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Down the Rabbit Hole

My honest review of “Dusk Upon Elysium”

Dusk Upon Elysium

Since March 2020 we’ve heard all kind of conspiracy theories about the Covid pandemics and the measures governments have taken to contain the spread of the virus. Ranging from “it was all a failed experiment in a dark and unknown lab” to “it’s an ongoing experiment to control all of humanity”, I think there hasn’t been a week without one of these peculiar theories.

It was only a matter of time before someone had the courage to take a few of the best-formed conspiracy theories and condensed them in a book, and last month I had the chance to read it. In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about “Dusk Upon Elysium” by Tamel Wino.

It’s set in a dystopian future, after a deadly plague has decimated the human population and forced the few survivors inside small cubicles all alone or with a very few loved ones. Geoff is one of the people involved in the creation of Paradiso, a virtual reality application which is supposed to bring relief to socially isolated people by bringing them inside a virtually created world. Specifically, his job is in QA, the part where testers run the simulation looking for bugs and things in general that can improve the user experience. One of the most boring and repetitive tasks of the software producing pipeline, trust your software engineer friend, but to be honest it’s one of the most crucial steps, if not the most crucial.

This is why his employers make their best efforts to keep Geoff and the rest of its time on a good note, in the corporate meaning of the term, of course: countless hours of counselling, meetings and all that stuff companies do to let you know they care about your wellbeing, if you know what I mean. But something is bothering Geoff for real, memories of his past life or a kind of glitch in the matrix that brings them back to him, vivid as ever.

I have to say it scared me a bit in the beginning because the first few chapters really look like your typical Conspiracy theories handbook. But then the story took a twist, a good and original one . It blended the software creation process together with the idea of levels proper to video games and applied them to a dystopian situation such as a post-pandemic world.

Dusk Upon Elysium is the kind of dystopia we’ve all thought at least once in the past two and a half years, and I like how it tackled a topic like grief, showing how it can be used against us. The characters in this books are incredibly human and superbly written, and it makes for a stark contrast with the desolation and cold brutality of the new reality. I admit it took a while to see where the story was going, but as usual it was a nice trip down the rabbit hole.

Grief and regret are mixed with the sense of isolation and uncertainty we’ve been feeling for more than two years and a half. For sure it’s easier to stir feelings in people when they can recognise a bit of their own experience in your words, but it’s not so easy to keep them engaged and follow your story if you’ve got nothing more than that to say.

It was an interesting read for sure, and of course I have a few unanswered questions about it that live in my head since I finished the book. I’ll add a few spoiler-ish considerations and questions behind a collapsible section so that you can read them only if you really mean to. Open at your discretion.

Questions, questions, more questions

I wonder whether there were people not involved in the Paradiso development, and what happened to them. What do they do with their time all alone in their cubicle? Or did the shady elite driving the experiment find a place and a job to every person who dodged the virus? In my opinion, it would reinforce the idea of totalitarian regime I pictured in my head.

And how come nobody had tried to go back to normal? What about the doctors? Is any of them still looking for a cure or has humanity as a whole given up on hope?

I’m asking all these questions to myself and to whoever read the book because at first I was hesitant about the story it tells. I expected it to be a struggle of Geoff and a small group of people (kind of a Resistance in Star Wars) sabotaging Paradiso in open opposition with the government, or whatever is left of it. But then it took a different twist, and I have to say I’m glad it did. I’m not a huge fan of small groups of people overturning an evil, powerful and consolidated power: after a while it’s not believable.

Quite a lot to think about, right? On one hand, I’d loved to see a few more details about them, but it’s true that the story was more than enjoyable anyway. Sometimes less is more, and this book has already given me a lot to talk about.

Published inReviewsStorytelling

2 Comments

  1. I was curious about your review for this one! I was sure you would have a great analysis of the book and I was right. 😉 Love your reviews. Thanks for joining us.

    • Thank you for your kind words. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to read so many different stories

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