First Fiction Friday: The Walking Shadows series

September 3, 2021

Brenden Carlson is a science fiction writer to watch for: The Walking Shadows series is a gritty, tech-noir version of 1930s Manhattan with mobsters, killer machines, and Elias Roche, former police officer turned Mafia enforcer. In his follow-up to  Night Call,  Midnight brings Brenden’s fresh new voice to the genre, expanding its boundaries and capturing the attention of those who hope to explore technological plausibilities that may be in our near future.

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THE BOOK:  Midnight (Dundurn Press)

THE AUTHOR: Brenden Carlson is a chemist and D&D dungeon master with a love for hard science fiction, tabletop roleplaying games, and arthouse movies. A post-modernist by circumstance, he has a master’s degree in organic chemistry, focusing on the catalysis of isocyanides with other unpronounceable compounds. Combining his love of history and classic sci-fi authors, he began his writing career with The Walking Shadows science fiction series. He lives in St. Catharine’s, Ontario.


December, 1933. There is no good and evil, just complacency.

Brilliantly exploring the tensions that arise when technology surpasses human intelligence, the sequel to Night Call returns us to a gritty, alternate version of Manhattan, where the city has been split in two, semi-autonomous machines roam alongside humans as second-class citizens, and poverty and violence are inescapable. Masterfully crafting a tech-noir world with characters that are recognizable from our own, Brenden Carlson forces us into the action once more as his self-titled detective is called to investigate a killer hunting the mob and corporate officials, while simultaneously dodging a journalist who is eager to discover his past.

With cross-over appeal to sci-fi and mystery fans alike, Midnight brings Brenden’s fresh new voice to the genre, expanding its boundaries and capturing the attention of those who hope to explore technological plausibilities that may be in our near future.

The blending of these scientific advancements with a 1930s setting will not only satisfy tech enthusiasts but will force readers to grapple with the comparisons between the societies of the past and modern age, realizing, sadly, that they aren’t as different as we have been led to believe. While our detective is caught between the FBI, the mob, and politicians, ruthless in his race against the clock to catch the killer, there is a persistent undertone in this novel that calls into question the rise of radical white supremacy, nationalism, and drastic financial inequality.

On a smaller scale, Midnight is also about a man who is forced to reckon with a past that he’d rather forget, attempting to remake himself all while living in the same skin that performed such horrible acts. During a time where the world has pushed us to look in a mirror, readers should pick this book up now to feel validated if their “coming of age” didn’t look like they had intended. And to realize that despite that, that journey is still worth taking to becoming their best self.



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With alternate science fictional histories that call to mind Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and books by Michael Januska and Jonathan Lethem, Midnight by Brenden Carlson keeps readers flipping furiously through the pages as a mystery unfolds with a looming war and a terrifying time limit. 




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Thanks to Kristina at Dundurn Press for sharing Brenden Carlson's debut with us!  Midnight and Night Call are available for purchase on All Lit Up. 

For more debut fiction, check out our other  First Fiction Friday posts on All Lit Up. 




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