Sasha Marcus was once the epitome of contemporary success: an internet sensation, social media darling, and a creator of a high profile wellness brand for women. But a confrontation with an abusive troll has taken a horrifying turn, and now she's at rock bottom: canceled and doxxed online, fired from her waitress job and fortressed in her apartment while men's rights protestors rage outside.
... bold, mischievous, and brilliant ... While the foundations of the story might sound zany, The Athmospherians is a heady exploration of masculinity in crisis, the toxic nature of internet discourse, and the damaging pursuit of relevance over all else. There are moments when the plot borders on the delirious, but McElroy never loses the narrative thread or its foundations in the very real concerns of today. This is a book that almost demands to be read compulsively, so hard is it to fully relax in the new scenarios that come with each page. It is also side-splittingly funny and seductive in the way that a smooth-talking swindler or too-good-to-be-true social media starlet so often is ... One of the ways McElroy accomplishes this is through their precise use of language. The novel is infinitely quotable, providing an embarrassment of descriptive riches ... These insights are easily recognizable and therefore haunting. When reading about the dazed man-hordes that populate this novel’s world, it’s very easy to superimpose images from anti-mask protests and the storming of the Capitol ... Despite the hyperbolic nature of the situations that unfold, there is a very keen awareness of believable human behavior, especially that of our darkest impulses ... in its refusal to sugarcoat what drives the characters, it very effectively holds up an ugly mirror to the reader as well. Although McElroy probes and pokes fun at men’s most problematic behaviors, their protagonist is not a stand-in for a superior moral compass; Sasha is just as prone to dehumanizing the men as men have dehumanized her throughout her life. The most powerful message in The Athmospherians might be that when we turn others into monsters, we become monstrous ourselves ... With a set-up as delicious as The Atmospherians’, it’s a bit of a disappointment that there aren’t more depictions of the fraudulent workshops Sasha and Dyson concoct. It would have helped to both differentiate the men from each other and define what kind of transformations are taking place in the characters. Also, for anyone who suffers from emetophobia, the book should come with a massive warning sign ... it will be hard to deny that this is a novel you’ll mull over long after you’ve read the last sentence. You might even memorize its most biting quips.
Satire is a difficult balancing act of writing, and McElroy manages it beautifully. In the book, a phenomenon in which men 'horde' together forms the backdrop for a nuanced, sticky exploration of masculinity and the roles people play in a binary world ... One of the greatest strengths of The Atmospherians is how profoundly it pushes into the ways in which binary thinking and prescribed notions of identity and worth are harmful ... Existing both inside and outside of time, living in a body both solid and utterly permeable—throughout The Atmospherians, McElroy exposes the cognitive dissonance required to live in a world in which everything exists alongside everything else all at once, the world of the internet. It is a brilliant debut, marking McElroy as a writer to watch.
This debut novel has its uneven bits—the long sections about the Atmosphere’s beginnings could be trimmed to save space for explaining how the cult grows later on, but McElroy offers trenchant commentary on our society’s fraught gender dynamics ... The Atmospherians provides a sharp-edged view of how contemporary gender politics have changed culture—but not what it means to be human.