Gilding Decay: Illusory Glow of Power in Nguyen Duy Tri’s Golden Power

Nguyen Duy Tri’s “Golden Power,” nestled within the unsettling anthology “Acid Madness” (2023), is a story that shimmers with the deceptive allure of gold, yet exposes the rot beneath its glittering surface. In a city choked by the fumes of industry and shrouded in perpetual twilight, power takes the form of a tangible substance called “golden dust,” wielded by an elite class known as the “Goldens.” Through the eyes of Mara, a young woman caught between servitude and ambition, Tri weaves a chilling narrative that probes the corrosive nature of power, the insidious decay of a society built on exploitation, and the flickering hope that persists even in the darkest corners.

A City Gilded and Grimy

The oppressive atmosphere of Tri’s dystopia is a tangible character in itself. The city, pulsating with the relentless thrum of machinery, is choked by toxic fumes and the stench of decay. The Goldens, adorned in their shimmering attire and wielding their golden dust, float above the grimy underclass, a constant reminder of the starkly divided social order. Mara, working as a “Scrubber,” cleans the gilded residue from the opulent lives of the elite, forever aware of the chasm that separates her from their world.

The Allure and Corruption of Golden Dust

Golden dust, the coveted currency of power, grants its users superhuman abilities: strength, agility, even immortality. Its allure is undeniable, yet Tri masterfully portrays its corrosive nature. As Mara observes the Goldens, she witnesses their arrogance, their descent into hedonism and moral decay. The pursuit of more power inevitably leads to corruption and a grotesque distortion of humanity. Even those who achieve the coveted golden glow find themselves trapped in a gilded cage, forever chasing the next high, the next fleeting advantage.

A Seed of Rebellion in the Grime

Despite the pervasive hopelessness, Tri subtly plants the seeds of rebellion. Mara, initially drawn to the golden mirage, gradually awakens to its destructive nature. She forms an unlikely alliance with others deemed worthless by the Goldens: a resourceful inventor, a disillusioned Golden.


“Golden Power” concludes not with a resounding victory or a fiery revolution, but with a flickering ember of hope. Mara and her ragtag band of rebels manage to disrupt the city’s production of golden dust, a small dent in the grand scheme of things, yet a powerful symbol of defiance. The ending, like the city itself, remains shrouded in twilight, leaving the reader to ponder the future. Will the flicker of rebellion ignite a true uprising, or will the gilded order crush it underfoot? This ambiguity, however, reinforces the story’s core message: even in the most oppressive systems, the human spirit can find a way to resist, to fight for a future where power doesn’t corrupt, but empowers.


  • What genre is “Golden Power”?

“Golden Power” blends elements of dystopian fiction, science fiction, and social commentary, creating a unique and unsettling narrative experience.

  • Is the story fast-paced and action-packed?

While the story contains moments of thrilling escape and confrontation, the focus lies on internal conflict and psychological exploration. Mara’s struggle against the allure of power and the moral decay of the Golden class drives the narrative forward.

  • Is there a clear protagonist and antagonist?

The lines between protagonist and antagonist are blurred. Mara represents the potential for resistance, while the Goldens symbolize the corrupting nature of power. However, the story acknowledges the complexities of each side, avoiding simplistic portrayals of good versus evil.

  • Does the story have a happy ending?

The ending is ambiguous, leaving the future of the city and the rebellion uncertain. This open-ended conclusion invites the reader to engage in critical thinking and consider the potential consequences of the characters’ actions.

  • Where can I find the book?

“Golden Power” is available within the “Acid Madness” anthology, which can be found online or at major bookstores.

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