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Skyward Inn, by Aliya Whiteley

Review copy provided by the publisher.

In some ways this is a very centrally science fiction story. It is about humans and aliens learning to live with each other, and the central question of the book seems to be: can there be a middle ground between their ways of relating? This book is middle-term future–much of how humanity is living now has been revised, though not wholly rejected, and alien influence is not the only or even the main reason.

But in other ways the tone, the voice of this book are not at all typical of the genre. There is an intimacy of voice that I have been dearly wanting in science fiction novels, a focus on the relationships Jem and her son Fosse have with each other but also with the rest of their world. Worlds. That tight focus shares a lot with some literary novels and with some of my favorite SF of the past. Whiteley shares a science fiction more with Marta Randall than with Isaac Asimov, and this book is all the better for it.

I don’t want to give away the details of the cultural and biological differences at stake here, because watching them unfold gently and naturally is part of the great fun of the book. It’s a lovely meditation on how humans relate, though, and I’m so glad to see something like this coming out at a time when being thoughtful of our own humanity is incredibly important. (And really…when isn’t it.)

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