Monthly Archives: January 2013

Quarantine – Lisabet Sarai (Total E-Bound Publishing)

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Buy it now from Total E-Bound

Because I hadn’t read any of Sarai’s work before, I perused her website
after reading Quarantine. She’s prolific, and has obviously met with
significant publishing success. Giving her full credit for that success, I have
to assume other readers would be much less hesitant in praising this book, and
that I just wasn’t the best one to review it.

In a dystopian future, a plague carried by homosexuals has ravaged North
America. Men carrying the H-gene have been herded into prison camps while the
shadowy and tyrannical Guardians govern what is left of the population with
brute force and robotic technology. Dylan Moore is an inmate in one of the
camps. He seduces Rafe, one of the camp guards into helping him escape. When
Dylan’s break goes awry, Rafe rescues him and they both become fugitives.
Together they seek a haven in Sanfran, and inadvertently become entangled in a
struggle that will shape the future of the planet.

Sarai’s plot is inventive enough, but in several places it relies on
suspect logic (the prison generator plant is located directly inside the
compound where it is most vulnerable to sabotage) or it stretched credulity
(Dylan is able to make sophisticated electronic controls from harmless scrap
that override programming of guard robots and the prison’s master systems).

The writing is unrelenting in its blunt and rough cadence, but also
compelling. And there are compelling themes at work in the story – religious
homophobia, national narcissism, genetic engineering, addictive digital
pornography, vile big brother style government. One truly charming metaphor
appears as the totalitarian government employs the visage of President
Eisenhower as its icon. The irony of Eisenhower’s warning of the dangers of the
“military-industrial complex” at the end of his presidency was inescapable.

Treatment of scene action, however, seemed uneven to this reader. Some plot
challenges were described in painstaking detail, such as Dylan’s escape from
the inner compound of his prison, or Rafe’s climb up the wall of a house where
Dylan is later held captive, but other times omitted completely without a
single word, let alone a narrative bridge—Rafe and Dylan escape from that house
and end up safely back in the city completely off-stage.  Poof.

Quarantine is categorized as Erotic Romance – which means the
on-stage sex is frequent and graphic. Allowing that what fires us up erotically
varies wildly from person to person, I have to admit I found the sex scenes
repetitive in tone, intensity and choreography, and just too frequent to
partner the story.

It’s hard sometimes to keep clear how two “he” characters make
love, often requiring more character tags than with het scenes. But several
times I was yanked out of a sex scene because Rafe was referred to as “the
black man,” or “the ex-guard” which to my ear worked against any
sense of any intimacy being generated.

While some of Dylan’s emotional responses to situations and people didn’t
make sense to me, his overall courage and growth was sufficient to keep my
interest. I kept rooting for him and Rafe, and for their happiness right to the
end of the book.

Which raises my final objection. Quarantine clearly requires a
sequel, because the story just stops mid-scene. Not a single major story
question raised in the book—other than whether Rafe and Dylan will love/trust
each other—is resolved. The curtain comes down with a thud and the house lights
go on, but it’s not intermission. It’s the end. This reader was not prepared for
such an abrupt termination of the story.

I read some excerpts of Sarai’s other work on her website, and I don’t feel
Quarantine is a fair representation of her skill as a writer, or her
gift as a storyteller. I think her existing fans will enjoy Quarantine
regardless, but prospective fans might want to read one of her other works
before picking up this book.


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©, 2013, Lloyd A. Meeker

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Desire and Devour: Stories of Blood and Sweat – Jeff Mann (Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press)

51sGTESvN1L._SY346_Buy from Lethe Press

If there’s anything I hate, it’s those damn Twilight twink vampires. Vampires should be men with attitude. Men with purpose. Men with the confidence and surety of the long undead. Men like Derek Maclaine, the Scottish vampire who figures in Jeff Mann’s compilation of Maclaine tales, Desire and Devour: Stories of Blood and Sweat.

This hearty volume of bloodlust begins with “Derek & Angus,” which explores Maclaine’s roots and his love affair with Angus McCormick, the son of a crofter who works the land for his laird, Maclaine’s father. Their bond lasts some thirteen years, always broaching discovery, until one Beltane night when they are making love outside in the standing stones and are set upon by their archenemies, the Macdonalds. Angus is killed in the fracas, and Derek is mortally wounded. He is saved, however, by a Nordic vampire named Sigurd, who makes him one of the Immortals, enabling Derek to take his revenge on the men who murdered his lover.

The longest story in the book, “Derek & Angus” is less a vampire story than a bloody tale of revenge which serves as a base for the further exploits of Derek. And those exploits take him to very interesting places, such as Vienna (the short yet delicious “The Last Crumbs of Sacher Torte”), northern England (“Whitby”) and Rome (“Black Sambuca”). These tales have all the atmosphere and sense of place I’ve come to expect of Mann, and each one deepens Maclaine’s character.

The rest of the time, Maclaine stays in his new home of America, draining mountain boys dry, sometimes with the assistance of his partner Matt (apparently, Maclaine has taken several human lovers). Of these domestic stories, I particularly liked “Hemlock Lake” and “Wolf Moon/Hunger Moon,” which has Maclaine and Matt in a three-way with were-cub Donnie. And Mann gets unexpectedly political with “Saving Tobias,” an expertly done piece which sees Maclaine giving just desserts to a country singer turned conservative
politician.

Mann ravishes these stories, giving each its own spin yet bringing it all back to Maclaine in the end—a fascinating character worthy of a longer, less fractured narrative. Mann clearly enjoys writing him, and he embodies the deep connection between Celts and the American South. Mann’s penchant for BDSM kink is also present, though rarely brought to the forefront. In short, if you’re a fan of his, this is one volume you’ll relish.

And if you’re not, it’s a perfect  place to start.

©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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