Review: The City in the Middle of the Night

Updated: Nov 6, 2020



The story of this Hugo nominated novel takes place on the planet January, a sphere tidally locked to its star, creating two worlds, one scorched by constant sunlight, the other a cold world of endless night. Humans barely survive in the narrow twilight world that borders both extremities.


The story begins with a sacrifice. Sophie takes the blame for a theft committed by her roommate Bianca, her punishment for this trivial misdemeanour, to be hurled down a steep precipice to the night world and almost certain death. Unexpectedly, Sophie is saved by a fearsome alien life form (the Gelids) and returned to her twilight home, Xiosphant.


The setting up of the story was a delight. Anders builds tension with skilled prose, quickly capturing reader interest.


The characters were well defined but I found little about them to interest me which made the overly long middle section of the novel a challenge. It's a pity, given the well-executed opening scenes. The main protagonist, Sophie engages the Gelid early but further contact is minimal until the final section, where she journeys to their dark world to understand the strange connection she feels for them. This was the most compelling section of the novel, but for me, too little too late.


That said, this is a unique tale of survival and adaption to the harshest of environments, offering one of the better descriptions of what an alien race may be like. 4 Stars