The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm caught in gravity's tug. I'm stuck between two massive bodies forever tidally locked. ; ;
You know those books that have that certain something that could make them truly great but then they stumble because of the characters within them?
Yeah. This is one of those novels. I can see and appreciate where the author is trying to go here with the characters so full of themselves, their ideals, or their misunderstandings of one another. It fits so nicely with the greater misunderstandings between the Gelids and humanity... but I have to say that the fundamental concept here is much, much easier to take than the execution.
The bad part of this novel:
Every time I wanted to find some truly great aspect of personality or plot push to latch my hopes on, I was faced with regular people doing stupid things for regular stupid reasons, muddying the waters and generally being jerks to one another. I didn't particularly like any of the main characters except, perhaps, Mouth.
And then the good:
This is the definition of uneven for me. I can appreciate, intellectually, what is going on, but when you can't hang your consciousness on great characters to move you along a MUCH better worldbuilding experience, it becomes something of a drag. In fact, I became so invested in the plethora of great ideas that I kept re-writing the book in my own mind to fly with them in new ways, extending dichotomy between the hurting human city and the alien, maligned Gelids living everywhere in the dark, being tentacular monsters, but also BETTER PEOPLE than those inside the human habitations. :)
It's not just that, though. I loved the tidally locked planet, all the darkness and the need for other perceptions, the communication through tentacles, the transformations, the culture, and everything else about the SFnal experience.
I FELT like this novel could have been one of the greats. It certainly has all the deep explorations of culture, aliens, and setting, giving us a very dark look at a far-future humanity with a lot more to think about than is generally the case. Classic SF always did a pretty good job of this but sometimes a novel or two drills down DEEPER. And this is one.
So I'm caught between a solid 3-star read for characters modified by a cool mirroring with the theme and a very solid 5 star SFnal novel. ; ;
This isn't much like All the Birds in the Sky, alas, but I'm very curious to see what she'll come up with next.
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