- The Good: Dark portrayal of a humanity locked into rigid societal norms on tidally locked planet
- The Bad: Character arcs not fully realized
- The Literary: Literal tug of war between authoritarianism and libertarianism; how neither work
On a tidally-locked planet with never-changing zones of day and night, cities only exist in the single line of the habitable zone. In the city of Xiosphant, the ruling government manages all aspects of citizens’ lives, including strict time periods and types of money. Sophie and Bianca are best friends at college, dabbling in anti-government student organizations. Sophie covers for Bianca for a misdemeanor crime and is marched into the night, outside of the city walls, and left for dead, until she encounters a deadly beast who lives in the dark that decides to help her.
There’s a slew of great science fiction ideas in this book. The tidally-locked planet creates a physical representation of social stratification. It’s taboo to talk about which generation ship your family is descended from. The climate is already tenuous and seems to be getting worse. Technology is abundant but old. Intelligent non-humans aliens native to the planet are treated as wild beasts, but they have important knowledge to share.
All these great concepts are the backdrop to a character story that explores power and violence. However, the characters fall short. The four female leads are certainly individuals in their own right, but I don’t find myself rooting for any of them. They make a lot of bad decisions and are generally jerks to each other. Of the two POVs, Mouth has the closest to a character arc that feels justified, but Sophie is passive, weak, emotional, with an reputation for beauty and intelligence that doesn’t align with her actions.
The final twenty percent of the book really jumps up a notch in pacing, and my imagination soars at the change in scenery and implications of the late developments with the aliens. All the right elements for a great story are in here, but it just doesn’t come together in the most fulfilling way.
Recommended for fans of soft scifi ready for a revolution origin story!