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The Second Son
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Fantasy Discussions > The Second Son, by John Inman

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Ulysses Dietz | 1563 comments The Second Son
By John Inman
Dreamspinner Press, 2016
Cover by Paul Richmond
ISBN: 978-1-6476-573-2
292 pages
Five stars

I finally decided on five stars—a rarity for me—because of John Inman’s bravery in bringing a story like this to realization. The author has tackled a complicated and difficult idea and mostly succeeded. He has made narrative choices that sometimes puzzled me, but which must reflect, if not Inman’s personal beliefs, then his background and upbringing. This is a book that comes from the heart and soul of its writer and is not merely an intellectual exercise in “what if?” As such, it may surprise Inman’s readership and displease some as well. I found it profoundly moving and thought provoking.

Charlie Strickland, reclusive and somewhat misanthropic artist, lives and paints on an isolated lake in rural Indiana, three hours from Chicago. He has an ex-wife and an ex-boyfriend in his past and finds himself perfectly happy to have no romantic entanglements. His art is what drives him, and at thirty-two, it seems that living a quiet life with his dog Mac and his painting is more important to him than celebrity, wealth, or any relationship.

Until a minor earthquake shakes up his house and a naked young man named Joe shows up on his doorstep.

Like other reviewers, I don’t want to spoil the many surprises that fill the pages of this narrative, but there is only one way to describe it: it is an apocalyptic gay love story. It raises vast ethical and religious issues in the context of one young man’s love for another. It offers us an image of a badly damaged world, seething with evil and yet also filled with promise. Ultimately, it is all about the power of love and about the danger of denying that power.

But there is an underlying motif in this book that makes it compelling for gay folk. Inman has chosen the setting and all of his plot points for a very specific purpose, and one that I suspect is as personal to him as it is to me. The book is—or was to me—a sort of benediction to a truth I have held to my heart since accepting that I was gay as a teenager: “Their kind of love, Joe knew, was not a sin... It never had been. Love was simply love.” It is a truth that many in the world—even in our liberal western world—still contest. “The Second Son” is a paean to this very basic declaration of personal belief, a belief that keeps many us going against the odds in the face of unending hostility.


PaperMoon | 665 comments John Inman does not cease to amaze me at the broad range of genres his books cover. I'm not sure how this one can be characterised - allegory, pseudo-religious fantasy, romance with deep spiritual overtones. Whatever - it gripped my attention and keep me reading till the end. 4 stars from me.


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