“ Genre: Fiction / Author: Tina Anderson, C. B. Potts, Laura Carboni / Paperback / 196 Pages / Book is published 2007-11 by Em Novels „
If you read the Boy's Love genre, you probably have come across the name Tina Anderson before. She is the writer of several well regarded OEL manga (Games with Me, Loud Snow) but this time around, what she offers is a novel. Not only is the format different, but what you find written is quite different from her usual offerings as well. Is it BL, you ask? Well, yes, no, and sort of. Gadarene is one of those novels that crosses genres, doing so in such a way that leaves it open for mainstream audiences to enjoy.
Gadarene is the tale of a young Irish man living in the Bowery section of Manhattan at the turn of the century. Galen has just been released from prison, convicted for misdemeanors connected to his job as a Mongoose for local gangs. Think of a Mongoose as a sort of enforcer who comes calling when either side steps out of line and needs a bloody lesson, and you'll get the picture. Galen's Bowery is a world of the poor, immigrants and their US born children struggling to eke out a living, generally bar related, gambling related, or prostitution. Galen's mother is a prostitute, and upon his release, he discovers that his lover Wira has had to resort to working under a madam "blowing kisses" in order to keep herself housed and fed. Wira is over the moon to find her beloved has been released, and Galen wastes no time freeing her from her service to the madam, but redemption itself for the pair is not that easy.
Mental and metaphysical demons haunt the pair and literally dog their every step. For starters, Wira is a hermaphrodite. Dressing as a woman and mostly living as one, Wira and Galen nonetheless refer to Wira as being male, and their sex seems to reflect this as well. His personal gender identification is not so firmly settled, with feelings of worth being bound up in the confusion thanks to a childhood trauma that also marked the fateful first meeting of Wira and Galen as children.
That meeting provides a good bit of the underpinning of the actual story, as they encounter spectral children and a man known only as HIM that appears, then disappears. This is unsettling enough given who he is and what he did, but even more unsettling is the appearance of the children. Small boys, all aged about six or less, and all very, very dead. These young spectres at first appear silently to Wira, then to Galen. As this doesn't gather the desired response from the pair, these young spectres soon begin to up the ante. With imagery reminiscent of Lovecraft and an atmospheric plot Poe would have been proud of, we are swept along by events until at last, the shocking truth is fully revealed and the pair discover a resolution to their supernatural, and personal, troubles.
The sexual orientation and gender identity of the characters is seamlessly woven into the plot of this psychologically chilling tale. Galen and Wira's love does not form the basis of a tale of romance in the traditional sense. Rather, they are main characters who are lovers, though Wira's "condition" proves crucial to the back story. Less a story about gay love and definitely not a work of erotica, Gadarene is more a tale of horror and suspense that features gays, straights, con men, gangs, and the seamier side of late 19th century New York. In all fairness, there was very little I could find fault with, the sole exception being the easy acceptance of the gay lifestyle by others in the community.
It is a short novel, only 196 pages, but anything more would have been unnecessary padding. I have heard this described as a light novel, and it is indeed as simply written as that type of prose, being meant to be easily and quickly read. The vocabulary is therefore uncomplicated, but extremely well chosen. What distinguishes it from the light novel classification and puts it more towards the novella end though is the lack of illustrations. Light novels are not only shorter than a regular novel with simplified prose, but usually contain full page manga type illustrations scattered here and there. This had none; the only illustration appears to be the cover. Admittedly, I have the electronic edition, but on Amazon's listing for the print edition, I also do not see an artist credit, so I am assuming that is true for that version as well.
Now, I read this on my Kindle, and I have to say the formatting was well done. The text was easy to read without having to zoom or change font and had been properly converted so that no strange characters popped up in the text nor were any strange gaps between words and paragraphs present to annoy. The paperback edition is competitively priced for a paperback, but the Kindle edition is even better value, at around just over half the price of a printed edition. It's a tale that lives up to its title well and one that fans of horror and the supernatural should definitely not miss. I'd like to thank the author for providing me with my review copy.
A version of this review was previously published on my blog, The Kimi-chan Experience.