The City’s Gates – Peter Dubé (Cormorant Books)

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Buy it now direct from Cormorant Books

Peter Dubé’s last novel, “Subtle Bodies,” was a look at Rene
Crevel and the Surrealist movement—more importantly, it studied Crevel’s
acceptance into that movement as well as how it ultimately rejected him. Dubé’s
latest work, “The City’s Gates,” foregoes the Surrealists in favor of urban
terrorist cells, but expands on his interest in the relationship between groups
and the individuals who need to join them.

Lee (last name unknown) is recruited by the Director of an
Orwellian official organization to infiltrate and gain intelligence on a number
of small counterculture groups whose aim is to disrupt a monolothic
International Economic Conference to be held in Montreal. As the groups plan
and plot, Lee finds himself on the inside gaining their confidence but is
forced to re-examine his own priorities and reasons for being there. Can he
stop them? Does he want to anymore?

Dubé creates an eerie, tense urban atmosphere rife with
potential for violence; one which stifles human emotions as it encourages the
construction of public facades. Its artifice is breathtaking in scope but
suffocates individuals. All must affect the same disaffected demeanor, which
makes the occasional glimpse into the revolutionaries’ backgrounds all the more
meaningful.

Lee, then, is an anomaly seeking to subvert his purpose to
gain information. His questions and curiosity make him an object of concern to
the group but they allow him entrance simply because they can’t discern his
objective. The interplay between Lee and the main members of the Mals (the main
faction) is absolutely fascinating, as are his relationships with the Director
and his counterculture analogy, an odd figure named Roomie, whom Lee seems
closest to.

Dubé’s power as a writer is unquestionable here. Literate
yet accessible, his prose is distinguished, thoughtful, and possessed of a
genuine grace. Lee’s narrative is potent material, relieved only by snatches of
news stories, field notes, memos to The Director and other journalistic
effluvia that lend a warped credence to his recollections. The build-up is
wonderfully excruciating as Dubé ratchets up the dread until it finally
explodes at a demonstration when the IEC comes to town.

Is this a “gay” book? Not specifically. One of the
revolutionaries is a gay man, but his orientation is very underplayed. However,
in a larger sense, this book is about the machinations of an individual seeking
acceptance into established outsider groups with their own codes, behaviors,
and limits. As such, it bears distinct relevance to the gay experience. And
it’s a damned fine read. Just buy it and let the first 25 pages or so overwhelm
you.

You won’t be disappointed. 

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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