Are There LGBT Characters In: The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan (rapid review)

Title: The Steel Remains

Author: Richard K. Morgan

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, two of the main characters are; one is a gay man, the other is a lesbian.

Brief summary / book review: Grimdark fantasy about a trio of former mercenaries who are living through their traumas and trying to adjust to their post-war lives, only to find that mysterious forces are at work. Ringil is one of the gay characters, and he has been hired by his mother to find a lost cousin, and of course promptly finds himself in way over his head. Archeth, the lesbian character, is the servant of an Emperor and has been tasked to discover what really happened when a town has been razed. The third, Egar, returned to his people to run his family and his family’s tribe, but has found himself ill-suited to leadership.

The plot itself doesn’t move very quickly or dramatically, but this is more character-driven than anything else. From an LGBT perspective, it’s good to see that the author doesn’t shy away from portraying his characters with real sex lives (for instance, this is not a book where the straight characters get to boink but the gay characters lead chaste lives). Every character gets his chance to, er, shine in the bedroom in explicit detail, some more graphically than others. Explicit violence is also a part of this book, and sometimes, the sex and violence happen at the same time. The result in that particular scene isn’t very pleasant, obviously.

My biggest issue with the book isn’t with its treatment of LGBT characters, but rather, how all characters sound the same. They all have, essentially, the same vocabulary. They all say “fuck” often, and in similar ways. There isn’t an erudite character, a quiet character, a character who lies and exaggerates, a character who delivers blunt truths, etc. Strip away the dialogue tags and descriptors, and you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s speaking.

That aside, if you like your fantasy to be dark, bloody, and sexy, this book might be right up your alley.

About the ‘Are There LGBT Characters’ series of posts: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem (rapid review)

Title: Gun, With Occasional Music

Author: Jonathan Lethem

Rating: 3/5

Are there LGBT characters? Nope. But there are talking animals (including gorillas, kangaroos, and kittens). And talking babies.

Brief summary / book review: It’s a noir-inspired sci-fi story, about a private detective who gets tangled up in a case (murder, of course), set in near-future Oakland. This is a world where people are constantly taking drugs, where animals and babies have evolved to be able to communicate (and, in the case of babies, drink heavily). It’s a little funny, a little disturbing, but tonally inconsistent at times. The mystery isn’t enticing, but the worldbuilding is the more interesting part. Written in 1994, there are a few places where the technology of the story hasn’t caught up to the technology of today, but nothing too distracting. The main character is someone out of a Raymond Chandler novel, set in a world that’s got a bit of Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick sprinkled in it. Not quite a guilty pleasure read, but close to it.

About the series: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin (rapid review)

Title: Fevre Dream

Author: George R.R. Martin

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? No. One character hints at sleeping with men but it’s never made explicit and isn’t relevant in the slightest.

Brief summary / book review: Abner Marsh is a riverboat captain who is down on his luck when a mysterious stranger approaches him with a deal – build a boat for me, we’ll run it together. Oh, and I may bring some friends on board, and we might do strange things, so don’t ask any questions. Vampires. They’re vampires. (This isn’t much of a spoiler; the book’s dust jacket makes it clear). It’s set in the antebellum south, on the Mississippi River (among others), and in New Orleans. The use of the n-word is a little jarring in the book, and is usually used by bad guys and the ignorant. Aside from that, the book is moody and evocative, and a little thrilling. This was written in the ’80s, so it can be seen in the context of the resurgence of vampire tales alongside Anne Rice’s own works.

About the series: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (rapid review)

Title: Carry On

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? Oh hell yes. This is a delightfully gay book.

Brief summary / book review: Ok, this is a meta-meta book. Rainbow Rowell wrote another book called Fangirl, where the character wrote fan fiction set in world of Carry On with the same characters (though to be clear, this is not that same fan fiction story; Rainbow Rowell considers this to be canon: https://www.tor.com/2015/02/20/rainbow-rowell-carry-on-fantasy-tropes-harry-potter-fanfiction/). And it’s meant to be an obvious homage to Harry Potter. So that makes it doubly meta. Either way, all you really need to know is that it’s pretty damn good. And gay. It doesn’t shy away from the gay angle, either – it completely embraces it, which is a great thing to see in a YA book.

About the series: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Title: Pachinko

Author: Min Jin Lee

Rating: 5/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, but it is not a main character. While the gay man is a minor character, he is present in a few pivotal scenes.

Brief summary / book review: A beautiful tapestry of a book. It follows several generations of Koreans living in Japan, where they face obstacles, trials, and tribulations. Koreans living in Japan are second-class citizens, forced into ghettos and faced with limited career options. The title is a reference to Pachinko parlors, a sort of gambling locale where Koreans were allowed to find work and opportunity. It’s a story about family and faith and perseverance, and each character is vividly painted and sympathetic. A gem of a read.

About the series: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (rapid review)

Title: Cloud Atlas

Author: David Mitchell

Rating: 5/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes. One of the stories is about Robert Frobisher, a composer who writes letters to his erstwhile lover, Sixsmith. Frobisher is bisexual; he also sleeps with women.

Brief summary / book review: It’s one hell of a read. The book centers on six stories, told separately, set in different times (ranging from the 1800’s through an indeterminate period in the future), and all are connected in some way, heavily implying reincarnation. Each story is threaded through with action and consequence, and those consequences play out in the other stories. Literary but still accessible; each story is wildly tonally different, but all are convincing and compelling. Mitchell showcases serious strength as a writer as each of those stories sound totally different (which is not easy for some authors to do; for example, a George R.R. Martin book will sound pretty similar, whether the book is about dragons in a fantasy setting called Westeros or about vampires in the antebellum south on a steamboat on the Mississippi). This is a dynamite read.

About the series: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (rapid review)

Title: Altered Carbon
Author: Richard K. Morgan
Rating: 4/5
Are there LGBT characters? Not featured prominently
Brief summary / review: An Envoy by the name of Takeshi Kovacs has been killed, and when his consciousness is uploaded to a new body, he finds himself on Earth and tasked with uncovering the mystery of a suicide. Thanks to the technology, the person who committed suicide has uploaded his consciousness to a new body, and has hired Kovacs to figure out if he really did kill himself, and why. The book is pretty fun, with some clever worldbuilding. A solid neo-noir cyberpunk set in gritty futuristic San Francisco, it tackles themes like love and life and what depravities humans are capable of when death is just a minor inconvenience.

About the series: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.