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The City in the Middle of the Night Paperback – February 11, 2020
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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Praise for The City in the Middle of the Night
“A breathtaking work of imagination and storytelling… making the case for Anders as this generation’s Le Guin.” ―Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less
"An intimate portrait of people as much as it is a piece of culturally aware social scifi ― a look at our moment in history through a distorting lens of aliens and spaceships." ―NPR
"Tragic, brave, and so very human...Anders dares to imagine something different, a better way forward." ―Den of Geek
"Classic SF in the mode of Ursula K Le Guin or Octavia Butler....This is a millennial’s novel, featuring young people trying to make their way through an uncaring, corrupt and intermittently violent world....Heartfelt and absorbing fiction." ―The Guardian
"Anders has written a unique book, one that uses tropes found in old-school science fiction to comment on modern side effects of class structures" ―Washington Post
"Original and gripping...The City in the Middle of the Night may be set light-years away, but it’s likely to hit too close to home." ―Paste
"An even stronger novel than Anders’ Nebula Award–winning All the Birds in the Sky; a tale that can stand beside such enduring works as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion." ―Booklist, starred review
"Anders contains multitudes; it's always a fascinating and worthwhile surprise to see what she comes up with next." ―Kirkus, starred review
"An intricate tale of colonialism and evolution on both physical and social levels. Stunningly storytelling that will capture readers' minds and hearts." ―Library Journal, starred review
"Intricate, embracing much of what makes a grand adventure: smugglers, revolutionaries, pirates, camaraderie, personal sacrifice, wondrous discovery, and the struggle to find light in the darkness. Breathlessly exciting and thought-provoking." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Absolutely memorable...terrifying and exciting... makes for a fascinating exploration of humanity and human relationships." ―Hypable
"The kind of didactic, intelligent, critical fiction that interrogates the boundaries of our current moment through broad-scope questions...I couldn't recommend it more." ―Tor.com
"A stunning novel." ―Edan Lepucki, author of Woman No. 17
“A wildly inventive, inventively radical, radically subtle rush of a novel.” ―Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife
“Like a classic from another timeline… This book has notes of Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip Pullman.” ―Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
“The City in the Middle of the Night does everything right. I f―ing love this book. It is really, really breathtaking.” ―Daveed Diggs, Grammy and Tony Award winning actor
"A tale that unfolds with precision, presenting wholly original ideas, new and beautiful life forms, and chillingly extrapolated and corrupt societies. I highly recommend [it].” ―Anthony Rapp, Broadway star
About the Author
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Also it’s on an alien planet where it’s always night in one direction, and always day in the other. But if it’s the setting that intrigued you, this book isn’t for you. This is a clumsy slog of a love story, with some themes about doing good in the world.
Interesting main characters
Character development that’s intriguing to follow
Ridiculously unbelievable side characters. A naive college girl inspires a group of professional smugglers that they can survive the dangerous journey they’ve already done several times.
Plot lines furthered by overheard conversations.
Confusing, boring, unemotional fight scenes.
A lack of a central problem or goal to drive the story. Makes for winding, slogging pacing.
Even with my complaints, the creativity on display here is great. I’m looking forward to reading Anders’ 5th or 6th books, once her writing & storytelling chops have caught up with her beautiful, fascinating sci-fi visions.
Again: I adored All the Birds in the Sky. It felt integral and well conceived and full of insight. This feels like a first draft. If it had been the book that introduced me to this author, I would have given up on her on the spot.
That, coupled with the painful disorientingly contemporary teen angst filled dialog amongst and between the four all but indistinguishable female leads (Sophie, Bianca, Alyssa, and…Mouth) made for an exceptionally disappointing first 50% of this book.
And, it certainly didn't help that whatever real conflicts there may have been in the tale (at least 3 separate "quests" are neutered within the first third) are clearly secondary to the (romantic?) will-they-or-won't-they relationships between the two pairs of leads.
So, no, I did not finish. I don't think I knew what I was getting into.
I’m not ashamed to admit that the first thing that caught my attention about The City in the Middle of the Night was the cover. It’s absolutely beautiful. It seems like every time I look at it I notice another little details that I had missed previously. Between that and the striking color palette…well I was sold.
The novel is set on a tidally-locked planet – meaning that the planet doesn’t rotate. Instead there is one side constantly facing the sun, and the other in complete darkness. There’s a slim slice of land that acts like the equivalent of dawn or dusk. Where the conditions aren’t quite ideal…but they are survivable.
It’s in this small slice of land that humans, the distant relations to the first colonists to flee earth, made their homes. Each city has a different structure, set of rules, and even their own view on life. It may be a strange system, but it works. Mostly.
I almost never draw a quote from the description of a book, but this one is just such a perfect summarization of the novel that I can’t resist: “If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams…And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”
The City in the Middle of the Night was an utterly enchanting read, from cover to cover. I loved the main character, and many (but not all) of the people she met. I loved the structure of the world, the city, the politics, and many other details. It was all so thoroughly thought out; it was hard to do anything but fall headfirst into the world.
Charlie Jane Anders explores so many different concepts through the course of this novel. It’s almost too difficult to fully take them all in. There’s the perspective on survival; how people would survive on a twisted planet such as this one. There’s the concept of culture; how much or little space a group of people need before they form their own traditions and way of life. There’s politics; how some cultures moved past the concept of individuals and went for the bigger picture (in their minds, at least). There’s the concept of gender and sexuality; how it’s okay to be yourself, and not be afraid of being different. There’s the concept of self; how much change can a person go through while still maintaining their sense of self. I’ve only just scratched the surface, there’s so much more to this novel. But you have to read it for yourself to see the true depths of it all.
I loved the main character. Her constant self-questioning and determination was really quite beautiful. She’s loyal, accepting, and willing to change her life for the sake of those she loves and respects. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character quite like her…I don’t want to use the term ‘pure’ but nothing else really fits either. She’s truly open and trusting, possibly in defiance of what she’s gone through.
There was so much I loved about this book, it’s actually taking most of my willpower not to continue babbling about it. I think most of the impact would be better experienced than talked about, for obvious reasons. So I’m going to force myself to stop here.
I think that the novel has the potential to become a series, even if it isn’t currently listed as one. While this novel did fully wrap up most of the plots, there are still a few points left open. I suspect that’s in hopes of a second (or more) novel, which I’m fully in support of. I’d love to see more of the planet and how things fall out in the long run.
Top international reviews
The world building was phenomenal. The plot, though unrelenting grim at times, was well constructed too. The themes of community and shared endeavour provided a strong core to the novel. But, I found myself clamouring, like the characters, for those calm moments of reflection or the trivial aspects of life that arose too infrequently to allow for greater enjoyment of the journey itself.
I found myself drawn to, and represented within, the character of Sophie and her inability to protect her own worth and her rigid belief in hope, despite or more likely because of the abuse she endured, and the depth of understanding that the author gave to her, and to Mouth, the equally floundering alternate narrator.
However, I was not entirely convinced that all the disparate elements coalesced into a satisfying read, at least for myself. Certainly there was more than enough food for thought but I often felt minor characters served the wants of the major protagonists rather than being fully developed in their own right. There was also towards the end of the story a number of events that happened “off stage” that would perhaps have been depicted so that both the thoughts of the characters and their connections to common themes would have had a greater emotional impact.
Overall, it was a decent read with powerful elements rather than a completely satisfying one. There was enough that I was glad to say I read it, but I didn’t unreservedly love it.
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!
One particular line that struck me with the weight of the sunlight in a tidally locked planet was from an early line in a conversation between one of the protagonists and the main antagonist of the story; "Part of how they make you obey is by making obedience seem peaceful, while resistance is violent. But really, either choice is about violence in one way or another."
Charlie Jane Anders has earned a spot in my personal library, and I look forward to watching that shelf fill with her work.
Characters developed well and so,e stories are left unfinished, but in a meandering story telling way, not a lazy writing way. If you’ve read All the Birds I the Sky - this is a very different story but with the same great story telling skills. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I wasn’t left disappointed. 100% recommended.