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Midnight Robber

by Nalo Hopkinson

Midnight Robber, the second book by Toronto speculative fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson, begins on Toussaint, a planet peopled by the descendants of Caribbean immigrants from Earth. The Midnight Robber is young Tan-tan’s favourite Carnival character, and she practices Robber Queen speeches and antics for hours at a time. When Tan-tan’s father Antonio accidentally kills a romantic rival in a duel, he takes her with him to the prison planet of New Half-Way Tree, cutting them off from Toussaint forever.

At a human settlement called Junjuh, Tan-tan eventually adjusts to her new life, but her father can’t and begins abusing her. Tan-tan has to flee Junjuh at the age of 16 when she kills Antonio in self-defense, and escapes to live among the planet’s indigenous species, called the douen. According to douen justice, Tan-tan will only be free when she gives back two lives for the one she took.

Hopkinson does an excellent job of transplanting Afro-Caribbean mythology and social traditions to an otherworldly environment. Her use of a nameless storyteller – who occasionally interjects in the first person – could have been disastrous in lesser hands, but it keeps the narrative moving without bogging down in excessive detail. And the dialogue positively crackles with the verbal energy of the Caribbean dialect the emigrés speak.

Hopkinson has said she writes SF because it “speaks so much about the experience of being alienated, but contains so little written by alienated peoples themselves.” Alienation is a major theme of Midnight Robber too, with Tan-tan first being exiled from her home planet, then from the other human beings on New Half-Way Tree. Her decision to become the Robber Queen provides a way not only to expiate her guilt but to reclaim her place in human society.

Hopkinson’s first novel, the highly acclaimed Brown Girl in the Ring, won her several prizes, including a Locus Award for Best First Novel. Midnight Robber demonstrates conclusively that she is a major SF talent.


Reviewer: Meredith Renwick

Publisher: Warner Aspect/H.B. Fenn and Company


Price: $18.95

Page Count: 336 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-446-67560-1

Released: Mar.

Issue Date: 2000-4

Categories: Fiction: Novels

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