Sunday, August 19, 2018

Centuries Ago and Very Fast

Rebecca Ore
Completed 8/18/2018, Reviewed 8/19/2018
3 stars

This was an odd book.  It’s a collection of interrelated short stories about a 14,000-year-old gay man who can travel through time.  It follows him from cave man times to the present where he has a relationship with a thirty something cop.  It’s an intriguing premise but not necessarily always executed well.  I found myself sometime stumbling over clumsy prose, but pushing through because it was so interesting.  In the end, I had to say I was satisfied with the book, I just wished it was written a little better. 

The book is about Vel who is nearly immortal.  He can die if mortally wounded, but otherwise has been living since Paleolithic days.  He is accepted by the tribe, taking care of children who otherwise would have been have been strangled by their mothers who could not take care of them.  He also hunts with the tribe, killing mammoths and helping process them for food and clothing.  The stories about Vel in the past are told from Vel’s point of view.  They jump around in time from the Stonewall riots in NYC in 1969, to 18th century London where he helps a young male prostitute escape his predicament and the sodomy laws of the day, to a pre-Roman period where he is a minor deity of a spring.  These stories are interwoven with a narrative told by Thomas, Vel’s present day lover, who knows the truth about Vel.  Thomas worries about growing older while Vel remains the same age. 

The stories were all interesting.  My favorites were a tale about Vel, Thomas, and Vel’s descendants gathering for a traditional prehistoric Yule and the tale of the 1726 London and the male prostitute Vel tries to rescue.  The Yule story is full of great descriptions of the ritual.  It includes a scene where a young girl is made to swear that she will never tell anyone of the secret of Vel’s longevity.  The London story is a look at how gay men lived in the eighteenth century with the brutal sodomy laws that resulted in many hangings.  I also enjoyed following along with Thomas’ tale in the present day. 

Some of the stories included sex scenes which may not be for everyone.  However, one of them was very interesting in that it described Thomas’ problems with sex being a survivor of sexual abuse.  It is graphic yet very gentle, showing Vel’s patience and compassion with Thomas. 

My only real problem with the book was that the prose was choppy at times.  There were parts where I couldn’t follow the sentences.  It was like they didn’t have any structure, or parts were missing, like the subject.  I don’t know if this was style, or an editing problem, but I didn’t like it.  It happened mostly during the Paleolithic stories.  At first, I thought it was supposed to be like “cave man talk”, but the story was being told from the present reflecting on the past, so it was fluid at other times.  The prose was inconsistent at best.

I give the book three stars out of five.  It’s good, but could have used a better editor.  The book is short and interesting, so it makes for a compelling read.  It was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award for books published for the first time in paperback and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for positive LGBTQ content.

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