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Goodreads Review: Ada Hoffman’s The Outside

The Outside

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hope that everyone who’s eligible to vote for the Hugos is paying attention because Ada Hoffmann’s queer, neurodiverse, cosmic horror space opera is utterly and completely worthy of some serious recognition.

The back cover of Hoffmann’s 2019 debut novel, The Outside, has some small print at the bottom of the page. “File under: False Gods, Angels Inside, Autistic in Space, Here Be Monsters.” Highly accurate.

Physicist Yasira Shien creates an experimental energy drive which accidentally warps reality and destroys a space station. Instead of killing Yasira for the heresy she created, cybernetically enhanced Angelic beings working for an angry AI God order Yasira to find her missing mentor, uncover her secrets, and save her home world from being consumed by the Eldritch force known as Outside.

(While, to my knowledge, none of my mentors in the Physics department during grad school have turned out to be heretical space fugitives, it would explain some things).

Hoffmann’s worldbuilding is spare yet fully realized. The narrative is never bogged down with the minutia of how specific technologies work nor arcane details of the War which led to the rise of the AI Gods. Yasira’s experience as an Autistic being is multidimensional and nuanced. The artful balance of characterization and propulsive plot developments cost me a little sleep and left me petulant that Hoffmann doesn’t yet have any other novels published.

Fortunately, she’s published over 60 short stories and also posts to her blog. This recent post of her thoughts on Disability in Star Wars is excellent.

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