A Best SFF of 2022 pick by The Washington Post | Book Riot | Quill to Live
The City Inside, a near-future epic by the internationally celebrated Samit Basu, pulls no punches as it comes for your anxieties about society, government, the environment, and our world at large—yet never loses sight of the hopeful potential of the future.
“They'd known the end times were coming but hadn’t known they’d be multiple choice.”
Joey is a Reality Controller in near-future Delhi. Her job is to supervise the multimedia multi-reality livestreams of Indi, one of South Asia’s fastest rising online celebrities—who also happens to be her college ex. Joey’s job gives her considerable culture power, but she’s too caught up in day-to-day crisis handling to see this, or to figure out what she wants from her life.
Rudra is a recluse estranged from his wealthy and powerful family, now living in an impoverished immigrant neighborhood. When his father’s death pulls him back into his family’s orbit, an impulsive job offer from Joey becomes his only escape from the life he never wanted.
But as Joey and Rudra become enmeshed in multiple conspiracies, their lives start to spin out of control—complicated by dysfunctional relationships, corporate loyalty, and the never-ending pressures of surveillance capitalism. When a bigger picture begins to unfold, they must each decide how to do the right thing in a world where simply maintaining the status quo feels like an accomplishment. Ultimately, resistance will not—cannot—take the same shape for these two very different people.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Basu (Resistance) delivers a lukewarm sci-fi tale that feels just as stuck as its main character, Joey, the best Reality Controller in a near-future Delhi. Joey works so hard managing and producing her Flowstars—a roster of virtual reality celebrities that includes her ex-boyfriend turned influencer, Indi—that her own life takes a backseat to curating their content and she relies on a "lifestyle management" app to keep herself functioning. When she offers a job to the elusive Rudra, a wealthy recluse who's returned to Delhi following his father's death, what should ease her burden only adds to Joey's trouble as loyalties shift between her coworkers, corporate greed grows, and Joey and Rudra stumble on a government conspiracy. Now Joey must finally wrest back control of her life and use her resources to influence change. Basu creates a cramped-feeling world, and though the insightful plot thoroughly probes the political and social consequences of life increasingly lived within virtual reality, Joey's lack of ambition or agency throws a wet blanket on any tension and causes the pace to lag. The result is a smart but slogging tale that never quite gets moving.