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“The Starving Years” by Jordan Castillo Price

Disclaimer: This book review is more centered on the author and using tags to label gay fiction than the book.

Before I get into my rant, let me just say that I really liked this book.  The world was amazing, the plot was twisted and suspenseful, and the characters were well done.  Of the three main characters, my favorite was probably Nelson. He’s smart and slutty and hilarious. I like his outlook on life. Javier and Tim are fun too and each are complex and well thought out.

The idea that there could be a world where there is no hunger is fascinating, and how Price unfolds things to us is brilliant. I love what she’s doing with these alternate universes.

Hell, I love Jordan Castillo Price. She bends the rules of gay fiction.

“The Starving Years” is labeled as a MMM Romance…but I’d hesitate to say it was explicit – not any more than another work of fiction or nonfiction could be. I certainly wouldn’t label it with a menage tag. There was one menage scene (nothing to make my eyebrows raise), and the rest of the sexual encounters were delightfully awkward and incomplete. Hilarious – just as I would expect from Price.

Why does this tagging gay fiction as explicit bother me? Good question.

I think that this labeling possibly affects Price’s image and her work. She’s on the edge of these genres (science fiction/romance/horror/suspense/gay), but does she have to be labeled as explicit? To me her work isn’t explicit, but it’s definitely LGBTQ (I’m not going to argue about that label in this post). But is it a MMM Romance? I don’t think so…

I cruised through some of my other gay fiction and read their tags. “Song of Achilles” was definitely a romance and it had sex (the sex was probably more explicit than in “The Starving Years”). I looked at the tags: “LGBT” and “Romance” and “Fiction”. No “MM” tag.

“As Meat Loves Salt” had a “MM Romance” tag. I was a bit surprised by that, so maybe other authors are getting pegged with these labels too.

I’m not saying the the romance piece in “The Starving Years” wasn’t important (the glue that held these three men together), and the story definitely had some romance, but don’t most books? Certainly every fantasy book I read has some kind of romance. Look at “Wheel of Time”. Rand’s got three freaking wives! Should it be labeled “MFFF”?! (It isn’t.) Have you read Robert Ludlum??? He doesn’t get a tag and his stuff is explicit.

Maybe we should start labeling het sex books with a “MF” tag!

Again, why do I care?

Well, let’s say that 10% of the Homo sapiens sapiens population is gay (pretty consistent with great apes). That means that 10% of books should be gay or kinda gay too, right? That actual percentage of gay books probably isn’t true to the approximated statistics AND they usually get separated into their own shelves.

Everyone who likes to read dystopia or suspense should read “The Starving Years”, because reading gay literature should be something everyone does. When works get labeled with explicit gay tags, I’m guessing that a lot of people don’t understand what that means, or they assume that they won’t like it.

You should read Jordan Castillo Price’s work if you love fiction, and if you happen to love LGBTQ fiction, then that’s a bonus for you. Check it out. She’ll blow open your mind just like she’s blowing open all the doors to the genre (s).

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