cover image World Running Down

World Running Down

Al Hess. Angry Robot, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-915202-23-9

Spunky, scrappy, and earnest, the heroes—both human and AI—of Hess’s wildly entertaining latest (after Hep Cats of Boise) make pitch-perfect guides through a dystopian near-future Utah in which prospects are dismal for the nonprivileged classes. At its heart, this is a love story between a trans man and a fully sentient and self-aware android: scavenger Valentine and Osric, respectively, who are thrown together on a job to track down runaway android sex workers. The pair bond through their shared experiences of discrimination and discomfort in their bodies and, when they learn the androids have achieved sentience and want to be free, they’re united in their desire to help. Hess uses android bodies to offer additional insight into the trans experience, focusing on issues of autonomy and self-discovery. At the same time, readers are confronted with timely questions about ethics and morality in the realm of AI. The author handles these threads masterfully, intertwining them through a rip-roaring adventure plot helmed by characters whose vitality and hope one can’t help but root for. Fans of speculative fiction and inventive queer stories will delight in this playful and lovingly crafted romp. Agent: Ren Balcombe, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.)