Reviewing the third book in a trilogy is always tough. I’m often flipping between several different emotions, attempting to understand the book as its own object and as the culmination of years of storytelling. Ada Hoffman’s The Infinite is no different and has me feeling the bitter sweet symphony of emotions that comes with a well earned ending that leaves the reader with the right questions.
The planet Jai is on its own. The gone people of the chaos zone, along with the rebellious seven and the yet to be corrupted citizens, managed to stake their claim on their future. While the A.I. Gods, especially Nemesis, would not normally abide such brazen autonomy from humans, they have decided to step back and let their ancient foe, Keres, make short work of the planet Jai. With only a couple days to prepare, Yasira, the rest of the seven, and the people of Jai prepare themselves for an even bigger battle than they faced before. Meanwhile, Akavi has their own plans on how to use the Seven and challenge Nemesis herself.
I picked up The Outside way back in 2020, and Hoffman’s debut did not disappoint. It was Lovecraftian science fiction, with a neurodivergent cast and several different science fiction concepts mashed together, chief among them A.I. Gods, for a fun ride with deep themes. Its sequel, The Fallen, took a step back from the heavier plot orientation of the first and spent more time with the cast beyond Yasira and Akavi, diving into what life would be like outside the God’s influence. The Infinite does a great job combining the two paths Hoffman took for the previous books while giving it a little more of an edge.
I’m often wary of the third book in a trilogy. The path usually feels like it’s been laid out, and the characters have to walk it, with a few twists and turns for good measure. However, I didn’t really know what to expect for The Infinite, and Hoffman immediately throws the reader off her scent with the God’s deciding to leave the planet Jai, opening them up for attack by the dreaded Keres. It forces the rebellious leaders and the citizens of the planet to come up with a plan as soon as they can in order to defend themselves from Keres and her angels, along with future attacks from Nemesis. The way Hoffman has her characters deal with this is clever, even if it can feel a bit contrived, but she doesn’t spend too much time with the mechanics. She lays out the idea, and just expects you to understand the time and effort involved, which honestly works here. I hear “time travel” and my guard goes up, but Hoffman doesn’t try to overdo it, or prove that she has the best version of it. It’s just a tool, and while it plays a big part in the grand scheme, it doesn’t weigh down the characters’ journeys and actually highlights the stakes.
Hoffman also takes the opportunity to dive into the birth of the gods in the final book, exploring how her world was shaped after the creation of Nemesis. Again, my alarm bells began to ring, worried there would be too much space devoted to something I was not particularly interested in, but Hoffman took it to places I was not expecting. The origin of Nemesis as a savior turned out to be intriguing and served as an excellent mirror to Yasira’s relationship with her mentor, Dr. Evianna Talirr. Where the past events could have easily just been quick reveals, Hoffman dove deep into the characters who birthed the A.I. Gods, the reasons behind their creation, and their relationship to responsibility, duty and those higher up in the decision food chain. Instead of offering insight on how to defeat Nemesis and the other Gods, it’s another tale exploring the need to absolve one’s own guilt for committing something possibly heinous. I rarely experience mentor relationships, in life and in science fiction, so having such a delicious one that is full of nuanced flavors served up in this final act was a real treat.
As much as I loved having my expectations subverted deftly, I loved even more Hoffman’s curiosity about her own themes. These books have always been heavy on exploring them, whether it’s through the characters’ internal lives, what the Gods determine to be “normal” or “heretical,” and even in the relationships between those who exist in hierarchical structures, perceived or rigidly enforced. Yasira, for the most part, has been at the whim of Dr. Talirr. She pushes back, and questions her, but Dr. Talirr often has the higher ground and a single minded devotion to her project of destroying the Gods. I found it fascinating that Yasira was not opposed to the project, but often questioned the means and her necessary involvement within them. Not as an act of relinquishing responsibility for civility’s sake, but instead in opposition to just following the “most logical path.” Her bargaining heightened the conversations between the other members of the seven, and set up the questions “how should we live” and “who determines how anyway” quite nicely. It’s a fitting end to a series that never stopped asking questions about why and who all throughout.
I want to know so much more about where the world of Ada Hoffman’s The Outside is headed, but I’m satisfied with the answers Hoffman has provided in The Infinite. She makes room for the potentialities of the human spirit, and underlines how rigidity punishes far more often than it rewards. The trilogy as a whole is an achievement in how weird science fiction can be, while still feeling so close to what we already know. It asks questions, and pulls apart its own world to highlight how maybe we should do the same to our own world. It’s given me a deeper appreciation for how easily we marginalize folks for neurodivergence and apply labels to signify their difference and apply superiority and morality to them. And how this gets applied over and over again to build hierarchies where privileges are given to those most able to conform to structure. I highly recommend this series if you haven’t started it. And if you have, but are tepid about the final act, don’t be. The Outside is warm and inviting, even if it is winter.
Rating: The Infinite 8.5/10
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.