Augustine has spent his life looking to the skies, a brilliant astronomer who has not always been the best human being. Now an old man, he is stationed at an Arctic outpost when the call to evacuate comes. He does not know what has happened but he wants to spend the rest of his days where he is. He has nothing to go back to, his work is here. The crew of the spaceship Aether are returning from a pioneering mission to Jupiter, only to find communications with Earth have halted. Not a single broadcast. All they can do is head home and wait.
Good Morning, Midnight is a beautifully written story about the loneliness at the end of the world. Set in the beautiful but hostile environments of the Arctic Circle and deep space, but Augie and Sully are cut off from whatever it is that has happened. All they know is that the airwaves are silent.
The receivers were picking up the murmurs of space all around them, from celestial bodies millions of light years away – it was only Earth that wasn’t saying anything.
In both locations, the characters are in isolated situations with a huge reliance on radio communication but also they are detached from the diurnal cycles of day and night. The Arctic winters bring endless night and the summers bring long bright days. In space, they rely on artificial lights to signal night and day, a pretence to make them feel more at home.
The characters have plenty of time to reflect on their lives, and their regrets. Sully only took one photo of the daughter she left behind, something that starts to feel significant to her as her links to the people left behind seem to fade.
I didn’t feel overwhelmingly sad whilst reading but when I sat down and thought about it all afterwards, I wanted to cry. What really makes you carry on when you believe everything you ever knew is gone? The crew of the Aether and Augie are waiting for the end, whatever that might be. Augie is old and is expecting death but given new purpose by Iris.
On his best days the blank canvas of the landscape set him at ease; on his worst he contemplated madness.
When the connection between the two sets of characters became clear, I felt it was a bit too much of a coincidence but then it turns out it really is important. It made it even more poignant.
It might not be one to read if you hate open endings. There’s no reassurance that the characters will be OK or if everyone is doomed. It’s left up to the reader to decide what happens next but it is also very fitting with the themes of the book. We have lost communication with our characters as they have lost communication with the world.
Time didn’t matter any more. The only reason to keep track of time was to stay connected with the outside world, but without any sort of connection it was meaningless.
The novel shares its name with a 1939 novel by Jean Rhys which I wasn’t previously aware of but it sounds like they share some themes, of loss, loneliness and vulnerability. There is also a character from the past called Jean which could well be a nod to its namesake.
Good Morning, Midnight is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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