Short Take: “Elysium,” Jennifer Marie Brissett

Pros: Interesting characters and world
Cons: Utterly confusing and surreal
Rating: 3 out of 5

Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Elysium is an odd, surreal story about Adrianne and Antoine, who are going through some marital difficulties. Or maybe it’s about Adrianne and Antoinette? Or brothers Antoine and Adrian? Variant after variant of the story emerges, each one further from “reality” than the last, until we’re reading not about standard relationship troubles, but about a war with enigmatic aliens, involving a dust that’s changing Earth’s inhabitants, a city beneath a city, and a mysterious message humanity leaves behind as it races to escape the planet.

I never really felt like there was a coherent story here. I understand that some readers like a surreal, inexplicable experience, and if that’s for you, you might enjoy this more than I did. However, when I read a story that never really comes together as a whole I tend to feel like I didn’t get much out of it. I would have preferred to just see the actual story of the world succumbing to aliens without the reality-hopping and character-flipping.

The characters are interesting, at least, although we don’t spend a lot of time with any one of them. The pacing is okay, allowing us longer glimpses of uninterrupted narrative as we go. For some reason elks keep showing up; no idea what that’s about. It is nice to have some non-white, non-cis/het characters to follow.

I wish I had better things to say about this book. It just never came together for me.

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