World Running Down

Angry Robot. Feb. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781915202239. pap. $15.99. SF
In a dystopian future, Valentine Weis makes his living as a salvager in the Utah desert while dreaming of life in Salt Lake City. For a trans man like Valentine, Salt Lake City means a chance to medically transition and end his struggles with body dysphoria. Valentine’s dreams suddenly seem much closer to becoming reality when Osric, an AI-turned-android with body dysphoria of his own, arrives with a business proposition that will enable Valentine to move to the city. However, through his growing friendship with Osric, Valentine begins to question whether Salt Lake City is the utopia he imagined. Hess explores several intersectional issues of gender and personhood through the lives of Valentine and Osric, both of whom are navigating bodies they feel ill at ease in while struggling to navigate the ethics of treating AI and androids as less-than-human.
VERDICT Engaging prose and compelling dialogue make this novel an easy read that will appeal to teen and adult readers who enjoy sci-fi that addresses social justice issues. This is the traditionally published debut novel from Hess, who has previously written the self-published “Travelers” and “Hep Cats of Boise” series.
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