Published: 30th October 2012 by St. Martin's Griffin
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
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In a post-apocalyptic world controlled by alien invaders, two teens and a young girl with mysterious powers embark on a dangerous journey. What they find will change everything...
Earth has been conquered. An extraterrestrial race known as The Assembly has abducted the adult population, leaving the planet’s youth to fend for themselves. In this treacherous landscape, Holt, a bounty hunter, is transporting his prisoner Mira when they discover Zoey, a young girl with powerful abilities who could be the key to stopping The Assembly. As they make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, the trio must contend with freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and perhaps most perilous of all: Holt and Mira’s growing attraction to each other.
Midnight City is a strong, well paced and ultimately enjoyable debut novel that tells the story of a futuristic Earth after an alien invasion. The aliens have incapacitated the human population through a mysterious kind of mind control that only affects adults. Thus the only people outside alien control are children, who are slowly and inexorably succumbing to the mind control as they age.
Barton builds up his world cleverly, avoiding information dumps and choosing instead to explain aspects of his world as they naturally arise in the narrative. This does mean that sometimes I had questions about the world and had to wait for them to be answered, but for the most part I think the world building is solid and has been unobtrusively weaved into the story. I wish that more information had been provided about the aliens – they are still as heavily shrouded in mystery as they were when I began the novel. However, since the protagonists are no closer to unravelling the truth, it makes sense that the readers are also kept in the dark.
Holt and Mira are two amazing characters, with depths and intricacies rarely seen on YA literature. Both are strong and incredibly skilled, but the author doesn’t belabour the point, preferring to show, not tell, and let readers experience their talents themselves. I sometimes forgot that Holt and Mira are closer to twenty than sixteen: their maturity and forward thinking natures could have easily been explained by their harrowing experiences in continual fight for survival after their parents abandoned them, rather than their age. My favourite character is Zoey – the mysterious child the duo find aboard an alien ship, who remembers nothing from her past. She’s cute and funny, and her innocence is indicative of her age, but she has these amazing mind reading, emotion sensing powers. Awesome, right?
My main point of disappointment in this book comes from its climax. Midnight City is wonderfully paced and enjoyable until things start ramping up. Then it just feels like there’s too much going on all at once. I had to learn new rules about the Midnight City and keep track a bunch of new characters. All while I was really confused at who belongs to which faction, and which factions hate one another. I would have gladly read another fifty or so pages if it meant that things were clearer to me.
Mitchell should be commended on his stellar debut – I will be recommending this to all fans of YA, science fiction especially, because it has wonderful characters and a cool new world for us to explore. I am looking forward to reading where the author takes this narrative next, and to finding out more about the aliens! Read this book. Seriously.