It's bad enough that this fraud, this impostor, this rotten so-and-so has the audacity to publish a book under my name, attempt to steal my very identity, but now he's managed to even garner a very nice review from Ann Somerville at Uniquely Pleasurable! When will this nightmare end!?
I should first of all say this book is not a romance at all, so doesn’t really come under the umbrella of ‘original slash’ or whatever you want to call it. However, it’s such a clever bit of writing, it’s a shame to pass up the chance to draw readers’ attention to it.
The story is told from a POV - not necessarily a single POV, but that’s part of the conceit of an unnamed male narrator. He’s gay, but this is not about him being gay - his sexuality is just part of what makes him who he is and how he lives his life. If you’re tired of gay novels which are all about the anguish of being gay or how to find gay love, then this will be a refreshing change. [Interestingly, on his website, the author claims to be straight - but there’s a good deal of fucking with readers’ heads going on there, so I don’t know if that’s meant to be taken at face value.]
Our narrator’s life isn’t exactly challenging his intellect. He makes a habit of assessing people by their appearance, judging, tagging them, never really delving under the ensemble to the person’s soul. He treats himself in the same way, living superficially, obsessed with his looks and how he appears to other people. He works at Starbucks, doing the same thing, living the same meaningless existence in the same way every day, his customers no more distinct or real to him than the kinds of coffee they order. Until he talks to a crazy man who tells him about the doppelgangers, the doubles, the fakes, and how there are people walking among us who are mere simulacra of humanity, trying all the time to perfect the imitation. Our narrator starts to wonder if he has a double too, and the horror starts for him when he realises he does - and that the double is rapidly taking over our narrator’s existence. For the first time, he has to question just what makes him, his life and what is there that he desperately wants to call his own and no one else’s.
It’s a clever story exploring identity, mass consumption, the search for individualism in a world which promotes uniformity, where differences are superficial, and we become the labels we hang on ourselves and which are placed by the people. Christian asks in Me2, exactly what is the nature of self, and how much of what we believe we are, is merely a product of accumulated possessions, experiences and delusions. He also asks how can we hold onto true individuality in a consumer driven mass-marketed society. It’s a rather bleak portrait of American life, very time and place specific in its popular references, though perfectly comprehensible to the well-read non American. As ‘McCulture’ takes over the world, and rage against consumerism and Americanisation grows, Christian is taking pointed aim at the emptiness and meaningless of an existence dominated by brand names and advertising. It’s the same target that American Psycho went for, but in a very different and less bloody manner.
It’s a confusing, gripping story, though it loses pacing slightly towards the end, where it becomes a tad tiresome with its extremely long denouement. It demands closed attention, and the writing is layered, literate and intelligent, so not something for a lazy afternoon after a big meal. He builds the horror of the narrator’s situation beautifully, but the elliptical narrative with all the quotes from other speakers, told out of sequence, will be challenging to read if you’re not used to science fiction or the horror genre.
The idea of cloning, of doubles taking over one’s life, isn’t exactly new, but Christian’s spin on the idea and the execution is crisp and fresh. If you want a sturdy, well-written horror novel which will make you think, with a protagonist who’s gay in a completely non-exploitative way, then Me2 is one to buy.