Thursday, August 27, 2020

Izzy and Eve

Neal Drinnan
Completed 8/26/2020, Reviewed 8/26/2020
2 stars

This book had its moments, but they were too few and far between.  It started off well, but got pretty confusing.  There’s a drug-induced alternate dimension which was just weird.  The subtitle is An Erotic Thriller, but there was nothing erotic about it.  It had sexual content, but nothing that could be classified as erotic.  In fact, it was quite boring and in bad taste.  Somehow, it fooled the judges at the Lambda Literary Awards into thinking this was good literature, winning the 2007 award for Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror.  I read three of the other four nominees, Carnival by Elizabeth Bear, Spin Control by Chris Moriarty, and Mordred Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg.  Any of those three would have been a better choice for the award in my opinion.  This book is just bloated prose with not-well-thought-out ghosts and alternate dimensions.  Somewhere in there was a good idea, but it was executed quite mediocrely. 

Izzy is an older (42 y.o.) gay man living with his best straight friend Eve who is the same age.  Izzy draws comics for adult magazines and Izzy does the accounting and reception for a brothel, occasionally entertaining a rich sheik herself.  One day, Izzy goes missing.  Freaked-out Eve goes searching for him, finding out he was frequenting S&M clubs and taking a drug called SILT that was becoming popular in the gay community.  She finds that there’s been a ton of missing gay men lately, all middle aged.  Eve teams up with Anton, the bisexual lover of another man lost in the same world.  Their search takes them to the police, to a university professor, and to places they never expected. 

The book begins rather normally, introducing these two characters from their first-person perspectives in alternating chapters.  Then when Izzy disappears, he narrates as a ghost or in the alternate dimension (it’s never made clear).  As more people disappear, they appear in the alternate dimension as well.  It took me most of the book to figure out what was going on there.  It wasn’t until a drug seller ends up there that I got it that they were in the other dimension.  Eve’s narrative follows her search for Izzy.  Sometimes their narratives bounce back in time, which got a little confusing.  Towards the end, it jumps ten years without warning, which was also confusing.  Can you tell this book is confusing?

The best drawn character is Eve, though she isn’t very likeable.  She has a terrible attitude toward life, uses a lot of prescription drugs, and is very promiscuous.  Izzy you seem to know in the beginning, but then in the alternate dimension, we just get a lot of overbearing, almost stream of consciousness prose that has little to do with his character.  In the flashbacks, however, you get the sense that you don’t really like Izzy either. 

In the beginning, I liked the prose, but as the book wore on, it seemed bloated and pretentious, like the author was really trying hard to get as many similes and power nouns and adjectives in there as he could.  Sentences ran on way too long.  The author actually notes that he finished his book at a writer’s workshop, which surprised me because it sounded like there was no one there to put the breaks on this book.  Maybe they were just too nice and not willing to be critical enough.

One really important technical point was that the formatting of this e-book was terrible.  It was like they tried to fit a certain (large) number of words to a line and when that number was reached, inserted a carriage return, regardless of whether it was the end of a sentence or not.  At the font size I read, the lines wrapped.  So there would be a full line words, followed by a line of a few words, followed by carriage return and a blank line.  The sentence then continued on the next line.  At first it looked like some kind of poetic formatting, but it was just annoying.  I don’t know who to blame here, the author, the e-book designer, or the editor.  At least with all the blank space, it made me feel like I was reading very quickly.

I give this book two stars out of five.  It’s not truly awful.  It’s just a mess, with some good ideas and bad execution.  But I don’t think I’d give this author another chance.  And I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone.  Even though this was a Lammy winner, it will not be included on the WWEnd LGBTQSpeculative Fiction list.  I’m just glad I didn’t put it on there when I first put the list together.

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