Peter Goodman's Reviews > Midnight Robber
“Midnight Robber,” by Nalo Hopkinson (Warner, 2000). Science fiction. Afro-West-Indian science fiction. Perhaps I should not have pointed that out so soon, but it strikes the reader in the first paragraph. The story is told in a Haitian-French-English patois which is no more annoying than the voice of the droogs in “A Clockwork Orange.” It is actually more interesting and a bit more challenging because Burgess’ semi-Russian is explained, and is anyway not as deeply embedded in the language as this. Gradually one becomes aware that the people are living in the Caribbean-colonized planet Toussaint, transported by spaceships and, we discover, possessed of the technology to transport their criminals or otherwise condemned citizens, through some sort of dimensional portal, to another, far more primitive, world. In Toussaint, along with its Carnival and pageantry, humans live surrounded by artificial intelligences and robots whose task is to make their lives easy, nano-technology embedded within each person like a second personality. Tan-Tan, about 7, is the daughter of Antonio, the Mayor. This is a society of honor, violence and duels. Her father kills the man who cuckolded him, and the pair are sentenced to New Half-Way Tree. Not only does this dimension lack any of those labor-saving devices, it is close to a Hobbesian state of nature. The story is very tough---Antonio rapes and impregnates Tan-Tan, who later kills him in self-defense. The world is very richly imagined, familiar and alien. Bright writing, very imaginative. Among many things I did not know, the Midnight Robber is a well-known figure of Caribbean folklore. There are many references to Caribbean and African culture that completely passed me by, but it’s a good novel even without that knowledge .
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