January is a tide-locked planet, one side permanently cold dark night, one blinding searing day, with human colonists clinging to precarious life on the narrow boundary. Outside of the human cities the monsters will kill you if the planet doesn’t get you first.
Xiosphant is a socially rigid city state, forcing the endless twilight into an intricate regime of well-ordered citizens. “Everyone in Xiosphant was weirdly polite, just so long as you pretended all their made-up stuff was real.”
Sophie is a student from the poor fringe of Xiosphant, out of place with her privileged university peers, in the thrall of Bianca who plays at being a revolutionary in between social engagements. Sophie takes the fall when Bianca plays at theft, and the extreme punishment she receives throws her outside of all expectations.
Mouth is a member of the Resourceful Couriers, hauling dubious trade goods between Xiosphant and Argelo, January’s second anarchic city state, sole survivor of a nomadic band. “You could do whatever you felt like in Argelo, but so could everyone else”.
Narrated by Sophie and Mouth, The City in the Middle of the Night is a many-layered anthropological science fiction exploration of the intersection of the personal and political. The perspectives of these fringedwellers illuminate an unsustainable human society hammered into the meridian of an alien planet. The Mothership brought technology that time is breaking down, and political and social schisms that time can’t leave behind. “Everything that’s wrong with us now started on the Mothership.”
And out in the night are the Gelet.