The City Inside

Hardcover, 256 pages

English language

Published June 6, 2022 by Tordotcom.

ISBN:
978-1-250-82748-7
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4 stars (12 reviews)

“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 …

5 editions

Fever Dream

4 stars

It’s a slow start, like wading into quick sand. The prose is dense, sentences and paragraphs spanning longer than they have any right to, with future jargon on constant tap that tracks just enough to seep into understanding. Entire shifts in scenery occur without warning, but somehow subtly, like the flicker of one dream into the next same but different dream. Once you gain fluency in this world, it’s easy to become lost in the kaleidoscopic tapestry. This all felt intentional, and reading some interviews afterwards confirmed this for me.

It’s not as experimental as something like Dead Astronauts, or quite as fever dreamy as Land of Milk and Honey, but it’s still not a light read. I don’t know if smaller sessions would have been better, or just precluded my eventual flow state of fluency that unlocked the ease of the last portion of the book, when the ideas …

Livestreamers influencing the future in India

4 stars

I enjoyed this book, which revolves around livestreamers and a dystopian Delhi not too far in the future. However, I think someone who is unfamiliar with livestreaming and TikTok culture might be a little lost reading it. The story revolves mainly around Joey, a Reality Controller (essentially a livestreamer manager/director) who has ended up managing her ex-boyfriend, and Rudra, estranged younger son of a wealthy and influential family who starts working for Joey. Everyone in the book is confronting past genocides and current political corruption and problems (growing fascism, surveillance state, vast wealth gaps). Joey and Rudra start looking for ways to influence the future of Delhi and the country. I found the ending was a bit abrupt and seemed like a bit of a sudden wrap up after the main body of the book, very much felt as if a sequel is in order here.

If this is optimism, I'm not ready for pessemism.

5 stars

In an afterword the author describes the setting as a best case near-future (paraphrasing). I think that means the present is pretty bad.

Anyway, if you're up for contemporary fascism and ubiquitous surveillance, the book is worth reading just for a kind of "uncanny-valley" flavour of India, which is almost like our own contemporary mess, but not quite.

I found myself re-reading the last chapter or so to make sure I understood the ending. Compared to some of the more dramatic plot threads, the ending is a bit subtle.

Review of 'The City Inside' on 'Storygraph'

3 stars

I have very complicated thoughts about this book. On the one hand, there were some very interesting worldbuilding concepts and perspectives of a near-future India. On the other, characters were rather unlikeable and the author used a dialogue-heavy writing style tending toward stream of consciousness—building up a feeling almost of doomscrolling, which may have been intentional but set my teeth on edge nevertheless.

Review of 'The City Inside' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

3 stars but still recommending it! I really thought this was going to be at least a four star read but it didn’t quite get there. I enjoyed the speculation about what the near future might hold. I see this book as a story about the time before dystopia fully takes hold, and how a plucky group of youngsters try to use their positions in the institutions leading the world there to avoid the final plunge. It’s all about subversion and potential revolution. Although there are mentions of a climate crisis, the story is most interested in a how social media might evolve in this proto-dystopian world, and the many permutations - pure entertainment, unapologetic product promotion, and even political movements - it might take. I’m not sure it quite gets to where it wants to go. There’s a joke about 1/3 through about a self help seminar the protagonist …

Review of 'The City Inside' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

I hate ambiguous endings. I don't want to invest time in reading a whole novel and then end up not knowing what happened. I genuinely don't see how that can be enjoyable.
This happened recently with The City Inside by Samit Basu. I loved the world building in this book. This is a near future version of India. Specifically it is set in Delhi. There has been massive political upheaval, waves of pandemics, and the climate is wrecked.
Flows are channels where people live stream a very scripted version of their lives. Joey is a "reality controller". She is producer for her ex-boyfriend Indy's flow. She is considered to be the best in the business. Indy is on the verge of superstardom. This puts her on the radar of several very unsavory individuals.
I don't think there is anything quite as scary as near-future dystopia. Everything in this book is …

Review of 'The City Inside' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This was a really great read - a unique experience. I think this is a book that will struggle to find its audience, though. It’s got an “all vibes no plot” feel that lit fic readers would enjoy, yet this is an SF setting. Most SFF readers are looking for more plot. Fortunately for me, introspective narration plus SF is a combo I love.

The setting is a bit tough to get a handle on because it is not explained to you. It’s the near future, and the main thing to understand is that the Flowverse exists with stars who live scripted lives which are live-streamed to their audiences. This book has tons to say about social media and the powerful people behind it, corrupt governments, nepotism and greed. The focus is on two characters who are trying to get by and struggle with guilt over their “safe” life choices. …

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