Inside Out - Maria V. Snyder Short review: Great, inventive, dystopian fiction with a surprising ending that makes you jittery for the sequel, a tough, edgy, likable heroine, some tragedy, a little romance. The world building met exactly my taste: It was a little like the film "The Isle" and a little like the young adult novel Exodus by Julie Bertagna, but altogether pretty unique.

Long review (especially written for Teccc): Trella, who is by the old time counting system about seventeen years old, lives in a building that is her entire world, because no exit is known to the inhabitants. The world - called "Inside" - has existed for about 150.000 weeks now. A week consists of 100 hours and splits up into five work shifts and five off-time-shifts for each grown-up. Nobody knows what and where "Outside" may be. Rumor has it that the souls of well-behaving Insiders are released to the Outside, after their body has been fed to the "Chomper". "Inside" is two kilomenters long and two kilometers wide and has four levels, which are segmented into sectors. Apart from staircases and elevators the levels are connected by heating vents, water and electricity pipes, laundry and waste chutes. The population forms two classes: The 2.000 "uppers", living in the upper two levels are all decendants from ten powerful families. The 18.000 scrubs living and in the crowded barracks on the lower two levels believe the uppers live idle lives in spacious apartments, having to care for nothing, making decisions that effect them all without checking back. Although a passive attitude prevails, many scrubs resent having to live in large dormitories devoid of any privacy, having to hand over their newborns to a Care Mother in the care facility, laboring in the recycling plant, the laudry room, the vegetable or mutton farms, getting checked, punished or killed for misbehavior by the so-called "Pop Cops", the population control set up by the ruthless Trava family, who is in charge of Inside Security.
Those who desperately wish for change set their hopes high whenever a "prophet" starts to gather followers. Prophets generally either preach that somewhere a "Gateway" to Outside must be hidden by the uppers, or that everything will end or begin when week 1.000.000 has been reached. Cool-headed Trella stays away from prophets. In fact, she tries to stay away from people altogether, which is almost impossible for a scrub, but she manages: Trella belongs to the pipe-cleaning-team, because her body is small and flexible. Instead of sleeping in her shared bunk she secretly crashes in heating vents or water pipes. It is widely assumed that Trella even knows every nook and niche of the pipe system in the upper levels, which is strictly off-limits to the majority of the scrubs. Her nickname "Queen of the Pipes" travels to the latest prophet "Broken Man", a wheel-chair-bound degraded upper, who claims to have hidden proof of the existence of "Gateway" in an upper level air-vent. Trella complies to help as a favor to her best and only friend Cogan, a mechanic. On one her dangerous journeys to the upper levels, which mark the slow start of a scrub revolt and bring her into the focus of the Pop Cops, she accidentally gets to know Riley, a teenage upper. And she begins to see, that her view of the uppers had been heavily colored by Pop Cop propaganda and that the secrets and problems of Inside reach much further that she had imagined.

Some reviewers complain that the talk about the design of and the day-to-day life of Inside delivered during the first chapters put them off. I did not feel like complaining. I soaked every detail up and fed it to the picture that constructed itself in my head. Throughout the story, bit after bit was added to the first bigger chunk.

Trella is a wonderful heroine. You could say she is more young-adult-compatible than Yelena or Opal. She did not suffer more traumas than the rest of her fellow scrubs. She does not seem older than her age. She isn't that tough. Her Care Mother (CM) loved and secretly encouraged her to think for herself, her care sibling Cogan looked out for her and held bullies at bay. She has spunk and she dares to cross boundaries. She spices up her life by challenging herself. She despises the other scrubs for their compliance and shakes her head about Cogan's sunny disposition and his wish to get along with everybody. Her journey of personal growth is believable.
Cogan is a wonderful best friend and Riley is a perfect love interest. There were characters who seemed to be good and turned out to be twisted in the end, and there were characters who could or could not be trusted, but you never knew. The Trava family reminded me of Commander Ambrose's security people. Yes, the whole set-up with everybody wearing the uniforms indicating their position and handiwork reminded my of the society of Ixia. In spite of that Mrs. Snyder has created something entirely new and different from her Study/Glass world.

The question prevailing my thoughts after reading the last page was: "When can I pre-order Outside In?" There are so many possibilities hinted at by the astonishing ending.