They passed lonely swaths of desert and the remains of ancient towns. Sometimes there was a full building intact that had just refused to die along with everything else. If Valentine were a house, that’s the one he’d be. Proudly standing in a run-down world, unwilling to be knocked down.

I just finished WORLD RUNNING DOWN by Al Hess, and this novel was more than satisfying. Though falling in the dystopian, post-apocalyptic genre, this book is much more than that – It’s hopeful and refreshing! In this world, the wealthy elite long ago abandoned the resource-depleted and hopelessly wrecked planet Earth, having blasted off to colonize new star systems across the galaxy. But despite being left for dead, those on earth just kept on living, building new communities, and embracing what’s left of humanity and the budding sentience of our AI creations. Is this a perfect world? Far from it. But where there are people, there is hope. 

The main character is Valentine, a scavenger trying to scrape enough money together to finally become the person he wants to be. His life is filled with danger, and his prospects are slim. Then he meets Osric, and his life changes like he never imagined. Osric is an AI recently ported into an android body tasked with recruiting Valentine for another dangerous scavenger mission. But if Valentine delivers, all of his dreams could come true.  

WORLD RUNNING DOWN is elegantly written, with engaging characters and one of the most heartfelt love stories I’ve read in genre fiction. Through the characters of Valentine and Osric, we glimpse what it is like to find oneself in a body that just doesn’t feel right. Exploring themes of identity and dysphoria, WORLD RUNNING DOWN is about acceptance, friendship, and love. But it’s also about mistakes, setbacks, and heartbreak. In this novel, everybody is struggling to survive in all the ways. But humanity can still shine in a rotten world. 

WORLD RUNNING DOWN is the kind of genre fiction we need more of, and I highly recommend it. Now I have to go read all the other books by Al Hess — But that’s a good problem to have! You can pre-order/order WORLD RUNNING DOWN here. And you can find Al Hess here. Thanks for reading! 

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