by Nalo Hopkinson Aspect/Warner Books, March 2000 $13.95, ISBN 0-446-67560-1
There is every reason to believe that Nalo Hopkinson's second novel will receive the same acclaim that followed the release of her stunning debut, Brown Girl In The Ring. Called the new face in speculative fiction, the Caribbean-born author won the Warner Aspect's First Novel Competition, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the Locus Award (First Novel Category).
Like Ti-Jeanne in Hopkinson's first book, Tan-Tan in her new novel is a young woman dealing with some very human problems, mainly the disintegration of her family. Her father, Antonio, has become a workaholic since becoming the Mayor of Cockpit County. While Antonio remains caught up in the power and prestige of his new post, his love-starved wife, Ione, turns her attentions to another man, the porkpie hat-wearing Quashee. The mayor returns home to see his wife in this man's carnal embrace, an act Tan-Tan sees as well, and the wounded husband leaves to take up permanent residence in his office.
It is to the reader's delight that Hopkinson has created a futuristic rites-of-passage tale of a young woman's transition from wistful girlhood to demanding motherhood, stressing the more human aspects of her character and the world she inhabits, rather than relying on computers or ultramodern technology to place the story. Using her Caribbean background as an endless source for folklore, social customs, and speech, Hopkinson molds a world on the colonized planet of Toussaint that is comparable to anything read in the works of any of the notable contemporary West Indian authors. Her artful reconstruction of Carnival on the planet as seen through the eyes of the spunky Tan-Tan is a true joy, full of the colorful sights and sounds experienced during the holiday.
At the center of this novel, there is the intimate bond between a father and daughter, a love that is sorely tested after Antonio avenges his honor during a sporting fight, resulting in the death of his rival and his exile with his daughter to the notorious New Half-Way Tree. In this harsh red world which smells of sulphur matches, Tan-Tan encounters all sorts of bizarre new vegetation, exotic wildlife and finally comes to wear her own power like the crown of the mythic Robber Queen following her violent confrontation with death. The reader walks with the gutsy, resourceful dreamer in her pursuit of a new life full of wonder, magic, and surprise.
With Midnight Robber, Hopkinson shows what is possible when one uses elements of life, blended with fantasy and imagination, to fashion speculative fiction with heart, soul, and sass.
Robert Fleming is the author of The African American Writer's Handbook and The Wisdom of Ancestors.
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|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2000|
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