Monday, August 16, 2021

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder


POISON STUDY is one of my f a v o r i t e fantasy books of all time, so obviously I would jump at the chance to read anything else this author ever wrote because I am all about supporting my faves. As of my writing this, this YA science-fiction duology is on sale for $1.99 each (8/16), which is why I ended up getting both books on the cheap.

INSIDE OUT came out in the middle of the big YA dystopian trend following in the wake of THE HUNGER GAMES'S popularity. It kind of falls into a subgenre of books that I like to call "sewerpunk," in that it takes place in the below-ground, kind of like METRO 2033, ESCAPE FROM FURNACE, and QUEENE OF LIGHT. In the world of INSIDE OUT, scrubs clean and scavenge the pipes and uppers do, I don't know, administrative/bureaucratic-type work. Trella, a scrub, is known as Queen of the Pipes for her in-depth knowledge of the sewer system, as well as her high and mighty attitude. She also inadvertently becomes a figurehead of rebellion for the people when she accidentally gets involved in a revolution and uses her know-how to further their agenda and disrupt the regime.

INSIDE OUT was simultaneously better and worse than I expected. I felt like the dystopian world was more well-imagined than I anticipated. This isn't really a HUNGER GAMES clone: it stands on its own two feet as fairly innovative, so props for that. I also liked that Trella was so reluctant to step up to the plate. She liked being alone and antisocial and didn't want the whole nightmare mess that came along with being a revolutionary, which I found totes relatable. I like difficult, stubborn heroines who have realistic flaws and occasionally act selfish. Spare me the sacrificial Christ figures, okay?

On the other hand, I was pretty confused on how everyone ended up belowground. And it wasn't really clear what the difference between uppers and lowers was. What about agriculture? They had food and talked about sheep-- but sheep eat grass and need sunlight. Where was that food coming from? Are there farmers? You can't tell me that there's just military, bureaucrats, and scrubbers. Also, I didn't really buy the sort of romance between Riley and the jokes about the hero's stuffed animal sheep ("Sheepy") were painful and needed to go away. It was an odd split-- here you have a book were people are fed to execution machines ("Chomper") and yet there's cutesy jokes about stuffed animals.

Also, don't expect me to take your military police seriously if you call them Pop Cops. The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about PopCap Games, the manufacturer of Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies.

This wasn't a terrible book but it could have been a lot better.

P.S. Major cliffhanger ending.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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