REVIEW: “The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad

Review of A. Merc Rustad, “The Gentleman of Chaos”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2017: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2017): 55-66 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

He has no name, for it was banished long ago. By royal decree he has no face, for he does not exist. No one has heard his voice, soft like velvet; no one has seen the exhaustion and pain in his eyes; no one has felt his hand, scarred and calloused, on their cheek in an apologetic caress.

I really enjoy 1st-person POV for short stories, because then I feel like I’m sitting around a campfire, or in someone’s quiet room, or at a theatre, listening to someone tell a story. This story is steeped in history and mythology, and it feels real — not that the events in it happened, but that they are events that someone, somewhere would tell to captivate an audience who is disposed to believe the teller’s fantasies. It feels like something Shahrazad would tell her captive king.

Who, exactly, the narrator is, and why She (for that is the name which we are instructed to use) has chosen to tell this tale rather than another one, put me in a position where I — cis, het, female — feel like I’m wholly unqualified to review the story. There are so many aspects of the story where I simply do not have the right standing to comment on them. So I will stick to making personal remarks: This is a love story, and I loved it, and it is magical.

(First appeared in Apex Magazine 2016).

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