Psychotopia is a modern literary journey down through the seven circles of Hell which left me feeling utterly drained.
R.N. Morris has plucked out two of society’s current anxieties (the rise of psychopaths, especially in positions of power, and the influence of online gaming on the shape of our society), combined them with new scientific knowledge (the brain is a changing organ and neural pathways can be reprogrammed) and come up with a horrifyingly plausible future dystopian scenario.
What is a psychopath? According to Psychology Today:
Psychopaths are characterized by a suite of antisocial behavioral patterns, including cheating, stealing, and sometimes, far worse crimes. In short, these are people who exploit others for their own gain as a matter of their general life strategy.
The narrative moves between apparently unrelated characters.
There’s the apparently psychopathic cop who, along with his colleagues, is trying to bring some level of civic order to the chaos and anarchy caused by an inexplicable rise in psychopaths. His interactions with psychopathic criminals are both hilarious and horrifying. As many psychopaths are, he’s very entertaining and easy to like, though you’ll kick yourself later for warming to him.
Aimée is a young architect who picks up a gorgeous stranger at a friend’s party and takes him home with her. It’s a decision she’ll regret for the rest of her life.
Sally Mann is the newly hired Assistant Experiential Architect at Alpha Games, a job highly prized in game development circles. Her lack of confidence and desperate need to please make her prime fodder for her manipulative boss to exploit.
As the story progresses we discover these characters have more in common than it appears.
The story is interrupted regularly with confidential notes for the creation of ‘Psychotopia’, an online game being developed by Alpha Games. Players take on the avatar of a psychopath and are sent on an increasingly gruesome killing spree.
But what is causing the rise in psychopathy in the general population? And what will happen to society if the balance shifts in favour of the psychopaths?
As you’d expect, Psychotopia is peppered with some pretty stomach-churning violence. The mind games are also fairly next-level. Overall, this was a frightening and fascinating read about what could happen to our world if the minority becomes the majority.
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.