Midnight – Brenden Carlson

⭐⭐

So yeah, I had this brief phase where I’d talk like a 1920s gangster after having a few drinks. “waaah, don’t taze me, coppah!”, “you damn dirty rat, you took my jaeger bomb, seeee”, and so on. I loved it and everyone else hated it, especially the chicks. What sort of dame doesn’t like being belittled? Hmm… I suppose that makes sense now, I was being a huge dick. Ok, anyways, after a severe dry spell, I eventually stopped doing the voice altogether. I recently found Midnight and it combined my love of Cagney-eqsue gangsters with robots. Score!

Midnight is set in an alternate reality 1930s New York. The city is split in two, with the rich upper-class folks living on top of a huge platform called the Plate that is perched above the old city. They avoid the people below the Plate and essentially treat them like shit. Dropping pennies off the shelf to smoke these losers. I’d totes be tossing empties and taking a whizz of the edge if I was up there. Then again, I have zilch for drive, and no real skills, so there’s no way I’d make it there or get thrown out pretty damn quick.

But yeah, the city itself is in a massive depression that was caused by the introduction of Automatics, which are humanoid robots. The Automatics have differing cognitive abilities and are differentiated by the colours of their eyes. Green being only able to follow commands, blue being able to think for themselves, and red pretty much murdering psychopaths. The Automatics are treated even more like shit than the lower-class people and there’s a prohibition on robot parts rather than alcohol. That’s where the mafia steps in and two groups, the Iron Hands and Maranzano’s gang, run the town dealing in robot parts and violence.

So our story follows this gruff cop/mob enforcer/grey-area-guy named Roche and his naïve blue-eyed robot partner Allen. Some upper-city bigwigs went down below the Plate to do some slumming and got blown away. A gang war is erupting, the assassin keeps bumping off mobsters, and the whole city is about to turn into mayhem. Have no fear readers, Roche and robo-Allen are on the case!

Yeah, so this has the bones to be a rad alt-reality robot gangster story, but it whiffs dudes. It fell flat and fails to engage the reader. It was kinda sci-fi, kinda-noir, kinda-30s, but never settled into any sort of groove. The characters, dialogue, and setting were all on the thin side and it got confusing at parts. I’d keep forgetting it was in the 30s as the dialogue read more like current day. I’d keep forgetting that Allen was a robot as he was pretty damn human to me. Maybe it’s just me, and I should lay off the brain-cell killing bottomless mimosa Sundays, but I never got immersed in the story.

It’s like when you eat a bunch of space cake. You see the walls wobbling a little but are waiting for it to really kick in and be one with the universe. But you just sit on the couch playing Pokemon because it was a weak batch. That’s what this book was like. A cool world and promising characters that just doesn’t deliver the experience you want.

Anyways, that’s about all I got. Adios amigos!

Midnight will be published on July 20, 2021 and you can pre-order a copy here. A huge high five to Brenden Carlson, Dundurn Press, and NetGalley for the ARC.

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