Coming soon! A brand new From My Bookshelf experience.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

World Running Down by Al Hess

The Cover to World Running Down by Al Hess

World Running Down

by Al Hess
Published by Angry Robot BooksFebruary 14, 2023
ISBN 978-1915202239 • Paperback • 312 Pages

To purchase any of the books in this post, click the links above!
By clicking on the links above, I may receive a small commission from the retailer.

To add your book to LibraryThing or Goodreads, click the links above!

Book description:
A transgender salvager on the outskirts of a dystopian Utah gets the chance to earn the ultimate score and maybe even a dash of romance. But there's no such thing as a free lunch…


Valentine Weis is a salvager in the future wastelands of Utah. Wrestling with body dysphoria, he dreams of earning enough money to afford citizenship in Salt Lake City – a utopia where the testosterone and surgery he needs to transition is free, the food is plentiful, and folk are much less likely to be shot full of arrows by salt pirates. But earning that kind of money is a pipe dream, until he meets the exceptionally handsome Osric.

Once a powerful AI in Salt Lake City, Osric has been forced into an android body against his will and sent into the wasteland to offer Valentine a job on behalf of his new employer – an escort service seeking to retrieve their stolen androids. The reward is a visa into the city, and a chance at the life Valentine’s always dreamed of. But as they attempt to recover the “merchandise”, they encounter a problem: the android ladies are becoming self-aware, and have no interest in returning to their old lives.

The prize is tempting, but carrying out the job would go against everything Valentine stands for, and would threaten the fragile found family that’s kept him alive so far. He’ll need to decide whether to risk his own dream in order to give the AI a chance to live theirs.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Finding Your Way | Everybody Hurts | Body Bound | City Dreams ]

Al Hess' World Running Down is the Mad Max-inspired-cozy-queer-trans-gay-AI-dystopian-romance of your dreams, and if you read that and don't think all of those descriptors should work together, you're wrong.

Valentine and his partner, Ace, are scavengers in the wastelands outside Salt Lake City. Their collective dream is to someday save enough money to be able to purchase visas to gain access to Salt Lake, where Valentine can finally receive the gender-affirming care he wants and deserves. When they are given a job that might be too good to be true, they jump at the chance because the payment is exactly what they want: money and visas to finally live in Salt Lake. Of course, nothing is as it seems, especially Osric, who recruits Val and Ace for the job. An AI Steward of the city, Osric was forced into an android body against his will, and wants nothing more than to return to the safety of his network. While both men are figuring their way out in the world and navigating bodies that they don't belong in, they are also tracking a collection of androids, dodging pirates, and possibly even falling in love.

There are so many subtle nuances to Hess' story: the struggles faced by anyone in the queer community, body dysmorphia, what constitutes free will and sentience, balancing what is right against what is the easiest thing to do, sociological prejudices, abusive employers, manipulative friends, all wrapped up it a perfectly realized world that is, in fact, running down. It is never made explicitly clear what went wrong, but it is made clear that the rich escaped and left behind those that couldn't afford to leave the planet to fend for themselves. While the people left behind do clearly try to better to each other, the class and wealth distinctions are still there. In fact, the most caring and humane of the characters, aside from Valentine and a handful of other humans, are the AI Stewards; their level of care, respect, and understanding of each other and their individual needs is thought provoking. And that's the crux of Hess' novel: to make you aware that caring, respecting, and understanding those around you can take you far and make you a better person, even when it seems like the world is crashing down around you.

Valentine is an endearing character who seems to have a heart too large for his own good, and Osric and his "big, sexy brain", are remarkable characters and getting to watch their love story unfold as they discover just as much about themselves as they do each other is a true treat. I can't recommend this book enough and I'm anxious to see what stories Hess has to tell us next.

A huge thanks to Angry Robot Books and NetGalley for the advanced reader copies in exchange for an honest review.

#alhess #angryrobotbooks #netgalley #worldrunningdown #queer #transgender #trans #queerbook #queerbooks #queerbookstagram #book #books #bookstagram #bookreview #arc #frommybookshelf #frommybookshelfblog

No comments: