Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Midnight Robber - #34

Image sourced from here
Sick of all those sci fi books where the entire universe seems to be painted with an Anglo-Western brush in an American accent? Then this is the book for you.

Midnight Robber is set in a world where it's not the Americans or the Euros or the Asians who have colonised. This is a world evolved from and is so obviously Caribbean. It is the story of a girl called Tan-Tan who lives in this technologically advanced world, but then her father commits a crime that results in him being sent to a parallel world. Tan-Tan sneaks off with him, not knowing  that means never coming back. It's the story of Tan-Tan in this other other world, dealing with not only a more primitive version of her world, but also the creatures and other species in it that come right out of her Anansi stories.

This book is fantastic. It takes a well known theme of colonised, technologically advanced, new worlds and throws it on it's head. It's world building is phenomenal in my mind. I bought it all. A world where people don't have to do hard labour anymore and look down on those who do. Implants in your head feeding you information. Sending criminals away to a different version of your world so you don't have to deal with them. The culture of the douen. The tie ins to all the Anansi mythology and stories (some of which my Trinidadian friend had just told us about at dinner the other day). Loved it.

Not only that, it's written in a form of Creole. I assume it's pretty anglicised so those of us outside of the Caribbean cultures (and no doubt Creole changes from island to island) can understand it. But it adds a whole new element to immersing you into that world. It's clever. Each part of the book starts with a folklore story as well, so you feel you are sitting around a fire being told a story by a wise woman.

Because of this language however, I would say that it took me a lot longer that normal to read the first third of the book. You can't skim this one. You have to think through the sentences. You have to flip the words round and make them fit. You have to think back to what "doux-doux" or "pickney" meant. This gets easier though, as you get used to the grammar being not quite how we use it, the rhythm of the language, and words that get used again and again fall into your own vocab (like the above). It gets faster as the story gets faster. You get whisked along with it.

But for me, the climax failed. I couldn't relate to Tan-Tan anymore. She became someone I couldn't understand or empathise with. She was so incredibly selfish. All the other characters I loved though and felt so strongly for them, but not Tan-Tan. Then the ending for me was disappointing. One because I thought it was a lame end for Tan-Tan's story. But mainly it forgot about all those other characters I fell in love with in the book. I once again thought I was on to a 5 star read and the last 70 or so pages failed me.

It was sad, but I am so glad I read it. I am going to read more of Nalo Hopkinson's stuff as others who have said the same as me have recommended other reads of hers. I wanted a different sci-fi with an immersive world, and that's what I got. I wanted to start reading more books that had won awards like the Hugo, and I can see why it was shortlisted (it lost to a Harry Potter and was against a Song of Ice and Fire book. Tough competition). And it threw me into a culture I didn't know much about. And when it comes down to it, that's why I'm doing this challenge.

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