THE OUTSIDE by Ada Hoffmann.
Angry Robot Books. p/b. £10.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
The Pride of Jai is the first space station to be built by humans, not gods. Dr. Yasira Shien is head of the team responsible for power generation of the revolutionary space station but that doesn’t stop her colleagues from holding Yasira’s youth and relative inexperience against her. It also means they don’t listen when she tells them there is a problem.
Yasira knows something is wrong with the Shien Reactor, even though by all appearances everything seems as it should be. She designed it and she knows something is not right; she can feel it. Unfortunately the one person who might have been able to help her, her doctoral mentor, has gone missing. As if she did not already have enough on her mind, a grand opening ceremony and an excited crowd await her.
This is a world where human-created AI Gods now rule the galaxy, Priests have God-technology installed in their heads and angels exist. The Gods rule with a firm hand and very clear boundaries. They were watching. They knew about the space station, and now Nemesis’ angel, Akavi, has been sent after Yasira to clean up the mess and track down the missing scientist.
With a protagonist who is gay and autistic, a prominent character who shapeshifts gender, and an examination of ‘madness’, this book explores the boundaries of equality and challenges perceptions and assumptions. As a heroine Yasira has a lot to offer. She is highly intelligent, analytical and above all else wonderfully human with logically explored morals and emotions.
The Outside has all the amusement and drama of a space opera but is heavy on the science as well as being crammed with all the emotional and human concerns. It presents a well-conceived future earth and somehow does all of this whilst keeping the focus very much on Yasira and her story. The pace, thankfully, is slow and steady, allowing time to absorb and attempt to understand the mathematics and science among what is happening. An enjoyable read and hopefully not the last we hear of Yasira.