Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

Published: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Margaret K. Mcelderry Books
Pages: 256
Received: from Simon & Schuster Canada for honest reivew

An acclaimed fantasy author navigates the world between myth and chaos in this compelling exploration of identity, told with a Caribbean lilt. Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance—because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.
Okay I thought this book would be amazing since it was located in Toronto (close to where I grew up). It proved to be an interesting location for this novel, but mostly so because of the areas of Toronto that it covered and the heritage of the characters as well. The Chaos starts out with some teen angst about having had to change schools due to bullying at Scotch's previous high school and her fears that she just might be going crazy because of the things that she is seeing and the crazy skin issue she is currently dealing with. Scotch is a an interesting character because she tries to embrace her mixed heritage and to fit in among her peers, but most of the time she just feels like she is left out of both the whites and the blacks since she isn't truly one or the other to them. She is fiesty and sassy in her attitude, which thankfully helps her make it through the impending craziness that is about to happen to downtown Toronto.

The entire randomness that happens in this story happens after a volcano erupts in the middle of Lake Ontario one night while Scotch is out hanging with her brother. She also has a weird black sticky substance growing on her skin in patches that she cannot explain. After both of these weird events happen, Scotch's life is turned upside down with so many random things happening to her and the people around her. Apparently there is a mix of fantasy/whimsy and some Carribean folklore (like the rolling calf) tossed in to, but the entire thing is just over the top and crazy. Not much makes sense as to why the things are happening, but let's just say a lot of random things happen and there is an appearance from a Baba Yaga type witch and a chicken inspired house (my first ever experience with Baba Yaga folklore was in Random Magic and was happy to see this witch show up in yet another novel). 

I would have to say the one thing I took away from this novel was the sense of finding oneself and of figuring out who you really are when it comes down to it. Scotch seems to be stuck in a place where she doesn't know where she belongs or who she truly is until all of this randomness hits her full force. By the end of the journey she figures a few things out, fixes broken friendships and actually makes an effort to deal with some things she regrets in her past. All it took was a volcano to spring up in the lake, an imaginary dog named Spot to come to life, the flying horseless headmen to take over and for animals to wear clothes and talk in strange ways. Who knew? 

The only thing I think that took away from this book was that it had too much going on at times.  Almost too many different events happening when reality changed to chaos. I did enjoy the mythology and folklore and I even looked up a few things that I'd never heard of before and they were quite interesting. If you are into folklore, learning about different cultures and apocalyptic novels that are not zombie inspired this just might be the book for you.

About the Author:
Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born writer and editor who lives in Canada. Her science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

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