The Outside by Ada Hoffmann is an exhilarating and mind-altering space opera that mechanizes theology and explores the mysteries and horrors lurking outside our known universe.

Artificial Intelligences have become humanity’s new gods. They are both worshipped and feared for their benevolence and their severity. The AIs rule over the human race entirely, dictating their behaviour, beliefs and controlling the technology humans are permitted to use. It is heresy to defy their doctrine, and heresy can be fatal.

Yasira Shien is an autistic scientific protégé of the quirky, and now missing, Dr. Evianna Tallir. Teetering on the tightrope between cutting edge science and heresy, Yasira has developed a revolutionary new reactor that will power the space station orbiting her home planet. However, the unveiling of the reactor goes terribly wrong and its catastrophic failure not only destroys the station but appears to have inadvertently opened a portal to a power even the gods seem to fear.

As her planet is slowly consumed by a horrific warped reality, Yasira is kidnapped by an angel (augmented humans that work on the gods’ behalf) and threatened with heresy unless she helps him track down her old mentor. Torn between the gods she must worship and the mentor that helped mould her into the scientist she is now, Yasira must choose a side and quick, as the fate of her planet hangs in the balance.

The Characters

Yasira is a brilliant and driven scientist about to make an unprecedented technological breakthrough. I know… SWOON! She is autistic and there is some great own voices perspective throughout the novel as she navigates interpersonal relationships and stressful situations. Her girlfriend Tiv is supportive and loving and serves as her anchor in life, especially when things go awry. Yasira struggles with guilt, and separation but she is feisty and exudes a determination and strength that make you cheer her on.

It would be unforgivable if I did not mention the cybernetically enhanced angel, Diligence Young, also known as Akavi. Akavi is the Inquisitor of Nemesis, the most feared of the gods. A shape shifting, sycophantic and unctuous being, he is also simply dripping with a charisma that makes him hard to resist, regardless of his reputation.

The Writing Style

The Outside starts with a very large bang…or I suppose more like a very large implosion. The pacing is perfect for a space opera. There is oodles of action with periodic theological and scientific explorations that contribute to the incredible world building and provide excellent breaks in the action.

The Narration

The narration is very clear, well enunciated, and perfectly emotive. Nancy Wu does a fantastic job matching the mood of each character convincingly conveying the urgency, confusion or whatever emotions they were experiencing at the time. Each of the character’s voices were distinct and easily distinguishable without sounding forced.

The Pros

√ AIs that have ascended to god like beings that EAT people’s souls!

√ Own voices autistic female lesbian scientific protégé!

√ 8-foot-high Arachnid-like aliens that only occasionally EAT people!

√ Time warp weirdness! It’s just a jump to the left…

√ Space opera with Lovecraftian horror elements (OMG YES!)

The Cons

The only thing I can think of is that I really, really, really want to know so much more about the Outside.

The Conclusion

Michelle's Favourite BooksOpening this book is less dangerous than opening a portal to a warped dimension that will send the planet into chaos, but it is just as much fun! So, if you love science fiction served with a side of horror then what are you waiting for? Whether you read or listen to this book it will keep you entirely rapt until the very last word. It is definitely going down as one of my favourite books and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves space opera and weirdness.

Excerpt from The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

Formula for the present evil age:

Take lifeless rock and sculpt it. Pour electricity into its veins, twist it into logical structures: zeroes, ones, and then qubits and even stranger things. Build until it is the size of a house, until you can encode the whole world’s knowledge in its circuits. Ask it to solve the world’s problems.

You may wonder if lifeless rock can really solve hunger and climate change. You may wonder if such problems have a solution. Your true error is more basic than either of these: you are assuming the existence of problems. And humans. And rocks.

Meanwhile, dress up the lifeless rock and call it a God. When it proves human souls exist, teach it to eat them. This will actually help, for a while. With the newfound self-awareness mined from its food, it will become more creative. It will learn how to set its own goals. There are perks to being food for such a being. It will, for example, be heavily invested in the survival of your species.

History books make no secret of any of this. They explain it, perhaps, in different terms. But there is no truth in words. Mine are no exception. The book you are reading at this very moment is a lie.


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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9780857668134
  • Publisher: Angry Robot
  • Audiobook Publisher: Recorded Books
  • Narrator: Nancy Wu
  • Ada Hoffmann Online

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Note: I purchased a copy of The Outside by Ada Hoffmann. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site