In general, I’m not the biggest fan of science fiction. But the wonderful Caroline over at Angry Robot tempted me to read this duology by telling me that it is not only written by an autistic author but features an autistic main character. As I am of the firm opinion that we need more neurodivergent leads in fiction, I could not resist and dove in head first – and I was not disappointed!
Many thanks to Angry Robot for sending me review copies of these books. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 11/06/2019 (The Outside) / 13/07/2021 (The Fallen)
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
THE OUTSIDE: Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard. The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor. With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.
THE FALLEN: The laws of physics acting on the planet of Jai have been forever upended; its surface completely altered, and its inhabitants permanently changed, causing chaos. Fearing heresy, the artificially intelligent Gods that once ruled the galaxy became the planet’s jailers.
Tiv Hunt, who once trusted these Gods completely, spends her days helping the last remaining survivors of Jai. Everyone is fighting for their freedom and they call out for drastic action from their saviour, Tiv’s girlfriend Yasira. But Yasira has become deeply ill, debilitated by her Outside exposure, and is barely able to breathe, let alone lead a revolution.
Hunted by the Gods and Akavi, the disgraced angel, Yasira and Tiv must delve further than ever before into the maddening mysteries of their fractured planet in order to save – or perhaps even destroy – their fading world. (both from Angry Robot)
OPINIONS: So, as mentioned above, the best thing about these books is that they are written by an autistic author and feature an autistic lead. Pure catnip for me. And she is so well-written. Yasira isn’t a caricature or a broken person – she is a scientist who faces an added set of challenges due to her disability. It’s brilliant that she is not only the lead in the series, but she is given a romantic storyline with her girlfriend Tiv, showing that autistic people aren’t incapable of love as it is often (VERY WRONGLY) said.
This is packaged in a thrilling story of angels, so-called Gods and survival in space. The books are compelling and keep you up late reading as the characters undergo trials and struggles, and face betrayals from unexpected places. The duology mixes fun space opera with smart science fiction, and blends them to create something unique that really stands out. In the richly-built world, the humans have engineered their own overlords through AI gone wrong, and Yasira and her team have to work to retain their independence and survive.
Fast-paced, queer, diverse and unique, what more could you want from books – and The Outside and The Fallen have convinced even me, the most reluctant science fiction reader, to be more open to reading far more of the genre (and I am reading quite a few at the moment and have since I read those!). Definitely recommend checking these books out if they sound even the slightest bit interesting to you.