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Thursday, August 5, 2021

To Awaken in Elysium by Raymond St. Elmo review


Author's Goodreads Profile
Order To Awaken in Elysium over HERE (USA) or HERE(UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Raymond St. Elmo wandered into a degree in Spanish Literature, which gave no job, just a love of Magic Realism. Moving on to a degree in programming gave him a job and an interest in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, which lead him back into the world of magic realism. Author of many fantasy books, possibly comic, certainly unusual. He lives in Texas.

FORMAT/INFO: Self-published on July 29, 2021 | 244 Pages | 

OVERVIEW: The story opens with a car chase on a stormy night. With thunders, lightning, and heavy rain. Unusual things happen but I wouldn’t expect anything less.

The titular Elysium is a sleepy farm town with a weird side. And lots of graveyards. The new art teacher, Cora Waterhouse, expected her assignment to be dull. Instead, she starts bedding a ghost. The new English teacher, Trey Street, takes poetry seriously. His students think he’s a poser, he thinks he’s fascinating. 

They both give their students similar assignments. Cora wants her students to paint clouds. Trey expects them to write a story about what they see in the clouds. Written by hand because: “pen and paper discouraged copy-and-paste, encouraged originality. Pens, pencils, clay tablets or quills and parchment... physical writing created a link twixt hand, heart and word. “

The story features more characters, some alive (local youth, their parents, and teachers) some undead (I’ve mentioned graveyards, right? Graveyards and ghosts go together). Each of them has a role to play, a truth to discover, a life to experience.

Like most of St. Elmo’s books, To Awaken in Elysium is philosophical, humorous, and romantic. It’s filled with quotable lines, intriguing thoughts, and metaphysical yearnings. It plays with the narrative and contains stories within stories (even a few rated by the lunatic English teacher). The book culminates with a poetry slam in which a living poet faces a dead poet. It’s...unusual. And immensely fun!

To Awaken in Elysium won’t appeal to everyone; it lacks high stakes or tight plotting. It defies easy categorization and plays with readers’ expectations and assumptions. It’s lighthearted, yes, but also sad and nostalgic. Its characters want more than trivial jobs and lives. They believe in art and creativity. It’s the book you read for excellent prose, intriguing humor, excellent and humorous wordplay. Take this quick exchange between Cora and her ghost lover, for example:

“Hmm. Wasn’t your hair brown? 

“Seriously? I dyed it. Weeks ago, I point out.” 

“Well, I died too. Weeks ago, I also point out.”

Or this description of the darker sides of some lives in small towns.

“Well, teacher-lounge rumor said the boy lived a latch-key life. His father spending the days fishing, so drunk by sunset the fish sent him home, calling him a cab, helping with his coat and tackle box…”

If you’re into slice-of-life coming-of-age stories with metaphysical ambitions tempered with self-deprecating (but subtle) humor, you can’t go wrong with To Awaken in Elysium. If you like ghost sex, it’s here, too. Vampires? You’re covered. Tigers? There’s one in Elysium. In other words, it’s a journey worth taking!

PS: Now, I need to discover the weird and unexpected side of Theory, the last of the forgotten cities in Central Texas. To Awaken in Elysium is a part of the series of standalone novels depicting the weird side of the following towns: Angelica (Stations of the Angels), Elysium (To Awaken in Elysium), Hell (Letters from The Well in The Season of the Ghosts), and Theory (In Theory, It Works Fine). 



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