by TA Chase, contemporary (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.75, ISBN 978-1-59578-557-2
TA Chase writes stories about very well-mannered gay men falling in love, men who are trapped in a world that they are clearly too good for most of the time. The author's characters can sometimes be too good to be true, being that they come off more like vehicles for the author's message for a world free from bigotry and such rather than real people. Normally the author's formula can make for some pleasant reading, but in Death Or Life, the story feels a little too sanitized to be believable.
Noah Wiltson's father is running for Presidency when the story opens, and Noah despises that man because of the man's inability to accept Noah's sexuality. Noah is also the sperm donor who allows his married lesbian friends to have a baby. When he returns home from floating on a cloud of righteousness, he is confronted by a hired killer who speaks as if he's watched too many Quentin Tarantino movies but is too polite to offend some sainted grandmother by using a million cuss words. Cain Packert doesn't shoot Noah or anything, of course. In fact, they will embark on an affair, with Cain revealing his woobie side and letting Noah administer his dose of TLC to soothe the pain away. Of course, we can't forget the matter of whoever it is that wants Noah dead.
I like bad boys, as long-time visitors to my website may know, especially those crazy hot psychopaths who will rip out a beating heart and offer it to the one they adore beyond reason. But Death Or Life offers too easy a justification for a supposedly moral man like Noah loving a man like Cain. Here, Noah pretty much says that he is willing to overlook Cain's past because the past made Cain the type of man that Noah can love. I find that reasoning really bizarre and, as a result, unbelievable. The author is pretty much whitewashing Cain's past with such an overly simplistic reasoning.
At the end of the day, reading this story has me wondering why the author would even tackle such a premise if Cain's past is going to be waved aside as if he had done nothing more than to spray graffiti on the wall when the cops were not around. I am not looking for a morality tale here - I don't read stories with hired killer heroes for moral lessons - but the moral dissonance between Cain's past and Noah's reaction to it makes it impossible for me to avoid thinking about the moral issues in this story. And no matter how I try to approach this matter from various angles, I still think Noah's behavior is too unbelievable for me.
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