Fiction Reviews


Outcast

(2022) Louise Carey, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, 394pp, ISBN 978-1-473-23275-4

 

This is the follow up rom Louise Carey’s hugely impressive Inscape, and it’s set in the same fictional post-apocalyptic London, split into territories run by rival Corporations InTech and Thoughtfront, with the shadowy Brokerage running interference with its own deadly agenda.

The cast is the same – InTech operative Tanta, freed from her mind control in the last book and now seriously questioning her loyalty, tech guru Cole, evil company man Kenway and fugitive agent Yas, now joined by ‘terrorist’ Jeannie and ‘bandit’ Fliss.

The plot carries on the themes of Inscape, so it would be wise (though not essential) to start there. The basic setup is that London’s ravaged and the rival corporations rule by coercion and manipulation, controlling their operatives though a conditioning programme in their embedded communication arrays. The Brokerage doesn’t like that and tries to disrupt things. Tanta’s mission deep into Thoughtfront territory frees her mind of control (with the help of Cole) and helps her depose the corrupt double agent at the heart of InTech.

Now she’s back in InTech’s part of London, but she’s not trusted by her organisation and Cole (who developed the mind control tech but then was mind-wiped) is under virtual house arrest. But then other things start to go wrong and Tanta and Cole find themselves going rogue again. Along the way they team up with The Brokerage to try and stop InTech doing some ting truly awful with their mind control technology.

There’s fine world-building here, and the plot moves at pace, with a few twists and turns to keep readers wrong-footed. The characters are likeable and credible, though Tanta’s initial loyalty to Inscape is somewhat surprising given what she went through in the previous novel, and the new member of the team, Fliss, is engagingly spiky.

There are plenty of loose ends, though. The novel finishes with the teasing ‘End of Book II’, which almost demands a sequel, which is surely coming. There’s a massive set up for the next volume in the resolution of this book, too, so let’s hope Carey’s contract with Gollancz runs to more.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel so this is a strong recommendation from me – but start with Inscape.

Mark Bilsborough

 


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