Skyward Inn, within the high walls of the Western Protectorate, is a place of safety, where people come together to tell stories of the time before the war with Qita. But safety from what? Qita surrendered without complaint when Earth invaded; Innkeepers Jem and Isley, veterans from either side, have regrets but few scars. Their peace is disturbed when a visitor known to Isley comes to the Inn asking for help, bringing reminders of an unnerving past and triggering an uncertain future.
... combines an intriguing, character-driven plot with great splashes of science fictional weirdness. The novel grips from the start, exploring with deceptive simplicity issues ranging from the difficulties of communicating with the people we love to colonisation on a planetary scale ... I was reminded of the authors who first got me hooked on science fiction with their combination of deep humanity, brilliant storytelling and wild imagination: writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Kate Wilhelm and Ursula Le Guin. Skyward Inn feels like an instant classic of the genre.
... a strange, lyrically repulsive variation on Wells’ mirrored colonial vision ... an unexpected and surprisingly meditative apocalypse of Cronenbergian body horror ... Whiteley suggests an alternative to narratives of conquest, extermination, genocide and nausea. There can be a blending in which different peoples flow together and change one another until they’re neither conqueror nor conquered — a new birth, rising from the primordial soup of cross-cultural intercourse ... the novel is full of gleeful reversals, and you can hear the distant sound of infectious giggling echoing through the lovely prose. Rarely has a writer who is not Philip K. Dick had so much fun building a world only to take it apart ... There is some comfort in knowing that what you find in Skyward Inn is simply what you bring there, the heady, quaffable brew of flesh and self that makes you alien and human, both at once. Whiteley spits in the mug, and you drink it down together.
Steeped in the surreal, Aliya Whiteley uses her unique storytelling abilities in Skyward Inn to create a story that will leave readers feeling unsettled, yet oddly hopeful ... Whiteley deftly crafts an atmosphere of creeping uncertainty and strangeness that will follow readers past its pages. At times a mind-bendingly vast concept, the novel ultimately boils down to an intimate story of identity, belonging, and fractured relationships. Within this speculative fiction story, Whiteley has interwoven a delicate family drama that propels the characters, and the reader, through the novel ... vague and weird ... Jem embodies a kind of regretful longing that will resonate with many. Fosse may be a little harder to connect with for some readers, but Whiteley still builds out an aching characterisation of this mother and son relationship ... There is a vagueness that runs through the story that both adds to the atmosphere and detracts being able to truly grasp what is going on. Whiteley writes Skyward Inn in a style that feels like a combination of the boat scene from Willy Wonka (1971) and sitting at a local bar at 2pm in the afternoon with a pitcher of cheap beer and the townies telling stories of the glory days. Some moments you feel like you are drifting along with the characters in their small lives and then suddenly you’ve lost your footing along with them and you are left confused and wondering what is coming. It makes for an interesting reading experience, one that some will love and others will not click with ... With that said, Whiteley’s writing style is something that feels wholly its own. Skyward Inn is the kind of book that many will finish and think of how they’ll never find a story quite like it again. Whiteley has a way with flow and structure that propels the story forward, but never quite lets you grasp where you are heading ... Everyone will take something different from this eerie and exploratory story. One thing is for certain though: Whiteley is a strong voice in speculative fiction and readers will be delighted and unsettled by her novels for years to come.