I thought I’d do a few quick reviews, instead of my trademark long, rambling, and ultimately pointless ones.
This Canadian sci-f/fantasy novel (one of the 2007 Canada Reads selections) is a sterling example of peerless imagination. Hopkinson interweaves futuristic elements such as high-tech human organ transplants and the devolution of society with Caribbean mysticism and magic realism, resulting in a highly original product. Reminiscent of the work of late sci-fi master Octavia Butler (herself a fan of the novel), Brown Girl in the Ring is unique, personal, and provocative; everything good sci-fi/fantasy should be.
Smith’s past works such as All Hat have marked him as a talented practitioner of ‘country noir’, a genre pretty much dominated by Joe R. Lansdale. Certainly, his first few novels marked him as an Elmore Leonard-esque crime writer with a humourous bent. Yet Big Man jettisons the crime elements of past efforts, and concentrates on character. All well and good, and Smith’s characters are strong and memorable. But Big Man’s plot is too slight, too meaningless. The characters are good, but their tribulations are merely mildly entertaining. Without a stronger narrative drive, Smith seems to lose focus, and the by-the-numbers plot does his ear for dialogue a true disservice.