Brown Girl In The Ring
By Nalo Hopkinson; Read by Peter Jay Fernandez
6 Cassettes – 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Themes: / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Organ harvesting / Canada / Caribbean / Voodoo /
To uncover the future voices of science fiction, Time Warner Publishing sponsored a contest that attracted hundreds of submissions. Brown Girl In The Ring was the winning entry, announcing author Nalo Hopkinson to the world as a tremendous new talent. Brown Girl In The Ring is set in a future Toronto. An economic breakdown and a rising crime rate means the middle and upper classes have left and only the underclass remains there – a significant portion of which is of Carribean descent. Toronto’s citizens have been walled away from the rest of Canada, but now the upper classes need something from the untouchables within Toronto city limits – they need their orphans. If you think of the New York in the movie “Escape From New York”, move it a few miles North and East, you’ll get an idea of the general setting. This is a “what would the world be like if…” story, which makes it sort of SF, but there is also magic or more properly magics (both good and bad) that influence the character’s lives, and deaths too, and this is certainly not plausible in my buttoned down scientist’s hat worldview (scientists do wear hats right?). Which tends to make me think it must be fantasy, kind of like Star Wars with its “force” must be fantasy.
I think I’ve thought of a term to describe it too, you’ve heard of Cyberpunk and Steampunk right? Well maybe Brown Girl In The Ring is Voodoopunk? I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this audiobook, it has a vocabulary and an outlook I’d never experienced in a novel before. But on the other hand it did have some things that I recognized. It has a story – a very strong story – that was told as if the author had told dozens like it before and she guided me through it with a sure hand. What’s even better is it has a strong finish. I was worried I wasn’t going to be satisfied with where the story was going, I was happily surprised. Nalo Hopkinson knew what she was doing. I didnt anticipate the dénouement, but it makes sense and is very satisfying even though it is subtle. Maybe it makes it even more satisfying because it is subtle.
As for the production, it’s a Recorded Books audiobook so of course every word of the novel’s text is present. A very good thing too! It would have been a mistake to abridge a story as complex as this one. The cover art is perfect, I think it even surpasses the original paperback artwork!
Not being from the Caribbean myself I thought Peter Jay Fernandez did a great job with the accents and voices. I have been informed however that Fernadez is definitely mis-reading some of the phrases, so badly in some cases that he accidently changes their meaning. It didn’t detract from the experience for me, but if you are at all familiar with Carribean pronounciation and accents it may make it somewhat distracting.