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The City in the Middle of the Night Hardcover – 12 Feb 2019
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"The City tells a big story with tenderness and compassion. Charlie Jane Anders is a major talent." --SFX
"Gripping, rich and entertaining, but it s the book s sense of empathy that lingers." --SciFi Now
"This book was the perfect read for me: great science fiction with a cool science-based premise... and complex exploration of humanity and culture." --Readcommendations
About the Author
Charlie Jane Anders is the editor-in-chief of io9.com, the extraordinarily popular Gawker Media site devoted to science fiction and fantasy. Her Tor.com story "Six Months, Three Days" won the 2013 Hugo Award and was subsequently picked up for development into a NBC television series. She has also had fiction published by Tin House, Asimov's Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and McSweeney's.
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I won't go into the plot but suffice to say I really enjoyed it. I love what the author has done with the characters and their decisions. Every time something major happened and I thought I could guess what was coming, they did something different - not crazy and shocking different, but a smart move that I just didn't pick up on.
The author has improved vastly between her first and second novel, and I can't wait to see what she releases in the future.
novel, futuristic/fantastical, speaking to our notion of humanity: what is it and why is it? what would it take to change?
along the way, be prepared for a plethora of rapid right and left turns, roundabouts and zigzags as this author blithely substitutes all manner of curiosities for the mundanities your mind was expecting next.
delicate, delightful and a cracking good yarn. yum!
Even with these high expectations, Anders has managed to hit it out the park again. This book is wonderful and a joy to read. I pretty much read it cover to cover. Anders’ worldbuilding is intricate, her characters fleshed out and there are all the hallmarks of a good adventure, including smugglers, pirates, aliens and political revolutionaries.
The book is set on the planet of January, tidally locked to its star so one side is ablaze with constant sunlight and the other a frozen wasteland. Humans settle in the slim twilight zone between the two, with two intriguing cities of Xiosphant and Argelo. After the protagonist Sophie is cast out of Xiosphant into the frozen night, taking the fall for her friend Bianca, she encounters and communicates with the native life of January, the sentient Gelet that are far from the unintelligent beasts humanity had imagined.
The main narrative of the story follows Sophie and Bianca, crafting a compelling and emotional exploration of their evolving relationship. This occurs alongside a fascinating anthropological study of humanity, with various aspects of political organisation (such as circadianism, the creation of a sense of time as a means of social control, strictly imposing a schedule and even determining, with severe consequences, when you can sleep), social concepts (such as a language that has no tenses but many different signifiers of class and hierarchy) and lineage and cultural heritage up for discussion. In this sense, Anders is very much taking up the mantle of authors like Ursula Le Guin in producing anthropological genre fiction.
Ultimately, both plot and intricate, thoughtful worldbuilding make for a thoroughly compelling read. It is easy to invest emotionally in the characters and travel across January with them. It is also easy to enjoy and savour the thoughtful anthropological case study Anders has created. There is so much this book has to offer (and this is an already long review, so I shan’t go into more detail) and I can not recommend it more highly. Already, I can tell this will be one of the best books I will read this year.
I say that as a compliment. It’s wondrously weird. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read. It reads like almost a science fiction fairytale, there was that sense of timelessness to it.
I’m a little bummed that this was a library book as it absolutely warrants a re-read just to get my head around some of the characters a little better – but the fact that I want to re-read it so soon is a great sign.
Fair warning – this book will not suit everyone, in fact, I think there are some people who are going to really dislike it, but I’d recommend giving it a chance and going in with an open mind. This is a truly fascinating world, but it’s the characters within that really shine.
My rating: 4/5 stars