Today’s team review comes from Barb. She blogs here https://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Inside Out by Thorne Moore
I can make this a very short review by saying you really should just go buy Inside Out. You’ll thank me.
Still reading? Okay, here goes.
What do a zombie apocalypse, a western, a dystopian epic, and a spaceship have in common? I think it’s that they’re usually stories of the triumph of regular people. The people who go from delivering pizzas, staffing civil service jobs, driving buses—any of the not-famous, not-rich, not successful people who blend into the background. Then something happens: a virus wipes out the wealthy/beautiful/powerful, leaving the normal ones to band together for survival. Or zombies get really into eating brains until the bus driver and pizza guy pick up an axe and a torch. Or the bad guys are rustling their cattle and disrespecting their daughters, so the farmers pick up their rifles and defend their town from people with bad haircuts and excess facial hair.
Or even better: they hop on a spaceship and head for the final frontier where the Future is as full of boundless possibilities as space itself (unless it’s one of those stories where aliens come ripping out of their chests, which I’m happy to report this isn’t). Inside Out tells the story of the spaceship Heloise and of seven ordinary passengers on a year long voyage. At first it’s a glittery space cruise with a suave and genial captain. As passengers gamble, drink, and generally manage to ignore the fact that they’re sailing through space, the seven grudgingly share the only thing they have in common: their contracted agreement to spend the next seven years on Triton doing whatever they’re told to do. If all goes as planned, they’ll come home with wealth and security. If they make it that far.
Midway through the cruise, everything changes. The tourists depart at the edge of ‘civilized’ space, the glittery trappings are discarded, and the Heloise is refitted to face the realities of the frontier. Shocked, the seven try various ways to change their agreed fate and avoid their delivery to Triton as cargo. It is, of course, far too late for that.
Captain and crew shed their smart uniforms to reveal blade-sharp warriors with their own agenda. And the seven change too, or more accurately—discover or reveal their true selves. They have half a year of travel, and only that much time to make themselves indispensable to the brutal reality of life on Triton.
There are wonderful subplots and rifs on old memes (including the captain who has just explained the cold hard facts of space life to his hapless cargo but ends by telling them to “live long and prosper”). There are many and obvious references to medieval lovers Abelard and Héloïse, two of the most brilliant 12th-century scholars of their day whose romance suffered a setback when her family had him castrated. (No, this isn’t a spoiler for a literal plot point, so you can all just uncross those legs.)
But what I loved most about this book has almost nothing to do with its genre or tropes. You could close your eyes and the story would work well in anything from the Old West to Interbellum. Because what’s really going on is the subtle realization that the Triton-bound passengers are on a journey to become exactly who they’re meant to be—with the help of the Heloise’s Pygmalion-like captain, of course. And all the while, we see tiny reveals, get hints, and finally realize what his goals are as well. Or as Smith suggests, “Ask him what happened to Heloise.”
I can’t end without an awestruck bow to the world-building AFTERWARD, which shows up…well, afterward. And yes, I know I said this plot could be set almost any place and time. But that’s not good enough for author Thorne Moore, who has a fantastically elaborate world spelling out the stakes, the players, and the epic scale of the stage. Hopefully, it’s a sign of more to come in the wonderful character-driven world she’s created.
Triton station, Outer Circles headquarters of Ragnox Inc, on the moon of Neptune, is as far as the intrepid can go. It’s a place to make money, lots of money, and for seven lucky travellers, bound for Triton on the ISF Heloise, that’s exactly what they intend to do.
Maggy Jole wants to belong. Peter Selden wants to escape. Abigail Dieterman wants to be free. Merrit Burnand wants to start again. Christie Steen wants to forget. No one knows what David Rabiotti wants. And Smith, well, Smith wants everything.
Does it really matter what they want? The journey to Triton will take them eleven months – eleven months to contemplate the future, come to terms with the small print of their contracts, and wish they’d never signed. But changing their minds is not an option.
Sometimes it really is better to travel… than arrive.