BOOK REVIEW: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Young Adult/Science Fiction
When the spheres had first appeared, it sent shock waves around the world. On TV, experts and pundits had debated where they came from all day. As the years went by, though, and no solid answers to the mystery materialized, everyone started taking the spheres’ existence for granted.
No one knows where they came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair of Mustard Yellows to boost your IQ, some Lemon Yellows to grow a little taller, a couple of Plums can help you forget terrible memories, and Olives can dull any pain. The rarer the spheres, the more you can sell them for, starting at around $100 for a pair of rarity ones, through to millions of dollars when dealing with anything upwards of a rarity seven.
Sully’s been working weekends at the flea market for the past four years selling spheres. Things are tight at the moment, and he needs a big score or he and his mother are going to be evicted, with his uncle’s basement their last refuge. And then Hunter enters his life, with a rarity three to sell and a chance for Sully to go sphere hunting with her.
Throw into the mix a famous sphere-dealing billionaire who cheated Sully out of $2.5 million when he was thirteen, a rarity five sphere, and something far more rare than any of them could have dared dream, and they’re about to find out the real story behind the spheres. What they are, why they’re here, where they came from…
The man who brought us Soft Apocalypse, Hitchers, Love Minus Eighty, and Defenders has turned his hand to the realm of young adult, and I, for one, am extremely grateful.
In a young adult landscape that is chock full of oh-so-much fantasy, Burning Midnight is a breath of fresh air. For so long there has been an overabundance of vampires, angels, demons, changelings, and magic. Recently we’ve seen an expansion on the science-fiction side of the divide, with more in the way of space travel, time travel, super powers, and apocalypses, but there is still so much room to explore in this category without telling the same story over and over again.
McIntosh explores elements of our world, with a twist that makes us see them in a whole new light.
In Burning Midnight he shines that light on consumerism and self-improvement. These spheres come out of nowhere and cost nothing, but in order to use them you need to have two. Many people don’t find even one in the wild, and hence we have a market for them.
How people initially worked out how to burn the spheres or that two were needed to do so is never revealed, but having that knowledge, and seeing the gifts the spheres bestow upon people who use them, people quickly stop asking questions.
So long as something works well for us, we don’t ask questions. And isn’t that just so true of the human condition?
McIntosh offers a fun, adventurous story that proves hard to put down, all while inviting us to take a closer look at those things we wouldn’t normally question and daring us to ask “what if?”
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