World running down

Al Hess

Book - 2023

"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 Va...lentine'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"--

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1st Floor SCIENCE FICTION/Hess Al Checked In
Dystopian fiction
London, UK : Angry Robot [2023]
Main Author
Al Hess (author)
Physical Description
310 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Set on a slowly decaying Earth, Hess' latest novel follows Valentine, a transmasc salvager who dreams of one day acquiring citizenship in Salt Lake City and getting access to reliable health care. Returning from a routine mission with his disruptive partner, Ace, Valentine meets Osric, an android emissary from the city representing the wealthy Portia Thibodeaux. Portia wants Valentine and Ace to retrieve something and is dangling city visas to get it. More is at stake than meets the eye as Osric turns out to be one of the bodiless Stewards that administer the city, who was somehow illegally sold and downloaded into his first-ever physical body. Valentine and Osric will not only have to deal with their burgeoning feelings for one another but also with what Portia's plans really are and how they relate to the supposedly nonsentient androids of Salt Lake. Much more light and energetic than the usual dystopia, Hess' story of queer lovers in a variety of forms should please those looking for a diverting and fun queer-sf read.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Spunky, scrappy, and earnest, the heroes--both human and AI--of Hess's wildly entertaining latest (after Hep Cats of Boise) make pitch-perfect guides through a dystopian near-future Utah in which prospects are dismal for the nonprivileged classes. At its heart, this is a love story between a trans man and a fully sentient and self-aware android: scavenger Valentine and Osric, respectively, who are thrown together on a job to track down runaway android sex workers. The pair bond through their shared experiences of discrimination and discomfort in their bodies and, when they learn the androids have achieved sentience and want to be free, they're united in their desire to help. Hess uses android bodies to offer additional insight into the trans experience, focusing on issues of autonomy and self-discovery. At the same time, readers are confronted with timely questions about ethics and morality in the realm of AI. The author handles these threads masterfully, intertwining them through a rip-roaring adventure plot helmed by characters whose vitality and hope one can't help but root for. Fans of speculative fiction and inventive queer stories will delight in this playful and lovingly crafted romp. Agent: Ren Balcombe, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

In a dystopian future, Valentine Weis makes his living as a salvager in the Utah desert while dreaming of life in Salt Lake City. For a trans man like Valentine, Salt Lake City means a chance to medically transition and end his struggles with body dysphoria. Valentine's dreams suddenly seem much closer to becoming reality when Osric, an AI-turned-android with body dysphoria of his own, arrives with a business proposition that will enable Valentine to move to the city. However, through his growing friendship with Osric, Valentine begins to question whether Salt Lake City is the utopia he imagined. Hess explores several intersectional issues of gender and personhood through the lives of Valentine and Osric, both of whom are navigating bodies they feel ill at ease in while struggling to navigate the ethics of treating AI and androids as less-than-human. VERDICT Engaging prose and compelling dialogue make this novel an easy read that will appeal to teen and adult readers who enjoy sci-fi that addresses social justice issues. This is the traditionally published debut novel from Hess, who has previously written the self-published "Travelers" and "Hep Cats of Boise" series.--Lydia Fletcher

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