by Nalo Hopkinson
Aspect, 2000, ISBN: 0446675601
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
Tan-Tan is a young girl living on the plan et Toussaint, where her father, Antonio, is the mayor of their town. Tan-Tan likes to play at being a figure from Toussaint's folklore, the Robber Queen, one of a host of figures known as Midnight Robbers. When Antonio kills his wife's latest lover, he takes Tan-Tan with him through a dimensional shift, into exile on the sister planet New Half-Way Tree, which serves as a prison planet for all the criminals that Toussaint finds too difficult or awkward to cope with. What they find there is a much rougher li fe than Antonio anticipated, for which neither of them is at all prepared-- though Tan-Tan is much more ready to learn. (Even so, they're relatively lucky, coming in near a village where someone has taken the trouble to impose a rough approximation of law and order. Although there's better to be found on New Half-Way Tree, Tan-Tan also eventually learns that there's far worse, too.)
The plot is basically, Tan-Tan grows up to become the Robber Queen in the folklore of New Half-Way Tree. That's not the interesting part. What's interesting is the flora and fauna and native intelligent species of New Half-Way Tree, and the folklore that grows up around Tan-Tan. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that the natives have really extreme sexual dimorphism.
I should mention that the book is written entirely, and I mean from first word to last, in a Carribbean English dialect, or adaptation thereof, which is not too difficult to follow, and not aesthetically displeasing, but it does make reading Midnight Robber a bit more work than it would otherwise be. I'd have preferred to get my first taste of the dialect in something of novella length, but this is still a good book and worth reading.