In Olsen’s hypnotic, experimental retelling of the Minotaur legend, a familiar story is given a powerful contemporary touchstone.
Thousands of years after it was first told, the story of the Minotaur is one that still holds the capacity to surprise and unnerve readers. The central character of this novel is named Debris, the Minotaur reimagined as a diminutive girl dwelling in a strange labyrinth. Olsen’s powerfully told novel reads, at times, like a collection of monologues, primarily told from Debris’ perspective but periodically interrupted by voices from antiquity, accounts of explorers and visionaries, and testimonials from the modern surveillance state. It’s a narrative in which J.G. Ballard and Julian Assange can coexist with Icarus and Daedalus and where the amorphous nature of bodies in mythology takes on a newfound contemporary resonance. Gradually, the story being told here begins to incorporate larger concerns, from the societal abuse of women to the way technology can erode identities to the question of whether our world might be a simulation by some other advanced society. Olsen frequently heads into challenging territory, whether through the juxtaposition of current events with revisionist takes on mythology or through the haunting, fragmented manner in which the story plays out. A reference late in the novel to the work of filmmakers Werner Herzog and David Lynch suggests that not all of Olsen’s aesthetic reference points are literary, and it also suggests a larger structure in which experimental techniques are used to achieve a deeper emotional truth. In this way, the novel manages to be simultaneously experimental and accessible.
Olsen finds a new spin on one of the oldest stories out there, illuminating some of the more horrific aspects and pressing questions of the modern world.