The most recent book I’ve read for my pre-Clarion preparations is Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson. Because I haven’t had much exposure to the pronunciation and dialect being used by the characters in a lot of the dialogue, I had a lot of trouble hearing the voices clearly in my head. When I heard Hopkinson reading (if you can get this Realaudio stream to open, you can hear her too, reading an excerpt from what I am pretty sure is her second novel, Midnight Robber), it helped me to get a lot better sense of the way the dialogue was supposed to sound, but also changed the way I heard the narrator’s speech, too. To that end, I kind of felt like sometimes the voice was doing something like what Hopkinson had Mami Gros-Jeanne do when she speaks to non-Carib people — switching to “standard English”. I really, honestly, wished that the authorial voice had gone all the way into that Caribbean voice, personally, the way it sounds like the Midnight Robber did.
I have to admit that I’m usually not one for magic, and especially not one for genre-mixing. I get kind of dizzy or impatient when spirits and magic start popping up in futuristic settings, which says more about me and my ideas about genre, I suppose, than about Hopkinson’s writing. One complaint I’ll stand by though, was the introduction of quotes in the middle of chapters — it distracted me from the action, which was something I really didn’t want, because the action had me going. Anyway, I don’t have a firm and solid opinion on her work yet, but from what I heard in that audio snippet, Midnight Robber may be more my style. (I usually don’t go in for alternate-universe stuff either, but the reading in audio sample above really did grab me and interest me, so I am pleased that it is this book which will be arriving by order sometime next week — or at least, that’s when it’s supposed to turn up.) Anyway, for a first novel, I’d say it’s quite an admirable achievement.