The Atmospherians, Alex McElroy: A Review
A disgraced influencer. A cult. Man hordes. I didn't know quite what to expect when I picked up The Atmospherians, but I quickly dove in.
Sasha is reeling after a harsh comment on social media lands her in the light of blame after the death of a male follower. Losing everything she's built, she receives an offer from her long-time best friend Dyson to start a cult. Their goal? To help men get in touch with their feelings, to damper the aggression, and to help solve the rising social issue of "man hordes" that are inexplicably popping up all over the country. With nothing left to lose, Sasha agrees, but The Atmosphere proves to be more than she signed up for. I really enjoyed this book. Right off the bat, I will say it is satirical, so if you're going into this thinking it's a light-hearted examination of a fallen influencer's path to redemption, you might be surprised. This read more like a Black Mirror episode to me, the kind of social commentary that simultaneously feels entertaining yet disconcerting. From her influencer lifestyle to her rise in The Atmosphere, we're given the curtain, what's behind the curtain, and everything the curtain's made of. Her voice is sarcastic, blunt, and oftentimes unrepentant. Her friendship with Dyson is a mixture of wanting to fit in, no other option, and the strange sense of loyalty that develops when you've known someone for a long time. The commentary is what will really stick with you, though. This is a book that will make you think about the things you say. How you say them. The impact of words. At the same time, you'll question the self-help paradigms and the system that's set up to exploit the weaknesses of the vulnerable. There are also some pretty *TW eating disorders* intense moments featuring bingeing and purging, and while I can't say I liked this (in the same way I can't say I liked reading about cooking babies in order to solve Ireland's hunger issue) I thought McElroy's handling of the subject and the purpose of including the Emptying Out in The Atmosphere is relevant--not voyeuristic or glorified. Overall, The Atmospherians is a smart, dense, satirical read that will leave you questioning the role of social media in our lives, the availability of social media apologies and censorship, the veil of celebrity, and the impact our physical relationships have in shaping future relationships. I'd recommend to fans of Black Mirror, Klaus' formation of the cult in Umbrella Academy (Dyson actually reminds me of that character quite a bit, at times) and anyone looking for a literary mystery with social commentary. Thank you to Atria and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.