Title: Skyward Inn

Author: Aliya Whiteley

From the back: This is a place where we can be alone, together.

Skyward Inn, within the high walls of the Western Protectorate, is a place of safety, where people come together to tell stories of the time before the war with Qita. But safety from what?

Qita surrendered without complaint when Earth invaded; Innkeepers Jem and Isley, veterans from either side, have regrets but few scars. Their peace is disturbed when a visitor known to Isley comes to the Inn asking for help, bringing reminders of an unnerving past and triggering an uncertain future.

Did humanity really win the war?

The gist: Skyward Inn is a beautiful, unsettling, dreamlike book. It’s a fusion of ideas surrounding love, family, coexistence and colonisation. It’s modern science fiction that sits well with the traditional classics of the genre.

It’s a quiet book, a sense of unease and uncertainty bringing tension to the slow reveal of the past and the potential future. Whiteley gradually builds a picture of what’s happening in a future Devon and the wider planet(s), slowly filling in the gaps and the changes so the picture builds for you as much as it does for the characters.

And although it’s quiet, it also has scenes prepared to horrify and disturb. There’s violence and body horror, and a sense of danger that may or may not be manifested. And, ultimately, the question of whether in fact some of these things are horrific at all. Whitely uses alien contact and coexistence to place humanity under a magnifying glass and see what it does.

Whiteley’s writing is thoughtful with every word placed carefully, and Skyward Inn is a joy to fall in to.

Favourite line: Alone is not a place I can go to, but the place that’s left behind after everyone else has gone.

Read if: You want beautiful, thoughtful science fiction

Read with: Your favourite brew

Get it: Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley

ARC gratefully received from Rebellion, Solaris, and Netgalley

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