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‘All the Smells in the World’ Short Review

All the Smells in the World is a fascinating and unsettling portrayal of a virtual reality enhancement gone wrong. The author takes an employee of a tech startup and puts them in the middle of an attempt to insert smell into virtual reality. It’s a concept frequently discussed but seemingly impossible to master. The company creates a clunky prototype that eventually becomes a more advanced method of brain enhancement. The results are unintended and surprising, to say the least.

The story takes a turn for the terrifying when the protagonist takes off the device and suddenly smells things they shouldn’t be. Their brain has somehow been rewired to perceive smells along with sight, turning the world upside down. The boyfriend now smells vile, the streets a mix of pleasant and disgusting fragrances. It’s a strange concept to imagine, and the narrative makes you realize how important smell is to our perception of the world. Good smells create positive memory associations and bad smells create undesired physical reactions and negative memories. If every object, surface and person changed scents instantly, how would you react?

All the Smells in the World presents a great conversation on the advancement of technology and how far is too far. Graphics continue to improve, touch recognition is moments away, and sound quality puts you right in the moment. Do we really need to add in another sense to pull us away from the real world? It’s something to ponder after reading this thought-provoking story.

All the Smells in the World

Written by Julie Novakova
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
January/February 2019

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