Would You Give Up Everything To Change The World Humanity Clings To Life On January A Colonized Planet Divided Between Permanently Frozen Darkness On One Side, And Blazing Endless Sunshine On The OtherTwo Cities, Built Long Ago In The Meager Temperate Zone, Serve As The Last Bastions Of Civilization But Life Inside Them Is Just As Dangerous As The Uninhabitable Wastelands OutsideSophie, A Young Student From The Wrong Side Of Xiosphant City, Is Exiled Into The Dark After Being Part Of A Failed Revolution But She Survives With The Help Of A Mysterious Savior From Beneath The IceBurdened With A Dangerous, Painful Secret, Sophie And Her Ragtag Group Of Exiles Face The Ultimate Challenge And They Are Running Out Of TimeWelcome To The City In The Middle Of The Night Charlie Jane Anders writes prose that is infused with imagination, compassion, heartache, and a deep exploration of what makes us human The City in the Middle of the Night is a huge departure from her first novel, All the Birds in the Sky, in almost every way tone, rhythm, subject matter, milieu but what the two novels share is Anders transporting, invigorating confidence as a storyteller Anders trusts her audience to follow her as she spins a tale that unfolds with precision, presenting wholly original ideas, new and beautiful life forms, and chillingly extrapolated and corrupt societies Her vividly drawn characters travel into the deepest and darkest nooks and crannies of human experience, teetering on the brink of despair and almost succumbing to trauma, but somehow always struggling to survive, to find connection and love Anders wild and brazen and dire visions of what life on a desolate and doomed planet could look like at times mix the anarchic violence of Mad Max with Ursula K Le Guin s humane and complex anthropological inventiveness There s a tremendous amount of darkness, real and metaphorical, suffusing this novel, but there is also an abiding hope that maybe, just maybe, the deeply flawed and damaged people who inhabit it can find their way into the light. I probably would have DNF d this book if I wasn t reading it for the Tome Infinity Readathon While I think the writing was beautiful at times, I don t get what the story was trying to tell me This standalone feels incomplete and honestly, like barely anything happened Conflict is resolved in a single chapter and we move on to the next thing, which makes everything feel like there s no stakes There is implied romantic tension between two characters that ends up in the last minute being unrequited love, which makes no sense based on some conversations Character arcs feel half baked, and one of the main characters in particular feels very naive in who she chooses to trust, bordering on stupid after the same types of things happen again and again So much is left unresolved and I just don t see the point. I received an advanced reading copy of The City in the Middle of the Night through a Goodreads giveaway I was excited by the premise, and looked forward to reading my first Charlie Jane Anders story Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the experience.I think The City in the Middle of the Night was aiming a little for a The Left Hand of Darkness feeling Admittedly, I was primed for this comparison by a promotional quote on the back However, I think the comparison of two anthropologically different societies explored by an outsider who is abused by both is similar I had a similar feeling of trying to find what was important in the story until the pieces fell together near the end I was disappointed that Circadianism and anarchy rule by organized crime were not explored with the same level of depth or detail as Le Guin would have in her stories.There are many science fiction elements in this story In no particular order, I noticed after Earth planetary colonization tidally locked planet inhuman intelligent species civilization severe climate change anthropological elements like CircadianismStill, it feels a lot like a fantasy novel People live in city state surrounded by wilderness Said wilderness is filled with monsters Society is shaped by declining technology, leaving the past almost mythological and old technological like ancient magic.As I said, for much of the story the point was not clear The science fiction elements were kept mostly as background to a very personal human story That kind of story can be great, especially when the science fiction elements are used to explore common human themes in new ways The problem is that I disliked or hated all but one major character The protagonist, Sophie, was a mostly passive protagonist with an unearned sense of self righteousness and an inaccurate reputation for great intelligence Her all but explicit lesbian lover Bianca is a naive, selfish, manipulative girl hellbent on gaining power at all costs Alyssa is a violent criminal ready to throw her lot in with anyone who will give her a fight, and she constantly picks the wrong person Anders writes each of these three characters as if the reader should like them I cannot recall a greater difference between how characters present each other and what the reader witnesses in any story Sophie is called intelligent and virtuous, but continually makes stupid decisions that should by any right get her killed and do get others killed Alyssa is treated like a smart and loyal friend, but constantly tears down her all but explicit lesbian lover Bianca is presented like an idealistic and hardworking revolutionary until almost the end, when she is obviously just a selfish and manipulative girl If the difference between presentation and reality was supposed to be a theme of the story, I missed it The treatment of the fourth character, Mouth, killed any enjoyment I could have gotten from the book She is the second perspective character, and in my opinion the only likable one The other characters do not agree Each constantly tears her down She is called a liar, a traitor, and a failure by everyone who should care about her These accusations are all false, but the characters repeat them as if they are true Characters devalue her interests and desires Everyone treats her like she has to redeem herself for great sins that I saw her not commit Apparently Mouth suffered this treatment her entire life, as her dead family told her she was unworthy of a real name a fact Alyssa repeatedly says she should just get over It is classic abusive behavior, and Mouth reacts like an abused person She internalizes the criticism, and breaks down Anders never acknowledges the abuse, and I simply cannot enjoy reading about someone get abused from an unsympathetic perspective I always want to be on the side of the abused.I was also distracted by the fact that the two lesbian relationships come just short of being explicit I do not know why in this day and age, Anders would avoid making a committed relationship of two women who literally sleep together explicit I cannot believe these characters as anything but lesbian lovers.In the last hundred pages, the elements start to fall together Sophie and Mouth visit the city of the Gelet, and learn how humans have impacted the environment It becomes clear that Sophie s experiences have shaped her to be an intermediary to coordinate these societies toward a solution The wrapping up almost saved the story.Sadly, the story does not end so much as abruptly stop It leaves no questions to ponder except what s next The story is so incomplete that I can only interpret the ending as sequel bait I will not read any sequel EDIT 2 20 2019 I got a chance to ask Charlie Jane Anders about the abuse that Mouth suffers Her answer was not very helpful I think a fair summation of Anders answer is Mouth was a selfish person at the start, deserved the treatment she received, grew as a result of it, and gained really great friends in Alyssa and Sophie I strongly disagree with every point of that answer, and want to briefly give spoilers to explain my view I will do my best from memory, as I gave my ARC away.Anders called Mouth selfish at the beginning I could not disagree view spoiler Mouth is the last of a cultural group that all died in front of her as a child She thought every piece of that culture was gone, but then discovers that the last copy of their holy book the basis of their religion, philosophy, and way of life is locked in a vault in Xiosphant I cannot blame Mouth for caring about the last and most important relic of her people I cannot call her selfish for pursuing it behind the backs of her comrades I hope I would have the courage to act the same way in Mouth s shoes hide spoiler I m caught in gravity s tug I m stuck between two massive bodies forever tidally locked You know those books that have that certain something that could make them truly great but then they stumble because of the characters within them Yeah This is one of those novels I can see and appreciate where the author is trying to go here with the characters so full of themselves, their ideals, or their misunderstandings of one another It fits so nicely with the greater misunderstandings between the Gelids and humanity but I have to say that the fundamental concept here is much, much easier to take than the execution The bad part of this novel Every time I wanted to find some truly great aspect of personality or plot push to latch my hopes on, I was faced with regular people doing stupid things for regular stupid reasons, muddying the waters and generally being jerks to one another I didn t particularly like any of the main characters except, perhaps, Mouth And then the good Everything else This is the definition of uneven for me I can appreciate, intellectually, what is going on, but when you can t hang your consciousness on great characters to move you along a MUCH better worldbuilding experience, it becomes something of a drag In fact, I became so invested in the plethora of great ideas that I kept re writing the book in my own mind to fly with them in new ways, extending dichotomy between the hurting human city and the alien, maligned Gelids living everywhere in the dark, being tentacular monsters, but also BETTER PEOPLE than those inside the human habitations It s not just that, though I loved the tidally locked planet, all the darkness and the need for other perceptions, the communication through tentacles, the transformations, the culture, and everything else about the SFnal experience I FELT like this novel could have been one of the greats It certainly has all the deep explorations of culture, aliens, and setting, giving us a very dark look at a far future humanity with a lot to think about than is generally the case Classic SF always did a pretty good job of this but sometimes a novel or two drills down DEEPER And this is one.So I m caught between a solid 3 star read for characters modified by a cool mirroring with the theme and a very solid 5 star SFnal novel This isn t much like All the Birds in the Sky, alas, but I m very curious to see what she ll come up with next. Not since 2018 s Blackfish City by Sam J Miller has a novel captured my imagination and enveloped me in a complete shroud of the other worldly as The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders by virtue of its intricate and epic world building Set many years into the future, mankind has taken to the stars in search of a new home In January, they ve found one, but the planet has a dark side one which bathes half its surface in perpetual darkness while the other endures a never ending cycle of daylight.There is so much to like about this novel complex and well defined characters, interesting and dangerous landscapes both political and physical , and some serious cool biological science fiction The only downside is that the story had to end somewhere both good and bad, as it left me wanting .My rating 4 5 stars I really like this novel and have my fingers crossed we ll see of Sophie, the Gelet, and others who I won t mention as to avoid spoilers. I close my eyes and imagine that when I open them again I will have outgrown all of my feelings Sometimes I clasp my eyelids until I almost see sparks Well. fuck.I m a quick reader, this book isn t that long to begin with. yet it derailed some of my TBR plans because it was seemingly endless It just felt like a fucking slog to get through at times Unfortunately, this feels like an incredibly ambitious story that just didn t come together fully It wasn t given enough room to breathe It s certainly well written and the premise is rad as hell, but nothing grabbed me by the throat and resonated with me The characters were unbearably dull and even though there were two f f relationships which I was wicked excited for, they were lacking any genuine connection There was no passion or chemistry.Listen.I truly do not like writing less than stellar book reviews I am not about shitting all over something However, I believe in being honest and sharing my own personal thoughts I like to believe that I m transparent in that sense If I m promoting a book, it s because I fucking loved it I m not doing it because I was given a free copy or I dig the author I m still salty about an off screen death from my beloved Joe Abercrombie and I WILL TELL YOU AS MUCH Oof.I m rambling Again.Basically, what I m trying to say is, no one is perfect It s healthy to have a critical eye when it comes to things The good and bad parts As much as I adore CJA her old columns on io9 were EVERYTHING I just. didn t love The City in the Middle of the Night Even though I desperately wanted to.I was talking to my friend Beth about this book since she was also reading it We both felt incredibly similar We are huge fans of Charlie Jane Anders and were stupid pumped for this book, wanting it to be incredibly successful for her because she is such a rad individual. yet it was just lacking something.The City in the Middle of the Night is one that SO MANY people, especially YA readers, will love But it just wasn t for me Thanks to Tor Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review The quotes above were taken from an ARC are subject to change upon publication 3.5 stars I was a huge fan of Anders debut novel, All the Birds in the Sky, and so I was really excited to read her new book The City in the Middle of the Night is absolutely and completely different in every way I ll be honest, it did take me awhile to warm up to it, but by the end, I was pretty much sold.I did for the most part enjoy Anders writing, and I liked the general idea of the story However, I found the first half a bit difficult to engage with I had a bit of trouble with the incredibly toxic relationship between Sophie and Bianca, and that really doesn t change throughout the book Sophie grows immensely as a character, but her attachment to Bianca foils her over and over I see now that this whole difficult journey is ultimately part of her process of growth, but it isn t easy to read.The other POV character, Mouth, started out quite unappealing to me, but she did end up changing into someone I felt compassion for The second half of the book was much rewarding for me While I found the worldbuilding set in the human cities a bit hard to visualize, I thought the sections focused on the Gelet city and culture were very well done.Overall, after a slow start for I ultimately ended up enjoying this book and the unique story it told My main complaint would be that it ended right at the point when the story became most interesting to me T o join with others to shape a future is the holiest act This is hard work, and it never stops being hard, but this collective dreaming designing is the only way we get to keep surviving, and this practice defines us as a community. This book manages to do everything well, without doing anything exceptional It is like a solid dome There are no real weak points, but nothing stands out to the reader I do not regret reading it, but I am left wanting something The most glaring weakness The City in the Middle of the Night suffers from is asking so many questions, without providing many satisfactory answers The framing of a codependent relationship also became a bit bothersome to deal with The strongest point of the series comes from the authors vision Charlie Jane Anders clearly has an incredible mind for fiction Tons of great ideas make up the stories setting, but that well built world just kind of lists around without taking the reader to a substantial end destination. Library copy available for pick up Sci fi is a hit or miss genre for me and, quite honestly, the term space opera just fills me with absolute dread However, this is also a genre I m eager to expand my knowledge of Charlie Jane Anders most recent standalone sci fi seemed like a great place in which to start.The book centres around a world that does not spin on its axis One portion is subjected to a bitter, endless night and the other a searing desert plagued by never ceasing sunshine However, in the slivers of land that rest between these two states, humans have thrived Cities have formed but how the governing bodies have chosen each to function is as different as the polarising climates they reside between.What I liked about this novel is that whilst the landscape was vivid and enthralling the characters who wandered its plains shared woes and strifes that made them relatable to a contemporary reader Their social politics were no different to that in any other contemporary novel and it formed a large part of my connection to the futuristic landscape I also appreciated how each perspective broadened our perspective of this world, without making any lengthy explanations necessary As part of an Instagram tour, I was lucky enough to pick the author s brains about this concept and find out some info about the book itself Q The book features a world divided by its severe boundaries of day and night, light and dark Are the governing bodies that rule the world, and the characters that feature within it, as easy to define and categorize A I am always a huge fiend for stories about oppositions and dichotomies Like how All the Birds in the Sky is about magic vs science, for example I love stories of people who are caught between two extremes In The City in the Middle of the Night, there s night and day There s also two human cities Xiosphant, the City of Clocks, and Argelo, the City That Never Sleeps And the political conflict between the two of them becomes a major part of the book.I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review Thank you to the author, Charlie Jane Anders, and the publisher, Titan Books, for this opportunity.
- 368 pages
- The City in the Middle of the Night
- Charlie Jane Anders
- 23 February 2019 Charlie Jane Anders