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Elysium

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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,009 ratings  ·  266 reviews
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.
Paperback, 199 pages
Published December 1st 2014 by Aqueduct Press (first published November 30th 2014)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  1,009 ratings  ·  266 reviews


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Mike
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Gabi
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 r
...more
Allison Hurd
An ambitious, imaginative retelling that I think juuuuust didn't quite gel.

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

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, eith
...more
Anthony
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mike
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...
Jenny (Reading Envy)
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!

Sarah
Nov 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
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 (view spoiler) ...more
Lee  (the Book Butcher)
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Justin Howe
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Kristin B. Bodreau
Aug 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Dawn C
*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.
YouKneeK
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fo
...more
Oleksandr Zholud
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 burn
...more
Pujashree
Aug 22, 2019 rated it liked it
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 bette ...more
Genevieve
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 w
...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kaa
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.
Hank
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi-club-read
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. (view spoiler) ...more
Linda Robinson
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 i ...more
Trike
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 perspec
...more
nks
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 grea ...more
Lis Ursell
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Skye Kilaen
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0-genre-scifi
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 ...more
Elliot
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Cassandra
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
aarya
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).
Ian Mond
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
What’s It About

This is not an easy book to describe without giving away spoilers. So I’ve borrowed from the back cover blurb.

"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."

Should I Read It?

Yes. While it’s another apocalypse novel it’s also the most imaginative book on the PKD ballot. Crammed with SFnal ideas that go well beyond your traditional apocalypse narrative, the novel has
...more
AndrewP
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.
...more
Katy
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I stumbled across this during a Google search for SFF written by WOC. It’s fresh and fascinating and I couldn’t put it down. Protagonists Adrian/Adrianne and Antoine/Antoinette cycle through genders, relationships to each other, and situations, as each story of their lives is cut off and rebooted by a computer program. Adrian/Adrianne loves Antoine/Antoinette in every iteration, but one thing throughout all the narratives is the same: one of them always loses the other.

Elysium tackles history,
...more
B.R. Sanders
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Once in her life Jennifer Marie Brissett owned an indie bookstore. Now she is an author and has written the novels ELYSIUM (Aqueduct Press) and DESTROYER OF LIGHT (coming out from Tor Books in Fall 2021!) 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, Ligh ...more

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“Circumstances change everything.” 0 likes
“-Papà?
-Sì?
-Io voglio imparare a volare.
[...]
-Ci sono tanti modi per volare, Antoine. Uno è mettersi queste ali. Un altro è farlo con la propria mente, e quello è il modo più bello. Vedere cose che gli altri non posso vedere e renderle reali con le tue mani ti fa volare più in alto di qualunque uccello - e ti rende più grande di qualunque creatura capace di uccidere, come me quando ho questo affare addosso. Ecco cosa voglio per te. Voglio insegnarti a volare nel modo giusto. Queste ali sono fine, figliolo. Solo la tua mente è reale.”
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