Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson. ★★★
Trigger warning: Rape
Tan-Tan is a young girl living on the Caribbean planet of Toussaint. But the world she lives in is only one dimension of the planet. What happens when she and her father fall into the wilderness of New-Half Way Tree, the alternate dimension where Toussaint sends criminals and exiles?
I found the beginning of the book, when Tan-Tan is still on Toussaint, too slow. I didn’t get interested in the novel until they reach New-Half Way Tree. Way too much time was spent on Toussaint, explaining the events that lead up to Tan-Tan and her father arriving in New-Half Way Tree. I felt like most of this could have been backstory instead.
In regards to the trigger warning above… SPOILER WARNING. This book is about a girl who’s sexually abused by her father from the age of nine to sixteen. Two rape scenes are included in the text, and yeah, there’s details. At sixteen she kills him as he’s raping her and runs away, while the rest of the town pursues her for his “murder.” Oh, and she figures out she’s pregnant as the result of the rape. END SPOILER.
The book’s really divided between Tan-Tan as a child and Tan-Tan as a teenager. But I think that the majority of the thematic material the book’s exploring takes place the second section. I feel like it gets bogged down by so much set up in earlier parts of the book.
One of the more interesting parts of the book is the myth of the Robber Queen, who’s mantle Tan-Tan takes on. The way the stories wrap around her and the way she is shaped by the stories was fascinating. I don’t think I fully got it, but I’m not going to reread the book to reexamine it.
The book is written in Patwa, which made for a different reading experience. I was recently on a study trip to Jamaica so it was compelling to see the language I’d learned about there as well as the culture reflected in a science fiction novel.
There was a lot I found intellectually interesting about Midnight Robber – the language, some of the psychological issues going on with Tan-Tan, the role of stories – but the book never went much beyond “interesting” for me. It makes me wonder if I’m a superficial reader since my favorite thing about the book was the aliens….