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