The Pariahs: A Review

by William Burns

The Pariahs by Erik Hofstatter is a dystopian novella that is told through multiple perspectives yet is connected through an examination of the concept of the outcast, that alienation imposed from outside finds a way to invade even the most deepest parts of our selves. The true horror of The Pariahs is how the hope for love, acceptance, and protection can be manipulated, twisted, and can leave us vulnerable to pain and tragedy. The narrative focuses on three characters, Demyan, Akilina, and Taisiya, inhabitants of a nightmarish research facility in Russia. A nuclear disaster has resulted in radiation poisoning, mutations, and extremely unethical experiments by sadistic scientists. Demyan and Akilina are kept in hellish conditions, physically, mentally, and emotionally tortured because of their medical anomalies. Their will to live and see each other again keeps them alive, but just barely. With the help of the mysterious Taisiya, the siblings attempt to escape the vicious institute, but is this aid just another monstrous psychological experiment?  Hofstatter’s prose takes us into the intense psyches of his characters, revealing how the need for contact and validation from other people can keep us human in even the most inhuman situations but can also open us up to the worst sort of exploitation and cruelty. Invoking the cold, clinical barbarity of Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration and Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Hofstatter’s novella successfully mixes profound compassion with an enigmatic terror that is manifested in the inner and outer experiences of being human. The only criticism of the work is that the chapters are too short and consistently pull the reader out of the engrossing mindset of the characters. The Pariahs is a suspenseful, darkly profound meditation on the lesser and greater inhumanities we all suffer and perpetuate on each other every day.   

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