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A computer program etched into the atmosphere has a story to tell, the story of two people, of a city lost to chaos, of survival and love. The program's data, however, has been corrupted. As the novel's characters struggle to survive apocalypse, they are sustained and challenged by the demands of love in a shattered world both haunted and dangerous.

199 pages, Paperback

First published November 30, 2014

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About the author

Jennifer Marie Brissett

18 books179 followers
Once in her life Jennifer Marie Brissett owned and operated an indie bookstore. Now she is an author and has written the novels ELYSIUM (Aqueduct Press) and DESTROYER OF LIGHT (Tor Books). Her work has been the finalist for a number of awards and has won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation. You can find her short stories in FIYAH Magazine, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Lightspeed Magazine, Motherboard Vice, Uncanny Magazine, The Future Fire, the anthology APB: Artists against Police Brutality and other publications. She lives and writes in NYC.

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5 stars
245 (20%)
4 stars
394 (32%)
3 stars
354 (28%)
2 stars
168 (13%)
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64 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 310 reviews
Profile Image for Mike.
483 reviews376 followers
July 7, 2016
Well this was a mess of a book in so many ways. I think I sort of see what the author was trying to do with it, but the story came across as a confusing jumble of scenes that danced around the main theme and had a conclusion that was downright unsatisfying and anti-climatic.

I think the author wanted to show the power and importance of love (I could be totally off base here) but the way they went about this was quite odd Not to spoil too much, but the beginning of the book has a series of scenes shifts that alter characters' genders, relations, sexuality, and situations with generic computer errors thrown into the mix. At first this somewhat intrigued me. Just what is going on? Is reality a simulation? Is something else going on? Will we be introduced to the real world outside the simulations? But instead the scenes and people continue to change, albeit with some similar over arching themes.

A consequence of this choice is that I really didn't care for the characters much at all. They constantly became new characters, even if their names remained very similar, with different motivations and situations. By the end I couldn't recall how many different iterations of the core characters I went through but they ran the gambit from straight lovers to gay lovers to siblings (not lovers) to parent/off spring (also not lovers). I might as well have been reading about different people each time because that is what they were different people, similar names aside. The big reveal at the end, while logical, really made everything that came before seem pointless. It answered some questions while leaving some other ones (such as the fate of humanity) extremely vague.

I guess the problem was the book wanted me to care about things I just couldn't care about and drew out its literary conceit much too long for it to effectively contribute to the story. The loose ends it tied up I couldn't care less about while leaving some bigger issues mostly unaddressed.
Profile Image for Gabi.
694 reviews120 followers
December 10, 2019
This was one of the most emotionally powerful, surprising and poetic books I had the pleasure to read this year (and I read a lot).

Brissett presents in a delightfully sure-footed prose a book like a piece of music. The recurring theme is of love and loss narrated in ever changing variations along the whole bandwith of what love can constitute of. It is a memorial against oblivion. The reader could easily get lost in layer upon layer of different settings and lives, but Brissett skillfully uses reoccurring names and symbolism to create a satisfying feeling of interconnectedness.

I was hooked from the start and felt deeper and deeper drawn into the glimpses of different realities, each following one moved me a bit more.

There was a slight resetting of emotions for me when the short stories started to become a more overarching one, similar like waking from a dream. But by the end of the book I was back in my awe-mood about the whole intricate story construction.

A bold idea executed by a masterful writer! All the stars.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books702 followers
August 1, 2019
An ambitious, imaginative retelling that I think juuuuust didn't quite gel.

CONTENT WARNINGS: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics)

Things that were very well done:

-The glitching. Gender, location, purpose, cause all kept changing around an evolving theme in a way that felt hallucinatory, fragmented and critical.

-The concept. From the retelling (I won't mention it, either you'll figure it out or it's at the back of the book and I don't want to spoil it) to the solution to the issues, it's quite a unique take.

-It's succinct. This really should have been a novella, but the author realized this was a literary experiment and wisely kept it brief.

Things I did not think worked:

-The love story. Okay, well, I don't like most love stories. But this one in particular was...not terribly believable for me. Perhaps it had to do with how fragmented it was or how we linger on certain aspects but I wanted it a bit more fleshed out if this was to be the central plot.

-The narrative structure. I wanted each section to build more upon the last than I think they did. I wanted to find the strand of truth and be uncertain as to the rest and I wasn't.

-The pacing. The first third really drags on and the last third is quite rushed.

-Characterization. I like that the author made such a strong attempt at using a diverse cast, but am a bit uncomfortable with the portrayal of gay people, Latinx people, people in open relationships, homelessness, and parenthood. I think these got pretty stereotypical without any thought as to why it would be this way. Perhaps it's more glitch, but I would have needed more context for that.

-The actual defrag portions. This could have conveyed so much more than it did! A wasted opportunity.

2.5 stars rounded down because I saw where it was aiming and I think it just didn't deliver.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,865 followers
August 6, 2019
This was a very unusual reading experience, in that I found the writing itself to be wonderfully assured, subtle, and clear, with a simplicity and directness of approach that at times reminded me of the work of Octavia Butler. Many, if not most, of the individual sequences of this mosaic novel were effectively drawn, and were often quite evocative and affecting. And yet, I’m not sure that the collage approach that Bissett took paid off in the ways she hoped or aspired to. I was always enthralled in my moment-to-moment experience of reading this, but ultimately I don’t think that her experimental attempts paid off as richly as the particular episodic chapters hinted at. I would still be very interested to see what other works she creates, since I found her voice to be quite compelling in so many ways.
Profile Image for Lee  (the Book Butcher).
257 reviews67 followers
August 8, 2020
i jumped right into this one having only read the standard sci-fi sounding blurb. I believe that's how you should undertake reading Elysium as well, so i will keep this brief. The story itself is standard sci-fi fair. Good but not spectacular. The way its told draws the inquisitive mind in right away. The portrayal of the characters really is the highlight of the book. There is a puzzle to solve from the beginning and i believe many will enjoy the conundrum posed by the author. But i will say if your not a fan of unconventional formats than maybe you should pass this by. Perfectly paced with the right page length for this type of experimental story at 200 pages a pattern emerges and the story is shortly wrapped up. Little clues of the "reality" are sprinkled in. With more glimpses of that reality revealed as the story goes on. Added bonus of symbolism tons of it for a astute reader to Chewy on. The resolution is debatably satisfying. i found it to be like i said good but not spectacular. I understand When you set very smart people thinking sometimes they outthink the author. Not sure that's Brissett fault. I am just satisfied that Elysium put in motion new thought processes for me. that's all i can ask from the Sci-fi genre!
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,894 reviews1,927 followers
December 8, 2020
Real Rating: 4.5* of five (I'm eager for her next book to come out in 2021!)

The author, whom I follow on Twitter, commented rather sadly on some people in the blogosphere who took her to task for this book, which apparently was not to their taste.

It was to mine. I enjoyed it so much that, after reading the library's copy, I ordered one for myself because I wanted to have ready access to some of my favorite quotes to share with my Young Gentleman Caller. He's quite partial to this one:
"...You got wings now. You might as well learn how to use 'em. I'll teach you and then you'll come with me."

It makes me very happy to be able to share that with him, and have it mean something good to him, too.

But here's the thing, readers. Here's the central principle of this book as I understand it: Forget Reality. It doesn't exist.

The rest resides a-blogwards.
Profile Image for Kristin B. Bodreau.
285 reviews51 followers
August 6, 2019
This read like a fever dream crossed with a creative writing college assignment. Take two characters, put them in different scenarios, see what you can write in a couple hours, then swap. But make sure that you either have a fever of 103 or are on so much cold medicine that you are just as delirious. Lather, rinse, repeat. Ad infinitum. Or for 199 pages. Which in this case felt infinite. And throw in some lines of computer code while you're at it. Maybe your roommate is a computer science major and she wandered in and messed with your assignment while you were hallucinating through your illness. Oh, and don't forget the elk and the owl. Your friend from across the hall is obviously an ecology major and didn't want to feel left out.
Profile Image for Lost Planet Airman.
1,249 reviews72 followers
December 17, 2019
Starts slow and muddled, but with some gorgeous prose and description and some small interesting plot developments. Then answers begin to emerge, and the sense of it all begins to pull together.
There were parts I didn't like, and the end was tragic in the vein of the Greek tragedies, as was the premise. But this work is very creative, and although moralistic, I never found it heavy-handed.

I think this finished my TBR 2018 Challenge, less than a year late...
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
August 9, 2020
This is the August pick for Sword and Laser and I polished it off while I cleaned the house. The problem is I can't really discuss this book without spoiling it so I will say it is unique, has apocalypse and broken code, and that's as vague as I can go. I found it in hoopla from the public library and can't wait to go post spoilery discussion in the Goodreads threads!

Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 108 books728 followers
March 19, 2015
This is a weird and ambitious novel that pulls the ground out from under the reader every two pages. The prose is lovely and the structure gives room for more SFnal ideas in one book than many novelists get to put forth in their whole career. The characters are reinvented over and over again, always in orbit with each other, as the larger story gradually unfolds. There were one or two characterizations that put me off but kudos to the author for the strength of her vision, and to Aqueduct Press for publishing it.

Edited to add: The author wrote this very spoilerific blog post in response to the thing that bothered me in the spoiler, which suggests that others also had the same question. She says if we interpreted it the way I did then we probably missed the point of the whole book. But it nags at me. I mean, sure, she knows what she intended. But it still doesn't ring true in that moment to me. http://www.jennbrissett.com/journal/i...
Profile Image for Justin Howe.
Author 17 books34 followers
December 14, 2014
A damaged AI seeks to understand itself and the story of how it lost its mate.

Possibly one of the more ambitious debut novels I’ve read, Elysium is a bewildering and rewarding read that proceeds from fragmentation to unity over a constantly shifting pattern of times and places. It avoids confusion by having similar characters and circumstances appear over and over again.

There’s a lot to grasp here, and a lot left unexplained, or at least a lot left for the reader to figure out on their own, but the journey is worth it. I also quite enjoyed its use of metamorphosis (in the classical sense of Ovid and the modern Kafka sense) as an engine for moving its plot forward.

Good on Aqueduct Press for publishing this and giving genre a place for more experimental work to find a home.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
496 reviews64 followers
December 12, 2019
*ETA: Changed the rating from 3 to 4 because it made enough of an impression that I'm still thinking about it.

This is one of those stories that didn’t really work for me until literally the last chapter or 15 minutes and then it worked REALLY WELL. I guess I love endings like this. It reminded me of the game SOMA in a way.

It would have worked better as a short story, though. It just took too long to get to the point.
Profile Image for YouKneeK.
645 reviews79 followers
August 6, 2019
Elysium is a standalone science fiction novel by Jennifer Marie Brissett. It’s a short, fast read and it held my interest from start to finish.

In the first chapter, we meet Adrianne and Antoine, a couple whose relationship seems to be ending. There are also some slightly weird things, things that only Adrianne sees. In the second chapter, we meet Adrian and Antoine. Everything is different, and yet it’s really not. I don’t think I can say anything else about the story without spoiling the fun for potential readers.

It’s actually clear from the beginning what’s going on, at least in a general sense, but how and why remains a mystery for a while. The story was kind of repetitive, yet it didn’t annoy me. I enjoyed catching the connections. Admittedly many of them would have been impossible to miss, but there were also some things I thought were more subtle and I enjoyed noticing those. At the end of the book, there’s a brief section that explains the inspiration for the story. I didn’t catch that at all on my own, so I enjoyed the explanation.

This wasn’t a perfect book, but it held my interest very well. It engaged my brain and I enjoyed reading it. Some aspects seemed a little unclear. Several times while writing this review, I started to write about something I thought didn’t make sense, but then an answer came to me immediately afterward. So I kind of feel like there were plot holes, but they keep moving or something. :) I’m writing this within an hour of finishing the book, so after I’ve had more time to let it settle I may either come up with some real holes or else the story will solidify into something more substantial in my mind.

I have a couple more comments that need to go in the spoiler tags:
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,080 reviews108 followers
July 27, 2019
This is a SF novel that from the start strongly reminds you of the Matrix. It was nominated for Locus Award for Best First Novel (2015) and won Philip K. Dick Award for Special Citation (2015).

The few first pages show us a pair that replay their relations again and again, the pieces are interjected with machine’s output, reporting about errors and attempts to restore data. The pair, Antoin(-e) and Adrian(-ne) from piece to piece shift their genders, so they are: a married couple, whose love burned out; a gay couple, where one is gravely ill; a lesbian pair, where one is ill and pregnant, etc, etc. There are some glimpses of the unnatural, like an elk or owl, suddenly appearing in the city, so only a single person notes them. As story develops, with longer passages (still broke by a computer’s output) we get to know better the protagonists (much better than they know themselves, because episodes seem unlinked) and the world around, as it moves toward apocalypse (not a spoiler, it is in the book’s back). The roles continue to shift to that of brothers and parent-offspring…

While the premise is quite interesting the SF elements weren’t well thought out. The idea to have the same pieces repeated over and over again in different environments reminded me of The Soft Machine.
Profile Image for Pujashree.
386 reviews39 followers
August 22, 2019
This book is supremely weird, which would be great if the weirdness didn't keep distracting me from actually being able to emotionally invest in the story and the characters. I am quite awed by the author's bravery and creativity in how this book is framed, but I wish there were a few more lifelines in there for the reader so the abrupt changes and shifts didn't completely throw me off constantly. I still really enjoyed it, and curious to see what the sequel brings. I think this might work better as a movie or TV show akin to Legion or Black Mirror.
Profile Image for Genevieve.
Author 7 books125 followers
August 22, 2015
Debut novelist Jennifer Marie Brissett takes a simple story of loss—a very human story of loss and love—and refracts it into multiple narratives to explore interesting ideas related to AI, alternate realities, and memory and history.

The opening scene in Elysium starts off with a literary kick. Those first few pages read like a surreal, ghost-in-the-machine version of Mrs. Dalloway. In the first line, an omniscient observer of some kind swoops down and zeroes in on a city scene. It observes a woman, Adrianne, going about her business, running errands, contemplating lunch with a friend, doing some window shopping. Things seem ordinary enough until Adrianne starts noticing a few things along the way: an eerie green dot in the sky; an elk wandering the streets; an owl on the windowsill. Each encounter (or vision) seems to stir something deep in Adrianne’s soul.

When Adrianne is injured by some falling scaffolding, the event seems to open up some kind of narrative glitch. A burst of code babble spills out on the page and suddenly the entire world of the novel is reset. Pick your jargon: System failure. Connection broken. A diagnostic program tries to fix things.

And then we’re returned to the story. Adrianne goes home and we learn of her strained relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Antoine. She goes to sleep and wakes up. But something’s off. It’s no longer summer but autumn. With the turn of a few sentences, a kind of timeslip takes place. If you aren’t paying attention, you could almost miss it. Adrianne is now Adrian, a man. Something or someone (the AI?) has swapped out our leading lady so seamlessly you might think it were a typo.

Half the fun of reading Elysium is diving into the mystery of why this is all happening. The bursts of code obviously have something to do with the narrative slippages, but how and why? Previously, it was Adrianne and her boyfriend, Antoine; now, it’s Adrian and his boyfriend Antoine. Helen, her friend, is now Hector. Readers will quickly realize that we’re looking at variations of Adrianne / Adrian – Antoine / Antoinette. The relationship continues to twirl and change: We also see lovers, father-daughter, husband-wife, siblings. Barring the AI element, this might as well be an exploration of eternal recurrence or reincarnation.

Somewhere, always watching, a program is rebooted; a diagnostic scan is run; lines of code are repaired and reloaded. Narrative elements are constantly being reshuffled like a deck of cards—and we’re treated to a new story. These cascades of instability can be whiplash-inducing, but follow along and an elegant form is revealed. Like in any programming, there are patterns. Motifs keep appearing: the elk, the green dot in the sky, the reference to vestal virgins, and so many others.

In the hands of a less skilled writer, the novel’s ambitious scope might have backfired badly. But Elysium was surprisingly readable and it was relatively easy to keep track of who was who. Brissett keeps every iteration fresh and each new pairing we meet feels vivid and unique. She might not have the character ventriloquism of say, David Mitchell, but Brissett holds her own and manages to give the characters their own individual voices and cadences. The most evocative sections for me are the ones with the two young brothers and the father and daughter.

As the book progresses, the stories and setting become more and more fantastical and bleak. The standalone quality of each iteration starts to break down and a larger, more integrated story picks up speed as the mystery of the shadowy AI is revealed. Who built it? Why was it built?

By the middle of the book, things get complicated. At one point, we learn that aliens invaded and settled on Earth. Their arrival precipitated a kind of mutagenic dust bowl and infected the air, changing all life on the planet. From the beginning, we know there has been some kind of super-intelligence at work, a kind of AI set up high above ground, observing the world below. It lurks in the background, though we can’t be sure of causality: Is it creating the different worlds we’re seeing, or is it merely responding to it? It’s a kind of chicken-and-the-egg conundrum that doesn’t show its hand until the end.

Brissett gives us layer after layer, seemingly making things more complicated and opaque but what she’s actually doing is pulling back the curtain ever so slowly. The structure of the book made me think of Ravel’s Bolero, a composition that builds slowly from a single tendril of sound. It meanders but gathers power and force over time.

It’s inevitable that people will compare the novel to the film, The Matrix, but Elysium is much more nuanced than that. The big difference is that Elysium never really steps outside of itself like the characters in the film do, splitting their time between the real, drab world—the desert of the real—and the glittering, computer-imagined world. In many ways, Elysium is all about that ‘imagined’ world, history and memory.

Readers will have their theories, but for my money I think Brissett fundamentally sets out to tell a story of soul mates and love—and the threats to those bonds. It’s not death or betrayal that threaten those ties with our loved ones; rather, it’s the threat of forgetting. So we create our avatars, murals, homages and memorials and write songs and poetry and tell stories. Again and again. In his in-depth review, Niall Harrison writes:
”If every page of Elysium is an echo, or an echo of an echo of a deep historical trauma, then what does it mean to be listening, to be the recipient of the story? If it is about any one thing for its characters, I would say that Elysium is about resistance, to society, to apocalypse, to fate itself. It is filled with people trying to be (not that they know it) more than echoes: to live. But if it is about any one thing for its readers, I think it is about responsibility, about thinking about how and why we consume certain stories.”

All I’ll say is that Elysium has an ending that is both expected and surprising. The revelation is a slow build; I appreciated that we aren’t just given a deus ex machina ending or an info-dump.

And then there’s the silence where you close the book…and press reset.

>> open bridge
Connecting . . .

Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews215 followers
December 23, 2014
Incredible! I can't believe that this perfect book is a debut novel. This is a story like you've never read before about human beings and love, about artificial intelligence and alien invasion, about apocalypse and alternate realities. It is so wonderful that science-fiction literature can still say wonderful, new and interesting things about what makes us human, about our connections with others, about love and its never-ending creations.
Profile Image for Kaa.
560 reviews51 followers
March 6, 2020
I don't really know what to make of this book. There were some incredibly cool concepts, some things I absolutely hated (especially regarding the portrayal of the Hector/Helen character), and a lot of things I just never understood. This is a wildly ambitious book that was only partially successful in the execution, for me.
Profile Image for Hank.
795 reviews73 followers
August 17, 2019
This is going to be a spoiler filled review, I can't think of any other way to describe it. I liked it, weird while reading, less weird at the ending.

Take home message was that I enjoyed it and would read more from the author
Profile Image for Lata.
3,609 reviews192 followers
May 30, 2021
This book was challenging. Intriguing. Frustrating. Difficult to understand what was happening, occasionally. An interesting take on a post-apocalyptic situation.
I appreciated what the author was doing and how, even though I wasn't always enjoying the book.
Profile Image for Linda Robinson.
Author 4 books134 followers
April 7, 2015
Unusual and masterful book: unusual in the visual typographical choices made, and the treatment of a world after. Masterful in the compilation of the plot lines. Really fun to read, like the best mystery. I tried to catalog the wait! that's going to be important parts, and then had to give up because it's all important. Every binary bit. Because every word contributes, it's tough to review with details. Superb writing in a debut novel by a writer I will follow. I bought this book in January as it was my intention to read all the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award nominated books, and then promptly lost track of it. Found it and sat right down and read it yesterday. 2014 was a fantastic year for women scifi writers: of the six finalist authors, four are women. Brissett received a special citation at Norwescon on Tuesday.
Profile Image for Banshee.
492 reviews48 followers
November 21, 2022
So… This book…

In the beginning I just didn't know what was going on. Then I got my bearings enough to become intrigued and I started building theories about what was happening.

Then I got tired of the constantly changing story, still without a proper explanation. I didn't DNF, because I felt I already invested enough time to at least get some answers, which must come at some point. Right? Right…?

And yeah, the explanation came. But then I realised that 80-90% of the book had unreliable characters, unreliable plot and unreliable world-building. So what did I actually read?

Literary experiments can be fun, but this one just didn't work for me.
Profile Image for Trike.
1,466 reviews153 followers
August 10, 2020
If Philip K. Dick wrote The Matrix, it would be this book. I had my doubts at the beginning, but by the end I liked it.

ETA: The chief reason I think this book closely aligns with Philip K. Dick’s work is because in his stuff the ideas are paramount and the nuts and bolts of the narrative are secondary, but if I were forced to draw an exact parallel of “if you like that then try this”, it would be with Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut.

It has that same sort of dreamlike narrative of jumping perspectives where it might or might not be about being subjected to alien examination, or just someone (whether human or computer) experiencing a mental break from reality. Basically a literature Rorschach test.
Profile Image for nks.
176 reviews9 followers
January 3, 2016
There is, allegedly, an unspoken codex for reviewers when it comes to debut novels. The short of it is: debut novels deserve a little slack. Harumpf, I say, and hogwash. Whether a book is someone’s first or their fortieth, I want to give it the same once over, the same burning eye of Sauron, the same bubbling enthusiam—where each applies. But there’s no need to turn a blind eye to the faults of Jennifer Marie Brissett‘s debut novel Elysium (2014, Aqueduct Press) because Elysium is a fucking great book. No “debut novel? well it was greaaaat,” wink wink nudge nudge shuffle shuffle required.

As I mentioned when I talked about Elysium‘s first paragraph last week, this book caught my eye when it was nominated for the P.K. Dick Award. I happen to be an (obsessive) (raving) (diehard) fan of P.K. Dick, and Elysium does what so many of P.K. Dick’s best books do: it made my mind go all bendy as the world in the book spun the world around me.

The book begins with two survivors in some ruins after an apocalypse, and the brief mention of a green dot in the sky. Then the story shifts. The characters we meet are always called Adrain, Antoine, Helen, and Hector, or some variation thereof. Their identities shift, their circumstances, their sexual preferences, and their gender, but the foundation remains the same: someone loved has been lost, and the world has ended—though a literal apocalypse is not always the reason. Transitions between stories are managed via what looks like computer code. With each loss the computer processes errors, reboots, reinstalls, begins again. It was this device that made the novel so cohesive, giving what could easily have become an inaccessible experiment in structure a frame that held it all together, and that provided an additional mystery worth sticking around to solve.

Elyisum was exciting. Not because of edge-of-your-seat action, but because watching an author successfully execute this acrobatic a narrative is absolutely thrilling. (Says the person who babbles about Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch at the first chance when drunk.) Reoccuring images of owls, mirrors, and deer connect each story, while later the repetition of entire scenes in the hands and mouths of other characters—something that might have become annoying when not applied with a delicate touch—add to eerie feeling of dejavue present throughout the novel. Bits of each story bleed into the others. Is any of this real? Is it all one story? Is my loss your loss is his loss is her loss? What is with this computer program that is running the story? What the fuck?! But Elysium had me WTFing in the best of ways. Not “WTF is this bullshit?,” but “WTF this is the coolest shit I’ve read all year.”

Read the rest of my review here: http://www.bookpunks.com/elysium-jenn...
Profile Image for Elisabeth Ursell.
108 reviews5 followers
August 11, 2019
My reactions to this book, in order:

"Changing gender roles and maybe a computer program inside people's brains? I dig it."

"A broken computer program? Someone is trying to access it."

"Ok so now there's a brief interlude that feels like it's been pulled out of The Handmaid's Tale. I'm not sure where this is going."

"This is starting to feel like Inception. Also, wtf is up with all of the elk?"

"Ok now this is like Inception and the Matrix and The Handmaid's Tale has gone out the window but I don't hate it."

"But seriously, why all these elk up in here?"

Just read it. It's fast, it will perplex and exasperate you towards the middle, but then *most* of your questions will be answered.
Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 15 books304 followers
February 5, 2023
Reality-bending science fiction, really good! I went into this with zero details about the plot, because I'd seen Brissett on a panel and wanted to read some of her work, and I'm so glad I did. I suspect the story almost works better if you don't know what's happening the first time reality shifts. And it shifts a LOT. It's the story of two people, manifesting in different ways in different settings, but always with some kind of love between them, and usually struggling to survive. I don't want to say much more, but this is an ambitious, interesting science fiction / post-apocalyptic novel with hella diverse and queer representation, by a woman of color, and you should totally try it out.
Profile Image for Elliot.
604 reviews37 followers
May 22, 2016
I really don't know how to write this review. To be truthful I wasn't excited to read this book, mostly because of the cover. Imagine my surprise when this became one of my favorite reads of the year. Elysium is complex, nuanced, and really needs to be read rather than explained. This is one of those rare reads wherein as soon as I finished it I immediately wanted to press it into the hands of everyone around me. To say this book is science fiction, or a post-apocalyptic tale, is to drastically reduce the essence of this story. This is one of those gems with a strong enough emotional center that most readers, genre lovers or not, could find something of value within its pages.

At its heart this is a story about two people who love each other. The relationship and circumstances might change from chapter to chapter, but this basic truth carries through. They might be a husband and wife, a gay couple, siblings, a parent and child, it doesn't matter. The bond is what is important, even as the story skips through time and setting. It's the sort of book that by all rights should be confusing as hell, yet I never had trouble following along (which speaks to Brissett's craft). The prose is lyrical, even poetic, and the repeating motifs and linguistic tricks are evocative rather than repetitive or tiring. The beauty of this story, and the way it is told, cannot be undersold. This is a book about love, loss, and the end of the world. And I really hope you take a chance and pick this one up - I'm so glad I did.

Sci-fi Book Club: 5/16
Profile Image for Cassandra.
515 reviews48 followers
June 22, 2016
This is a book that turns everything you think you know on its head, over and over again. It should be super confusing, but it's not. That speaks to the clarity of the writing, but also the power of the story that carries through every place and time. This may be a science fiction story, but it's not about the sci-fi. It's about the two people who love each other. Their genders, circumstances, and relationships change, but they're always together. The story is compelling while you're reading it, and has so much to think about afterward. There is so much symbolism in this book that I'm sure I missed, so I may read it again some time.
Profile Image for AndrewP.
1,403 reviews32 followers
August 15, 2020
A fairly good idea and, in my mind, obviously influenced by Philip K Dick. It's a SF story that's really mixed up so it's difficult to follow at first, but then at the end a plot and explanation emerges. That's the big problem I had with this book. If you turn up the 'unreliable narrator' trope to 11, then why should I believe the part at the end any more than I did the other parts? This type of twist at the end is something Dick did very well, Brissett not so much.
A short book so a quick read. (Avoid the audio book). For purist SF fans the science in this book is garbage so don't expect to learn anything.

2.5 stars rounded up to 3
Profile Image for aarya.
1,248 reviews
August 22, 2019
Okay, it’s not that I hated this or thought it was problematic. I was just so confused and bewildered the entire time I was reading it. I still don’t understand anything. And that doesn’t make for an enjoyable reading experience. I don’t think I’m the correct audience for mind-bending/ambitious SFF, basically.

Read for August 22, 2019 SFF Book Club (The Sword and the Laser).
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