Tordotcom Publishing is thrilled to announce that Ruoxi Chen and Sanaa Ali-Virani have acquired JCB Prize finalist Samit Basu’s The City Inside, a postcolonial Ready Player One meets Severance, set in a near-future Delhi where trust is impossible, popularity is conformity, and every wall has eyes. The two-book deal, for North American rights, was brokered by Diana Fox at Fox Literary.
Joey is a Reality Controller in near future Delhi. Her job is to supervise the multimedia multi-reality livestreams of Indi, one of South Asia’s fastest rising online celebrities—who also happens to be her college ex. Joey’s job gives her considerable culture-power, but she’s too caught up in day-to-day crisis-handling to see this, or to figure out what she wants from her life.
Rudra is a recluse estranged from his wealthy and powerful family, fled to an impoverished immigrant neighborhood where he loses himself in video games and his neighbors’ lives. When his father’s death pulls him back into his family’s orbit, an impulsive job offer from Joey becomes his only escape from the life he never wanted.
But no good deed goes unpunished. As Joey and Rudra become enmeshed in multiple conspiracies, their lives start to spin out of control, complicated by dysfunctional relationships, corporate loyalty, and the never-ending pressures of surveillance capitalism. When a bigger picture begins to unfold around them, they must each decide how to do the right thing in a shadowy world where simply maintaining the status quo feels like an accomplishment. Ultimately, resistance will not—cannot—take the same shape for these two very different people.
Said author Samit Basu:
I’m a huge admirer of Tordotcom’s list, and to finally be on it with so many favourite writers is a dream come true! The City Inside is a novel I’ve been rewriting continuously for years, hoping that the news doesn’t spoil all of it before it reaches you. It’s been an attempt, all through, to find hope and connection in these days of surveillance, distraction, and chaos. I’m so lucky to have found Ruoxi Chen, Sanaa Ali-Virani and Diana Fox to not only allow me to rewrite it some more but also take it firmly out of my twitchy hands and deliver it, I hope, to yours.
Said editors Ruoxi Chen and Sanaa Ali-Virani:
It only took The City Inside about three pages to hook us. This extraordinary work takes a too-real future that has been irrevocably shaped by humanity’s worst impulses and manages to weave a story celebrating the hope and power engendered in the collective, the small victories of the nameless, and the change that the future can bring—if enough are willing to act. Indian audiences will know this book as the celebrated Chosen Spirits—we couldn’t be more excited to work with Samit in bringing North American readers a brand new version of Joey’s and Rudra’s story. It’s by turns prescient and thrilling, warm and slyly funny, with a gift for finding the personal in the universal, and making the universal feel personal. You’ll see your own reality reflected even as you discover new wonders.
Samit Basu is an Indian novelist. He’s published several novels in a range of speculative genres, all critically acclaimed and bestselling in India, beginning with The Simoqin Prophecies (2003). He’s been shortlisted for the JCB Prize, India’s biggest lit award, and also works as a director-screenwriter (Netflix, 2019), a comics writer, and columnist. He lives in Delhi, Mumbai and on the internet.
The City Inside will be available from Tordotcom Publishing in 2022.