Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Like a Prayer by AJ Wilde

TITLE: Like a Prayer
AUTHOR: AJ Wilde
PUBLISHER: Torquere Books
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 10k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $2.49

Dorian West is torn between his feelings for his straight friend Josh and the ethereal statue Raphael. He can have neither, and vents his pain and frustrations through rough, anonymous sex. That way only leads down, but will there be someone to save him before he crashes?

This short story presents me with a dichotomous reaction I had a hard time resolving throughout the course of the story. On one hand, I thought the author’s voice had a sharp, melancholy edge to it that perfectly underscored the protagonist’s fatalistic attitude, because let me tell you, Dorian is one messed up fella. I was also enraptured with the idea of such a character as the main hero. At the start of the story, he gets excited about the statue, tries to go to confession and doesn’t find absolution, and then has to face his straight crush. The fact that he’s a sex addict who uses these anonymous acts to self-medicate the self-loathing and guilt only makes him more interesting.

But then there’s the other hand. In the first 700 words, there’s an editorial inconsistency that completely yanked me out of the story. Father Michael is described as a tall, middle-aged man dressed in a black cassock and collar. Less than 200 words later, we get, The young priest nodded. Huh? Details like that are easy to miss in longer stories, or with bigger sections separating them, but there are only six lines of dialogue between two blatantly different descriptions. So which one was it? And why would you want to make a reader who was enjoying the prose stop dead in her tracks? But after some unhappy grunts and scowls, I eventually returned to the story and got caught up for the next half. Only to get extremely disappointed when the plot takes a turn straight into left field, complete with declarations, rape, and an ending that lets down all the promise of the first half. Yes, the rape is a spoiler, but you know what? It’s a touchy subject for a lot of people. I’m not going to avoid mentioning it and then have someone get unpleasantly surprised when it’s a hot button for them.

So where does this leave me? Well, the story ends up being kind of a wash in the end, since my opinion of Dorian is tainted by the whole turnaround of emotions in the last third. But I still really enjoy the way the author crafts words and evokes images, like how the morning came with a watery glare. I want to read more by this author, but perhaps longer works, ones that give space to fully develop a story instead of do whatever is necessary to end it.

Readability

8/10 – An interesting voice gets hampered with editorial mistakes and clumsy plotting

Hero #1

7/10 – Broken and fatalistic, intriguing possibilities are let down by the unbelievable seesaw of emotions

Hero #2

4/10 – Never really developed, more of a device than anything else

Entertainment value

6/10 – So much promise falls apart in a too-pat, too turnaround of a last third.

World building

7/10 – I want this to be higher because of the author’s voice, but I just can’t when the whole last third of the story comes out of nowhere.

TOTAL:

32/50

1 comment:

Obsidian Bookshelf said...

"The watery glare" thing is nice, but you're definitely right on target to bring up the rape. I deeply dislike scenes of non-consensual sex and I would've been so annoyed if I'd bought the story and then ran across such a scene. Thanks for the warning.