Sunday, September 30, 2012

Midnight City (review)

2.5/5 stars

Midnight City is a book that frustrated me.  It advertises itself as a dystopian, alien-invasion science fiction novel.  And while it's most certainly a dystopian and there seem to be aliens, it's by no means a science fiction novel.  Instead it's a melding of dystopian alien with fantasy, yet it refuses to acknowledge that.

Science is one thing. Magic is another entirely.  I love them both but you have to know which one you are writing. Key to this novel are these things called"artifacts" that are made from "Strange Land" objects.
"It takes three types of artifacts to make the most basic combination," Mira began.  "First you need a power source which is always two Strange Lands coins of the same denomination. The higher the denomination the power powerful the artifacts. Coins also determine the 'polarity' of the artifact combination. Placing them with the same sides facing out is 'negative'.
I'm sorry that's not science. It's not even believable fake-science.
"The artifacts were the closest thing the world had ever had to magic."
That's because they are magic.  It doesn't matter if Mira studied them or if they use words like polarity, there is no other explanation for the artifacts.  Yet the book continues to say there is no magic, or they don't believe in magic, when everything key to the book has absolutely no scientific explanation.  Even the climax of the novel depends upon this shoddy science/magic and that frustrated me.

This is not the only problem with the book.  I had trouble believing the characters as well.  Holt Hawkin's is supposed to be this gruff, tough bounty hunter.  For someone who's personal mantra is "survival dictates" (this phrase gets annoying) he's a bit of a pushover.  For him to survive to age 20 (a rarity) in this post-apocalyptic world, especially being an experienced bounty hunter, it seems like he would need to be a little harder.  The fact that a girl with pretty eyes can effect him so much makes it difficult to believe his backstory as a bounty hunter.

The writing is also lackluster and clunky.   Take this phrase for example: ""Did you see them? They were red!" Mira yelled down at him from the tree on the incline."  Placed plop in the middle of an action scene, it bogs everything down.  It would be better with less words, especially since the tree being on an incline isn't necessary to the plot.  It feels like the author is trying to force you to see the same image that's in his head even when it's not important.

There was time when this book got the pacing right and it was readable, but overall it just didn't feel worth it.  When I read a science fiction book I expect science.  New dystopians need to be GREAT because they are following in the footsteps of The Uglies, Hunger Games, Chaos Walking and everything that comes before.  You need characters that sweep you off your feet or mind-blowing revelations or something special to make your novel stand out.  This one just doesn't.


Lectus said...

Ouch! I thought about reading it because it sounds interesting! But you are right, either it is magic or it is SF. I am not a follower of magic so...

Amanda said...

That's too bad that this book didn't work out for you. I think that's a very valid point you make at the end of your review: dystopians do need to be great nowadays. Because of those great genre-defining dystopians, there are just too many being published. From your review this doesn't sound like a great dystopian, which is sad. I understand why authors and publishers feel the need to follow trends, but I wish trends didn't have to define published books nearly as much as they do.

Renae @ Respiring Thoughts said...

Excellent review! You raised several really good points that I hadn't even thought of while reading.

Cassi Haggard said...

Lectus Read: I feel like some books get by with somewhat unbelievable sci-fi due to strength of character and also by not explaining it (the explanations in this book made it obvious that it was not sci-fi).

Amanda: Sometimes with the overpublishing of dystopians I say "I'm just done" and then the next one I get to read is actually good. It never fails. But I think people are *trying* to write dystopians even when it's not there.

Renae: Thanks, especially coming from someone else who read it!