“The Outside”

Ada Hoffmann

Two books in a row that get a lot of use out of the word ‘heresy,’ that’s a bit of an odd coincidence.

I also quite enjoyed this. Midway through I texted a friend of mine that I could very clearly see one of the influences of this book—Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence. I stand by that. It took a bit of hand-waving about the way AI works, but Hoffmann found a reasonable explanation for why AI would bother keeping humanity around. Frankly, it’s one of the good outcomes; sure, we’re basically cattle, but hey, at least we’re wagyu.

And that, right there, was what made the setting so fascinating. Humanity as the tame feedstock for the AIs, which went ahead and declared themselves Gods. (And, yes, they are referred to with the capital ‘G’ throughout.) They are the Gods, and they grant us useful technology like interstellar travel and clean energy, but we’re also kicked back to 1950s computer technology, because anything more modern gets too close to their turf. And that’s where the use of ‘heresy’ comes back into play.

It gets more interesting than that, but that’s also getting into spoiler territory, so I’ll stop there.

One other thing to note that I quite liked about the book was how well it fit in a diverse cast. The protagonist is neuroatypical, and her love interest is a woman—a fact which is, in fact, never remarked upon by anyone. To borrow a meme, this is the future liberals want.1

All in all, I found this to be quite a good read, and do recommend it. Check it out.2

  1. Another thing I’ll stand by. Seriously, go read Superintelligence – being feedstock, after our death, for the AIs is pretty close to the best-case scenario for humanity.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

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