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Review 74: Elysian Fields

Elysian Fields
Andy Bryenton
Copyright ©2008
$24.00 paperback
456 pages
ISBN 978-1-4092-4145-4

Do you know the picture of the little fish about to get eaten by the bigger fish, himself about to become dinner for a larger fish, and so on? Turn the fish into a variety of mutants and aliens held together by nanobots, and you have a pretty good starting point for reading Elysian Fields. Typically I try to give you a plot summary, a few quotes, and an idea of what you’re getting yourself into by reading the book I am reviewing. In this case I’m going to have to send you in without the wisdom of my council because there’s just way too much for me to try to make it make sense to you.

Consider this some appetizers then. The book is set in the post-apocalyptic future. You’re somewhere on earth at the bottom of a dried ocean blasted away by the nuclear bombs. Remnants of our earth make the occasional appearance, but any semblance to the actual earth of today is purely coincidental. The last city on earth is Elysium, and it’s a bit like Las Vegas without the subtlety. There is a huge cast of characters that tend to fight a lot for a variety of reasons.

It’s hard to really identify a hero here, there aren’t a lot of sympathetic characters. Some of my favorites include the army of dead ‘peace officers’ who have been kept on the force by having gadgets and gizmos attached to their bodies making them walk and talk and, of course, shoot. There are bluebloods who fight a never-ending death match with regenerated bodies in an effort to become Emperor. And of course, Pope Joan III who runs the Vatican level where the best nightclubs can be found.

Running through the narrative is a subtle humor, a bit like “Hitchhiker’s Guide” on testosterone. The background is invariably gloomy and dank as in this description:

He reached his homeblock as the rain began to fall, a half-hearted acid drizzle painting everything pastel and grey. His hands seemed too huge and clumsy to work the security keypad, but some antediluvian part of his brain got the job done on automatic. The door clicked open, hissing something cheerful from a busted grille, and he was home sweet somewhere.

We also get the requisite asides, small quotations from now defunct publications that explain some of the background we need to know or, as in this case, explaining something we know all too well to future generations:

Shopping Mall: A temple to the Pre-Apocalyptic God of Economics, the Shopping Mall was a form of ritualized, sanitized bazaar or marketplace, replicated across the world from glorious multi-storey edifices to so-called ‘Dirt Malls’ and ‘Mini Malls’ of lesser provenance and stature. Artificial plants, synthesized ‘muzak’ and false bonhomie were the trappings of these mighty temples of yore, where thousands of
pilgrims came to make cash offerings daily. - Professor Hiram Quigley Fosse ‘Malls of the Ancients – The Old God’

You can either read Elysian Fields or drop some acid, turn up Disturbed to 10 and watch The Matrix trilogy on fast forward. The net effect is about the same. This book is non-stop sci-fi action from the minute you get past the unnecessary prologue. Someone is constantly getting blown up, shot, incinerated, or otherwise gorily dispatched. I ended up enjoying the book because it doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is, a sci-fi comic book that just happens to be 450+ pages long. You get your USRDA of made-up techno words, a full helping of creepy aliens, and a suitably terrifying extrapolation of where humanity will end up if we stay on our current course.

It’s not for the faint of heart, but Elysian Fields does what good Sci-Fi should, keeps you baffled but entertained from the minute you start reading until it spits you out many hours later, slightly dazed and overwhelmed. My only gripe was the ending, which seemed to be more Andy Bryenton needing to get to bed because he’d stayed up all month writing than a satisfying wrap-up to the roller coaster ride. I leave it up to you to decide if the ending is acceptable because you have to read this book, even if just to say you survived.

4 Responses to “Review 74: Elysian Fields”

  1. Great review, Dan.

    Although I don’t read this genre, I’d pick this book up and thumb through it just because of it’s great book cover.

  2. The ‘ending’ is actually the intermission before part two - due out in time for the northern summer blockbuster movie season. An incomplete version of ‘Chains of Tartarus’ is available from Lulu.com for anyone brave enough to dare its fractured and unpolished prose… or anyone who wants a little closure!

  3. Definitely the best read I’ve had in ages. Screw the Matrix; I’d like to see this on the big screen.

  4. Thanks again to #One for the props! Are they gonna review your book in here any time soon? I’d lend my weight to that application…

    As far as movies go, I could never pick the characters and actors to match… except for Eric Bana as Haszan… after seeing him as Mark ‘Chopper’ Read he’s the perfect gentleman thug.

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