The Midnight Robber/ posted in: Reading Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
on March 1st 2000
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
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It's Carnival time, and the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance and pageantry. Masked "Midnight Robbers" waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. But to young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favourite costume to wear at the festival--until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.
Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Here Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth--and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen's legendary powers can save her life...and set her free.
Toussaint is a world first settled by people from the Caribbean. Everything is controlled and monitored by nanobots. People are provided for and no one needs to do manual labor unless they want to do it. Tan-Tan’s father is the mayor of her town. He and her mother have a tempestuous relationship. Both are immature and self-centered. When her father commits a crime, he knows how he will be punished. He will be sent through a dimensional rift to New Half-Way Tree, another version of Toussaint without the technology. This is a one way journey. No one ever comes back.
I’m been meaning to read Nalo Hopkinson for a while. In the beginning this was a very difficult book for me to read because of the Creole that it is written in. She uses pronouns and verb tenses that don’t match. It actually hurt to read. I’m such a grammar snob, that even though I knew it was deliberate, it was so jarring that I didn’t think I could get into the story because of it. Eventually, I was able to let it slide enough to read the story. I think it was the repetitive nature of the wrongness that numbed me to it.
Another thing I wondered while reading this – Are there any novels about Caribbean men that portray them in a positive light? Granted, I’ve only read novels written by Caribbean women so they may be biased but they can’t all be this horrible. Tan-Tan’s father is lazy and arrogant. He takes Tan-Tan to New Half-Way Tree with him without making any preparations for their new life. He is mean to the local population. He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. It is hard to read about Tan-Tan loving him so much when he is so awful.
This is also a story about colonization. There is a native race on New Half-Way Tree. The prisoner-immigrants from Toussaint treat them as inferior. They don’t know that the natives are playing along with their ignorance. Tan-Tan finds herself at the mercy of them after a few years on the planet. Should they help her or will her presence in their community lead to disaster?