Nalo Hopkinson is an author I’ve meant to try for years. While I found much to admire in her recent collection Falling in Love with Hominids (2015), I’m not convinced it’s the perfect gateway book to her work. Containing eighteen pieces, it’s an interesting but uneven assortment that opens strongly before growing somewhat more esoteric and difficult to access.
The lead story is “The Easthound,” a powerful post-apocalyptic shocker about a plague that turns children into ravenous monsters as they age into adults. It makes for a stirring coming-of-age metaphor with an effectively built, what-the-hell-is-happening vibe, and it gets the collection off to an engrossing start. A similar genre mystery propels “Message in a Bottle,” a compelling narrative about an artist whose aversion to children is challenged head on by a unique little girl whose very existence is the heart of a bizarre science fictional secret. This one resolves with an infodump, but it still commanded my interest. Similarly enchanting are “Old Haunts,” an effective ghost story about spirits inhabiting a shopping mall, and “The Smile on the Face,” another unique coming-of-age tale about a teenaged girl in Niger that has a nifty fantastical twist.
I enjoyed some of the magic realist pieces in the middle stretches of the collection. “Emily Breakfast,” for example, is a simple, fun tale of a magical chicken that goes missing—no, seriously. I also admired “A Young Candy Daughter,” an inventive Christmas allegory. Unfortunately, as the collection winds down in its second half, my interest in the material flagged; short, experimental vignettes dominate, as well as pieces that riff off the work of writers with whom I was unfamiliar. I suspect my reading preferences make me an imperfect audience for Hopkinson in her more literary mode.
However, I’m glad to have read the collection, which does demonstrate Hopkinson’s unique voice and strong command of language throughout. I suspect her fans will find much to appreciate, and it does leave me curious to see more from her.