Book Review: Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell
Title: Midnight City
Author: J. Barton Mitchell
Pub. Date: October 30, 2012
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.
This book has it all! Alien invasion, apocalypse, dystopia, kids ruling everything, mind control, magic-like science, romance, ZOMBIES! Omg, there were zombies! Well, sort-of zombies. They weren’t the traditional braaaaaiiiiiiinnnns kind, but when they were described, I yelled, “ZOMBIES!” so they definitely count.
Midnight City is crazy action packed from the very first page. Be prepared to be sucked in! The writing is absolutely fantastic. I mean, read this passage: “In its intense light, the skittering shadows all around her were horribly revealed. Hundreds of them, stuck to the floors and walls, dripping off the ceiling, pulsing inside the doorways. Hulking, cancerous masses of goo, thick and black, like oil, constantly morphing and blending into new shapes” (Mitchell, 40). There are gems like this scattered throughout the novel, and it’s deliciously scrumptious!
The novel revolves around three characters and a dog—Holt, Mira, Zoey, and Max (the dog). What I love most about these characters is how normal they are despite their strange circumstances (or in one case, strange powers…)
Holt is not naturally a loner, but because of the invasion, he becomes one. He’s an average, intelligent guy who still makes mistakes, and that makes for a fun read. The thing that struck me most about Holt was his subtle yet continuous transformation throughout the novel as he slowly opens up to those around him.
Mira was my favorite, I think. She’s spunky and matches Holt’s determination and intelligence when it comes to survival. She’s more tender than he is, though, but she definitely has her secrets that she wants to keep hidden.
Zoey’s the weird one, and I don’t care what anyone says, in my mind, she’s Dakota Fanning from War of the Worlds. I kind of related to Zoey and her weird intuition and the way she knows she needs to be somewhere or do something. Most people probably wouldn’t relate to her this way, but I really liked her and I can’t wait to see what happens to her in the next novel! Also, her persistence in riding Max is hilarious and soooo accurate!
As fantastic as Midnight City was, and as much as I enjoyed it, there were a few problems, and had these (relatively minor) problems not existed, Midnight City would have been one of my favorite novels.
The weakest part is that the novel suffers from being limited in characters. Holt, Mira, Zoey and Max are great characters whom I really enjoyed, but there really wasn’t anyone else. I understand Earth is an apocalyptic wasteland, but even so, there should have been a bit more. The characters weren’t quite developed enough for my taste, as it was more plot-driven rather than character-driven.
Another thing that drove me up the wall is that Mitchell gives a good chunk of Holt’s backstory through dreams. Dreams are fine—I love dreams in novels, actually—but using them to give us backstory is lazy writing. No one dreams perfect memories, yet every single dream Holt has is one. What would have been much better is if Holt had some really trippy dreams (as dreams usually are) that caused him to think on his past when he woke up, and since the readers are privy to his thoughts, voila! Backstory without using a cheap trick.
One final thing is that it’s been nearly a decade since Earth has been overrun by aliens and every adult has succumbed to the Tone, yet the children speak amazing English! Where was the slang? Kids make up crazy languages, especially when they don’t have proper schooling. It was details like this that really kept Midnight City from being fully developed. The plot is fantastic, but it’s not quite a complete world.
If you like science-fiction, alien invasions, or dystopians, I would highly recommend this novel. It was really fast paced and well written. The story was easy to get into and very easy to imagine—in fact, I would be shocked if they never turn this into a movie because it seems written cinematically. I will definitely be reading the sequel and look forward to its release!