Over the last two decades Timothy Mo has been responsible for producing some of the best postcolonial fiction written in English. From his debut Monkey King, to two of his finest novels Sour Sweet and An Insular Possession, Mo has written with great wit and political intelligence about the postcolonial condition from his own uniquely Anglo-Asian perspective. With Renegade or Halo Mo confirms his status as one of the finest novelists currently writing about globalisation, decolonisation, migrancy and cultural hybridity.
Renegade or Halo2 is narrated by Rey Archimedes Blondel Castro, a black Filipino who size and skin colour owe more to his anonymous American GI father than his Filipina bar-girl mother. Lifted from the barrios of Mactan by an unlikely pair of Jesuits, Rey begins the most extraordinary of picaresque journeys across the globe, which takes him from the Philippines to Hong Kong, Thailand, the wonderfully evoked fictional Gulf state of Bohaiden, London and Cuba. Along the way Rey moves in and out of the high and low of Mo's vividly imagined world, from the frighteningly macho fraternities of Manila high society, to the stateless and the dispossessed who haunt the backstreets of the Gulf states and the fringes of London's metropolis. A true renegade, Rey never fully embraces any of the communities through which he moves, shrugging off the fear and racism he encounters with his own unique response, summed up by the first words in the book: "Love your enemies. Far better than your friends, the dolts define you."
This is a wonderful novel which never descends into an idealisation of the emigrant, as Rey's encounters and adventures lurch from incongruous hilarity to sickening violence and depravity. Rey is a marvellous imaginative creation (as are some of his many sidekicks along the way), a fascinating and unlikely mixture of ingredients, as appealing as the Filipino desert Halo, which gives the novel its title. Whilst the novel resists the usual moralising of so many bildungsroman novels, it's a stinging but also very humane meditation on the enduring tribalism and racism of our global world. --Jerry Brotton