Message in a Bottle by Nalo Hopkinson

Source: Own Collection
Format: Hardcover
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Can you imagine travelling back into the past to search for a specific sea shell that gets lost?

Greg, an artist and the narrator of the story, is a family friend to Babette and Sunil, who are adoptive parents to Kamla. All is fine, except Kamla has a strange condition: her head is too big for her body. In fact, it looks adult. And Greg hates kids.

The story begins with a four-year-old Kamla looking for shells on a beach in Bradley’s Cove. She’s a normal-seeming child apart from her oversized head, even down to the obsession with shells. But when Babette and Sunil move to Vancouver, Kamla is angry with them for taking her away from Bradley’s Cove.

Greg holds an exhibition some years later, which Kamla and Sunil attend. The idea of the exhibition is that people are encouraged to excavate for artefacts buried in sand. Kamla, still obsessed with shells, finds a shell in the sand.

In a hurried night time conversation, Kamla intimates to Greg that she’s actually from his future, sent back in time to locate a shell – the shell, in fact, that she found in his exhibit. And this is where things get interesting. The theory put forward is that all creatures are artists, and the shell she was searching for is a masterpiece for the sea creature that made it, as it was the first time the species had designed the shell in that way. A trendsetter – or perhaps evolutionary leap?

This was an interesting story, not only for the time travel aspect and how many so children were appearing with oversized heads and superior intelligence that a new syndrome is named (get the details of that from the story), but also the introduction of the concept of all creatures being artistic. In many ways, perhaps, a valid observation and one worth taking note of. The story isn’t always the easiest read, but it certainly is intriguing.

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