Author: Nalo Hopkison
Rating: 4 Stars
Fantasy | 222 pages | Published by Tachyon Publications
When I finish a book as daring, creative, and fantastically unique as Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love With Hominids, the book lover in me can’t help but smile in wonder at the power of words. Their ability to transport us into a myriad different worlds and allow us to see through as many perspectives is truly magical. In these 18 short stories, Hopkinson proves herself to be a consummate master of creating magical worlds and unique perspectives.
Many of these stories are quite short, some as short as 3 pages long, but in their evanescence they leave a lasting impression.
Before the story, “Herbal,” Hopkison explains that she was driven to write this story in particular by the desire to effectively suspend the reader’s disbelief in the fantastical elements of a story. She goes on to say:
I found myself typing something to the effect that one possible strategy was to never give the reader the time to disbelieve. Start the story with a bang, I wrote. Have an elephant…”
Indeed, many of these shorter stories are striking. “Soul Case” depicts an explosive and magical battle between an invading European army and a previously uncontacted tribe. “A Young Candy Daughter” briefly allows us a glimpse into the life of La’shawna, a young girl with divine powers of creation.
These short-and-sweet stories are fun and delightful to read, but they’re not enough to satisfy an inquisitive reader for long. All we can do is bask in their striking brilliance and move on to the next story. Thankfully, there are some meatier tales that range from 20-3o pages.
The collection opens with “The Eastbound,” an excellent post-apocalyptic story in which children live in fear of puberty. Despite the young protagonists, the story definitely doesn’t read like YA fiction. It’s dark and the concept is thrilling — puberty and adulthood is the enemy!
“Message in a Bottle” is perhaps my personal favorite. It is more subtle science-fiction than fantasy. It reads like a strange episode of The Twilight Zone that includes time travel and experimental medicine/technology.
“Delicious Monster” demonstrates Hopkinson’s versatility as writer. She is able to effortlessly assume the mind and perspective of children and adults, men and women, as well as gay and straight people. I found this story to be astonishing and bold. Rarely do I see gay men of color depicted as divine and powerful beings. And it isn’t the only story to include LGBT characters, which I personally appreciated as they are a scarcity in the genre.
Falling in Love With Hominids shines not because its stories are cohesive and coalesce to create a grand work of literature– it shines because the stories are remarkably diverse, disparate and undeniably original. I won’t give it a 5 star rating because not every story was great and I wanted a few more of the longer stories. Nevertheless, this World Fantasy Award winner is certainly worth your time and should be added to any Fantasy lover’s collection.