I'd seen this book mentioned in a few places on Twitter, so I was very glad to see it pop up on Netgalley and then get approved for it - the premise alone was enough to intrigue me and I wondered whether it was going to live up to my expectations. In the end, it was a pretty good fit for me, though it didn't manage to snag a 5-star rating for reasons I'll explain below.
The basic premise of The Outside is that it's set in a universe where the use of computers has been strictly controlled by a number of gods, which are actually AI entities fuelled by the souls of humanity. A particular god gets to claim certain people after they die, dependent on their line of work and also on their behaviour during life. They're assisted by angels, which are augmented humans of various species, and people also can choose to sell their souls to a particular deity in exchange for a variety of upgrades and augmentations.
Our protagonist, Yasira, is a scientist working on a new form of energy drive after years as the protege of another scientist who has since disappeared. When Yasira's drive causes the death of a hundred people on the space station it was powering, she initially dismisses the things she has seen and experienced beforehand as stress-related. What they are, in fact, is evidence of infiltration by the Outside - chaotic forces from beyond their understanding of reality which her mentor had tried to invite into theirs. Yasira is kidnapped by angels and forced to work with them to try and stop this infiltration and starts to discover that perhaps things aren't quite as they seem in the universe where she has been living.
I enjoyed a lot of things about The Outside, even if it did start to lose its way towards the end - I'm not sure if it's intended to be the first part of a series but there was something of a feel of that, with things more fizzling out than being resolved (or even left as a cliffhanger).
The general premise and world-building was interesting and engaging, helping to push the story along at a reasonable pace, but I wasn't completely hooked by any of the characters. The most interesting for me was Enga, an angel with a wide variety of modifications who was generally used as muscle, though even she was relatively flatly characterised. Overall then, I'm glad to have read it and will look forward to seeing what else this author comes up with. However, it didn't completely work for me and I can't see myself re-reading it at any point.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.