{Book Review} The City Around The World: Elliot Harper

The City Around The World: Elliot Harper

Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan

Science fiction is generally outside my reading comfort zone, but there’s something about the genre that keeps me coming back for more. I love the reflections on society and humanity these books offer, yet they’re often written in a style where the reader must work hard to discover what the commentary is saying, and that aspect is where I tend to stumble. It’s not that I mind being an active reader, I just end up feeling like much of the themes fly straight over my head. Despite this love-hate relationship I have with science fiction I decided to read The City Around the World by Elliot Harper and I’m glad I did.

The book reminded me of a mash-up of Trainspotting and The Matrix – an unlikely pairing, but it worked quite well. I’m pegging this story as science fiction due to thematic and stylistic choices, although it could just as easily be called dystopian fiction or dark speculative fiction, and there are even sections that fit well inside cosmic horror.

The story begins as our unnamed main character awakens from his latest drug binge and finds a mysterious object in his possession. His first thought is to sell the object to buy more drugs, so he journeys to the dangerous Pau Market to make some cash. As the reader begins to see the character’s city, a dystopian area known only as the Slums, you can almost feel and smell the grime. Soon into the book, you realise that drug use is rampant throughout the city as a coping mechanism to deal with the squalid conditions from which there is no escape. The Slums stretch around the globe, bordering the only other place in existence known as Equatorlis, which is supposedly a paradise although no one from either side can cross the wall between them.

At the centre of the market is Miss Ebonvar, leader of the Brotherhood of the Great Wanderer, and she’s as terrifying as you would guess someone with authority in the Slums would be. She soon tosses our guy out, saying never to bring the object into her temple again, providing no explanation for her anger. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want the thing – why exchange something for goods when it can be stolen? Soon the main character finds himself pursued through the Slums by Ebonvar’s goons known as her Children, and they are terrifying.

Each chapter ends with a few paragraphs from somewhere else entirely. Known only as the Boy, this character plays video games and goes to a circus, trying to fill time between visits from “Her.” At first, these sections feel very disjointed to the rest of the story taking place in the Slums, but by the end there’s a mind-blowing connection between all the characters, tying everything together.

Themes include class warfare, the dangers of trickle-down economics, and the origins of religion as quotes from theology texts on “the Great Wanderer” are infused into the chapters. Heavy stuff to cover in just over a hundred pages, yet it works thanks to the author’s stripped-down prose and implications through subtext.

Simultaneously simplistic and complex, The City Around the World by Elliot Harper is a great book to read slowly and ponder long after you’re finished.

The City Around The World

Dasein: he craves it, he needs it. The needle rules his whole life, but when he stumbles upon a mysterious object, his world is thrown into disarray.

Can he fight his addiction long enough to survive, or will he succumb to the monsters living without and within?

You can buy The City Around The World from Amazon UK & Amazon US

J.A. Sullivan

J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.

As curator of “Scary’s Voices” on Kendall Reviews, an article series reviewing horror podcasts, Sullivan loves listening to all things spooky. If you have a horror podcast recommendation, let her know.

On top of contributing short stories to Kendall Reviews, her fiction has appeared in Don’t Open the Door (2019), It Came From The Darkness (2020), and she acted as an assistant editor for Black Dogs, Black Tales (2020). Other spooky tales and updates on her writing journey can be found on her blog.

You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan

Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com

Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan

Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan

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