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Midnight robber by Nalo Hopkinson

Midnight robber (original 2000; edition 2000)

by Nalo Hopkinson

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3571130,515 (3.77)17
Title:Midnight robber
Authors:Nalo Hopkinson
Info:New York ; [Great Britain] : Warner Books, c2000.
Collections:Ex Libris

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Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson (2000)

  1. 10
    Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (nnicole)
    nnicole: Both are about incest survivors who must discover their adult identities and carve out their own place in the world.
  2. 00
    Bone Dance by Emma Bull (amberwitch)
    amberwitch: Very different science fiction stories, both tapping african myths

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
I keep hearing great things about Nalo Hopkinson, and I keep being... underwhelmed.
I'm upping this to three stars because I felt it was a lot better than 'Brown Girl in the Ring,' which I gave two. But I still didn't love it. However, the language (and use of dialect) here felt much smoother; there was a more polished, professional feel to this book.

A young girl Tan-Tan, lives on a planet colonized by Caribbean immigrants. People live in luxury, with technology to take care of all manual labor. The peace is enforced by an internet-in-your-head kind of device, which sees all...

However, there are those who want to rebel against the system. Tan-Tan's father, the mayor, is bought off by a representative of those rebels... and, umm, that's a red herring plot that goes nowhere and is just dropped.

Instead, we switch focus to how the father, Antonio, is a jealous womanizer who ends up murdering his wife's lover, and is sentenced to be exiled to a parallel world. Although he had abandoned his daughter, and clearly does not really care about her (well, neither does her mother), he ends up kidnapping her into exile with him, and, in a new alien land of poverty, where criminal exiles act like the worst sort of colonizers over the native aliens, becomes her rapist and abuser.

The story is mainly about how Tan-Tan finally escapes that abuse and finds her own identity. (And lives for a while with the aliens, who are portrayed in a unique and interesting way - but all the details about their culture feel weirdly extraneous to the story.)

Things about the story bothered me, and it took a while for me to put my finger on it. After some thought, I think part of it is that for some reason, even in this very different society, all the people Hopkinson portrays behave like the products of poverty, oppression and abuse: rape, child abuse, broken homes, sexism, political corruption, etc - all are rampant, even on the 'civilized' planet. (We don't see one single person who I could imagine inventing or even maintaining the technology that's described.) And on the exile planet, all of that becomes more extreme: with slovenliness, slavery, colonial oppression/racism thrown in. Since Hopkinson makes a point of having every single human character be black, at some point I had to say, "What? You don't think that in any future, black people could form a society any better than the worst negative stereotypes about the 'ghetto'?"

I'm getting the impression that Hopkinson is writing toward an audience of young people who have suffered abuse, who have experienced all the social ills she mentions (this is bolstered by a short story of hers I read the other day), but, although I can't say I've lived a life free of trouble, something about it just isn't working for me. Clearly it is for other people, as she receives abundant praise and wins awards...
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I really enjoyed the voice and worldbuilding of this novel--I haven't seen anything like it in sci-fi/fantasy. But there are two aspects of this that jolted me out of my enjoyment of the book. The first is this gap in the world-building logic. I just cannot fathom a human society starting from scratch where people are able to building automobiles/tanks/engines in less than a year. I mean we are talking about hand building an engine from nothing! Where steel is manufactured by hand not by machine. Likewise, reading about people having velvet, dungarees, and all manner of manufactured goods was distracting. Similarly, Tan-Tan's reaction to living with the douen baffled me. I absolutely hate bugs and have a squick factor around excrement. But someone who is living in a world without access to technology where you literally have to create the things you need from food to clothes should be used to seeing bugs in her house and dealing with that. Likewise, no indoor plumbing. I'm sure she's seen much grosser things in the outhouse. This critique might feel trivial or nitpicky but the problem with these kinds of gaps in the world building is that the world building is the basis of the plot and if it doesn't hang together, the actions/motivations of the characters no longer make sense.

The second, somewhat larger problem I have with the book is the framing of the child at the end. It makes Tan-Tan's biggest accomplishment into being the mother of this new superhuman being who will (presumably) end the slavery of the douen/people on Half-way Tree. It diminishes her struggles throughout the book and makes her story and storyline seem secondary. She can't be the big savior; it has to be her son (I would feel better about this if her child was a daughter, but as it is it feels like another facet of a fucked up patriarchal culture that just takes and takes from her but this one is not problematized). ( )
  endlesserror | Nov 25, 2014 |
Tiptree shortlist 2000 ( )
  SChant | Apr 29, 2013 |
Uh. I'm not really sure what to say about this... something like: "Nice writing. Nice setting. Shame about the incest."

It's not an awful book. I like the two worlds Hopkinson creates and the way she's fleshed them out, and the characters, even the bit-parts. Her writing's very tight, her use of language excellent. I particularly like the douen, a species unlike anything I've read about before (well, in fiction, there's plenty of real biology there). And I did like Tan-Tan, the heroine.

But it wasn't really the book I'd been led to expect, in some quite important ways, both by previous comments and the cover blurb. "...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 Robber Queen's legendary powers can save her life... and set her free." Just a snippet, but the blurb in general implies that it's an adventure story about Tan-Tan's life in this alien wilderness, and how she becomes the Robber Queen, who'd probably lead some great social change or do a Zorro or something. I was maybe expecting something with a slightly cheerful, maybe John Carter sort of tone, full of wildness and colourful scenes.

Admittedly wilderness, adventure and the Robber Queen are in the book, but in practice, structurally and thematically, the story's about Tan-Tan surviving deception, incest and patricide, and the enduring consequences of those things. Those determine the course of her life and activities, exert unsurprising but overwhelming influence on everything she does, and the climax of the book is all about finally overcoming those influences, rather than some great adventure. In context it's not surpising, but it's really not the book I signed up for.

The Robber Queen isn't the fantastical figure I'd been led to expect either - something like the Scarlet Pimpernel or the Stainless Steel Rat, I think - but a sort of occasional girl scout-cum-vigilante act, whose main purpose in the book is finally enabling her to face down her demons, in the shape of her father's widow and her own self-loathing. Perfectly good things, absolutely, but for me there was a taste of false advertising about the whole business. I would not have picked up this book knowing what it actually was. I finished it, I'm glad I did on the whole, and it had some things I really liked, but this is not the kind of story I want to read. ( )
  Shimmin | Jan 9, 2013 |
I found Midnight Robber a thoroughly engaging read. The closest description I can muster is a Caribbean-flavoured sci-fi coming-of-age tale, which probably makes it sound very niche. It's really not. Hopkinson's futuristic backdrop is a fabulous setting for the tale of Tan-Tan, sent into exile with her father as a young child and forced to make her way in a very foreign land. The novel is really a psychological study of Tan-Tan as she grows up, and the realism of her development juxtaposed with her exotic surroundings was what really made the novel for me.
  frithuswith | Jan 18, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nalo Hopkinsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446675601, Paperback)

Nalo Hopkinson's first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, was selected from almost 1,000 entries to win Warner Aspect's First Novel Contest, and after publication it received the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. So expectations have been pretty high for her second book, and Midnight Robber lives up to them; it's a beautifully written, innovative, demanding, and wonderful novel.

On the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint, Carnival is a Lollapalooza of music and dance, a Mardi Gras, a masquerade; and the Robin Hood of Toussaint legend, the Robber Queen, is just another costume, Tan-Tan's favorite. Then Tan-Tan's corrupt politician father commits a crime that sends them into exile on the extradimensional planet New Half-Way Tree, Toussaint's untamed quantum twin. As she struggles to survive the violent criminals, mysterious aliens, and merciless jungles of New Half-Way Tree, Tan-Tan finds herself taking on--or being taken over by--the mythic persona and powers of the Robber Queen. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:42 -0400)

It's Carnival time and the Caribbean-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 favorite 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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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