Review: Half the Day Is Night by Maureen F. McHugh

Half the Day Is Night Book Cover Half the Day Is Night
Maureen F. McHugh
Science Fiction
January 30, 1996

War veteran David Dai has come to ocean-bottom Caribe to work as bodyguard to Mayla Ling, banker and scion to the undersea city's old-money set. But as Mayla negotiates the biggest deal of her life, she draws the attention of terrorists who threaten to plunge her, and David, back into the nightmare of his violent past.

My Review

I had high hopes for Half the Day Is Night by Maureen F. McHugh. Sadly, while the book has the most amazing world-building and realistic characters, it fails to provide the tension and suspense this story desperately needs.

Half the Day Is Night is a science fiction novel that’s also presented as a thriller (as the book jacket describes). Supposedly, it’s a thrilling ride through the lives of David Dai and Mayla Ling, the story’s protagonists. However, David and Mayla’s lives appear so realistic that the pace and story end up becoming quite dull.

The story takes place in Caribe and its city of Julia that resides underwater in a protective dome. David is hired as Mayla’s new bodyguard. David has a history in the military and decides to take the position as a bodyguard with the hope of leaving his violent past behind. But he faces a slight opposition when he finds that Tim, Mayla’s old bodyguard, is still hanging around.

Mayla is an influential banker and her work and connections in Caribe make her the target of a terrorist organization. The in-depth details about Mayla’s work at the bank are lengthy and aren’t particularly interesting. Mayla’s banking deals head south and David decides to quit being a bodyguard. About midway through the story, the terrorists seem to disappear, and Mayla and David are simply on the run from the police. This is where I started losing interest in the book.

At this point, the novel simply follows Mayla and David through their daily lives, stresses, and the way they try to cope with change. However, the pacing is so slow and the description of David’s new job as a fish jockey didn’t interest me. The only parts of David’s life that I did like were his trips to the virtual reality arcade and the trouble he had with his kitten. But even these events weren’t enough to keep the book moving along at a good pace. I found myself wondering where the story was going and was there any point.

David is simply caught up in Mayla’s mess. As Mayla decides she’s had enough of living in Caribe and Julia, she sets out to escape and uses David to help. Their endeavors to leave the city in such a haste didn’t seem justified since there wasn’t a threat actively pursuing them.

This novel just didn’t cut it for me. There were a few typos in my copy of the book and the dialogue was a little difficult to follow at times. Even though I loved the futuristic Caribe, the setting alone wasn’t enough to keep me interested. The narration of David and Mayla’s lives just meanders on without a fulfilling end.

The story’s necessary tension is missing along with the element of suspense. Without which the story has no real drive and falls flat. In the end, the book’s resolution seemed so contrived that I felt cheated for having read the entire novel. I wish Half the Day Is Night was so much better with intriguing characters, an engaging plot, and a fulfilling ending. However, this book falls flat, left me disappointed, and upset that I had invested so much time in reading this.

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