Title: Midnight City (The Conquered Earth #1) by J. Barton Mitchell
Page Count: 384 (ARC)
Published On: October 30, 2012
Goodreads Rating: 3.88
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Rating: 5/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: 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.
Did you ever read a book slow on purpose because you never wanted it to end? Because you had found a world so rich and vibrant and amazing that you didn't want to leave it behind? You didn't want to move on? That's how I feel about this book! Midnight City is a compelling, imaginative blend of fantasy, action, mystery, and adventure set in an alien-engineered dystopian landscape. But it is so for much than that. It is a beautiful, inspiring, hopeful story of the human spirit and how it can survive and even thrive in the darkest of times.
It has been eight years since The Assembly invaded Earth and enslaved the adult population. Children and teenagers are left to fend for themselves in a new, harsh world. Portions of the United States have become supernaturally charged, completely changing the geography. The aliens patiently wait as the rest of the population will eventually succumb to their mind control, The Tone. Only those immune, the Heedless, can escape their grasp. Still, people manage to go on. They join forces and rebuild. They fight back. They survive.
The characters are fully-fleshed out individuals with their own secrets and neuroses. The first character we meet is Holt Hawkins, a twenty-something bounty hunter who is wanted by the Menagerie (pirates). He is a well-rounded character driven by the loss of his family (particularly his sister) and because of that is reluctant to start another family with a group of strangers, especially while being a wanted man. He is also Heedless. For Holt, survival is everything and drives nearly all of his actions. Mira Toombs is a 'Freebooter' from Midnight City who can manipulate artifacts (supernaturally charged by the alien invasion) like a post-apocalyptic McGuyver. She has been on a mission to set past wrongs which resulted in her being wanted by her old faction, The Grey Devils. Zoey is a little girl that is wanted by The Assembly. She was a prisoner for a long time and only escaped after the ship crashed. She has no memory of who she is or what happened to her. The group is joined by Holt's most loyal companion, Max, a very special dog with blue, gray, and black hair. He also develops a special bond with Zoey (who desperately wants to ride him- does she? - you'll have to read to find out!). Additionally, he has a love-hate relationship with Mira. When these four characters come together, nothing can stop them.
I loved each character and appreciated their role in the story. Individually, the characters are complex, kick-ass individuals on their own, but as a group their pure ~awesomeness is magnified exponentially into an intensely powerful connection. Like Mira’s artifact combinations, every group member is vital for success. They can all survive on their own, but they choose each other. The commitment to each other makes them stronger, but it also makes them more of a target for their enemies. It is also refreshing to see a group dynamic without a love triangle. In fact, a love triangle does not propel the drama of the novel in any way. Yes, Holt and Mira are attracted to each other, but they share a connection deeper than romance. I fully support a Holt/Mira relationship, but they have bigger problems right now. However, there does seem to be some foreshadowing for romantic issues in future books. I just hope the present relationships are not ruined because of the need for complicated love geometry. I detest love triangles and I hope if one emerges that everyone will stay in character and will not become bogged down in silly soap opera antics. The characters and story are too good for that nonsense.
The writing is particularly strong because the plot unfolds like an adventure story. The characters are on a quest to find something and are actively choosing their paths, rather than letting the plot decide for them. Mitchell is particularly effective in showing rather than telling. The action scenes in the book are brilliantly executed and managed to keep me on the end of my seat. There were so many twists and turns that there was no telling what would actually happen. Also, I would not necessarily classify the ending as a cliffhanger, but unanswered questions remain. I view it as one chapter of the story is now over and another is about to begin similar to the structure of the Harry Potter books.
Midnight City has the best world-building since Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire. J Barton Mitchell didn't just set the story in post-alien invasion America; he CREATED an entire new world from the ground up. A world filled with things like plasma weapons, Presidiums, and an entire squadron of alien “walkers” called Spiders, Ospreys, and Vultures. A world with a new, provocative geography that feature places like The Drowned Plains, The Strange Lands, The Severed Tower, and the titular Midnight City, a teenage civilization created in the caves of Hoover Dam. This expansive settlement is ruled by various groups of factions, and boasts an expansive economy dictated by points. It is incredible to think of all the time and energy that was spent figuring out how this city actually works and how everything fits together. This re-imagined United States also features “landships”, giant boats made out of repurposed materials and powered by artifacts. These ships are like something straight out of Peter Pan and help to anchor floating trading posts. Midnight City also reminded me of some of my other favorite tales. Stories such as The Wizard of Oz (Emerald City=Midnight City?), Falling Skies (“the walkers”), Warehouse 13 (artifacts), and even Earthbound, the Super Nintendo game featuring a group of teenagers destined to fight off an alien invasion. Anyone remember that game? I am proud to say that Midnight City now ranks up with some of my favorite stories of all time!
In conclusion, I absolutely loved this book. It is a beautiful and thrilling adventure story of survival and destiny. To be honest, I do not even have the words to properly express my love for it. All I know is that you need to read it, NOW!
QUOTES I LOVED:
"Holt could try to save him. But was it worth it? Survival dictates everything, Holt reminded himself....Survival was one thing, but Max was the only friend he had left. Holt didn't like it, but he made his decision." - page 74 (ARC)
"Going back to how things were wasn't why she'd come here, Mira reminded herself. There was no going back."- page 243 (ARC)
"I can help you, Holt. I can find your hope again. I can show you that great things can happen. Even right now." - Zoey, page 354 (ARC)