Monday, December 15, 2014

Hilcia's Minis: Downfall & Best Gay Stories 2014

DOWNFALL by Rob Thurman

Downfall is the 9th installment of Rob Thurman's Leandros Brothers urban fantasy series. I was supposed to review this with my fellow bloggers Leslie and Nath at Breezing Through. Unfortunately, unexpected circumstances interfered with our plans. Instead, here are my random impressions on the book:

Good Things:
1) I love that Robin Goodfellow's witty, self-aggrandizing, vain point of view is finally utilized as part of the narration in Downfall. It's about time. Fabulous!
2) Cal's inner monster seems to be in a mellow mood just as his physical self is changing into the monster. I found him to be more human, balanced, and dare I say mature (?) than before. It shows amazing character growth for Cal.
3) Niko's fears, as well as his vulnerabilities, are exposed through Goodfellows point of view. That's a big like for me. Niko is further humanized in this installment because the reader doesn't see him from Cal's idolizing eyes or from his own harsh judgmental ones. Goodfellow sees Niko and Cal as they are with both flaws and virtues: virtues in their flaws, and flaws in their virtues. :)
4) Robin and Ishia's relationship and true feelings for each other are touched on. I like that Ishia as a niggling mystery is finally resolved. Another big like.

Problems:
1) I don't love the introspective, stream of thought style used for Cal's narrative.
2) Introspection trumps action.
3)This introspection is used as a vehicle to remind readers of past events, however, it makes this installment repetitive. Cal's narrative is composed of reminisces about all the previous cases, monsters, and scrapes that he, Niko and Goodfellow investigated and survived in previous installments. As a result, the usual relentless action suffers, slowing the pace at the beginning to a crawl, and to a lesser degree throughout the rest of the novel.

Closing Threads:
1) Thurman closes threads, or seems to, in this installment. She circles back to Delilah, the Vigil, Grimm, and the Auphe. Are these threads really closed? I believe so, unless Thurman comes up with something else. Personally I hope she is done with the Auphe.
2) Additionally, Thurman further explores reincarnation to close threads and reinforce friendship, and the brotherhood theme in this UF series.
3) There is a sense that this is the end to the series -- that, or the series is about to veer in a different direction. Old characters return to give this book that end of series atmosphere. Good or bad? We will have to wait and find out.

Overall, in my opinion, Goodfellow's point of view carries most of Downfall. However, although Cal's sections are repetitive and the introspective, stream of thought style cuts down on the action, the character's maturity or sense of growth keeps the reader interested. This a solid installment with a great ending. And you know what? If it turns out that Downfall is the end, I would be satisfied.
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BEST GAY STORIES 2014 ed. Steve Berman


New York City. Moscow. Guanajuato. Pelion. A nameless suburb that could be found down any street. Trysts, old flames, pulp tales. Gay men are neither confined by locale nor are their stories. The 2014 volume of Best Gay Stories features essays, fiction and memoirs that encompass the myriad experiences gay life has to offer: from the insecurity and longings of youth to the complacency and nostalgia that comes with age. Along the way readers will discover themselves captivated by moments of discontent, of strife, and of revelation.

The above summary reflects the anthology's content. The settings are very different from one piece to another as are the stories. However, my deepest impression of this year's "best of" anthology is that it reflects the current trend in gay fiction and non-fiction -- that of dissecting or exploring recent gay history.
"It was always sad leaving Manhattan. He looked back through the dirty train window at the city, and then rested his head against the seat and closed his eyes. There was nothing to look forward to. He could not help Miles. He was lucky to have escaped himself." "There's a Small Hotel" by Andrew Holleran
Halloran's short story is an excellent example of one man stuck in the past while another revisits his old lifestyle and struggles not to get caught up reliving that tempting cycle. Tommi Avicolli Mecca's biographical essay, "Ma Tu Sei Pazzo?!" (Are you nuts?!), best exemplifies the thrust of this anthology with a look at the past and present with thoughts on how those events may affect the LGBT community's future as a whole.

The 2014 edition of Steve Berman's Best Gay Stories is composed of fiction, essays and memoirs by 20 gay writers, playwrights, activists, and teachers whose diverse contributions of previously printed short works make this collection an eclectic feast. My recommendation is to set some time aside to read and enjoy this anthology.

Contributors: Michael Alenyikov, Richard Bowes, Michael Carroll, Lou Dellaguzzo, Michael Thomas Ford, L.A. Fields , Guy Mark Foster, James Gifford, Trebor Healy, Andrew Halloran, Ed Kurtz, Dmitry Kuzmin, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Sam J. Miller, James Powers-Black, Jason Schneiderman, Max Steele, Stefen Styrsky, Josef Winkler, Mario Alberto Zambrano

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Both books are 2014 releases read in their entirety before December -- Downfall by Rob Thurman in September 2014 and Best Gay Stories 2014 ed. by Steve Berman in May 2014. My minis are based on notes, impressions, and drafts prepared for reviews.

4 comments:

  1. I guess that the buddy review won't happen, unless Les and I get the blogging bug again ^_^;

    Anyway, my two cents on Downfall is that I enjoyed it a lot. I liked that Ms Thurman seemed to have tied up many loose ends. That's always nice to see it happen and I like the way she did it. Liked seeing some of the past characters. The one thing that I never expected to say, but hey, that's the way it is... Niko was a bit annoying in this one. I'd have to go back to read my notes, but there was something off coming from him. and of course, I loved Robin as a narrator!! He was the perfect one to carry this book :)

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    1. Nath, I also enjoyed Downfall. Much more than the last couple of installments in the series. Like you, I also like that Thurman closed those threads, in my opinion, it is time to either move on or end the series. Personally I was getting tired of the recycled plots and ups and downs going on with Cal's (one step forward and two steps back) character.

      You did not like Niko? I really enjoyed viewing his character from a different point of view. I loved getting all that extra info from Goodfellow that we did not get from Cal or from Niko's own pov. I believe it was a better balanced pov of this character. And yes! Robin was fantabulous as a narrator! You know how much I love his character, and he absolutely made this book for me. :)

      Question: Would you be happy if this book was the end of the series? Have you heard anything through the grapevine about another installment?

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  2. I'm pretty sure there is more to come Hils. However, I wouldn't be unhappy if it stopped here. It's a good place to stop. but I hope not LOL.

    I just felt something was off about Niko. Perhaps it's seeing him from a different POV. I just felt he was quite vulnerable. More so than other books... Or perhaps less perfect. Cal does have a tendency to idolize his brother, so perhaps that's it.

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    1. Nath, I agree with you. I would be happy if the series stopped with this book. But, if Thurman took the series in another direction, I would go along with it too. I believe we would miss our boys. :)

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