Psychotopia — a review



A game for the times we live – and die – in. Enter Psychotopia, a dark new dystopian novel from the author of the acclaimed Silas Quinn mysteries.

PSYCHOTOPIA, LEVEL ONE. Create your own boutique psychopath, then deceive, manipulate and be ruthless, spreading mayhem and destruction to reach the next levels.

It’s the computer game for our times. After all, the amount of crazy in the world is increasing. Senseless violence on the streets is becoming the norm. Can Dr Arbus’s ground-breaking device identify and neutralize psychopaths before it’s too late? In this increasingly dysfunctional world, surely Callum standing by Aimee after her devastating encounter with Charlie is proof that real love and goodness can still win in a world that’s increasingly rotten . . . Or can it?


I started reading this book with no small amount of reservation.  Obviously, I chose to read it.  However, having worked in the game development industry in the past and been a regular game-player, myself, I was worried that this would be a very long, fictional treatise on the horrors of playing video games and how it’s killing society.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game itself doesn’t feature prominently in the actual storyline until about a third of the way in.

To start, the book is very disjointed.  It was very nearly off-putting.  Except that it felt like it was intentionally off-putting.  Like Morris wants to weed out those who are not committed to this horrific social experiment on paper.  At the same time that the story feels disjointed, it flows smoothly.  That is to say that each chapter starts out as its own little vignette and even though there are seemingly no connections between each scene (sort of like Crash), you can already start to see the threads that will be there.  Because of this, I buckled down and had faith that I would see some of these characters again and that their short little chapters that nearly drove me to distraction would pan out.  Chapters aren’t labeled with the speaker, the time, or anything.  The reader is expected ot parse it out (speaker is easy, but I’m not so sure I got the timeline right).  Between the introduction of a new speaker or character almost every other chapter, there’s bound ot be some places of overlap as well things being out of chronological order.  That being said, my interpretation is that everything happens on a linear timeline.

Morris’ handling of the psychopath as a sort of….epidemic/zombie infestation is new, for sure.  It seems that the POVs expressed throughout the book are largely from the psychopathic group, though their denial of their state of mind is also across the board.  None of them admit to being a pyschopath because they can explain away their attitude and behavior with prefectly (in their minds) reasonable and logical explanations.  However, their interactions with other characters as well as the way they feel about life generally rat them out.  Something that usually turns me off of a book is over-explaining.  I don’t need to know every minute detail of why or how a person does something, but in Morris’ book….it’s a necessity that just adds to the depth of understanding of the characters.  The good psycho (if that is such a thing) does it sometimes, but not always…but the raging psycho who is more of a sociopathic psychopath?  His constant mental monologues about the how and why he behaves the way he does actually add to the story.  They reinforce the narcissistic tendencies he has as well as allow a person whose brain DOESN’T generally follow those thought processes to see them.

Something that Morris manages to bring up in between all this character-driven story is the question of how far is too far?  There is mention of a lot of pre-crime treatment of people who pass this test.  Current courts couldn’t support that (innocent until proven guilty and all that).  So criminalizing a mental state seems to be the big “hot topic” trigger that gets tucked in the story.  Especially with the introduction of a child who definitely has psychopathic traits.  The truly terrifying part is the end, though…when Morris takes what little hope the reader has and destroys it 100%.

Interspersed between chapters of story are dev notes from the idea stage of the game.  This is pretty much all the information about the game (which is still in development through the story) that you ever get.  This book, however, goes right up there as one of the most interesting and messed up things I’ve read in a long time.  Definitely one to grab.

Amazon US / Amazon UK


Author Bio –

rm photo.jpegR. N. Morris is the author of ten novels. The latest is PSYCHOTOPIA, published 31 October, 2018.

A Gentle Axe, was published by Faber and Faber in 2007. Set in St Petersburg in the nineteenth century, it features Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky’s great novel, Crime and Punishment. The book was published in many countries, including Russia. He followed that up with A Vengeful Longing, which was shortlisted for the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award (as the CWA Gold Dagger was briefly known). A Razor Wrapped in Silk came next, followed by The Cleansing Flames, which was nominated for the Ellis Peters Historical Novel Dagger.

The Silas Quinn series of novels, set in London in 1914, began with Summon Up The Blood, followed by The Mannequin HouseThe Dark Palace and The Red Hand of Fury. The next novel in the series, The White Feather Killer, will be published in April 2019.

Taking Comfort is a standalone contemporary novel, written as Roger Morris.

He also wrote the libretto to the opera When The Flame Dies, composed by Ed Hughes.


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