It's Carnival time and the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance, and pageantry. Masked "Midnight Robbers" waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. To young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favorite costume to wear at the festival - until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgiveable crime.
Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen's legendary powers can save her life...and set her free.
©2000 Nalo Hopkinson (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Robin Miles narrates Midnight Robber with a strong patois that was initially a turnoff for me. It was like listening to narration in a foreign language. The story itself is an unusual mix of old and sci-fi, there are 'aware' buildings with artificial intelligence the characters interact with and devices like toilets that measure one's physical health. There are also 'duels' with machetes and a lot of rank poverty. It reminds me of Firefly, with its combination of space ships and people riding horses. I believe the narrator's patois is of Haitian derivation, lots of 'oui's' and I definitely learned to love it. I found it musical and mesmerizing when all was said and done, DoDo. I listened to the novel at least three times and found things I missed in each subsequent listening. I grew to love Tan Tan, the main character in the novel. We meet Tan Tan when she is about 7, and lord, does this child have trials and tribulations to endure! In the end endure she does. I felt the story was also a reflection of the treatment of native, indigenous peoples. I find Nalo Hopkinson an engaging artist, introducing characters of locales of interest. I found the primary story line sad, however. Even into the future, across dimensions, girls are not safe. Despite that, I gave the novel top ratings across the board. I will read Nalo Hopkinson again. I actually think there is a good possibility of a sequel to Midnight Robber. I want to know what happened to Iony, Melon Head, Chichibaud, Tifa and other characters it would be a spoiler to mention here. I recommend the book, it is very good and I'll probably listen to it a fourth time. That's one of the things I love about audio books, you can always invest in another reading!
You will probably either love or hate the narration style. But if you aren't immediately comfortable with it, I urge you to relax, be patient, and let it flow for a while. Robin Miles is a capable and versatile narrator, and this is some of her best work. Her rich, smooth voice really brings out the most of the island-style pidgin in which the characters speak, and she uses that accent for the exposition as well, fully immersing you in the sounds of the people of Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree. Before it was over, I found myself wanting to talk that way, because face it, it's kind of fun.
There are a lot of unfamiliar Caribbean words, some of them French-derived and some African, and it helps to make occasional reference to the text preview available on Amazon. Some examples:
doux-doux: sweetie (no, they're not calling their loved ones "doo-doo")
compere: sir, or perhaps more equivalent to the Communist "comrade"
mako: big (sometimes used with big to mean really big)
bassourdie: addled or dim-witted
tout monde: everyone, or people generally
leggobeast: a loose, filthy, or disgusting person
rass and clot: both sort of generic curse words
The story is also filled with references to real-life Afro-Caribbean legends and traditions, such as Mami Wata, Granny Nanny, Anansi, duppies, mako (or moko) jumbies, the rolling calf, and of course the titular Midnight Robber. Ignore them if you wish, but your enjoyment and understanding of the story will be enhanced and deepened if you take the time to look them up. I spent the whole story not understanding the mako jumbie reference (on New Half-Way Tree, it's a huge, long-legged, predatory bird, but there's more to its name than that), and I really wish I had looked it up early.
I won't say much about the story except that it is a story of love, hate, exile (not once, but over and over and over), betrayal, hardship, discovery, and ultimately, redemption. It is a story of survival in difficult circumstances and coming of age. There are classic science fiction tropes like floating cars and AI, and there are highly fascinating aliens, but curiously, the twain never meet. Trigger warning: There is graphic sexual abuse.
I found that it started slowly, but I really enjoyed the second half of the story. But I was slightly disappointed by the ending.
Author of Kindertransport
Midnight Robber ranks almost at the bottom of the books I've listened to.
I think the author lied when she set up the father and the little girl as good characters in the beginning of the book. As the story went on, I found them both morally bankrupt and could not enjoy the story. The only reason I finished it was because I thought that Robin Miles' reading was sublime and I enjoyed the uniqueness of the patois.
People who can look past a somewhat bland story where nothing truly gripping or exciting ever actually happens in spite of a reasonably inventive setting; people who find plots based around child abuse, rape and incest engaging rather than unsettling
Not at all. Too many sci-fi stories take place in socies dominated by European- and USA-derived values and culture, and it's lovely to have a change of pace. We need more variety in sci-fi settings (and their authors), not only because the status quo gets boring, but because the real future sure as heck ain't gonna be defined by middle aged white men with American values
I haven't, but I thought her narration was excellent. She brought life to the book's story, its creole language, and the characters within it. If there was one truly redeeming part of this audio book it was Robin Miles' performance
Other than the narration, I thought that the setting was fairly inventive. It just wasn't put to very good use; I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, and it just never did
The story is about a girl's highly troubled coming of age in a futuristic setting, and while that sounds like it could be the basis for a really interesting, thought-provoking book, it simply couldn't manage to get there. In spite of some rather fantastic things happening, the book offers too bleak and cynical a view of humanity's future to be fun or exciting, and while the story certainly takes on some challenging subject matter (see above note about child abuse, rape & incest), it offers none of the meaningful insights into our existence or the human experience that serve to qualify a book as deep and thought-provoking
While reading this book, I kept waiting for something meaningful or exciting to happen; it often felt like it could have been building up to something good, but it wasn't, and I am forced to describe the overall experience as tedious
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