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“The City in the Middle of the Night” by Charlie Jane Anders


I found this to be one of those somewhat frustrating books which do have some interesting elements but never really seem to develop their full potential. I thought it was an interesting setting, a tidally-locked planet where a human colony exists in a narrow strip between the equally inhospitable regions of constant day and constant night. Much of the story takes place in the two main cities, the rigidly structured society of Xiosphant and the anarchic Argelan. I thought Xiosphant was the more interesting of the two with some aspects that seemed fairly original while Argelan felt a bit more cliched. However, I felt the world-building was a bit shallow and this is particularly true of the third city which gives the book its title and seems potentially fascinating but the book only spends a brief amount of pages there.

I thought the book started off strongly but the pacing seemed to slow once it got to Argelan where it spent a lot of time on subplots that weren't all that interesting (such as Mouth's search for information about her former family). It got more interesting again later in the book but this section felt a bit rushed particularly as it approaches the finale. A major event takes place off-screen and doesn't seem very plausible and the book finishes very abruptly without really resolving its main plot points.

The characterisation can also be frustrating at times. Some of them do get some good character development through but one of them seems to abruptly turn into a Bond villain. It's also a book where the characters spend a lot of time not talking to each other about important things, it's maybe not unrealistic to have characters incapable of having a conversation about difficult topics but it is frustrating.

Rating : 6 / 10