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Brown Girl in the Ring Paperback – Nov 28 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (July 1 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446674338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446674331
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

This is 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. --Craig E. Engler

From Publishers Weekly

The musical rhythms of Caribbean voices and the earthy spirit-magic of obeah knit together this unusual fantasy, the first winner of Warner Aspect's First Novel Contest. Toronto in the next century is a "doughnut hole city," its core collapsed into ruinous slums after much of the population left to escape rising urban crime and violence. Those who remain in the Burn are survivors like Ti-Jeanne and her grandmother Mami, who trade herbal cures and spells for necessities, or predators like drug-lord Rudy and the "posse" of men, including Ti-Jeanne's ex-lover Tony, who sell "buff" for him. Outside the Burn, Catherine Uttley, the premier of Ontario, needs a heart transplant and a boost in her approval ratings. To accomplish both, she announces support for a return to voluntary human organ donation, allegedly to prevent the spread of Virus Epsilon, sometimes found in the porcine organs grown for transplant. The heart she needs will have to come from someone in the Burn, and Rudy saddles Tony with the job of finding a donor. Tony has no stomach for the job, however, and goes to Ti-Jeanne and Mami for help, bringing the unpredictable and powerful spirits of Caribbean obeah into play. Though the story sometimes turns too easily on coincidence, Hopkinson's writing is smooth and assured, and her characters lively and believable. She has created a vivid world of urban decay and startling, dangerous magic, where the human heart is both a physical and metaphorical key.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In Charles Saunders' essay titled "Why Blacks Should Read (And Write) Science Fiction," Nalo Hopkinson was pointed out by Saunders as being "Octavia Butler's true literary child." While Hopkinson "doesn't imitate Butler," he reminded us, she did "imitate the older writer's strenghts in plotting and characterization (Dark Matter, ed. by Sheree R. Thomas, 2000)." Saunders was right. What a debut. This first novel was enthralling. It was so good that up-and-coming fantasy novelist Nalo Hopkinson had managed to win both heady praise from Butler herself and a Warner Aspect First Novel Award.
Brown Girl in the Ring had everything. Smooth, yet urgent prose. Heart-stopping action. A thriving Caribbean-Vodoun culture in Canada. Soul-deadening urban decay. Vibrant Caribbean speech. Evil that makes your skin crawl. Using the power of the old ways of her ancestors, hero Ti-Jeanne must come of age in near-future Toronto by confronting the forces that threaten to overcome her neighborhood, her family, and her life. Even though I had read this book nearly 4 years ago, it is still in my head. It was and still is that good.
More that 3 decades ago, Octavia E. Butler revolutionized the heart of science-fantasy writing, setting tough new standards of excellence. With Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson has met that challenge admirably. I know Butler must be proud.
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Format: Paperback
You can call this an SF novel if you're comfortable with that, but I call it a sparkly, fast-moving urban fantasy.
The city of Toronto has gotten one big Rejection Slip from anything beyond it, and has been allowed to rot. But inside the perimeter, good people fight against the forces that would terrorize and control them, and one such person is main character Ti-Jeanne. Her Mami/grandmother is a magical healer, her mother is missing, and her newborn son is a secret she keeps from the father, Tony, who has the misfortune to be a peon of the local super-bully, Rudy. Rudy directs evil from the top of the CN Tower, rather an intimidating spot. Other methods of intimidation involve cruel servants, both living and unliving, both incredibly difficult to stop and near-impossible to stop. But Rudy, in his arrogance, is playing with magical forces (we're talking Voudoun, here) that he can barely contain, and if someone could just possibly figure out how to use some of his own tricks against him, then maybe someone, maybe Ti-Jeanne, could finally put him in his place. And there might even be survivors.
The battle depicted in this first novel is not really anything new. This story has been done before. But, if that makes a safe first novel, at least Nalo Hopkinson breathes new and wonderful life into this ages-old, but still powerful literary duppy. She certainly has a passion for the characters whose struggles she depicts in this book. She opens a somewhat familiar bottle of wine, but it was more intoxicating than some of the last few bottles, as poured by others.
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Format: Paperback
I have no idea why the publishers are calling this science fiction. It's really more of a horror/fantasy blend; the only sci-fi element I can think of is the near-future setting. Which suits me just fine. ;)
The world of _Brown Girl_ is frighteningly plausible--it is the logical conclusion of our current suburban sprawl and consequent urban decay. Here, even the city government has fled to the suburbs, and no one is left in the inner city but the poor. There is no electricity, no sewer system. You can't get into the hospital unless you are wealthy. And Rudy, the diabolical crime boss of Toronto, is selling organs to these hospitals--and let's just say the donors are less than willing.
And in this city lives Ti-Jeanne (Little Jeanne), a new mother, staying with her wise grandmother, Gros-Jeanne (Big Jeanne). Gros-Jeanne wants to pass on her knowledge to Ti-Jeanne, but Ti-Jeanne only grudgingly learns herbal skills, and wants nothing to do with Gros-Jeanne's other talent--the practice of Afro-Caribbean magic. Then one night they hold a ritual to help Ti-Jeanne's deadbeat ex-boyfriend, and the spirits tell Ti-Jeanne that it is her destiny to stop Rudy's evil.
We are sucked in, as Ti-Jeanne's course becomes more irrevocable, as she comes to accept the orishas, and as her ex-boyfriend's fear and drug addiction drive him into worse and worse trouble. Ti-Jeanne's only hope lies in her wits and in half-remembered bits of magical lore. An engrossing read; however, don't buy this if you object to violence. There is a good bit of that.
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Format: Paperback
For a debut novel, this is truly a stunning achievment. It's not your usual fantasy by any stretch, and may not appeal to everyone, but if your looking for something different then this might be just the book for you. There's certainly room for the author to grow--as already observed, her male characters tend to be over-simplified when compared with their female counterparts. And for those who haven't read it, this has the violence and retribution feel of the old fairy tales--in other words, there's blood and death and fairly little sparkly fairy dust. However, that's the only way I'll compare this book with fairy tales. The story and setting are refreshingly different and the style gives it an ethnic flavor that will appeal to those searching for multicultural fantasy. Women looking for different roles in their fantasy novels will find them here. Not for everyone, certainly. But a welcome addition to a small, but growing genre.
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