Midnight Robber - Nalo Hopkinson

I can't remember when someone first recommended Nalo Hopkinson to me as a writer I might like to read, but that list is a horribly long one (not to mention ever-growing) and she always seemed to be quite a way down it. Eventually, I was selected by a blog I can't remember (sorry!) to get a copy of a book of my choice and so I chose Midnight Robber quite at random.

 

The first part of Midnight Robber is set on the planet of Toussaint, which has been colonised by folks from the Caribbean, who live under the rule of 'Granny Nanny', an all-knowing AI which controls pretty much all of their lives. It's there we first meet our protagonist, Tan-Tan, who is growing up as the daughter of the mayor of Cockpit County, complete with human nurse and robot servants. Like all small children, she's completely self-absorbed so when her father does the unthinkable and kills someone, Tan-Tan decides that she has to be with him and the two of them end up getting sent to New Half-Way Tree. This is an alternate reality, one of many, that Toussaint uses as a prison and has none of the comforts of home - no AI oversight and plenty of work that Tan-Tan was brought up thinking only fit for non-humans. It's also inhabited by the douen, among others, a non-human race that some of the inhabitants have working for them but which they really have little idea about.

 

Not only is life on New Half-Way Tree a lot harder than Tan-Tan could ever imagine, her father turns out to be the source of most of her problems there, abusing her both physically and sexually even as she makes plans to run off with her best friend and start a new life. When matters come to their inevitable nasty end, Tan-Tan is forced to flee her new life and ends up living with the douen and learning more about them than any human ever has. To try cope with what she has experienced at the hands of her father, Tan-Tan also puts on the persona of the Robber Queen and goes about righting wrongs in the human settlements.

 

Midnight Robber goes onto that ever-growing list of books I'm glad I've read but don't see myself reading again, though the quality of the writing means I plan to search out other books by the author instead. The experiences Tan-Tan survives are not told in a graphic or salacious manner but had they not been balanced out by the rest of the book and its eventual resolution, especially its portrayals of the douen and their lives, I don't know that I would have finished it.