[Book Review] Midnight Robber

Midnight Robber / Nalo Hopkinson (Powell's Books)

It's Carnival on the planet of Toussaint, and young Tan-Tan dons her favorite guise, that of the Robber Queen.  But bigger games are afoot, and Tan-Tan is inadvertently caught up with her father's trespass and taken into exile as he escapes to New Half-Way Tree.  From a world where manual labor is a lifestyle choice to one where it is a necessity in ever aspect of life, Tan-Tan's world is forever changed.  Challenges never imagined now become a reality, and Tan-Tan must become the Robber Queen in truth to meet them.

A good article over at Strange Horizons here.

This year I included a few outside suggestions for the Virtual Speculation reading list, and our March read was one such suggestions.  I'm really glad of it, as I was only peripherally aware of Nalo Hopkinson before this (it appears I had an opportunity to review a new collection of short stories a few months back, but I didn't yet recognize the name so I passed).  I definitely recommend trying out her works.

Midnight Robber is a rich and painful story.

Discussion Fodder:
  • What do you think of the narrator, narration style, and reveal?  Would you consider it a reliable narrator?
  • Folk tales and history are intertwined in Toussaint lore.  How has slave trade and racism shaped this future culture?
  • The society of Toussaint is high tech to the point of manual labor as a life-style choice rather than a requirement.  How do you envision the effects of such technology on society?  How does that compare to society as described here?
  • What do you think of the book's handling of abuse and rape, and the reactions of those in the community?  How does the trauma effect Tan-Tan?  What do you think about her coping mechanisms?
  • How does the the Robber Queen fit into the different narratives of the story?
  • When Tan-Tan first arrives on New Half-Way Tree she calls out the inequality in respect between the douen and humans, to which Claude says "is a human that?... So how he could call we Compere?"  Later on we read "A simple gift, but Tan-Tan had come to understand over the years that douens were simple people; Aislin had told her so.  They did everything with their hands and never thought to advance themselves any further."  What do you think of the relations between humans and douen?  What about the douen deliberate deception of humans as a method of self-preservation?
  • What are the implications of the reveal at the end of the book?

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