of fantastical short fiction, assembling a decade’s worth of stories of magic and the supernatural intersecting with everyday life.”
Barnes and Noble
Hopkinson’s stories stack up well against their source of inspiration, but her voice is clearly her own, charged with deep feeling and vast imagination.”
San Francisco Chronicle
There is something for everyone in this collection. Hopkinson manages to make a reader’s skin crawl in one story and smile in the next. It’s a mixture that keeps you reading just to see what she will come up with next. A great collection from a highly imaginative and insightful mind, Falling in Love with Hominids is a must read for fantasy and short story fans”
Portland Book Review
Falling in Love with Hominids overflows with originality, beauty, and Hopkinson’s trademark depiction of human decency....”
Women's Review of Books
Falling in Love with Hominids is truly a magical collection of short stories which brings the reader completely different and new worlds to explore.”
A Universe in Words
Falling in Love with Hominids is an entertaining and humane book that affirms why Junot Díaz refers to Hopkinson as one of our most important writers.”
Falling in Love With Hominids is yet another extraordinary collection of short stories that is well worth your time and rapt attention. The writing is beautiful, the message important, and its delivery is page-turning.”
Daring, creative, and fantastically unique.”
Read Diverse Books
Every reader will surely find something to love, as this collection is often hilariously funny, deeply tragic, intensely engaging, and strongly steeped with fantastic elements.”
Hopkinson does some beautiful things with the art of writing, her imagination is without bounds, and she challenges both readers and writers to go beyond what we see as the status quo. The book is filled with characters of colour, with LGBT characters, with characters who, one way or the other, are memorable and real and get to take part in some amazing stories.”
A Book Riot Best Book We Read in July
Every story feels like a perfectly formed separate entity, but pulling them together is the effortless blending of the fantastic and the mundane.”
Falling in Love with Hominids is a wonderful treat for Nalo Hopkinson fans and a fantastic introduction for new readers.”
New York Journal of Books
In this collection of luminous stories, Nalo Hopkinson writes with an observant intensity. . . .”
World Literature Today
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.”
[U]nique and wonderful and disturbing. . . . Falling in Love with Hominids is at its heart a story of hope.”
Books Without Any Pictures
This is an outstanding collection that really gives insight into [Hopkinson’s] storytelling, the breadth and insight with which she writes.”
Falling in Love with Hominids reveals a writer at the height of her powers.”
The Canadian Science Fiction Review
a re-invigoration at the sense of wonder about human experience.”
All the stories display the various and eclectic writing skill Hopkinson contains in such ample amounts. The writing, too, is terrific.”
Nalo Hopkinson is one of the most exciting writers working today.”
Best Science Fiction Books
[T]he entire book is wonderful. Definitely give it a shot. A+”
I think that many readers have been waiting for affirmative perspectives like these, perspectives that show, over and over again, that diversity is beautiful.”
There are such an excellent variety of stories . . . If you’re a sci-fi/fantasy fan there will almost definitely be something in this collection that catches your fancy.”
This brilliant short story collection has several stories with black women and girls as leads. These girls and women defend their village from invading European conquerors, have divine powers of creation, and overall epitomize Black Girl Magic, sometimes literally!”
Read Diverse Books
“Hopkinson’s writing is enchanting . . . Falling in Love with Hominids is not only a collection of beautifully written speculative prose, it takes the what-if-ness of the genre and expands it.”
―The Norwich Radical
Praise for Nalo Hopkinson
One of our most important writers.”
Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
A major talent.”
Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
“Perhaps Nalo Hopkinson is Octavia Butler’s long lost twin, because she writes fiction just as wildly imaginative and, frankly, genius as Butler, but, happily, with more sex.”
Nalo Hopkinson has had a remarkable impact on popular fiction. Her work continues to question the very genres she adopts, transforming them from within through her fierce intelligence and her commitment to a radical vision that refuses easy consumption.”
Globe & Mail
One of the best fantasy authors working today.”
As an exciting new voice in our literature.”
...like Samuel R. Delaney and Octavia E. Butler, [Hopkinson] forces us to consider how inequities of race, gender, class and power might be played out in a dystopian future.”
The News Magazine of Black America
Caribbean science fiction? Nalo Hopkinson is staking her claim as one of its most notable authors...."
Caribbean Travel and Life
Hopkinson’s prose is a distinct pleasure to read: richly sensual, with high-voltage erotic content and gorgeous details.”
For Brown Girl in the Ring
Nalo Hopkinson’s first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, is simply triumphant.”
Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
Hopkinson lives up to her advance billing.”
New York Times Book Review
[Hopkinson] has created a vivid world of urban decay and startling, dangerous magic, where the human heart is both a physical and metaphorical key.”
Octavia E. Butler, author of Parable of the Sower
An impressive debut precisely because of Hopkinson’s fresh viewpoint.”
Washington Post Book World
A parable of black feminist self-reliance, couched inpoetic language and the structural conventions of classic SF.”
For Skin Folk
Everything is possible in her imagination.”
Science Fiction Chronicle
Nalo Hopkinson, award-winning author of Brown Girl in the Ring and Midnight Robber, has released an impressive collection of short stories entitled Skin Folk...well crafted and brilliantly written.”
Barnes & Noble
For The Salt Roads
The Salt Roads is like nothing you’ve read before.... The characters’ stories are heartbreaking and beautiful, living beyond the novel’s pages. Hopkinson’s writing is like a favorite song.”
Tananarive Due, American Book Award-winning author of The Living Blood
With her conjurer’s art, with daring and delightful audacity, Nalo Hopkinson reaches into the well of history.”
Sandra Jackson-Opoku, author of The River Where Blood is Born
About the Author
World Fantasy Award-winning author Nalo Hopkinson was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and also spent her childhood in Trinidad and Guyana before her family moved to Toronto when she was sixteen. Her groundbreaking science fiction and fantasy features diverse characters and the mixing of folklore into her works. Hopkinson won the Warner Aspect First Novel contest for Brown Girl in the Ring, as well as the John W. Campbell and Locus Awards. Her novel Midnight Robber was a New York Times Notable Book and she has also received the Spectrum, Sunburst, Campbell, and Prix Aurora awards. Hopkinson currently teaches in the Creative Writing department at the University of California, Riverside.
Top customer reviews
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While I was aware of Nalo Hopkinson as an author, I never read her work until this collection of eighteen short stories written over the course of about a decade. I know now this will not be the last encounter I have with Ms. Hopkinson. Style and imagination she has in spades! Fusing the Afro-Caribbean influences gained during a childhood spent in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana into fantastical, mystical and science fictional settings is a feat that she pulls off with ease.
I love short stories and gravitate equally toward single-author collections and multiple-author anthologies. In either format, you invariably find stories you love and stories you don’t, so I never expect to be knocked out by every selection in a collection. Ms. Hopkinson is remarkably consistent, and there were only a few stories that left me feeling less than satisfied.
Some of my favorites?
At the onset of “Left Foot, Right”, we know that something tragic has befallen a teenage girl and just what that something is unfolds during Jenna’s quest to replace a certain pair of shoes.
“Old Habits” begins with a great first line: “Ghost malls are sadder than living people malls, even though malls of the living are already pretty damned sad places to be.” A mall, soulless place that it is, will suck the life right out of you, won’t it? And that’s exactly what has happened to the characters in this story. I wish I had written this one. Really I do. So good.
Remember I mentioned those fire-breathing chickens? Well, they star in “Emily Breakfast”, along with a flying cat and trained messenger lizards, all living in your everyday suburban neighborhood. As we say in the South (where grammar doesn’t always count for so much as just getting your point across), “it don’t get no better than that!” ‘Nuff said.
“Ours Is the Prettiest”, as explained in its introduction, is Nalo Hopkinson’s entry into the shared-world Bordertown series, originally created by Terri Windling, and resurrected after a long hiatus by Ellen Kushner and Holly Black. You don’t need to be familiar with Bordertown history to enjoy this multi-cultural take on its colorful denizens. This was my first visit to Bordertown and I’m inspired to go back and read the series from its beginnings. Ms. Hopkinson is quick to use Caribbean dialect and patois in many of her tales and this one is no exception. A funny thing happened while reading this story: I read this sentence: “My fellow human friends made mako on me when I said I could sense the pools and eddies of magic as they wafted through Bordertown.” I thought I could glean the meaning of “mako” from the context of the sentence, but I decided to look for a definition anyway. Of course, a reference to “mako” shark came up, just like I knew it would. Even though it had nothing to do with the context I was looking for, I read the definition anyway and this is what my eyes told me they saw: “A large, fast-moving oceanic shark with a deep blue back and white underpants.” Underpants? It actually said “underparts”, not “underpants”, but from this day forward I’ll always picture the fierce mako wearing BVDs.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by Tachyon Publications via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed are my own.
“Millie liked sleeping with the air on her skin, even though it was dangerous out of doors. It felt more dangerous indoors, what with everyone growing up.”
“Who knows what a sea cucumber thinks of the conditions of its particular stretch of ocean floor?”
(“Message in a Bottle”)
Confession time: This is my very first time reading Nalo Hopkinson, despite the fact that I’ve collected several of her novels over the years. (So many books, so little time!) Given how much I enjoyed FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS, I aim to rectify this ASAP.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS is Hopkinson’s second collection of short fiction, published some fourteen years after SKIN FOLK. She’s also edited/contributed to four others: WHISPERS FROM THE COTTON TREE ROOT: CARIBBEAN FABULIST FICTION (2000); MOJO: CONJURE STORIES (2003); SO LONG BEEN DREAMING: POSTCOLONIAL SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY (2004); and TESSERACTS NINE: NEW CANADIAN SPECULATIVE FICTION (2005). Born in Jamaica and raised in a middle/creative class literary environment, Hopkinson moved to Toronto at the age of sixteen and currently lives in Riverside, California. Her work often draws on Caribbean history and language, and exhibits wonderful diversity: gender, race, sexuality, nationality, you name it.
These hallmarks are on full display in FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS, which features eighteen new and previously published tales. An eclectic mix of fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, fairy tale retellings, and the outright absurd, the stories found here are both highly entertaining and marvelously profound. The protagonists grapple with a variety of issues, from the mundane to the otherworldly: navigating the perilous landscape of adolescence; the politics of black hair; sexual abuse and assault; racism, misogyny, and homophobia; grief and loss; what it means to be human (and whether this status can even be relegated to humans); and the possibilities of alien visitation and botanic sentience.
Ever since starting the Dive Into Diversity reading challenge this year, I’ve made it a point to take notes on diverse characters in my reads. After the first three stories in FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS, I nearly gave up – diversity is the rule here, not the exception, as is so often the case. Only three stories don’t feature a character who is explicitly non-white, LGBTQ, disabled, etc.; and in these cases, the cast is rather small, and race isn’t mentioned at all.
The other fifteen stories showcase casts that are as diverse as the plots are imaginative; characters who are black, Native American (Rosebud Sioux, to be exact), Indian, Latino, Armenian (maybe), and biracial; multiple gay and lesbian protagonists, some in committed relationships, others not – one gay man even recently out of the closet, after a decades-long marriage that resulted in children; interracial relationships and blended families; fat women and seemingly disabled children. In a refreshing change of page, it’s white, heterosexual characters who are the rarity.
As is the case with most anthologies, I enjoyed some stories more than others. Even so, there isn’t a single dud here: every story is enjoyable enough, though it’s true that some will stick with me much longer than others.
** begin spoilers **
“The Easthound” – In Millie and Jolly’s world, adolescence is a time fraught with danger and despair – for it’s when kids mature that they begin to “sprout.” Like their parents (all dead now) at the outset of the pandemic, teenagers transform into monsters seemingly overnight: rapidly growing, ravenous cannibal creatures that are a strange mix of those two horror movie staples, zombies and werewolves. Though they burn out quickly – done in by their taxing metabolism – usually they survive just long enough to crack open the skulls (or chests, or abdominal cavities) of their friends and loved ones. For this reason, most warrens of children exile their more mature members. When Millie wakes one morning to find what passes for Jolly’s bed empty, she goes out in search of her twin. Wonderfully creepy, and an apt metaphor for the teenage years. 5/5 stars.
“Soul Case” – This historically-inspired fantasy (Hopkinson first devised this story while writing her upcoming novel BLACKHEART MAN, about a “maroon” community of escaped slaves set several hundred years in the future) features a magical battle between the Garfun village and their more well-armed invaders. The three “Knowledgables” are able to thwart the attack, but not without great cost to one of the witches – who, before the day is done, will sacrifice herself to save her community from karmic retribution. 5/5 stars (and BLACKHEART MAN cannot get here soon enough!).
“Message in a Bottle” – In an attempt to protect the significant treasures of the past, future humans send genetically modified human clones back in time to pose as children and act as “curators” of a sort. Due to their unusual features, these time travelers are mistaken for disabled, contemporary humans (Delayed Growth Syndrome, or DGS kids) and are often marginalized: not only do they look odd, they act a little off too. That’s because they’re really adults, outfitted with the memories and knowledge of their Originals. Greg’s niece Kamla is one such future anthropologist: and it’s a piece in his exhibit that she’s sworn to protect. With ruminations on philosophy, art, and the very nature of what it means to be human, this is a weighty read – but a fun one, too! The animal lover in me especially appreciated Kamla’s take on sea cucumbers and molluscs. 5/5 stars, and then some.
“The Smile on the Face” – Rooted (see what I did there?) in the story of Margaret of Antioch, teenager Gilla channels the spirit of the half-dead cherry tree in her front yard to fend off a sexual assault. There’s so, so much to love about this story.
The ancient tree began talking to Gilla when she hit puberty and started to “fill out”; her large breasts and butt frequently make her the target of unwanted male attention, while her ample belly and unruly hair prove additional sources of stress. (In one especially memorable exchange, Gilla begs her mom – a Professor of African and Middle Eastern Studies – for micro-braids: “You want hair that lies down and plays dead, and you want to pay a lot of money for it, and you want to do it every six weeks.”)
Naturally the class predator Roger begins his campaign against Gilla by spreading rumors and slut-shaming before graduating to sexual assault and attempted rape – during a game of Postman, no less. When Gilla publicly accuses him of rape, nearly everyone rushes to her defense – save for Gossip Girl Clarissa, to whom Gilla makes this promise: “if something bad ever happens to you and nobody will believe your side of the story, you can talk to me. Because I know what it’s like.” Young women supporting other young women? Love. 5/5 stars.
“Left Foot, Right” – In the tradition of fairy tale heroines who always seem to suffer some form of foot trouble, Jenna continues to limp around town in one battered pump weeks after the death of her sister, Zuleika – to whom the shoes originally belonged. (The girls were fighting over the footwear when their car swerved off the road and into a river. I can relate, in a way; decades after the fact, my right hand still bears a scar from when my younger sister Meesh cut me with my own cheap plastic ballet slipper.) Every week Jenna revisits the site of the accident, tossing a brand-new pair of pumps into the water as an offering. But only when Jenna confronts the second life lost that day can she and her sister finally move on. I love reimagined fairy tales, and this one’s no exception. 5/5 stars.
“Old Habits” – A spirit remains tethered to the place its body died – and in “Old Habits,” that place is the mall. Every day the ghosts are forced to relive their deaths. Not that they mind, or at least not as much as you’d think; for these morbid reruns are their only chance to experience the trappings of corporeal existence. This story’s great on its own – the narrator’s death scene is an exercise in tragicomedy – but it’s Black Anchor Ohsweygian’s demise that really struck a chord with me. (A homeless woman killed by an overzealous mall cop – how timely.) 5/5 stars.
“Emily Breakfast” – When one of their three fire-breathing chickens (“Chickens are descended from dragons, you idiot.”) goes missing, it’s up to Cranston and Sir Maracle’s flying cat, Rose of Sharon, to hunt down the kidnapper and bring Emily Breakfast home. I loved the unusual menagerie of animals, but the overall tone is a little too cutesy-fantastical for my taste. At least Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner are rescue chickens though? 3/5 stars.
“Herbal” – After an elephant rampages through her apartment, Jenny finds that she misses the big guy. Fun and weirdly absurd (floating pachyderms!), but a little on the short side. 3/5 stars.
“A Young Candy Daughter” – You think being a parent is hard? Try raising a young God (a black girl named La’Shawna ftw!), learning how to do good in the world. Think: that one episode of The X-Files where Mulder tries to craft the perfect wish. 5/5 stars.
“A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog” – Tammy Griggs is a fat (“Lots of surface for my tattoos.”) botanist who discovers that one of her orchids has hijacked a rat, modifying its anatomy to transform it into the ultimate urban pollinator – so naturally, she decides to use this new species to find a date of her own. It’s a win-win! Well, except for the poor robo-rat. 4/5 stars, mostly because the rodents broke my heart. Rats and mice rock, okay.
“Shift” – Hopkinson describes this as “a paradigm shift on THE TEMPEST.” I haven’t read the source material, but no matter: I enjoyed “Shift” just the same. Caliban fled from his mother Sycorax, who’s confined to the sea. Immediately upon washing ashore, he meets his new girlfriend, an unnamed white woman who wears her golden hear in plaits and (he thinks) has a thing for black men (much like Miranda). But his sister Ariel is in hot pursuit, determined to deliver Mother’s favorite child back to her. Caliban, who transforms into the man (or boy, in mom’s case) the women in his life picture him to be. When confronted by Sycorax and Ariel, the new woman unexpectedly challenges Caliban: “Who do you think you are?” 5/5 stars.
“Delicious Monster” – After a life spent living in the closet, Carlos has finally found happiness. The bad news? It’s with a God who must soon depart, in order to fulfill an ancient promise between two families. A rumination on parents and children, and the passing of torches. 4/5 stars.
“Snow Day” – Ships from another world appear in the midst of a Toronto winter and ask the Earth’s animals – human and non – to make a choice: are you an Adventurer or a Beautiful Loser? Hopkinson’s submission to the Canada Reads Project, this short story incorporates the titles of that year’s five shortlisted novels: BEAUTIFUL LOSERS by Leonard Cohen; NO CRYSTAL STAIR by Mairuth Sarsfield; ROCKBOUND by Frank Parker Day; VOLKSWAGON BLUES by Jacques Pulin; and – my favorite – Margaret Atwood’s ORYX AND CRAKE. “Oh, hell yeah. I used ‘oryx and crake’ in a sentence.” I cheered. 4/5 stars, mostly because I wanted more.
“Flying Lessons” – Learning to leave your body during sexual abuse…I think? It’s a short and obscure one. 4/5 stars.
“Whose Upward Flight I Love” – In which the park service wrestles with trees fighting to break free of the ground to which they’ve been tethered and return to their homeland. I think this is a metaphor for romantic relationships, but damned if I know. 3/5 stars.
“Blushing” – This retelling of the Bluebeard folktale sees the nobleman marrying a woman who, much to his surprise and delight, is as depraved as he. The twist really caught me by surprise. 4/5 stars.
“Ours Is the Prettiest” – This short story is Hopkinson’s contribution to the shared-world anthology Bordertown, recently revived by Ellen Kushner and Holly Black (submission solicited by same). This is the first I’ve heard of it, so I was a little in the dark. Though the characters and their backstories eluded me, I still found the tale enjoyable enough and (mostly) easy to follow. It takes place on Jou’vert, the annual parade that kicks off the week-long Jamboree. Damiana is trying to keep Beti away from Gladstone, her paramour of several weeks who’s prone to fits of jealousy and violence, and is currently in a fit because she spotted Beti talking to another woman. But it’s not Gladstone Beti’s worried about – not when she’s being pursued by her brother from the Other Side. 4/5 stars.
“Men Sell Not Such in Any Town” – In which the rich want nothing more than to want more, and are willing to pay handsomely for the privilege. Masochism, delivered by robots. 3/5 stars.
** end spoilers **
I struggled for the better part of a week with the overall rating for this anthology. Normally, I try to average out each individual story rating; given the number of threes here, I’d normally give FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS four stars overall. But the best stories are so damn shiny that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! “Message in a Bottle,” “The Smile on the Face,” and “A Young Candy Daughter” are all so lovely and memorable and downright trenchant that they could carry the collection on their own. If they had to, which they don’t.
Final verdict: 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 where necessary.
** Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. **
Most recent customer reviews
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Nalo Hopkinson was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and also spent her childhood in Trinidad and Guyana before her family moved to Toronto, Canada, when she was...Read more