A transgender salvager on the outskirts of a dystopian Utah gets the chance to earn the ultimate score and maybe even a dash of romance. But there's no such thing as a free lunch…
Valentine Weis is a salvager in the future wastelands of Utah. Wrestling with body dysphoria, he dreams of earning enough money to afford citizenship in Salt Lake City – a utopia where the testosterone and surgery he needs to transition is free, the food is plentiful, and folk are much less likely to be shot full of arrows by salt pirates. But earning that kind of money is a pipe dream, until he meets the exceptionally handsome Osric.
Once a powerful AI in Salt Lake City, Osric has been forced into an android body against his will and sent into the wasteland to offer Valentine a job on behalf of his new employer – an escort service seeking to retrieve their stolen androids. The reward is a visa into the city, and a chance at the life Valentine’s always dreamed of. But as they attempt to recover the “merchandise”, they encounter a problem: the android ladies are becoming self-aware, and have no interest in returning to their old lives.
The prize is tempting, but carrying out the job would go against everything Valentine stands for, and would threaten the fragile found family that’s kept him alive so far. He’ll need to decide whether to risk his own dream in order to give the AI a chance to live theirs.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Finding Your Way | Everybody Hurts | Body Bound | City Dreams ]
About the Author
Al Hess is the author of the self-published post-apocalyptic Travelers series and the 1930s flavoured dystopian series, Hep Cats of Boise. When not hunched before a computer screen, Al can be found at his art desk. He does portraits in both pencil and oil paint, and loves drawing fellow authors’ characters nearly as much as his own. He writes cozy and uplifting stories with queer, trans, and neurodiverse representation.
"incredible book… I'm still buzzing with excitement."
– Charlie Jane Anders, Hugo Award-winning author
"World Running Down is a Valentine’s Day release in the vein of Becky Chambers’ cozy, progressive science fiction."
– Den of Geek
"A profoundly charming, funny, romantic, and endearing read."
"Spunky, scrappy, and earnest, the heroes—both human and AI—of Hess’s wildly entertaining latest make pitch-perfect guides through a dystopian near-future… Hess uses android bodies to offer additional insight into the trans experience, focusing on issues of autonomy and self-discovery… A rip-roaring adventure plot helmed by characters whose vitality and hope one can’t help but root for. Fans of speculative fiction and inventive queer stories will delight in this playful and lovingly crafted romp."
– Publishers Weekly
“A piercing mix of relevant social commentary braided into a riveting scifi adventure."
– Sunyi Dean, author of The Book Eaters
"Hess's debut makes me glad I'm a reader because I couldn't have gotten this story any other way. Books, like Hess's characters, still dare to love."
– R.W.W. Greene, author of Twenty-Five to Life
"Hess's story asks big questions about selfhood, identity and consciousness with sweetness and verve and a big dollop of queer love. A rousing and touching read."
– Khan Wong, author of The Circus Infinite
"Get ready for a wildly fun trans sci-fi adventure"
"Much more light and energetic than the usual dystopia, Hess’ story of queer lovers in a variety of forms should please those looking for a diverting and fun queer-sf read."
"Engaging prose and compelling dialogue make this novel an easy read that will appeal to teen and adult readers who enjoy sci-fi that addresses social justice issues."
– Library Journal
"It poured warmth and light into my chest brighter than the biggest Steward’s Eye. I can’t do it justice. The characters are my children – I have adopted them all. All of them. I am their found family."
– Kel Russell, Independent Bookseller
“Full of adventure, charm, and deeply human insights, the world in Hess’s World Running Down is an apocalypse you won’t want to leave.”
– Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists