Details: (c) 1999 Timothy Mo; Pub 1999 Paddleless Press; ISBN 09524193 6X
Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable book, and also technically excellent
Reasons for reading it: I've been a fan of Mo's ever since some particularly enlightened teacher read an extract in assembly.
How it came into my hands: Library
Renegade or Halo2 more than lived up to my high expectations of Mo. It's totally readable, the plot really gallops along, the characters are engaging, it's exciting and funny and touching and all sorts of other good things. It's also very clever and thought-provoking, but the literary skill never gets in the way of what is a rollicking good story.
Mo has the most amazing ear for language, and this book is a particularly good vehicle for that, given that it's the story of Sugar's travels round most of the world and through all strata of society. The other thing that Mo is very good at is the outsider's viewpoint, the way that being an outsider is as much a state of mind as a state of fact. One of the themes of the book is that Sugar is an outsider everywhere he goes, being one of the very few black people in his native Phillipines, and a Phillipino somewhere like Cuba where black people form a much higher proportion of the population, and on top of that an autodidact and social climber. He's almost the exact opposite of that irritating Uncle Tom 'pity me, my people have been oppressed' type, though; while far from being a paragon, he's both plausible and likeable, a really solid viewpoint character.
RoHH is much more pacey than a lot of Mo's stuff; in some of his other books (An Insular Possession most notably) he can have a tendency to ramble. Not here, though; I was completely engaged in the story at every point (except the last couple of chapters, which unfortunately really trail off). Mo is one of the few authors I can forgive graphic violence; he describes violent and unpleasant scenes so that the reader is very aware of the situation portrayed, without over-emphasizing or trying to titillate. Oh, and I learnt quite a lot about the history of places that I know very little about, which is always a bonus.
In short, I'd recommend Renegade or Halo2 for almost any literary taste.