BOOK CLUB: Half the Day is Night by Maureen McHugh

So, grab your books and let’s all get to reading ’em.

HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT by Maureen McHugh, her second novel after she won copious awardage for CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG is supposed to be another close, intimate portrayal of the people who live a few days or weeks ahead of the moment we live in, and I’m expecting great things.

As we go, feel free to leave comments and I’ll pull up any interesting ones into this post.

Spiral sez:
[quote]
I’m very much enjoying the story, particularly the not-overly-obtrusive-but-still-amazingly-well-done world-building. Mchugh’s created a future that I doubt she could’ve known in 1994 would so eerily resemble the sort of thing we’re actually headed toward or are already in (though perhaps corporations and banks were as mixed up then as now – I was but a wee lad in ’94, naive, and not so world-weary…okay, I’m still naive, but…). The depth of the main characters – David and Mayla – is great. She really gets in their heads, from Mayla’s nervousness over-analyzing on her “date” with Saad to David’s desire to leave Caribe and his denial to come to grips with his violent past.

I’ve read enough SF that I don’t think this is the kind of novel that’ll be replete with explosions and high-octane action; maybe some, but to me, it feels more like a slow burn, kind of like the film Michael Clayton or an Elmore Leonard novel set a few years in the future.[/quote]

I’m getting close to the end, and I like the Elmore Leonard reference as things do pick up. I love the world-building, and the unobtrusiveness of it. The setting doesn’t have the “OMG LOOK AT THAT COOL THING!” quality of a Rucker or Doctorow or Gibson or Stirling novel. Instead, it is a reflection/refraction of the character’s lives and dramas. It is a way of enhancing the drama, not a distraction from it. Very well done.

I’ve also heard that she is in Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten for her latest collection, and this is absolutely unsurprising to anyone who has encountered McHugh’s work, anywhere, anywhen.

I’m loving the heck out of this book.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Half the Day is Night by Maureen McHugh

  1. I am on page 124, and I think it is a wonderful portrait of characters.My favorite thing, so far, is the cat that will never see the sun, little Mephistophles. David runs back into the house to save the cat, but it is a devil that he is saving. It is right out of Screenplay 101, but the symbolism twists the idea around, because he is not saving his humanity, but instead his dark, death-drive, wicked connection to violence and war. He is not saving the cat. He is coming into his own as a force for violence. He flees the scene unheroic, at the moment when audiences love him for saving the cat. A brilliant, layered twist.

  2. I had to finish 1Q84 by Murakami before starting this, so I'm not as far along as I'd like to be – only on page 108. However, I'm very much enjoying the story, particularly the not-overly-obtrusive-but-still-amazingly-well-done world-building. Mchugh's created a future that I doubt she could've known in 1994 would so eerily resemble the sort of thing we're actually headed toward or are already in (though perhaps corporations and banks were as mixed up then as now – I was but a wee lad in '94, naive, and not so world-weary…okay, I'm still naive, but…). The depth of the main characters – David and Mayla – is great. She really gets in their heads, from Mayla's nervousness over-analyzing on her "date" with Saad to David's desire to leave Caribe and his denial to come to grips with his violent past. I've read enough SF that I don't think this is the kind of novel that'll be replete with explosions and high-octane action; maybe some, but to me, it feels more like a slow burn, kind of like the film Michael Clayton or an Elmore Leonard novel set a few years in the future.

  3. Been meaning to post again since I finished Half the Day is Night about two weeks ago. Of course, now that I have time to post, I don't actually have the book in front of me for specific examples, but…I noticed that clever little twist with David saving Meph and then hopping on a bus, leaving Mayla and Tim to deal with aftermath. That was deftly done.I also liked the sense of paranoia and claustrophobia that runs throughout the novel. Both David and Mayla are paranoid people and they feed off each other, especially at the fish farm. Then there is this looming "closeness" – of being miles underwater enclosed in a metallic balloon-like structure, no sun or sky, Mayla suffocating from the corruption of her bank, David from his time in the war and hotel room, then in the fish tank. It's there from the beginning when David looks through the glass and he has no eyes; though McHugh expertly amps it up throughout until it really does seem Marincite is too small for even David and Mayla, let alone hundreds of thousands of people.If there is one criticism I'd make, and it's a relatively small one, it's that I felt Tim's role at the end let David and Mayla off too easy. Perhaps it's because I never got a good feel for Tim – I didn't know if I could trust him, I didn't know him. Of course, that's also why it's a small criticism. That I didn't know if Tim was trustworthy kept the tension going all the way to the end. And, anyway, it's true that some people really do get lucky like that. Even in Marincite.You can be sure I'll be reading After the Apocalypse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s