I’ve always found it interesting that the LGBTQI+ movement has never been sufficiently radicalized to resort to violence in an attempt to gain our legitimate rights. Outside of Pride marches, which these days have become subsidized and used by corporations to turn an almighty buck on the queer back, the closest we’ve come is the palpable anger briefly engendered by ACT UP in the late Eighties when the AIDS epidemic was at its most deadly. J. Warren’s Tygers, however, envisions a much different world. Or is it?
In Warren’s 2015, conservatism is running rampant enough to allow the enforced round-up of young gay men into camps designed to “cure” their homosexuality. Aaron White, a young gay man, is recruited into a radical terrorist cell by one Daniel Young, another young man with a penchant for U2 and a soft spot for Aaron. He introduces Aaron to Marcus, one of the terrorist leaders, Daniel, however, is rounded up by his church and sent to one of the camps, where he commits suicide. His death sparks Aaron to retaliate, and a suicide bomber is born.
Alternating between prose and prisoner interview transcripts, Tygers is suprisingly long on character for a book that opens with the suicide bombing of a wedding in a Catholic church, but the act is so heinous that we need to know who these people are. And Warren delivers on that in spades. By the time the narrative again reaches the point where the bombing occurs, we understand quite well how Aaron became a victim as well as a participant.
I also liked the juxtapositioning of the prose and transcript sections, the latter providing a pulling back of sorts from the characterization to allow the reader time to breathe and reflect while at the same time advancing the plot. The balance is tricky at best, but Warren pulls it off brilliantly–and, in doing so, also manages to paint a fairly detailed portrait of not only the prisoner (one of Aaron’s co-conspirators) but his captors.
Warren has also chosen to set this in a forseeable future (especially in light of the current political climate) rather than a more distant, science-fictiony time, which lends the story a credibility it wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s dystopian, yes, but its dystopia is that of today rather than tomorrow.
All said, Tygers is a terrific read, full of interesting characters, dark paths, and enough twists and turns to keep the most jaded reader turning pages.
© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler