Review: Travels in Elysium, by William Azuski

Travels in ElysiumTravels in Elysium by William Azuski
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Despite glowing Kirkus and reader reviews, I’d have to say Azuski’s Travels In Elysium is a poorly researched, inconsistently written novel.

The story ostensibly revolves around a young man, Pedrosa, who takes up the position of a lifetime, to work with the legendary archaeologist Huxley, on a dig of epic proportions.

And that’s where everything goes badly wrong, from a research point of view. Azuski presents a lost Atlantis as the foundation of his story, set in the Greek Islands, completely overlooking the research and news of 2011 which alleges to have found the lost city of Atlantis in an environmentally protected swamp in the south of Spain.

Further, Azuski’s knowledge of archaeological technologies and procedures is naive, bordering on Indiana Jones gonzo exploration, so that characters are bulldozing, drilling and hacking away with glee through meters of ancient ash and lava without a clue as to whether their digging will produce any hope of finds. There is no use of geophysics technology, no radar, no sonar, no magnetic sweeps, nothing. Just frantic and erratic digging which sweeps away all the earlier layers of history and dumps them into the sea in the quest to find the lost city.

Then couple that with the fact the characters in the novel are digging on an active volcano, with poisonous gas leaks through vents in various unearthed buildings, and the entire credibility of the story falls apart. People are hallucinating on toxic fumes, experiencing metaphysical journeys to the Isles of the Blessed, when in fact they’d be falling into coma and dying.

Later, when the volcano finally begins an eruption, people are walking around through volcanic ash falling so heavily it’s like snow. Again, Azuski demonstrates a complete lack of regard for any type of research, so that there are no ill effects whatever from these volcanic ashfalls. No one is burned. Everyone breathes perfectly fine in the shadow of the volcano. Boats at anchor experience no difficulty with being top heavy because of ash and pumice accumulating aboard.

As to the writing itself, although Azuski demonstrates evocative phraseology, his use of tense often shoots off in inconsistent directions, so that within one paragraph we’re reading a narrative in past tense, then present tense, and back again.

Apparently the author has a penchant for fishing, because there are so many red herrings used in the first half to two thirds of this overly long novel, that the reader after awhile is ready to give up. First there is an allusion to vampires. Which turns out to be nothing. Then there’s an allusion to a return-from-death cult which may have the privileged and decadent scrambling to inhabit both the temporal and metaphysical city being unearthed. And that fizzles. Then we have political unrest and thuggery, which fizzles. Then we have paparazzi swarming for a scoop on illegal export of priceless artifacts. And that slides off the pages. An addiction to staring blankly into the beyond within a certain temple in which people allegedly experience the metaphysical and live alternative lives. Which turns out to be gassing, which should have in fact meant death. And then, and then, and then….

Until the very end in which Azuski pulls the most amateur and novice stunt of all: it’s all a coma-induced dream of the protagonist, Pedrosa.

Over six hundred pages. And it’s all a dream.

What Azuski really needed was a developmental editor, someone to say get rid of the smelly fish, cut this novel in half, stick to a plot and revise, revise, revise.

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