I think I was mostly disappointed by this book because I came to it with really high expectations - I'd read some great reviews of it, comparing Hopkinson favorably to Octavia Butler, etc.
Well, both writers are black and tend to write about black characters, but there the similarity ends.
This is a reasonably entertaining voodoo adventure story... a young Canadian woman of Caribbean descent, Ti-Jeanne, must take care of her baby, ditch the loser drug-addict boyfriend she's in love with, learn to work with the voodoo spirits, and defeat the gang leader who is running this near-future Toronto - a gang leader who just happens to be involved with evil voodoo - and is her grandfather.
That's all fine - and fun - but that's about as far as it goes. This is not great literature - the characters are all fairly one-dimensional, and it gets to be pretty annoying that ALL the women are strong, long-suffering, resourceful and good, and ALL the men are either weak and useless, or outright evil. The main villain is so evil as to be fairly unbelievable.
This was Hopkinson's first book, so I won't write her off completely, but I'm not planning on going out of my way to get more of her work.
Nalo Hopkinson's debut novel, which came to attention when it won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. It tells the story of Ti-Jeanne, a young woman in a near-future Toronto that's been all but abandoned by the Canadian government. Anyone who can has retreated from the chaos of the city to the relative safety of the suburbs, and those left in "the burn" must fend for themselves. Ti-Jeanne is a new mother who's trying to come to grips with her as- yet-unnamed baby and also trying to end her relationship with her drug-addict boyfriend Tony. But a passion still burns between the young lovers, and when Tony runs afoul of Rudy, the local ganglord, Ti-Jeanne convinces her grandmother Gros-Jeanne to help out. Gros-Jeanne is a Voudoun priestess, and it's clear that Ti-Jeanne has inherited some of her gifts. Although Ti-Jeanne wants nothing to do with the spirit world, she soon finds herself caught up in a battle to the death with Rudy and the mother she thought she lost long ago.
This was a really fun book. Post-apocalyptic (well, kinda - it was a slow, economic apocalypse) Toronto is a vivid and interesting setting, from the drug-dealing gangs to the nice old couple selling squirrel meat in the park to get by. The protagonist, Ti-Jeanne, is a young woman tough enough to survive here, but still overwhelmed and uncertain about things as a lot of young people are. She keeps forgiving her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend when she probably shouldn't, is stressed about the new baby, and her relationship with her grandmother Gros-Jeanne is complicated by Ti-Jeanne's wanting nothing to do with her grandmother's Caribbean religious practices. (Her mother Mi-Jeanne has been missing for years.)
Then a politician living outside the Burn, in a nicer area of Toronto, decides she needs a transplant with a human rather than a porcine heart and tasks a local gang leader with fetching her one. Unfortunately, he turns the job over to one of his dealers, Toby, who happens to be Ti-Jeanne's ex-boyfriend. To shake things up even more, Ti-Jeanne starts realizing that the loa are real, and they want something from her...
Another reviewer mentioned that all the men in the book are awful people. Leaving aside minor characters like the old man in the park, that's generally true - because they all belong to the antagonist's gang. Gangsters who deal in black magic don't generally hire nice people! And to help balance that out, the female politician is just as villainous in her way, since she knows she's asking the gang to murder an innocent person to get her a heart, as well as being complicit in the kinds of policies that created the Burn and keep it the way it is. That leaves - well, just Ti-Jeanne and Gros Jeanne, plus the crazy homeless woman who keeps turning up, and she certainly isn't managing well. (I'm not sure how you would classify the loa, but the one Ti-Jeanne deals with most seems male, whatever that means for a loa, and he's scary and powerful and not someone I'd want over for dinner, but not evil.)
Overall, a fun adventure that combines science fiction and fantasy elements.
I really enjoyed this book. Hopkinson's use of language is very vivid and creative. You don't see a lot of Caribbean-style magical realism in the speculative fiction genre, so this book is a unique and interesting addition. Exciting, fun story.
A fun quick read. The language is a little confusing at times but it's worth the effort. An interesting take on life in the future, ethics, the occult and poverty. Some surprises in the middle but the ending is fairly predictable.
I was looking forward to reading a Nalo Hopkinson book but unfortunately I didn't really enjoy this one. I felt little connection to any of the characters and while I enjoyed what there was of Afro-Caribbean myths and lore, I felt the plot of the story wasn't really strong enough to pull it together. That being said, I know this was her first novel, so I plan on reading a more recent book of hers. Her creativity and general writing style, as well as the uplifting ending, have me intrigued enough to give her another shot