RogerBW's Blog

The Outside, Ada Hoffmann 03 July 2024

2019 science fiction, first of a series though it stands well on its own. Yasira Shien's reactor design destroys a space station and kills a hundred people. But the gods give her a chance to redeem herself…

Yes, this is science fiction with gods, the developments of management systems that became self-aware and took over (this is all in the distant past, so no details here). Humans are thriving, but the gods and their agents, cybernetically enhanced "angels", are very much in control. And heresy is not to be tolerated.

Not that Yasira thought she was being heretical; the gods didn't disapprove of the project. But now she's forced to work for them to try to track down her old mentor, Dr Talirr, who has been conducting experiments with that which is Outside. Space is a lie. Time is a lie. The gods, our planets, our nations, our pathetic excuses for science: lies, lies, lies!

So, yeah. This is a post-Lovecraftian exploration of how reality breakdown might actually work, and how it might feel to someone involved in it. The gods have tremendous physical powers, and they can destroy a place that's become colonised by Outside, but they have no way of disentangling it from the people who are still there (and they're entirely ready to write them all off as heretics anyway). And Dr Talirr doesn't have all the answers either; Yasira spends much of her time trying to work out which of these two forces trying to use her for their own ends is less bad, before arriving at the only possible conclusion.

Some scientist Yasira was. Here in a secret heretical lair with all the secret heretical technology her heart could desire, and she was using it to drunk-dial people. She did not feel better.

There's genuine horror here, and not just in the obvious ways. There's an interesting world, living under the thumb of the gods who are after all benevolent, no really they are, this is for your own good. There are interestingly crunchy dives into distinctly non-hard-science areas. All right, the book is aimed pretty squarely at things Roger likes; and I did.

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