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winterfox » Midnight Robber »

Another review by Winterfox (sorry; once I find a new blog I sort of want to link everything all in a big rush) of Nalo Hopkinson’s 2000 novel Midnight Robber.

You know how I fell in love with this book? By reading the first page. It goes like this:

Oho. Like it starting, oui? Don’t be frightened, sweetness; is for the best. I go be with you the whole time. Trust me and let me distract you little bit with one anansi story:

It had a woman, you see, a strong, hard-back woman with skin like cocoa-tea. She two foot-them tough from hiking through the diable bush, the devil bush on the prison planet of New Half-Way Tree. When she walk, she foot strike the hard earth bup! like breadfruit dropping to the ground. She two arms hard with muscle from all the years of hacking paths through the diable bush on New Half-Way Tree. Even she hair itself rough and wiry; long black knotty locks springing from she scalp and corkscrewing all the way down she back. She name Tan-Tan, and New Half-Way Tree was she planet.

Some people’ve admitted the language gave them a mental barrier but honestly? Screw ‘em. The language is fine. It takes some getting used to but it’s so natural that by the end of page two it shouldn’t give anyone trouble. The syntax gels because it makes a fantastical, astounding amount of sense. Let’s face it, the Queen’s English is a clusterfuck, and in some ways the “Anglopatwa” in Midnight Robber is much more logical.

The story’s a straightforward bildungsroman and taken at that basic level, it’d be difficult to distinguish this from every other coming-of-age story ever and YA fiction in particular. What separates it from the banal dross is not only the language, though the language is a big part of it, but the author’s imaginative sparks.