The cover of this one caught my eye – and the fact that it is an Angry Robot book by a female author unknown to me. So I was delighted when I was approved to read it…
The Pride of Jai was supposed to be humanity’s greatest accomplishment—a space station made entirely by humans and their primitive computers, without “divine” cyber-technology provided by the sentient quantum supercomputers worshipped as Gods. And it was supposed to be a personal triumph for its young lead scientist, physicist Yasira Shien, whose innovative mathematics was key to the reactor powering it. But something goes wrong—placing Yasira in the sights of angry Angels, the cyborg servants of the Gods…
I’ve tweaked and streamlined the very chatty blurb, but this original, dystopian science fiction adventure features brilliant Yasira Shien, who happens to be on the autistic spectrum and gay. I liked the main protagonist, whose autism was convincingly depicted throughout, especially when she was in difficult situations – which happened a lot, especially when everything went to hell in a handcart on The Pride of Jai. Her emotions around Tiv, her lover, are clearly strong but curiously limited in the manner in which she thinks of her and describes her – but that also chimes with her being autistic. Her mentor, Dr Talirr, also one of the main characters, is also autistic but more profoundly affected than Yasira in that she struggles to connect with anyone – except Yasira, and even then she finds it very difficult, except in a time of ultimate crisis, to reach out to her. I thought it heartening to have two major characters so atypical and I think Hoffmann has brilliantly depicted them.
In contrast to the two main human protagonists is the main antagonist, Akavi. He/It is a cyborg angel charged with preventing the Outside – a fractured quantum-like reality that twists and warps our own space-time continuum and anyone unfortunate to get caught up in it – from breaking through. And when the Outside does manifest, Akavi has the task of hushing up the whole incursion. This cyborg has been designed to interact effectively with humans, persuading them to trust and rely on him, all the while well aware that if he doesn’t sort out the problem, he is likely to be effectively killed. As he is immortal, this is a very big deal – and in comparison, human lives are of little consequence, so he doesn’t mind if a number of them are killed in the process. Although no one wants to provoke mortals into rebelling again as the last time that happened, the war was messy and killed far too many of them. Besides, the cyborg angels need humanity.
If you’re thinking this is an intriguing set-up, you’re right. Overall, I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this ambitious sci fi adventure, which effectively raised questions such as – what is it that makes us human? What is the nature of reality and how do we define it when it starts fraying at the edges? And how do we ultimately define ourselves? Highly recommended for fans of intelligent science fiction adventure featuring atypical protagonists. While I obtained an arc of The Outside from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
I’ve been wanting to read a review of this book, I’m so glad you loved it. I was tempted to accept a review copy but it came at a time when I just had roo many books to read. It sounds like something I’d love😁
Funnily enough, I did wonder if you’d got hold of this one as it seemed right up your street. I highly recommend it:)
“The human on space with Robot who turns evil” gimmick is becoming a bit overused I feel
Oh dear! I’ve clearly not expressed what this book is about very well if that’s what you’ve taken away from my review… The cyborgs aren’t innately evil, more ruthlessly pragmatic – and represent Order against the chaos of the Outside. While I won’t deny that the alien thingy breaking through is a tried and tested trope – Hoffmann’s spin on it is genuinely original…
Hmm. Okay , maybe I misunderstood , I’ll try to find a copy
And now – I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy it:)))
I also had my eye on this one but I’m so fully loaded with books at the moment that I had to behave. Great review. Makes me long for more time in the day so I can fit everything in.
Oh I know how that feels! But I’m campaigning for a clone, instead…
Intriguing indeed! And the cover image (are those tentacles? or rather… cybernetic tentacles?) promises an engrossing story, not to mention that your description of these oh-so-flawed characters is a plus as far as my interest is concerned 🙂
Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Maddalena:) Yes… I think they are cybernetic tenacles – the blurb talks of a Lovecraftian-type universe representing the Outside.
Ohhhh! I was already intrigued, but you had me at “Lovecraftian” 🙂
Yes… I would just say it’s a quantum version of the alternate universe idea, but the fear of the terrible consequences should the Outside break through certainly have Lovecraftian overtones.
This sounds so interesting, especially all of those big questions that it raised for you.
Yes – as I hope is apparent, I was very impressed with the ambition and scope of this book.
This sounds like a very interesting read. And, of course, I simply can’t get my eyes off that cover. It’s stunning!