Monday, February 25, 2008

Mahape a ale Wala'au by Paul G. Bens, Jr.

TITLE: Mahape a ale Wala'au
AUTHOR: Paul G. Bens, Jr.
PUBLISHER: Torquere Press
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 10k)
GENRE: Contemporary gay erotica
COST: $2.49

Toshi is going to Hawaii for his winter holiday, and while he dreams of a fantastic escape, the reality of the young Kristopher leaves him even more…

This story is a gem. Toshi is an everyman, unremarkable in his hometown of Tokyo. He hears wondrous things about the men of Waikiki, so he decides to go off and experience them for himself. The only problem is, he’s still an everyman as he’s wandering around, appreciating the pretty, getting his bearings. When he meets a group of older men, he starts to come a little out of his shell as they appreciate his youth and differences, but it’s the young, beautiful Kristopher who has captivated Toshi. He saw Kristopher as a living statue, doing Rodin’s “The Thinker,” and watched him for hours. When Kristopher shows up at their beach, Toshi finally decides to shed his everyman status and go for it.

The prose in this is absolutely beautiful. Fluid and evocative, there’s a melancholy to the entire work that paints emotional pictures as well as visual ones. We don’t know a lot about Toshi, but by the end, you feel like you do. You understand his romantic soul – partly because the story is told in first person, but partly because of the careful description Bens uses throughout the story. There are moments when you wonder if it’s going to slip into travelogue-speak, but then Bens pulls back, offering just that right amount of detail to place you right there in Hawaii without inundating you with too many facts.

I’m not categorizing this as a romance. In my mind, this is erotica at its best. There is no HEA, which is totally me not spoiling anything because you know that in the first paragraph of the story. But it retains a romantic spirit, and for the lovers in all of us, we can just pretend that somewhere in Toshi’s world, Kristopher sees what he has done. Then you have an HEA. In the very best sense of the phrase.


9/10 – Lyrical, almost musical prose, that does more in 10k than most stories do in 80.

Hero #1

8/10 – My only complaint about this otherwise lovely everyman is that I don’t completely understand the transition after he spots Kristopher on the beach.

Hero #2

6/10 – Lovely, but ultimately we know little about him, even if that is much of the emotional appeal of this story

Entertainment value

9/10 – Everything a short story should be.

World building

10/10 – I dare anyone to say they don’t feel as if they’re right there.




Paul said...

Thank you very, very much.

-Paul Bens

Book Utopia Mom said...

This was a real treat. I wish you all the success you deserve. :)

Waveney said...

I'm intrigued by your category "World building". What exactly does it mean and how do you determine the scores?

Book Utopia Mom said...

Worldbuilding for me is creating a setting, a mood, a sense of time and place, for a story. It means internal rules of the world should be consistent if it's not set in the real world, and it means I can imagine it with only the author's words, rather than having to rely upon independent knowledge. It's about verisimilitude, more than anything else.

How do I determine it? 10s for me are always perfect; I give very few of those out. When I finish a story, I consider how well it immersed me in the world, how much I lost sense of the world surrounding me while I was reading. The more it did, the higher the score.

Waveney said...

Thanks very much for answering my question. I guess "worldbuilding" similar to the ambience I look for when I read a story.

I also just wanted to say that you do great work. I would not have even known about your site except for Josh Lanyon referring to it on his site.