The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. February 12, 2019. Tor Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780765379962. Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.
“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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Disturbing imagery, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Violence
Booklist starred (December 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 7))
Night and day are places, not changes occasioned by the rotation of the planet; the only two human settlements are treacherously far apart; and life is harsh, bound by incineration and impossible cold. Mouth is an outsider in the city of Xiosphant, part of a traveling band of trader-smugglers, the Resourceful Couriers, and the only survivor of the nomadic Citizens. In Xiosphant, time and sleep are tightly regulated. Sophie, who has made it into the university and has always had trouble sleeping during the shuttered times, becomes part of a group of student revolutionaries. Caught, sentenced to be executed, and forced to climb Old Mother Mountain, Sophie encounters a deadly, tentacled indigenous life-form that saves her from bone-shattering cold and, communicating through thought transference, befriends her. Violence, politics, betrayal, love, friendship, encounters with alien predators, and experiences in a dying city entwine to create a conflicted world in an even stronger novel than Anders’ Nebula Award–winning All the Birds in the Sky (2016); a tale that can stand beside such enduring works as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (1989).
Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
After environmental sci-fi/fantasy (the award-winning All the Birds in the Sky, 2016) and pop-culture dystopia (Rock Manning Goes for Broke, 2018), Anders shifts gears for this sweeping work of anthropological/social sf. In the distant future, the descendants of a colony spaceship have settled precariously on the hostile planet of January, swarming with vicious predators and dangerous weather patterns. One side of the planet continually faces the sun, while the other faces the frozen dark of space. Humans have built two main cities on the light side: the rigidly rules- and caste-bound Xiosphant, where guards wait to seize you for the slightest infraction, and the more licentious Argelo, run by various warring gangs. In Xiosphant, shy, working-class student Sophie idolizes her upper-crust roommate, Bianca, who loves parties and seeking power. But Bianca’s flirtation with revolution drives Sophie first into the brutal hands of the police, and then into the saving pincers and tentacles of January’s nightside-living, sentient native species, dismissed by the colonists as brute beasts. But these creatures, whom Sophie dubs the “Gelet,” develop a psychic bond with her, and their willingness to share understanding and friendship changes her forever. One person the new Sophie slowly manages to influence is Mouth, a smuggler and survivor of an otherwise extinct nomadic band, who’s desperately seeking both a connection to her lost past and a reason to forge a future. But ultimately, Sophie can’t exert a similar influence over Bianca; despite Bianca’s claims of caring for her, she chooses to exploit Sophie’s vulnerabilities instead of granting her the understanding and acceptance Sophie craves. In our world, Bianca would represent the worst kind of faux “woke” liberal. She’s an angry woman who thinks she’s making a difference, but she doesn’t really want to help people or even listen to them; she just wants to be the one in charge and profit from it. Watching Sophie come into her own and gradually (and almost too late) realize that the Bianca she loves doesn’t exist is inevitable, sad, and, eventually, empowering. Anders contains multitudes; it’s always a fascinating and worthwhile surprise to see what she comes up with next.
About the Author
Charlie Jane Anders’ latest novel is The City in the Middle of the Night. She’s also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and Choir Boy, which won a Lambda Literary Award. Plus a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke and a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. Her short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Boston Review, Tin House, Conjunctions, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Wired Magazine, Slate, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ZYZZYVA, Catamaran Literary Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and tons of anthologies. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her story “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.
Charlie Jane also organizes the monthly Writers With Drinks reading series, and co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct with Annalee Newitz.
Her website is charliejane.com/
Around the Web
The City in the Middle of the Night on Amazon
The City in the Middle of the Night on Barnes and Noble
The City in the Middle of the Night on Goodreads
The City in the Middle of the Night on LibraryThing
The City in the Middle of the Night Publisher Page