cover image Half the Day is Night

Half the Day is Night

Maureen F. McHugh. Tor Books, $21.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85479-9

McHugh's first novel, China Mountain Zhang (1992), was one of the most highly praised SF debuts in years, impressive for its well-realized future world, solid yet idiosyncratic characters and surehanded handling of assorted narrative viewpoints. Her second novel shares many of these virtues, confirming its author as one of the most promising new voices in the field-and yet this book feels a bit flat. Set in Julia, one of the submerged cities of Caribe, the story centers on war veteran David Dai, who takes a job as bodyguard to one of Julia's high-powered bankers, Mayla Ling. Terrorists make several violent attempts to stop Ling's deal-in-progress; Dai saves his employer each time, but he is disturbed by memories of his years of combat, so he abruptly quits and tries to return to the surface. He is now suspect in the eyes of the Julia police, forcing him to hide out in the city's lower levels and await a chance to escape. Ling, meanwhile, decides to leave Julia, in Dai's company if she can find him. McHugh portrays the world of Caribe with a fine detail rare in science fiction, evoking a believable sense of life in the future. The intrigue never heats up enough to produce much suspense, though, and neither Dai nor Ling is interesting enough to carry the book alone. (Oct.)