Review—Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

In the young adult debut from Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Will McIntosh, a group of disadvantaged teenagers from neighborhoods in New York take on a ruthless billionaire as they all try to find as many valuable, mysterious, ability-bestowing spheres as possible.

David Sullivan (known as Sully) and his friends Dominic Cucuzza (Dom), Mandy Toko, and Hunter search for spheres for the ability to leave their neighborhoods and have more opportunities in life. Billionaire CEO Alex Holliday is hunting for spheres so he can achieve even more fame and fortune. For most of the novel, Sully and Hunter work together to hunt for spheres of varying rarities—the more rare the sphere and the ability it bestows on the person who “burns” it, the higher the payoff—so they can each find a way out of their living situation.

Sully had once found an extremely rare sphere, a Cherry Red, and had sold it to Alex Holliday for millions of dollars, before the sphere ended up not benefiting Holliday and so he reversed payment on the check. As a result, Sully and his mother are living in circumstances worse than paycheck-to-paycheck. If Sully doesn’t score an extremely rare sphere soon, he and his mother will have to move to Pennsylvania, and Sully will have to finish high school away from his friends.

Burning Midnight

Hunter is a headstrong, independent young woman who is virtually homeless, has no guardian, and lives in an apartment with twenty other people. She rents space on the floor to sleep on, but has nowhere to truly call home.

Sully and Hunter learn about each other and grow closer as they continue their search for rare spheres, and when, after enlisting Dom and Mandy to help, they find the rarest sphere ever—a Gold—they realize their lives are going to change forever. Problematically, though, Alex Holliday has learned what they have, and he will do anything, legal or illegal, to get it from them.

The four of them must decide not only what to do to protect themselves from Holliday, but to survive what comes after, which is something nobody expects.

Spheres bestowing abilities is an interesting concept. Who wouldn’t want to “burn” spheres that could give you perfect recall, perfect teeth, or help you sleep? There are holdouts, though, like Mandy, who say if you don’t know where something comes from, why would you allow it into your body? Once the novel reaches a certain point, it seems as though the spheres are a metaphor for drugs, and the climax of the novel a cautionary tale of what happens if you abuse too many spheres—or drugs. I don’t mean to say that the metaphorical meaning of the spheres detracts from the book, because McIntosh sets a pace and keeps the reader there, but the metaphor was easy to see.

Science fiction-loving teens will love this book, as will those who appreciate a good Twilight Zone-esque cautionary tale.

Burning Midnight banner

About the Book:
Title: BURNING MIDNIGHT
Author: Will McIntosh
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Pages: 320
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

For fans of The Maze Runner and The Fifth Wave, this debut YA novel from Hugo Award winner Will McIntosh pits four underprivileged teens against an evil billionaire in the race of a lifetime.

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent. No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

About Will:

Will McIntosh Author Photo

Will McIntosh’s debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, was a finalist for both a Locus award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He is a frequent contributor to Asimov’s, where his story “Bridesicle” won the 2010 Reader’s Award, as well as the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. His third novel, Love Minus Eighty (based on “Bridesicle”) was published by Orbit books in June, 2013, and was named best Science Fiction novel of the year by the American Library Association. His upcoming novel, Defenders has been optioned by Warner Brothers for a feature film. Will recently moved to Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife Alison and twins Hannah and Miles. He left his position as a psychology professor in Southeast Georgia to write full time, and still teaches as an adjunct, at the College of William and Mary. Will is represented by Seth Fishman at The Gernert Company. Follow him on Twitter @WillMcIntoshSF

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Be sure to enter the giveaway for a finished copy of Burning Midnight (US only)! Three readers will win!

Check out the rest of the stops on this week’s tour for Burning Midnight!

2/3/2016: The Cover Contessa
4/2016: Two Chicks on Books
2/5/2016: Eli to the nth

2 thoughts on “Review—Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

    • I had mixed feelings. It was one of those things I saw coming, and thought it was kind of “meh” and almost an easy way out, if that makes sense. But very sci-fi/invasion of the body snatchers. Interested to see what you think!

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