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3.58  ·  Rating details ·  696 ratings  ·  183 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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3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  696 ratings  ·  183 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
Well, I guess it was okay in the end. But be warned: it's kinda wacky. 😃 There's a man and a woman. Suddenly, both of 'em are men, and one of them is dying. Then they get back to being a man and a woman. Sometimes they switch several times in a single scene. One of them is hallucinating animals, when he/she isn't dying. Then there are modern-times ancient-roman-goddess worshippers, who are sometimes maybe aliens? Then they're both women again. Then one is pregnant and dying. Everyone's name star ...more
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
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
Brianne Reeves
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
What was that?
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2015
B.R. Sanders
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Put me down as yet another person who found this to be an incredible novel, much less a debut novel!
In these days of ever more bloated books, it is astounding what Brissett accomplished in such a short one.
The basic theme of the book is love and loss. Characters names change, and who they are to each other changes, but the same basic characters manage to have a plot arc through a book with changing setting. Let me say it again: through a book that rapidly cycles through contemporary New York t
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this because of Niall Harrison's Strange Horizons review, especially for the comparison to Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox re: meta-narrative experimentationesqueness. And I wasn't disappointed, because there's a lot to think about in Elysium's treatment of love and grief and death and memory, about stories, and the narrative was gorgeous: splintered and poky, raw and open to layering hurts upon hurts but still retaining a hopeful heart.

It soared. Sometimes it crashed. And it lived.

For readers un
Doug Farren
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chapter 1 was interesting and immediately made me curious as to what was going on. I had to back up and re-read the first paragraph of chapter 2 because I though Jennifer and her editors had made a horrible mistake. I thought "what the heck--keep reading". The mystery only continued to deepen as the chapters rolled by. About half-way through the book, I was thinking I had it figured out but I was hooked and I wanted to find out more. The ending ties everything together but leaves some questions ...more
Michelle Morrell
Elysium is a complex, ambitious novel, and I'm honestly quite impressed that this is the author's first book.

Swirling through myriad lives, the story of an alien invasion and the ultimate fate of humanity is told through love and loss; the love of a parent for a child, lover for lover, sibling for sibling. The loss of a war, the loss of a planet, the loss of the person that means the most. The fluidity of gender, relationship, sexuality and identity have boiled the experience down to the one thi
Amal El-Mohtar
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Ambitious, original, and challenging. Review forthcoming in Lightspeed in March.
Liz Argall
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oops! It came out yesterday and now I have finished reading it!
Book #25 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Category:
- A science fiction novel
Read Harder Task:
- Read the first book in a series by a person of color
Habitica's Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that intimidates you

I'll confess, I wasn't very interested in this book at first because it seemed like it was just about some domestic drama with some gender-swapping tossed in for no good reason. But then I got to the Vestal virgins bit. Maybe it was having just spent a few weeks in Athe
Gardy (Elisa G)
A voler ammazzare ogni attrattiva per gli appassionati di fantascienza, si potrebbe dire che Elysium è una grande storia d’amore che trascende il tempo e lo spazio, ma che non riesce mai a lasciare dietro di sé le cause stesse della sua rovina. Mhhh, riproviamo.

A voler stuzzicare la curiosità di quanti amano la literary fiction più sperimentale e allegorica, Elysium è un romanzo che s’interroga sulla natura stessa dell’anima o di come vogliate chiamare il nucleo constituitivo e irripetibile di
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
So refreshing! I love the concept for this book. At no point was I groaning at pitifully obvious plot turns or yawning at unrelatable characters (which has been happening often lately). We follow the same two characters as they skid across a broken record of reality, resetting and rearranging the pieces while the world is constantly in flux. Each slice of time was captivating and slowly built a subtle mystery.

Given the nature of the novel, with time and place mostly an unknown and chapters that
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a 3/3.5 until the last sentence, which jerked a solid emotional response and boosted my opinion up a notch.

Elysium is an odd book, ambitiously structured, difficult to follow if you are the kind of reader who insists knowing what's going on. Indeed, if you like clarity, this is not the book for you.

However, if you're good at just letting go and riding the wave of the narrative, this is a fascinating novel. Gender, identity, relationships - they're all fluid here, and it doesn't make s
Shana DuBois
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read. Jennifer Brissett creates a masterpiece with her prose and I couldn't put it down. I read this in one sitting inhaling the beautiful characters she created. Characters with a depth you will rarely encounter. The way Brissett's characters shift and flow seamlessly was never confusing and always beautiful to read.

This is one of those books where you will want to read again and again to enjoy the beauty of the characters and the immerse yourself in the essence of the story
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
If the thin writing is meant to reinforce the attenuated structure of the novel, I say brilliant, but I want to say JMB is also mimicking the short, terse sentences of vintage SF. It's certainly better alien-invasion story than the Hugo-winning 3BP. Feels like a series of cool sci-fi short stories that were later linked together under one premise, though I nearly lost patience with the fluffier first half. As the stories get longer, they get better and richer.

The interview with Brissett on Cabba
It wasn't the sex. Or the gay sex. It was the overly layered style of the writing in which we visited different instances of the character again and again. It did get better when we finally reached the version of the characters that had wings. And from that point on the book was somewhat interesting. But really the author reached for something that was clearly supposed to be difficult for the reader. And it was. And it wasn't worth reaching for. Where a more straightforward version of the story ...more
Dec 23, 2014 marked it as not-my-cup-of-coffee  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Forced myself to read up to 50% but couldn't advance further. Way too strange for me and I really like strange stories. The idea is more than interesting - a corrupted AI which alters 2 persons' (or its avatars, maybe (?)) gender, personalities and time/space in order to better reflect what means to lose a dear one and a 3rd who tries to be seen for what s/he truly is, in a post apocalyptic era. However, all this transcendence, in which nothing happens except growing more and more depressed, is ...more
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Norwescon: Elysium 8 27 Mar 30, 2015 10:02AM  

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Once in her life, and a long time ago, Jennifer Marie Brissett owned and operated a Brooklyn indie bookstore. Now she is an author and has written the novels ELYSIUM (Aqueduct Press) and ELEUSIS (coming in 2020!) 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 Imaginati ...more
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