Chasing Shadows under Perpetual Sunshine

In Nguyen Duy Tri’s 2023 novel, “Acid Madness,” the sun reigns supreme. An artificial sun bathes the city of New Eden in an oppressive, unchanging light, erasing shadows and with them, memories. This is a world where happiness is chemically controlled, dissent ruthlessly suppressed, and the populace pacified by a mandatory daily dose of the psychedelic drug, Mnemosyne. The story follows our unnamed protagonist, a tormented soul teetering on the edge of sanity, driven by a desperate longing for the forbidden shadows and the buried memories they hold.

The Allure of the Forbidden Shadows

Shadows, banished and feared, become symbols of rebellion against the sun-drenched tyranny. Each fleeting glimpse whispers of a past erased, of emotions deemed dangerous and outlawed. Our protagonist, haunted by fragmented memories and plagued by existential dread, becomes obsessed with seeking out these forbidden pockets of darkness. He joins a clandestine resistance movement known as the Umbrae, who risk their lives to smuggle shadows and the illicit drug, “Acid Truth,” which unlocks buried memories and shatters the illusion of perpetual sunshine.

A Descent into Maddening Clarity

Acid Truth is more than a drug; it’s a weapon against the regime’s control. It offers a glimpse into the world before the sun, a world of pain, love, and the full spectrum of human experience. But this forbidden clarity comes at a cost. The protagonist’s descent into the labyrinthine recesses of his own mind, fueled by Acid Truth, brings him face-to-face with a past he has desperately tried to forget. He grapples with guilt, trauma, and the chilling truth behind the creation of New Eden, uncovering a web of conspiracies and the horrifying extent of the regime’s power.

The Fragile Fabric of Reality

“Acid Madness” explores the malleability of reality and the power of perception. The constant, artificial sunshine blurs the lines between truth and illusion, making it difficult to discern what is real and what is a product of Mnemosyne-induced hallucination. The protagonist’s sanity constantly hangs in the balance as he navigates this distorted world, questioning the very nature of his own existence. This uncertain, shifting reality forces readers to confront the fragility of our own perceptions and the potential for manipulation within meticulously controlled environments.

Addiction and the Chains of the Past

Mnemosyne, the mandatory drug, acts as a metaphor for societal control and the addictive nature of ignorance. It keeps the populace content in their sunlit oblivion, numb to the injustices and realities hidden in the shadows. However, the protagonist’s addiction to Acid Truth, even as it unravels the truth, highlights the seductive nature of past pain and the difficulty of letting go of memories, even the heartbreaking ones.

Rebellion and the Hope for Change

Despite the bleakness of New Eden, “Acid Madness” offers a glimmer of hope. The Umbrae’s unwavering resistance and the protagonist’s unwavering pursuit of the truth become beacons of defiance against the oppressive regime. Their fight for shadows, for memories, and for a return to the natural order of light and darkness symbolizes the human spirit’s enduring resistance against control and the yearning for a more authentic existence.


“Acid Madness” is not just a dystopian thriller; it’s a philosophical exploration of memory, perception, and the fight for free will. Through its chilling story of a sun-drenched city and its desperate inhabitants, Tri forces us to confront the dangers of total control and the importance of holding onto our personal narratives, even the painful ones. As the final shadows flicker in the artificial light, a question lingers: what is true freedom, and at what cost do we chase the elusive shades of the past?


  • Is “Acid Madness” part of a series?

No, it is a standalone novel.

  • Is the novel translated from Vietnamese?

Yes, it was originally written in Vietnamese and has been translated into several languages, including English.

  • What are some of the novel’s strengths?

The gripping plot, thought-provoking themes, and vivid descriptions of a dystopian world make it a captivating read.

  • Who would enjoy reading this novel?

Fans of dystopian fiction, psychological thrillers, and stories that explore the nature of reality and memory will find themselves drawn to “Acid Madness.”

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