Genre: Queer Science Fiction
CHET IS a student of archaeology, nearing the completion of his studies. His current project has been field work in a patch of solidified lucid mud, capable of perfectly preserving objects stuck in it throughout the ages. It’s same old same old for Chet, until two Flame (god-affiliates with unusual powers) show up, and assist with unearthing the artifacts, including a complete person. Fenmore, a rogue from three hundred years ago, takes the artifact, and with the help of the Flame, runs with it. Chet gives chase, and from that point on, his life is never the same.
This is fantastic queer science fiction. The world is complex, with many idiosyncratic details, and the characters have incredible depth. It takes a bit of an investment to get into the world, but once you do–holy shit–you’re in, and it’s wondrous.
The world has a familiar, but different, feel to it. There are gods, who imbued their followers with magical powers; there are unusual races, with various fauna and flora; and the physics are different, with divine magic in the mix. But there’s still this sense of familiarity–of a once fantastic and dangerous world that had steadily matured throughout the centuries, and then at some point that magical history was buried by hundreds of years of civilization. It made the language and some of the terms more modern, therefore relatable, but it was still a unique history. And some beings never forget important history, such as Fenmore, and the reincarnating Flame.
The Flame are an interesting race (I use the term “race” lightly, because as far as I could tell, they are born human, but because of their god, became capable of other powers). They are equally shunned and deified by society. For starters, they are a bit odd because they are shapeshifters capable of reincarnation, who cannot touch water, but while they obviously serve a higher purpose for their god and country, they are mostly seen as whores outside of their temples, meant to be pleasure slaves for the world. And because they are shapeshifters, they can become men or women, at their whim… which is probably where the underlying repulsion/fetishism from the populace comes from. It wouldn’t be out of line to call this a trans book, for there are many examples of transgender issues in this novel, including the one I alluded to. Another way this is a trans book, is the way the author uses pronouns with the Flame. They use feminine pronouns if they are visibly female, or you are referring to them, and they are outside of sight. The only time they are male, is when they are in an obvious masculine form, right in front of you. So, not only is this work trans, but it’s also incredibly feminist. Nice!
James L. Wolf’s author’s page is on his publisher’s website: http://fantasticfictionpublishing.com/archives/vendor/james-l-wolf
And here’s the link to The Artifact of Foex on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Artifact-Foex-James-Wolf-ebook/dp/B01BWI5FQC.
Review Originally Posted to Queer Sci Fi: