Tīhema Baker in Conversation

One of the most acclaimed and talked about novels of this year is Turncoat by Tīhema Baker. Turncoat is a book that takes a close look at some of the effects of colonisation, using the lens of satire and science fiction. The book deals with some really big issues but does so in a thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining and funny way .

Turncoat explores what it feels like to be colonised in a distant future, when aliens called the Noor have colonised Earth and the entire human race is struggling to have their voices heard and rights upheld. Much of human culture and society has been replaced by Noor culture, society and language.

The novel’s central protagonist, Daniel, is a young man working inside the bureaucracy of the alien colonisers who wants to ensure the Covenant of Wellington, the document signed in the “birthplace of modern Earth”, is honoured, but he finds the task challenging.

Tīhema uses his own experience as a Māori public servant to inform much of the storyline.

Turncoat holds a satirical mirror up to Pākehā New Zealanders and asks the question : “What if it happened to you?”

The novel is a wonderful concoction of moving, funny, tragic and disturbing and very prescient in a political and social fashion.

Tīhema Baker (Raukawa te Au ki te Tonga, Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, and Ngāti Toa Rangatira) is a writer and Tiriti o Waitangi-based policy advisor from Ōtaki. He has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington, for which he wrote this novel.

We were thrilled when Tīhema took time out from his very busy schedule to discuss Turncoat and we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to him. For more information visit  Lawrence & Gibson.

This interview was done in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin, the arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. You can hear the interview and borrow Turncoat by following the links below.

Turncoat / Baker, Tīhema
“Daniel is a young, idealistic Human determined to make a difference for his people. He lives in a distant future in which Earth has been colonised by aliens. His mission: infiltrate the Alien government called the Hierarch and push for it to honour the infamous Covenant of Wellington, the founding agreement between the Hierarch and Humans. With compassion and insight, Turncoat explores the trauma of Māori public servants and the deeply conflicted role they are expected to fill within the machinery of government. From casual racism to co-governance, Treaty settlements to tino rangatiratanga, Turncoat is a timely critique of the Aotearoa zeitgeist, holding a mirror up to Pakeha New Zealanders and asking: “What if it happened to you?” ( Adapted from Catalogue) We also have a Book Club kete of this title if your book club fancies reading this.