Review: Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley

Amazon.fr - Skyward Inn - Whiteley, Aliya - Livres

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ARC received from the publisher (Solaris) in exchange for an honest review.

We burn history down, over and over, as an act of remembrance. When there are no answers, there is recollection, and repetition.

I’m always on the lookout for more SFF slice of life. Especially weird literary SFF slice of life. So when Fabienne brought this book to my attention, I knew I’d have to read it. And it turned out to be one of the most unique things I’ve found in a while – at the same time somehow a seamless blend of super chill sci-fi slice of life (slight Becky Chambers vibes anyone?) and something altogether more unsettling.

Jem and Isley – a human and a Qitan alien – manage the titular Skyward Inn. It’s a place where people from a small village in the Protectorate, a community of humans that rejects technological progress, can share a drink and exchange stories of the past. It all starts as a very quiet slice of life story, just Jem’s POV, in first person, alternating with that of her estranged teenage son, in third person, following their daily lives, but it slowly and seamlessly blends in an element of strangeness bordering on horror.

There is a very literary feel to it and the prose is absolutely stunning. Even though it’s a very short novel, it felt exactly as long as it needs to be. I loved how natural and gradual the change in tone felt – never jarring, and even though I’m a wimp who normally avoids horror like the plague and is especially sensitive to body horror, I wasn’t ever terrified or disgusted enough to stop reading. Creeped out, sure, but not in a way that’d be a dealbreaker.

In addition to that, it also touches upon complex family relationships, space colonization and how it affects communities, and personal autonomy. The tagline, “this is a place where we can be alone, together” is very on point. Only now I realise it hits another of my favourite tropes, books that take place after a big conflict is done and deal with its aftermath. It’s not a central plot since the focus is firmly on the characters, but it’s there.

Most highly recommended.

Enjoyment: 4.5/5
Execution: 5/5

Recommended to: slice of life fans, prose appreciators, those looking for something unique
Not recommended to: those who are turned off by (maybe contagious) body horror

Content warnings: body horror, epidemic

 

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