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Literature / The Place Inside the Storm

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The Place Inside the Storm is a 2019 science fiction novel by Bradley W. Wright.

In the year 2038, 14-year-old Tara Rivers is diagnosed with autism. Her parents are blackmailed into consenting for her to get a brain implant to make her more docile and socially oriented. To avoid this fate, she runs away with her robot cat, Xel, traveling towards her grandmother's home in PacNW, where she hopes she will be safe. Along the way she meets Loki, a boy with a brain implant that causes seizures and a limp, whom she brings along in the hopes that the doctors in PacNW will be able to remove it.

The Place Inside the Storm contains examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Loki and his Parental Substitute Aeon live in a permanent refugee camp in an abandoned parking garage connected to the sewer system. Inhabitants go into the sewers to scavenge, which are big enough for them to stand upright, and where they can make use of catwalks.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: How Tara escapes from the psychologist's office.
  • Animal Jingoism: Rosie's Big Friendly Dog Rufus is not a fan of Xel. He keeps whining and whimpering and looking at his owner for permission to attack.
  • Automated Automobiles: Although manual cars are still found in PacNW, they've been banned years ago in CoastSW.
  • Blackmail: Xel was given to the Rivers as a gift from TenCat Corp, but what they don't know is that the exchange wasn't licit. The corporation threatens to turn Tara's parents in if they don't consent for her to receive the implant.
  • Cower Power: One little girl starts to pet Xel, but when he tries to talk to her, she hides behind her mother's skirt.
  • Disposable Vagrant: The brain implant was originally tested on homeless people. Loki may have been one, for all he knows.
  • Eyes Always Averted: Tara finds eye contact weird and uncomfortably intimate. When Dr. Gutierrez tries to force it on her, she flinches and freezes up. Later she reaches a mostly-autistic commune, where it's considered rude to make eye contact with people you don't know well.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: When Tara was younger, her dad occasionally cooked real food, but now her family almost exclusively eats instafood except when they eat out. She doesn't like the taste at all.
  • Good Old Ways: Tara, Loki, and Xel spend four days staying with a family of Thoreauvians who live mostly off the land, without modern conveniences like electricity. They're the happiest and among the kindest of the people the protagonists meet, and don't miss technology at all.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Unbeknownst to Tara, the robot cats have safeguards designed to prevent this from happening. When she changed some of Xel's firmware to fix a bug in the latest update, she unwittingly removed the safeguards, meaning that Xel will have to be factory reset when Tara is given the brain implant.
  • Hates Being Touched: Tara normally recoils from physical contact, especially from a stranger, but she finds that she doesn't mind touching Loki.
  • Heads-Up Display: Everyone has glasses with these, allowing them to watch movies, play video games, and browse the internet with ease, but also causing them to get bombarded with ads everywhere they go.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Tara's father falls asleep at his desk and is very hard to wake up. When Tara sneaks back into the apartment, she's able to get the implant's firmware code from his glasses, using his fingerprints to access it, without waking him up.
  • Holding Hands: Tara holds Loki's hand while he's in a medically induced coma.
  • Hologram: An abandoned government base is built into the side of a mountain, with holographic rock covering the opening. It's now home to the autistic commune.
  • Identity Amnesia: Loki remembers very little of his pre-implant life, including his real name.
  • It Runs in the Family: Tara's younger sister Zoie is the only normal Rivers. Her parents are both eccentric, and it's implied that she inherited her autism from her father.
  • Left for Dead: When it became apparent that their implants weren't working, Loki and his sister were dumped on an abandoned street to be eaten by dogs. Aeon took them in and nursed Loki back to health, but his sister didn't make it and was buried in the sewer.
  • Mega-Corp: The world is run by these.
  • The Mole: Joseph, an autistic man whose parents founded the commune, works for TenCat Corp, where he tries to find out which people are going to get the implant so he can warn them and help them escape.
  • Names Given to Computers: The Rivers' home computer is named Ava.
  • Only Friend: Tara's one friend in PacNW was Rosie, who walked up to her on the playground in fourth grade and asked if she wanted to help garden.
  • Organic Technology: Tara's bed is on a platform raised from the floor with bacterial carbon frame construction.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: The Thoreauvians' father carries Loki this way when he's unconscious from a seizure.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": The default intercom passcode is 9999, and people rarely bother to change it, allowing Tara to eavesdrop on different rooms in the psychiatrist's office.
  • Picky Eater: Judith, one of the inhabitants of the autistic commune, eats exclusively peanut butter and jam sandwiches. She has to take vitamins to stay healthy.
  • Robot Buddy: Xel is programmed to behave almost exactly like a real cat, except that he can talk.
  • Robot Dog: Tara sees some of these in a thrift store. They're outdated models, ancestors of Xel.
  • Sensory Overload: At school, Tara was frequently overwhelmed by all the lights, sounds, and smells, which distracted her to the point where she struggled in school. Away from all that, she finds that she can think much more clearly.
  • Shower of Angst: After the protagonists arrive at the autistic commune, Tara spends some time curled up and crying in the shower.
  • Single Tear: Tara sheds one when she sees her father for the last time.
  • Super-Senses: Xel has superior hearing and can see infrared.
  • Tracking Chip: Most people have biosensors implanted in their wrists that serve as ID cards. Tara keeps hers covered to avoid detection, and it ends up being destroyed when she injures herself.
  • Urban Segregation: Los Angeles has two kinds of neighborhoods: the wealthy ones owned by the corporations, and the run-down, lawless ones inhabited by homeless people, refugees, and outlaws.
  • Wolverine Claws: Xel was designed without claws, but at the garage he's outfitted with steel ones so he can better defend Tara.