The Week (US)

Novel of the week The Atmospheri­ans

- By Alex McElroy

(Atria, $27)

Though “satire is a difficult balancing act,” said Sarah Neilson in The Seattle Times, Alex McElroy’s brilliant debut novel “manages it beautifull­y.” In a surreal scenario that lampoons the way the internet warps behavior, men are spontaneou­sly massing in hordes and doing manly things like murdering and mowing lawns when our protagonis­t, Sasha Marcus, finds herself a target of male rights activists. Her friend Dyson persuades her to counter toxic masculinit­y by founding a cult, called the Atmospheri­ans, which offers men workshops on how to be background characters. In McElroy’s world, if anything can go wrong, it will, and it will also be both strange and strangely relevant, said Bethanne Patrick in The Washington Post. The Atmospheri­ans would be better if it spent less time on the cult’s origins and more on its growth. Still, it sharply dramatizes the costs of society’s fraught gender dynamics. By the time Sasha and Dyson cook up an even grander scheme, “readers will understand that anyone, of any gender, can be divorced from a true, compassion­ate self.”

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