Skyward Inn Review: A place we can be alone together - SciFiNow

Skyward Inn Review: A place we can be alone together

Themes of loneliness and isolation are examined in Aliya Whiteley’s speculative sci-fi, Skyward Inn.

Skyward Inn

When Earth discovers a new pathway to a distant planet rich in resource, the first reaction is to go as conquerors. However, when the invaders arrive, the native Qita have already surrendered in search of a quiet peace built on trade. Years later, Jem and Isley, veterans from either side of the non-conflict, are running the Skyward Inn, a bar in the Western Protectorate (formally Devon).

A place deliberately isolated from the rest of the world, its simplistic life of farming and self-reliance is fiercely protected from the corruption of the modern age of technology. Here the townsfolk can enjoy a drink of Jarrowbrew (Qita’s main export) and allow its intoxication to fuel a romanticised nostalgia of adventures in a strange war of non-violence.

But when the Western Protectorate receives new visitors, Qita is no longer just a memory, and not only are individuals forced to re-examine the realities of their own uncomfortable pasts, but the town as a whole must come to term with its prejudice and ask if its troublesome complicities will result in an unnerving future for the world.

A startling study on the impact of colonial and imperialist attitudes and actions, Skyward Inn starts off as an introspection from the point of view of Jem as she wrestles with the dichotomy of her desire to find a place to be ‘alone together’. Her internal struggle with mixed feelings from the self-imposed isolation saturates the character with very human contradictions, allowing the reader an iota of understanding into the strangely seductive world author Aliya Whiteley has created.

But lurking just under the surface of a delicate character study lies a provocative and shocking horror, dripping with metaphorical examinations of subjugation and corporeal assimilation. Whiteley’s unique writing entices you into a murky pit of hallucination and corrupts your perceptions with an invitingly invasive voice.

The obstinately oblique nature to Whiteley’s delicious prose pays off with consuming clarity. Like a painting where an artist works without outlines, shading only with an abstract background, it’s only when it’s finished that you can finally see the complex detail of the subject. Her languid and evocative language disturbs scenes with an intangible unknowable-ness that feel both disquietingly alien and uncomfortably human.

Skyward Inn is a trippy and hazy examination of humanity confronting its confused desire for isolation and belonging. Its mellifluous and meandering narrative is unsettlingly strange, abstractedly saturated with emotion and meaning. It is a unique work of literary and speculative excellence.

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley is available now from Rebellion.