The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders

From Goodreads: Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace — though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below. But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

I’ve been thinking about this book for days now, and my experience with it is difficult to describe. First, I’ll say that the pacing, characters, world-building, themes, and philosophic elements are all spot on. It was a wonderful book that way. I could never see where the story was going ahead of time, and it kept taking all these unexpected turns that reminded me of my first experience with Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn: The Final Empire). I like how flawed and nuanced the characters were, and the exploration of small actions having long-reaching consequences, and the way that emotion could too easily overcome rational thought even when you know better. All these things were wonderful, and as I listened to the book, it had the makings of a favorite for 2019.


I don’t know. The ending was…weird. No, the ending was missing. Have you ever been reading a library or secondhand book, and flipped the last page, only to discover that several pages have been torn from the book and you don’t have the last little bit? That’s what the ending of this book was like. It cuts off randomly, in the middle of a scene. It’s not a cliffhanger; it’s not an end to one story or the beginning of another. There’s no conclusion, but there’s also no indication of what might come next. It just ends. I feel like there’s some sort of literary reason for the ending, something along the lines of, “Human behavior constantly repeats itself so it doesn’t matter where in a story we end.” Regardless of whether or not the bizarre, abrupt ending was done for a specific purpose, it was highly dissatisfying. Even if there’s a sequel planned – which I can find no evidence of – it would be dissatisfying. As I said, it wasn’t a cliffhanger. It was just mid-action, almost like ending mid-sentence. An end that isn’t an end, which is frustrating. I know it was done on purpose, but I still don’t like it. It kinda ruined what was a brilliant book for me, and I’m trying to make peace with that, because I loved everything up until that point. I think this might take me some time.

Performance: The audiobook was read by Jennifer O’Donnell and Laura Knight Keating, both of whom did an amazing job and really helped me to feel like I was right there with the action of the story.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2019, Adult, Prose and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders

  1. A very interesting review — and useful to me, as I’ve been intending to read this since it came out! I found Charlie Jane through a collection of her stories (“Six Months, Three Days, Five Others”). I loved her style and outlook and have been intending for some time to read more of her work. Your discussion of the ending for her latest, however, makes me think I’ll go with a different selection … maybe “All The Birds In The Sky” …..


    • Amanda says:

      I’ve not read anything else by her, so I can’t tell how this compares to her other works. I mean, this was GOOD, and I really feel like she was saying something with that ending, but I just have to get my head around it. I’ve seen other reviews now and everyone seems to complain about the abrupt ending.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kay says:

    I’ve been eyeing this one for a while. I’ve heard mixed things about it but I’m still very intrigued – even more so after your review! Although I’ll say, I never know how to feel with these weird endings. As a reader it leaves me kind of unsatisfied, but then sometimes, if it’s well done, I can appreciate the literary function of it


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