Madeline Ashby's Reviews > Half the Day is Night

Half the Day is Night by Maureen F. McHugh
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Sep 15, 11

Read in September, 2011

I really wanted to finish this. Truly, I did. I had a big long car trip with which to do so, and everything. And after reading a recent post by Charlie Stross on reading more work by female writers, I decided to give this one a go. It was very engaging in its first half, but then the characters begin making decisions that make very little sense -- one protagonist decides to simply disappear from accusations that have yet to be made, while another succumbs to corporate pressure and loses her life's work. Not very much is made of either of these changes, and I got the sense that I was simply observing these two lives unfolding without a satisfactory arc or change. Neither had come to any definitive conclusions about life, aside from the fact that half of it was dark and scary. This is something that both of them already knew, and certainly something that the reader had been apprised of over and over throughout the story. It wasn't a theme or a revelation, but rather a state of being. This was why I couldn't really finish it -- it didn't seem to be leading anywhere.

That said, it's quite well-written and very imaginative. It also shines a light on cultures that don't get a lot of play in some SF, most prominently those of the Caribbean islands. McHugh has also obviously thought out what poverty would be like underwater, and has taken an "as above, so below" approach to her underwater society. Parts of that society struck me as deeply implausible, and it's also never made entirely clear what has made the surface so much less hospitable, but there's enough interesting detail here that the underwater poleis make sense on their own. If you're into urban planning or how cities work, read this book.
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