GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders | I Smell Sheep

Friday, July 12, 2019

Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night
by Charlie Jane Anders
February 12, 2019
368 pages
Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition

*The Verge's Science Fiction and Fantasy Book We're Looking Forward to in 2019
*AV Club's 15 Most Anticipated Books of 2019
*Book Riot's Most Anticipated Books of 2019
*Kirkus' 30 Speculative Fiction Books You Should Read in February 2019
*Bookish's Winter's Must-Read Sci-fi & Fantasy
*Bookbub's Best Science Fiction Books Coming Out in 2019
*YA Books Central's Buzzworty Books of 2019

“This generation’s Le Guin.” ―Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less

Charlie Jane Anders, the nationally bestselling author of All the Birds in the Sky delivers a brilliant new novel set in a hauntingly strange future with #10 LA Times bestseller The City in the Middle of the Night.

"If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams... And from there, it's easy to control our entire lives."

January is a dying planet--divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.

But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans--and Sophie's ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

Want a post-earth sci-fi title that has complex world-building, characters that make your heart hurt, a societal crisis, and aliens that aren't what anyone expects? Of course, you do. I'd heard great things about The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, but it took a while for me to get to it. I'm so glad I did.

Set generations after the citizens of earth left and re-grouped on the planet January, we're introduced to all of the world's physical and social complexities through the eyes of Sophie, a student, and accidental revolutionary, and Mouth, a smuggler haunted by the loss of her civilization.

So there is a LOT going on in this book, too much to detail in full. At its core, it's about a tidally locked planet and the people trying to survive it. One city is always light and ruled by a rigid time structure, social conformity, and a caste system of sorts, while the other has no structure and its citizens live in anarchy. Between the two is a deadly waste filled with lethal creatures. And…a secret city that's far more advanced than anything humans have, populated by one of the species they assume they're superior to.

It's also about how we perceive others, our assumptions, and what we'll do socially to benefit or survive. It's about putting others on a pedestal and how relationships may evolve or not be what we think. It's about the relationship one has with one's past and culture. It's about how different people deal with trauma and how they might react because of it and work through it, how they may come back to situations or do things that aren't the best for them or stay with people or leave people out of survival and humanness.

It's about a lot of things. I was extremely impressed by the worldbuilding because Anders incorporates so many aspects: historical, political, social, cultural, scientific. I may not relate to all of the core cast, but I can empathize with them. None of their actions ever felt like drama for drama's sake for me. Sophie's recovery and choices after being left for dead are complicated and come from very real pain. Mouth has to process her grief and guilt continually because so much of what happens to her in the storyline reminds her of what she's lost. I love that these things are played with in different, nuanced ways. We see their relationships evolve, and how they interact with each other is interesting.

It's awesome that there are basically four female leads in this book, with Bianca and Alyssa rounding out the cast. You won't always like everyone, but that's not the point and I doubt you're supposed to. Each of these characters go on a journey of some sort and each cause others pain. Each put at least one of the others on a pedestal and the idealized party has to deal with that. This isn't a let's save-the-world book. This is a my-life-is-falling-apart and I'm-grabbing-for-meaning-the-best-way-I-know-how type of book. And it's magnificent. Uncomfortable at times, but that's good. It'll give you lots to think about.

Plus, the aliens are really cool, and their path echoes that of the individual characters: they're trying for something better the best way they know how.

5 sheep


About the Author:
Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, out now. She’s the organizer of the Writers With Drinks reading series, and she was a founding editor of io9, a website about science fiction, science and futurism. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,, Lightspeed, Tin House, ZYZZYVA, and several anthologies. Her novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo award.

Guest Reviewer:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

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