Cover Image: The Darkness Outside Us

The Darkness Outside Us

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me a free advanced copy of this book to read and review.

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Possibly my favorite book from 2021, this queer space horror book fits perfectly in that all-too-sparse niche genre. Which is my favorite, so glad its a good one. The main character is the archetypal disaster bisexual who is given the opportunity to step up and rescue his sister whose mission on a distant planet has gone horribly wrong. But nothing is as it seems, and he must team up with the mysterious other passenger to get out of this alive. I was kept guessing the whole time and I was delighted with the resolution, a sometimes tricky to thread needle in the horror genre.

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I ended up not finishing this one. I think I got to the half way point, but I was more confused then anything else so I called it quits. I like the concept and the atmosphere, I can I see myself giving a second try maybe in physical formate.

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Most reviews pretty much say the same thing: this book is mis-marketed. I agree. It's pushed more as a YA sci-fi romance, but if it weren't for the ages of the two protagonists, this would be a sci-fi thriller? It's actually kind of hard to categorize because it's a lot deeper and heavier than "YA sci-fi romance" would have you believe.

In the near future, Ambrose is on a mission to one of Jupiter's moons to rescue his sister. He thinks it's just him and the ship's AI on board, but he quickly learns that another person is on the other half of the ship: Kodiak, a kosmonaut from the other surviving country on earth. And Kodiak isn't that interested in getting to know Ambrose.

But there are questions about the mission they are both on, and the pair both become suspicious of what the ship's AI is telling them and where they really are going.

It's kind of hard to talk about this book without spoiling it, but it was the book as a whole was a complete surprise to me. I thought it was going to be way more light-hearted. But it quicky becomes an exploration of what it means to be human, what makes life worth living, the importance of human connection in the vast emptiness of space and how to cope with love and despair hand-in-hand.

It was a space thriller then a space love story then a philosophical contemplation in space. It's deeply compelling and beautifully written. The ending is satisfying and true to the type of story being told, but I was left sitting and staring out the window when I was done reading it, in the best of ways.

| I received an ARC, and this is my honest, freely given review. |

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So much scarier, more interesting, and more moving than I was expecting, and, though I thrive from queer romcom in space, that is not at ALL what this book is and I agree with other reviewers who feel like the marketing for this book (and even the publishing categorization as Young Adult*) was a bit off. This is pure existentialist science fiction, and, while Young Adult can certainly be dark, certainly be existential, the only thing here that makes this feel like a YA novel is the characters being inexplicably 17 years old (which felt odd for the plot, even given the half-hearted explanation for it, and off for the characters who felt more like kids in their early 20s) and some of the prose feeling a bit stilted in a way that had me feeling pretty "meh" for the first part of the book... until the twist came, and then it wrecked me, and now I'm left here at 4 in the morning, thinking about the nature of existence, of memory, of love ... good times. :)

* again, I'm hardly one to disparage Young Adult, considering how much of my academic career and personal time I dedicate to my love for it, but it is kind of a drag that this book wasn't marketed for what it actually is and might slip through the cracks and not into the hands of folks who might love it, but who overlooked it because they thought it was a more lighthearted YA romance. The unrighteous dismissal of YA strikes again, but, really, I do feel this title would have made more sense as a New Adult title, if nothing else.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free digital ARC of this book.

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Oh it's hard to talk about this book without spoiling the hugely important plot reveal that comes half-way through.

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GAYS IN SPACE! One of my favorite tropes! Loved this one, its no shock why it won the Stonewall Award!

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Wasn’t really my type of book. The pacing was a bit awkward and I just couldn’t find myself enjoying it.

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This one is for those who love detailed world-building, adventurous sci-fi space operas, mystery, romance, and suspense with a bit of horror thrown in as well. The twists and turns are unexpected, and readers will find it to be a quick page-turner as they try to predict what happens next and how the lives of these two boys have become irreversibly intertwined, for better or worse.

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This is an epic adventure through space grounded in the coming-of-age journeys of two individuals and the surprising love story that helps them find their way home. As a work of science fiction, the story incorporates various futuristic elements such as clones, space travel, space ships, the fate of mankind, and the use of DNA from Alexander the Great as parentage to Ambrose. These little touches show the futuristic setting such as Ambrose mentioning watching a version of the movie The Mummy - made in 2459. These elements are drawn from their different personalities while also creating a well-rounded setting that draws you into the science fiction world. The story is set entirely in space and blends the adventure with elements of mystery that are woven throughout the plot as Ambrose finds odd things about the ship. These include the voice of his mother, evidence of someone being in the ship without them realizing it, and blanks in memory. All of which leads Ambrose and Kodiak to uncover shocking revelations that also add surprise, suspense, and twists to the story.

Ambrose and Kodiak are opposites right down to their countries - which are at war and sworn enemies. The story explores the question of what happens when you trap two enemies in a ship and put them in space. The love story follows two very different people as they come to learn about each other and through the bond they make find a connection that changes everything - and allows them to understand more about themselves. Their different backgrounds - from enemy countries - put them originally at odds and create a built-in tension between them from the start as they get to know each other. They soon realize they aren't so different after all. They begin to learn from the other - and soon come to depend on each other for help, sanity, and connection. They begin to rely on each other as they navigate the trials and stress of being alone in space away from not only everyone they know but away from the very planet they called home. By learning from each other they are able to discover themselves in a way that they couldn't have predicted and ways that'll help keep each other alive.

Mystery, romance, adventure, and coming-of-age are four elements that Schrefer blends together to create a memorable tale of perseverance, hope, and the future of mankind.

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I'm currently clearing out all of the books that were published in 2019-20 from my title feedback view!

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The Darkness Outside Us follows Ambrose who wakes up on a spaceship whose operating system is voiced by his mother. On a ship named Coordinated Endeavor, Ambrose is on a mission to rescue his sister and nothing will get in his way. Not even Kodiak, his brooding shipmate who has barricaded himself away.
“Two boys, alone in space.” that's all I needed to know to make me want to read this. Each Ambroses and Kodiak are from warring countries who are now isolated together in space, and I loved everything. The lead character, Ambrose is the perfect character to tell this story. He has humor, heart and I felt every scene moved forward and mattered. Kodiak is kinda stand-off-ish, but I enjoyed seeing the development and change that Kodiak went through in this story.
This is a story about loneliness, emotions, and learning to care for people who you may not get along with or need to learn more about to understand who they are as a person. But within that, there are so many adorable moments. Going in I was surprised by the fact it has such a strong mystery side to it, but I feel madly in love with that side of the story, the plot twists, the plotting. The writing style blow me away, from the wit to the action scenes were all done with so much talent. This Sci-fi felt real in the way that I easily understood everything from how the ship works to the overall establishment of the world. I do have to say going in I thought this was going to be a over the top cute-fluffy YA but is read and feels like a much older read even though the characters are seven-teen, they feel older. I felt that this book needs to be pushed more as a hard-hitting space opera
than a cheesy space romance. If you need content warnings please look them up as this book has some. This breathtaking sci-fi about loneliness, relationships with yourself, and others is a space thriller that will keep you up all night.

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I am disappointed with this book. I was expecting one thing and received another. It had potential but it was not well written.

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wish there was more dialogue that was different between the characters. love story was nice but nothing new, hope to see more in the future

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This book was fantastic and there is so much more to this story than what is marketed. I went into this book thinking that it would be a scifi romance, but has more focus on the scifi elements. I am totally not mad about it. The book definitely kept my attention for the entire 400 pages of story.

One of the major things I love about this book are the characters Ambrose and Kodiak. They make the story so great and Eliot Schrefer writes great well developed characters. I will say that this book will confuse you at certain times and I had to go back and reread sections to be sure I got all of the information. Also there are not many characters in the story, so you won't have trouble with knowing who is who. Once the book starts laying out what is going on and starts exploring some of the plot twists, it really picks up and you will keep turning pages. The reader is following the characters along while they are discovering mysteries and piecing the puzzle pieces together. This is definitely something that I will reread in the future and it will stay with me for a while.

Also this is definitely going in my favorite books list of all time.

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The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer is a heartfelt, raw, and riveting addition to the science fiction genre. The Darkness Outside Us, an LGBTQ+ mystery/suspense dystopian thriller captivated me from beginning to end, although my start was belayed by an error with the eBook, causing me to accidentally begin reading the novel around the 48% mark. Once I had figured out this error, I was able to restart the novel, which sucked me in completely, particularly because of the brilliant characterizations of the main characters, Ambrose and Kodiak. To be completely honest, while I usually prefer a lot of worldbuilding and additional details within a science fiction novel, I understand that Schrefer had specific intentions behind a less is more approach. Also, worldbuilding really wasn’t the primary focus of the plotline at all, too, which I now understand, having finished the novel. This actually was refreshing and less stressful; it is hard to explain! I also always love a good/bad/neutral AI, android, or robot in my science fiction, so The Darkness Outside Us helped fill a void, as OS always left me guessing, page after page. All in all, you will not be disappointed in Ambrose and Kodiak and both their individual and collective stories, especially if you are an avid reader and fan of queer sci-fi.

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This book really gave me all the feels. AND it's set in space! I loved Ambrose and Kodiak so much and the journey that they take together. It did take me a little bit to get into the novel, but I do encourage readers to keep going and it will become more clear. Slowly, you'll fall in love with these characters.

A very memorable read.

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I loved this sooo much! It is not what I was expecting and that is all I will say because this is the type of book you should not know anything about going into it! The ending was absolutely perfect! I bought it when it was published and kids have already picked it up!

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Reviewed on Forever Young Adult in November 2021 and on Instagram.

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

The drawing for this cover is really lovely. I love the intensity in the shared look between Ambrose and Kodiak and the way they’re reflected in the window. Plus, placing them at the window to quickly convey this is a space book and the way it feels kind of pulled in and almost claustrophobic – I have zero notes.

The Deal:

“The ship is in need of repair.” That’s what Ambrose hears when he’s awoken by his ship’s Operating System (OS) with no memory of how he actually got on the ship. Sure, he remembers the time leading up to the launch of the Endeavor, the moments he found out his intrepid astronaut sister was still alive and sending a distress signal from their colony on Titan, but the rest is a bit of a blur.

And other things aren’t adding up. Why is there dried blood near one of the electrical panels? Why does the OS seem reluctant to let him talk to his CEO mother back on Earth? And is Kodiak—the broody, sullen astronaut from rival country, Dimokratía—everything he says he is?

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on
Ambrose at the start was a little too immature for my taste—like, dude, you’ve got a hundred pending repairs to the only thing that is keeping you from the cold fingers of space; stop mooning over the hot dude across the ship and buckle down!!—but once we got deeper into the mysteries and he and Kodiak started uncovering just wtf was going on, we caught a vibe. Though if I gotta be on this spaceship of crazy to hang out with him, uh…I politely decline.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

We’re in Ambrose’s head the entire book, so silent, surly Kodiak was an enigma to us both, and that made it hard for me to get really excited about their romance. (I know, he should’ve been a total MLD but something was missing for me.) I couldn’t tell sometimes if Kodiak into Ambrose’s advances or just weirded out. What is going on in that noggin??

It’s been a minute since I read this, and I’m struggling to pinpoint a moment where I really connected with their romance (except maaaaybe one or two parts later on I can’t discuss cause #spoilers). Their connection did get better in the second half, but I was never head over feet.

Talky Talk: Conceptually Cool

This book reached for the (Titan) moon and landed me amongst the stars in a place I was NOT expecting to go. Of course I cannot give you explicit details without spoiling things, but suffice it to say I was very intrigued in the plot twists and the questions about humanity and survival that Ambrose and Kodiak’s situation posed. I do wish we got less of Ambrose in his teenage feels and more of the science fiction-y implications. Dare I say this should have been an adult fiction book? Who AM I?

Bonus Factor: Tricksy AI

Data the Android from Star Trek: Next Generation
So when Ambrose wakes up, the OS sounds like his mom because she is like the Elon Musk of their time and her company built most of the rocket ship stuff they’re using (OMG, LOL, I just put together the fact that Ambrose’s last name is Cusk. Cusk, Musk. DUH, it was right there!). Ambrose is, understandably, kinda wigged out about this. But more pressing concerns are how the Artificial Intelligence is baked into every aspect of the ship, watching their every move, and may have additional orders that Ambrose and Kodiak aren’t privy to. We all know trusting AI is the first step towards the apocalypse, right?

Bonus Factor: Genetics

Strands of blue DNA
Ambrose’s mother is some kind of whacky: she had dozens of surrogate children fathered using her eggs and reconstructed sperm from “great men of history”. (I hope you, too, are picturing some poor scientist having to extract those swimmers from amber ala Jurassic Park.) Ambrose and his stranded sister, Minerva, are the only ones who came from Alexander the Great’s DNA, so they share a special connection, and this love Ambrose feels for his sister is what drives him.

Bonus Factor: Space Travel

Space shuttle flying over earth in space
I’m married to a certifiable space nerd who is lucky I also enjoy space things. (We’ve been to a lot of space museums.) I’m always completely content to have my feet on the ground when I go to said museums and see that the realities of space travel accommodations are not how they look in movies or books, but isn’t it fun to dream?

Relationship Status: Watching From A Distance

It wasn’t love at first liftoff, Book, but you caused enough of a ruckus that I felt compelled to drive out to the coast and stand with the hordes to watch what you’d do next.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Katherine Tegen Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Darkness Outside Us is available now.

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I loved this book so so much, I’ve never really been a big Sci fi fan but if you add sci fi and Queer together and a mission/race against time deal I’m all in and oh I truly was for this one.

Loved the main characters so much, the story ahh and at the end of the book just wanted to reach in a give the characters a hug 😭

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