cover image The Outside

The Outside

Ada Hoffmann. Angry Robot, $12.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-85766-813-4

Cosmic horror, grad school politics, and neuroatypicality meet in Hoffmann’s gripping debut, a 28th-century technotheocratic space thriller that blossoms with hope. The Shien Reactor is autistic physicist Yasira Shien’s crowning achievement: power for the first human-built space station in a universe where soul-collecting AI gods hoard any technology more advanced than vacuum tubes. When the reactor’s reality-destabilizing failure hints at interference from Yasira’s vanished graduate supervisor, Dr. Evianna Talirr, she is forcibly recruited by Akavi Averis, a prickly inquisitor serving Nemesis, god of heretics, to bring Dr. Talirr to justice. But tracking Dr. Talirr into the physics-defying Outside risks Yasira’s sanity—and forces her to decide for herself which “abnormal” lives are worth living. Hoffmann confidently layers morality and disability rights into a breezily told adventure that bursts with sheer fun. Yasira’s autistic qualities benefit her without being treated like superpowers, and her grumpy sincerity convinces readers that, even in the direst circumstances, the gently “hacked-together” future is worth saving. This beautifully smart, uncynical space opera will charm fans of Charles Stross and Lois McMaster Bujold. Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Associates. (June)