CARIBBEAN SCIENCE FICTION! Did you know that was a thing? Cuz it is and Nalo Hopkinson is writing it. Midnight Robber takes place in a universe where citizens are tied into an information system (similar to the internet) called Granny Nanny. Communication takes place via an Eshu that develops in the ear at birth. The story of Midnight Robber is told like an oral story rather than a written one, with an unknown (until the end) narrator speaking to an unknown (until the end) listener. The story revolves around Tan Tan, a seven-year-old girl living in Cockpit County on the Carib-colonized planet of Toussaint, and daughter of the Mayor, Antonio. The story begins as Antonio discovers his wife Ione (Tan Tan’s mother) is having an affair. He seeks revenge against her lover which results in the lover’s murder and the incarceration of Antonio. Tan Tan sneaks to the jail carrying a device given to her by Antonio’s accomplice which provides a portal for them to transport themselves to New Halfway Tree, a planet where convicts are exiled.
Then things get wild. The world building is strong and the characters are memorable. This book deals with heavy topics like incest, rape, and abortion, and ties them into a surreal and unique world soaked in Caribbean folklore. I wasn’t expecting things to get so dark, but I found I enjoyed the story moreso when Tan Tan started dealing with her abuse by splitting into 3 people internally; Good Tan Tan, Bad Tan Tan and Tan Tan the Robber Queen. This was a really exceptional way to develop the themes of abuse and make them essential to the plot rather than gratuitous. Tan Tan ages as the story goes on (one of my minor complaints being that the story lurches forward in time by fairly large chunks) and through her experiences – some of which are pretty graphic and disturbing – she strives to transform into Tan Tan the Robber Queen and spread the myth of her existence. She tries to do good, knowing that for each life she takes she must give back two.
My experience with Brown Girl in the Ring was that it was written in Jamaican Patois so it took a while to get used to the dialogue. I listened to an audiobook version of Midnight Robber which was FABULOUS because it completely immersed me in the language and culture. I love that this is a story about a WOC protagonist who is strong, likeable and deals with very real scenarios in a science fiction setting. Definitely an interesting novel, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of her works!