Homosapien: A Fantasy about Pro Wrestling

Title: Homosapien: A Fantasy about Pro Wrestling
Author: Julie Bozza
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Publisher: Manifold Press
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Length: Novel (272 PDF pages/67k words)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: Though not for everyone, I really liked this unusual tale of pro-wrestling and the unlikely romance between to opposites.

THE BLURB

Patrick and David are friends who run a gay bookstore, and life seems simple and safe enough until the day when unexpectedly he walks in — six feet tall, gorgeous and built like a dream. But Homosapien isn’t welcome in their world; he’s a professional wrestler, and everything he does is fake. So he can’t really be gay, can he, or interested in either one of them? Can they even trust a single word he says… ?

THE REVIEW

Gay young man and avid pro wrestling fan Patrick works for serious, intellectual gay-rights-activist David in his small, indie queer bookstore in Boston. Friends and each single, they spend their days working at the shop and getting coffee from up the street. One day, pro wrestler Homosapien comes to the shop and nothing is the same again. Adam (aka Homosapien) has a gay persona in the ring, which angers David, but the shy and somewhat backward six-plus-foot athlete slowly worms his way into David’s heart, showing once again that opposites do attract. But it isn’t easy; along the way there are obstacles in the form of homophobic wrestlers, Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, intellectual snobbery, the war over whether or not pro wrestling is real, and men who are their own worst enemies.

Homosapien is the second of two books available by this author on Manifold Press (the other, The Definitive Albert J Sterne, I will also be reviewing once I get the time and the strength to read a 170k+ word/600-some page book! Yikes!). While I really liked this unusual, relatively light and at times very humorous story, I have a feeling that Homosapien is not going to be for everyone because its style is very different for the genre. I’m thinking either you’re gonna love it or really dislike it, with little in between.

I think fans of sports stories will like this one as the world of wrestling is a protag in itself and the primary storyline (the romance element is secondary). At times it has a kinda epistolary feel (in the interviews and commentary instead of letters and articles), so if you like that type of style, this may work for you as well. It is told mostly in a very casual and conversational first-person, present-tense narration by Patrick, who is telling the tale of what ultimately is the romance between David and Adam. This narration worked fine for me, and just fit into the unusualness of it all. When Patrick isn’t telling us the story of what he witnessed first-hand, we are the fly on the wall with other characters as it all happens. Patrick explains that to us in the beginning of the first chapter:

I wasn’t there for some of this story I’m gonna tell you, but someone told it to me. (Anyway, the dues on my artistic license are fully paid up.) Some of this story happened on national TV, and maybe you saw it. But like the title says, this is a fantasy, and the names and locations changed to protect the guilty — so if you think you know who’s who, well, all I can say is you’re entitled to your fantasies too.

The story takes place inside the wrestling ring, training rooms, on television in the form of interviews and other shows, as well as some other locales such as the bookstore and at the club they tend to frequent. Instead of chapters, we get titled sections, sometimes only a paragraph or two long, which worked. Though there is some smooching and hugging and dancing, there is no smexxin on-screen, which was fine for me in this instance, but I can see that some readers may feel this is a negative. Unlike some other no-smexxin books I’ve read recently, the interaction we do get went toward showing the romantic undertones in the book.

There are strong themes of coming out and forced outing, as well as masks and identity in the novel. We watch Adam, the man, coming out even while Homosapien, the character, is almost flamboyantly gay, and pro wrestling coming out as what it really is to the public (or does it? You’ll need to read to determine for yourself). Masks — and not even physical ones — play a part as they are just another form hiding who we are.

Adam and David’s relationship is interesting to watch as an outsider. Most times in other books, we experience the attraction and interaction inside one or both heroes’ heads, but here we witness the joy and pain externally, often through Patrick’s eyes. I really liked gentle and lonely Adam, as he tries to come to terms of his changing life and achieve what he really longs for. David is fascinating to watch trying to be flexible in his staunch intellectual views on the sport to support his new lover while doing the right thing in exposing pro wrestling for what it is when Adam comes under fire. And I loved Patrick, with his passion for the sport as well as trying to make sure David and Adam work everything out, all the while trying to have a relationship of his own with not great success.

I am not a fan of pro wrestling, yet Patrick’s enthusiasm is catching. I cheered when he did; I cringed right along with him when it all went to heck. Being who I am, I went out and, ridiculous as it was, watched a few WWE RAW vids. I know I am opening myself up to some backlash here from fans, but seriously, I have to wonder: do people actually believe this is real? Me? After reading Homosapien, and while I can say with certainty that I won’t be glued to my television for the Monday Night Smackdown or whatever they call it, I’ve come to see pro wrestling in a different light and accept it as the sportutainment that it is.

A few niggles:

This is probably completely subjective: the author is British and Australian (dual nationality), and even though this is set in the States, there are signs that this was written by a non-American: adding a “u” to words like humor and honor, referring to a double (shot espresso) as a “doppio” (I admit to not being a coffee drinker, but I buy it for others and never heard the term before I read this) and using a singular verb for collective nouns, such as “The crowd go crazy.” That last one drove me a bit crazy as it is not natural in American speech, and every time I read it, it was uncomfortable.

I also noticed that every once in a while, Patrick’s first-person narration would slip to third, which was a bit disconcerting. Here’s an example:

(Patrick keeps his mouth shut for once. Tall tales but true. I felt like telling David that he’s not dead yet — but who knows if that would help, so I keep my mouth shut.)

OVERALL

Recommended to readers who like sports stories with some romance thrown in from afar.

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18 comments

  • On the US/UK wordage front, as a UK writer, I do my damnedest to make sure no Brit-speak gets into my stories if they’re set in the US, and that spellings and word usage is American. I have several US friends who de-Brit for me. Likewise, if the story is set in the UK but is told from the POV of a US character, then I keep to US terminology. I slip occasionally, but not through lack of trying *g*. If the story is set in the UK, with UK characters, then spellings, word usage, will all be in Brit-speak [and I try to keep out the US influences I seem to be picking up…].

    Reply
  • There’s a difference between a British publisher using British spellings and style conventions on the one hand, and writing from the POV of an American character and then having that character speak with British terms/dialect or refer mentally to things using British terminology on the other. The former I can accept and indeed find understandable, though I think the story setting rather than the publisher or reader location is usually a better way to determine those things; but the latter, to me, is poor writing – bad characterization, failure to research setting, etc. Because an American wouldn’t be ordering a “doppio” unless there was some indication he had reason to know what it was – and even if he did, the typical American barista would be clueless. And very few American-educated people would say “the crowd go wild.” It’s not that it could never happen, of course it could, but it’s certainly not a typical American expression; if you’re trying to make your character American, it’s unlikely he’d be saying that without some explanation for it.

    I guess I’m all worked up about this right now because I’m in the middle of reading a long story, set in the U.S. but by British authors, that is just rife with this sort of inauthenticity (e.g., the American POV character thinks of putting on his “vest” instead of tank top or undershirt). It throws me right out of the story, because it’s just wrong – it’s not true to the character; the guy this author has created would not think or say those things. And to me that shows a failure either to research adequately or to get proper help with something the author isn’t familiar with. Kind of like a recent review here of a book in which an author had a German character whose German was all wrong.

    I’m not sure how blatant that problem is in this particular book – whether it’s just a use of British spelling/grammar or something more – but that latter would makes me tentative about picking up the book because I’d be wondering the entire time what else the author might have gotten wrong…I’m not a pro wrestling expert, but if I were, would I likewise notice many mistakes?

    (Oops, didn’t mean to rant. It’s just that when I saw that in this review, I thought…oh no, can’t go there… :-O)

    Reply
    • Justacat
      I understand what you’re saying. the character would have to be authentic regardless of the nationality of the author. I know that whenever Josh writes a book set in England he has someone who is British do a “Brit” check. Similarly, if a Brit or American were to write a book set in Canada with Canadian characters I would expect that they would do the necessary research in terms of the language idiosyncrasies because even though Canadian and American speech is similar most of the time there are major differences in terms of local dialect.

      The case you mentioned with the bad German was a book reviewed by Feliz – Til Darkness Falls. There is no excuse for something like that. Simialrly if an American is in England he wouldn’t all of a sudden start speaking like a Brit and wear a “vest” rather than a tank or undershirt, and refer to cappuccino by another name.

      BTW I agree that even in Canada we say the crowd goes wild. lol

      Reply
    • I completely agree with you JAC. I may not like it, but I can handle spelling alternates (like the “u” in labor and favorite). The other, though, I am with you. It’s not over-saturated with it here — doppio being the most blatant — and I’ve read way worse with the affliction.

      Reply
  • Lynn
    As you know I love sports although not quite a sports junkie except for baseball. I have watched pro wrestling in the past and even the most avid fans of the sport will admit that this is fake. There have been exposes with some of the big names in the sport who admit that it’s not real so I don’t think anyone will get mad at you for saying that. lol

    This is definitely unusual to have the story told by an onlooker and not either of the participants. However it seems to have worked for you.

    Re the spelling thing, I’m usually on the other side of this discussion when I see books written by Brits and Aussies (Dash & Dingo for example) where the author had to change the spelling of words to conform to the publisher’s American spelling, even though it didn’t make sense. D & D was set in the ’30’s in Oz, so the spelling impacted on the authenticity of the story.

    In this case Manifold is a British publisher so I guess they use the British spoelling rgardless of the characters. 🙁

    Many people use collective nouns which we all recognize as singular as plural e.g. the use of ‘couple’ seems to depend on who is using it and I’m guilty of using it as both singular and plural. 🙂

    At 272 pages this is for the Christmas holidays for me. lol You know what I’m like with long books. 600 pages will never see the light of day for me. 🙁

    Reply
    • Hi Wave. I can think of just a few books where it is told by an onlooker, and it did work okay for me here. It will/may not be to everyone’s liking, however.

      I think the terminology, vocab, etc., should be adapted to the place where the story takes place, period, not where the author is from or where the publisher is located. That’s my opinion. Story set in the US? Take the “u” out of words like “labor” or “favorite.” In Britain? Call a sweater a “jumper.” Down under? Barrack for a team. In your neck of the woods (Canada)? Thrown on that “eh.”

      My Sony had the Albert Stern PDF at 680 pages, but Ingrid has it at 480. BTW, my PDF has the title for that one set as PROLOGUE and the author MOOPY, and for Homospaien, it’s blank for both the author and title. Grrrrr…

      Reply
      • Lynn

        >>In your neck of the woods (Canada)? Thrown on that “eh.”< < That is so WRONG on all levels. lol I agree that's the way it should be but each publisher only uses one dictionary I found out when I checked and their authors can just suck it up. The publisher had the Albert Stern at 680 PDF pages which would be about right for a book that's 165 K. You're going to have to write me again so that I can get the title fixed. 🙁

        Reply
  • Ingrid, I admit the way it is written might be a problem for me. Didn’t get too thrilled by Aunt Lynn’s description. I wonder why they made the blurb so short? It’s not enough to pull you past the dislike of wrestling.

    Reply
  • I did not like this one at all but I loved Albert Sterne (actually 460 pages on my reader).
    The whole way the book is written did not work for me. So I quit half way, making this a rare DNF for me.

    Doppio is correct Italian for ordering a double espresso.
    Anyway’s was the use of British grammar consistent Lynn? I think that is important too as we have moaned in the passed about it not being consistent. As the writer is British as you said and the editor and publishing house are also British I don’t think it is weird. It would be unnatural for them to write/edit to American English. I remember it being said on this blog that people thought it weird that Americanisms were used in stories set in Britain. So in that perspective it is nice to see it the other way around

    Reply
    • Hi Ingrid. I imagine there will be others like you on this.

      For the doppio, while I do understand that it is technically correct, I surveyed three of my coffee-drinking friends and asked what they would order of they wanted a double-shot of espresso, and not one said “doppio.” I then called my local Starbucks and asked them what people call it, because they have a “doppio” on the menu for their double shot (their other drink sizes are Italian as well (venti, etc.)), and the barista I talked to said that it’s about 80%/20% (double-shot vs doppio) and he thinks that some people just order the doppio because it is called it on the menu, not because they are accustomed to calling it that wherever they go. I then called two Peet’s, another larger chain here in the Bay Area (and where doppio is not a menu item) and was told by both that they rarely hear the term. Finally, I called a small, but busy indie coffee shop and was told that maybe on a given day, 5-10 people may ask for a doppio. I think it is just not a term that is used here in the States very often.

      Regarding the rest of the consistency of the British/American wording, nothing else besides that and the singular verb/plural noun thing caught my attention. It isn’t like Wave’s example below, where the American is wearing a “vest.”

      Reply
  • God Lynn, you don’t make it easy to decide if I should read it or not! I am definetely NOT a fan of wrestling, it’s a “sport” I don’t get at all. But I generally love sports stories… when the guys are ACTUAL athletes, you know? 😛
    And gay activist sound so serious?

    Still, I read The Definitive Albert J Sterne and that was one interesting book. No yikes from me concering that one, I even wanted a sequel (ok, I am weird).

    Reply
    • Hi there Sunshine.

      If someone is a big sports fan, I think it would be okay, but if wrestling isn’t your thing, then maybe you’d pass. It is a big part of the book.

      Reply
  • LOL Okay I have visions of you sitting watching the Smackdown while your partner begins staging an intervention.

    I’m not a huge sports story fan, and especially not a fan of wrestling but yeah, not so real. Not that I don’t think the guys aren’t athletes, in fact to do what they do how they do it I think takes real talent and skill, I’m just amazed by the fans to take it all very seriously and literally. Ah well, different strokes and all that. So I think I’ll pass on this one for now.

    Reply
    • 🙂

      As I guessed, this won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking for some lighter reading and could stand the wrestling theme, this could be it.

      Reply

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