A bit of a delayed review, as I finished this before the weekend - picked this one up courtesy of my local library, which have started getting better at ordering the kind of books I really want to read (and long may it continue!). I was also a bit ambivalent about The City in the Middle of the Night, as I'd read this author's previous book and had issues with some of it, but my concerns proved unfounded this time around.
This is a much more traditional (in some ways, at least) SF book, based on a colonised planet called January. This planet has never-ending days and nights, so the human colonists have adapted their lives to try and deal with that, Outside, in the darkness, there are also the original inhabitants of January, who get hunted at times for sport and for food. The initial chapters do a lot of setting up of the world in which our main characters live, with all four being women - two university students (one poor and one a spoiled rich kid) and two traders (one the last of her people, who practised a bizarre religion and were killed before she was technically an adult, and her sarcastic friend).
When Sophie takes the blame for a petty crime her roommate Bianca committed, she is sentenced to death by exposure but survives after coming into contact with the alien inhabitants everyone calls Crocodiles. Bianca is radicalised by the supposed death of her friend but her desire to right societal wrongs is ultimately betrayed by her selfishness and lack of understanding of anyone else. She sees Sophie's link to the Crocodiles, for example, as something to be exploited. In her pursuit of 'justice' for the people of her city, Bianca crosses paths with the others, mainly with Mouth who has lost her job as a smuggler on returning to the city, while Mouth discovers that her people were not only the religious community she believed them to be but had actually put all of the inhabitants of January at risk.
In the end, The City in the Middle of the Night is a beautifully-written book but looking back on it, didn't quite work for me as much as it seemed when I was reading it. Maybe it's because all four protagonists are flawed, some more than others, and some of what happens to them is the result of their own missteps. Sophie is the one who changes the most, both in terms of her ideas and physically, while her idol Bianca is just annoyingly shallow and self-absorbed. I fully expect to see this book on the shortlist for a number of awards next year but am still a long way from accepting the putative comparisons between this author and LeGuin.