Jaclyn's Reviews > Midnight City

Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell
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Jun 24, 2012

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bookshelves: aliens, apocalyptic, net-galley, teen-fiction, arc
Read from July 14 to 15, 2012

Midnight City is the first in an apocalyptic series, The Conquered Earth. Earth has been invaded by an alien race called The Assembly. The Assembly has quickly taken control by infecting the population with the Tone, a disease that turns the infected slowly into drones of the Assembly. The Tone blackens the infected’s eyes and inserts voices into his head that slowly become clearer to the listener until it forces him to succumb to the commands and march towards the city. Those who succumb forget who they are as well as those around them. The catch for this disease is that it only affects adults, usually in a person’s late teens. Children are exempted from the Tone and have set up their own, somewhat thriving society throughout the desecrated landscape. The adults disappear into the cities and what happens to them is unknown to the children.

In this world we meet bounty hunter, Holt Hawkins, a twenty year old who is immune to the Tone and has an awesome, taffy-eating dog, Max. He is searching for his next quarry in the form of Mira Toombs, who is wanted by the child-run Midnight City for crimes unknown to Holt. Holt doesn’t care what Mira has done; she is a paycheck and a means to solve his own mysterious problems with a gang of kids he used to run with. Holt finds himself challenged by Mira and giving her his grudging respect. Holt doesn’t want to care about anyone because as one who is immune to the Tone, anyone he cares about has succumbed and left him alone.

Complicating matters further is the appearance of Zooey, whom Holt rescues from a fallen Assembly ship. It becomes clear that Zooey is no ordinary girl; she has no memories of her life before the crash and she has uncanny intuition and the Assembly is hunting for her. Holt decides that he has to get rid of both Mira and Zooey; he’s got enough problems without having people depending on him, and he needs the reward that Mira’s capture will bring him. Of course, the more Holt gets to know Mira and Zooey, the harder it becomes for him to simply abandon them to their fates. And of course, Holt and Mira find that they are attracted to one another – a predictable relationship, but it wasn’t played up as much as I would have thought. The relationship hit the right tone in the book; Holt and Mira didn’t get too serious, I think because there was so much else going on in the novel - they are running from aliens and fighting off blood thirsty kids. This slight romance was a lot more realistic because of the situation that the characters were in and I liked how it played out.

Overall, I thought this was a solid apocalyptic book set in an interesting world. The plot was fast-paced and provided the reader with a good understanding of what life after an alien invasion would look like. The author was able to create an excellent landscape of this new earth through his descriptions, which I found to be the strongest part of this novel. For example, the depiction of the Drowning Plains and the Forsaken creatures that dwell there, was excellent. The moment when Holt noticed that there was claw marks in the wall and that he and the girls were not alone was very well done. I found that the author did a good job of creating the suspense of the unknown in this world, especially in the Drowning Plains. The description of this flooded, abandoned city very much reminded me of Stephen King and his apocalyptic novels – The Stand and Under the Dome.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed this book, there was one thing that continued to bother me throughout the book. For me, it seemed that the society of children in the Conquered Earth sprung up awfully quickly after an alien invasion that decimated the earth and took away all of the adults. The society in Midnight City wasn’t just small groups of kids with haphazard rule Lord of the Flies style. These kids had created INFRASTRUCTURE – there was a system in place to catch criminals (ie. Holt’s a bounty hunter), there is a flourishing trade system along the river, where kids from all over flock to, and there is a fully functional underground city underneath a damn. For me the development of these systems seemed a little too sudden after the invasion. I think it was about eight years since the invasion, so that really is a short time for this whole new way of life to be established. I felt this societal development to be a bit of an inconsistent timeline, but it ultimately didn’t stop me from enjoying the story or the setting of the novel.

And lastly, I feel that I have to mention Holt’s dog, Max. This dog was one of my favourite “characters” in the book. The dog eats taffy for goodness sake! The dog was a wonderful sidekick in the book and I loved reading about Zooey’s interactions with the dog and how she called him “the Max.” This relationship was a great addition to the book and I thought it added something lighthearted to what really was a serious and break necked paced book.

Midnight City was a great start to a new series that I will be keeping my eye out for. I will certainly be adding it to my list of Hunger Games read-alikes at the library for those moments when you have to tell a kid that “Yes, we have Hunger Games, but there are seventy other people ahead of you that also want to read it.” Midnight City hits a similar tone to Hunger Games and Divergent. I also think that this book will also appeal to a more diverse audience because of the pacing and de-emphasized romance. It seems like there are so many teen paranormal romances that are targeted towards girls, its nice to see a book that has appeal factors for both genders.
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