In what has been a bit of a theme for me so far this year, The City in the Middle of the Night took me a pretty long time to get into. I was more than a third through this book before it hooked but but once it got me, oh man, I was IN. It’s one of those books that seems to straddle science fiction and fantasy, with all the intensely new world that requires. Once that barrier is overcome, it’s a wild ride.
Two characters split the book about 60/40 – Sophie and Mouth. They both live on a new planet colonized and then forgotten where it does’t rotate under the sun and the land exists in two diametric extremes – freezing night and burning day. Tucked into the thin ribbon of twilight, humanity finds a way. Sophie lives in one of these cities ruled by order until just a few bad decisions see her executed. That means she’s tossed into the night and left for dead, but Sophie doesn’t die. She returns, unsure what she is meant to do now but newly connected to her world and the creatures that came first. Lifelong nomad Mouth works right now as a smuggler, bringing goods between cities that no longer trade, when she is slowly sucked into Sophie’s new alien world and all the risk and opportunity that entails.
I found Mouth and story the more fascinating of the two, but we spend so much time with both I didn’t mind being torn away from her. It was also fascinating to read because the primary relationships were platonic (or if romantic, unconsumated) and I, like so many readers, come to this from a society that prioritizes romantic love over all others. The author herself is trans and there is a very significant transformation and accompanying acceptance/rejection that involves many characters, layers, and reactions. Basically there’s a lot going on here. Give it a chance.