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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

I've mostly not read sci-fi, except for the occasional cross-over book like The Martian or The Sparrow which are most definitely written for a more mainstream audience. Even those are pretty few and far between. But with my new job, I have to sell a whole line of sci-fi, Tor Books, which luckily is one of the best in the business. And this year I gave myself a challenge: to read 3 Tor books. And I am done, and it's only June! (I know it's February; I hold my reviews until right before the books publish, but I read this one in June 2018.) And I enjoyed them all!

I didn't know anything about this book but one of my buyers had highly recommended the author, Charlie Jane Andrews (and initially I didn't know if the author was male or female as that name could be either, but she is female. So it turns out all three Tor books I read are by woman.) Before Sales Conference I read the first 10 pages of about 35 books and this was one of them. And I decided to give it a go.

Initially it didn't feel very science fiction-y, but more post-apocalyptic, even though it's most definitely way in the future and on another planet. At some point in the 25th century humans had to leave Earth and we found a planet we called January which seemed habitable. But seemed is a key word there. The planet must turn in parallel with its star and not perpendicular, because half the planet is always a black winter, half is a glaring desert, and in between there's a thin strip of livable twilight. We have two main cities, one very regimented and the other more Vegas-like.

Mouth is the last of her kind, from a people of nomads. She now is a member of a band of smugglers operating between the two cities, navigating the Sea of Murder, and the terrifying creatures we have named with our old Earth names, even though they don't very much resemble crocodiles or squids.

Sophie, a student at university, takes the blame when her friend steals and is busted, and the she is dragged out to die on a mountain in the night. One of the crocodiles finds her, and she is too exhausted and sluggish to fight it off. But instead of attacking her, the creature warms her and shares knowledge that these scary beasts have built an amazing city in the middle of the cold, dark night part of the planet, which we humans are endangering.

Mouth and Sophie will cross paths and change the entire future of the humans on this planet, and themselves as well. I am not sure if this is the first book in a series as it ends with a lot of loose ends which could easily be picked up. The ending was still satisfying, but if I could find out more, I would.

This book is published by Tor, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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