Jennifer Marie Brissett
Elysium Cover



Perhaps another way of saying "different people, same shit" or "no boundaries, get over it," where characters shift into different states of being and alternate worlds, all between breaks of computer code. On the Tiptree Award Honor List for its fluid transitions in gender, the backdrop of Greek myth and Roman history interplay with cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic scenery. Weird, in that nothing is supposed to feel very real here. Meta, in that it borrows from and plays with the disintegrating architecture of science fiction. The prose itself is surprisingly thin, an (anti)structural detail to blur these attenuated worlds, but there are moments of dialogue fluff makes it easy to barrel through this short book much faster than your ereader can predict. I'm not usually fond of interrelationally-heavy plots and "You okay?" "Everything is fine," -type dialogue, but Brissett is doing something interesting that hearkens to a younger-feeling version of its 2014 peer, Nina Allan's The Race, another intratextually-linked novel that I loved. As for the symbolism, damn me for reading Speller's review first, because it felt burdensome to me, but maybe just because I knew it was coming. (And I swear that elk on the cover keeps moving when I'm not looking directly at it.) I loved Hector, but the longest section about the winged father and daughter captivated me the most.

Why I think it's not getting the attention it deserves: It's an easy surface read AND a hard interpretive read, so it may be equally dissatisfying to very different core readerships. Also, the ending will feel conventional to anyone with slight exposure to cyberpunk or The Matrix, so it may not have wowed enough people, though that they may have been the intention. Coming from a creative writing tradition, structural elements take center stage here, eventually transcending the several interesting stories, but sometimes choking them out of the narrative - a likely deliberate move that can frustrate readers. Recommended for readers who delight in puzzles.