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Good Morning, Midnight: A Novel by Lily…

Good Morning, Midnight: A Novel (2016)

by Lily Brooks-Dalton

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3672948,926 (3.79)17
For readers of Station Eleven and The Snow Child, Lily Brooks-Dalton's haunting debut is the unforgettable story of two outsiders--a lonely scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth--as they grapple with love, regret, and survival in a world transformed. NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SHELF AWARENESS AND THE CHICAGO REVIEW OF BOOKS * COLSON WHITEHEAD'S FAVORITE BOOK OF 2016 (Esquire) Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone. At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home. As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton's captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart. Praise for Good Morning, Midnight "Stunningly gorgeous . . . The book contemplates the biggest questions--What is left at the end of the world? What is the impact of a life's work?"--Portland Mercury  "A beautifully written, sparse post-apocalyptic novel that explores memory, loss and identity . . . Fans of Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven and Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora will appreciate the Brooks-Dalton's exquisite exploration of relationships in extreme environments."--The Washington Post   "Ambitious . . . Brooks-Dalton's prose lights up the page in great swathes, her dialogue sharp and insightful, and the high-concept plot drives a story of place, elusive love, and the inexorable yearning for human contact."--Publishers Weekly "Beautiful descriptions create a sense of wonder and evoke feelings of desolation. . . . Brooks-Dalton's heartfelt debut novel unfolds at a perfect pace as it asks readers what will be left when everything in the world is gone."--Booklist "Good Morning, Midnight is a remarkable and gifted debut novel. Lily Brooks-Dalton is an uncanny chronicler of desolate spaces, whether it's the cold expanse of the universe or the deepest recesses of the human heart."--Colson Whitehead "With imagination, empathy, and insight into unchanged and unchangeable human nature, Lily Brooks-Dalton takes us on an emotional journey in this beautiful debut."--Yiyun Li "A truly original novel, otherworldly and profoundly human . . . Good Morning, Midnight is a fascinating story, surprising and inspiring at every turn."--Keith Scribner… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
There were a few things to this novel that I quite enjoyed, such as the level of description of the mundane life aboard the spacecraft that had seen Jupiter. That whole part of the story was like a slightly better written Clarke in 2001, but without the drama or conflict.

And that's where my problems really stem from, too. The main conflict is silence. Literally. The Earth has gone silent after an unmentioned apocalypse and what we're really got going on in the novel is two character studies between a broken, self-isolating man named Augustine and his entire life and death in an arctic wasteland (avoiding the rest of the Earth's catastrophe), and the few returning people within the spacecraft with the PoV focus coming from Sully.

It's a novel of isolation and loneliness. Plain and simple. I assume the end for Augustine was a fever dream revolving around the realization that it's not good to be alone, while Sully's decision stemmed from the same stark, bare hope.

It almost feels like a traditional mainstream novel that has been souped-up a bit to slide into the SF category. There's no breathtaking ideas, just the reliance on Emily Dickenson to carry the core concept of a whole novel. It's decent as far as that goes, but that's all it does. A long character study of self-isolation and realization with two characters who are mildly interesting and wind up in mildly interesting situations, both of which are the results of their decisions.

But me? I wanted to know more of the core mystery. There's never a resolution and that was intentional. I ask why, and alas, this is my issue, my burden, and the reason I didn't care so much for this novel. I could find picture of a lone mountain climber looking over a precipice to get the same emotions and it wouldn't take me a whole novel's length to get there.

Others might get more out of this, and I wish you all the luck in the world! ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I originally gave this 4 stars but after sleeping on it, I wonder if 3 stars would be better. The prose is wonderful and deserves 5 stars. Beautifully told ... I couldn’t stop reading and felt both the loneliness and sense of infinity. However, the twist at the end was just too much. ( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
The only explanation I have for this book is that the author thought the entire work could stand on the strength of the writing with no regard for plot development or plausibility. It's written well, but that's not enough to overcome the enormous flaws. To avoid spoilers, I'll keep them vague in the first half of this review:

1) The entire premise, and the way it plays out for the protagonists, is completely implausible and unrealistic.

2) A major piece of character background is ridiculously improbable - less likely than getting hit by lightning twice.

3) Character development involves two tired tricks of 3rd-rate fiction.

4) There are also two related but hackneyed plot developments in the resolution of the story.

Explanations for each of these are in the spoiler text below.

1) The story involves an old astronomer in the arctic and a crew of 5 astronauts returning from Jupiter. Somehow, a catastrophe strikes Earth and none of these people know anything about it. What possible catastrophe would leave these people so completely in the dark? No matter what catastrophe one considers (nuclear war, chemical warfare, disease, zombies, environmental disaster, etc.), these folks would get some inkling about it as the situation went sideways and/or in the aftermath. Worse, this is never resolved for the reader, presumably because it's a book about the people and not the catastrophe, but really because there's no plausible catastrophe that would play out this way, so it's left unexplained.

2) One of the astronauts turns out to be the abandoned daughter of the old astronomer, although they never discover this about each other. It's implied partway through the book, and then explicitly confirmed in the end. The odds of this happening in the tiny group survivors is ridiculously low, but it's presumably intended as a shocking twist.

3) The old man is stranded with an 8 year old girl left behind at the arctic base, but it turns out she's a figment of his imagination, and a projection of the abandoned daughter he never got to see. Except... see #2. The "it was all in his head" plot device is pretty tired, as is "it turns out they're related."

4) The ending has the astronauts drawing straws to see who gets to return to Earth - literally drawing straws. For a bonus, one of the astronauts subsequently sacrifices his slot so that the astronomer's daughter can go in his place. Both of those devices are terribly unoriginal.

These flaws would all warrant one star if it wasn't for the better-than-average writing. I really enjoyed the writing, but as the book wore on and more of these flaws came to light, it all became increasingly annoying.

( )
  tombrown | Feb 21, 2020 |
Very quiet, lovely book. ( )
  KatyBee | Mar 30, 2019 |
This story is post-apocalyptic, but with no details of what actually happened to cause the loss of life. Instead, the focus is on character development and feelings. The book is small, but I did not find it to be a quick read. The common style of two stories being followed with alternating chapters is used. The first half or so of the book dragged on a little too much for me. ( )
  niquetteb | Jan 30, 2019 |
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I heave myself out of the darkness slowly, painfully. And there I am, and there he is . . . -- Jean Rhys
For Gordon Brooks
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When the sun finally returned to the Arctic Circle and stained the gray sky with blazing streaks of pink, Augustine was outside, waiting.
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