The City Inside by Samit Basu

“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, fled to an impoverished immigrant neighborhood where he loses himself in video games and his neighbors’ lives. 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 no good deed goes unpunished. 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 around them, they must each decide how to do the right thing in a shadowy 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.

TITLE: The City Inside
AUTHOR: Samit Basu
PUBLISHER: Tordotcom Publishing
YEAR: 2022
LENGTH: 240 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Science Fiction

Partial Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

DNF 20% in. 

The initial worldbuilding is immersive and dizzying, a firehose of terms as if to impress indelibly the near-future-ness of the setting. Unfortunately, it was too much for me to track, too quickly, and I stopped a couple of chapters in. If the goal was to communicate the stress the characters were under, it certainly did that, but not in a way I could keep up with.

Partial CW for racism, xenophobia, confinement (backstory), blood (backstory), sexual harassment (backstory), rape (threatened), violence (backstory), police brutality (backstory), death (not depicted).

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A stylized view of a city, with the rooftops covered by colorful rugs, and people represented by a circle above a downward-pointing triangle


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