I requested a copy of The Lurid Sea, by Tom Cardamone, through Netgalley.
Description from Goodreads:
A steamy bacchanal bending through time and space, replete with the occasional God, mythic creatures, and oh-so-many men. For centuries the godling Nerites luxuriated in a shifting sexual paradise, hopping from one bathhouse to another—from disco-era Manhattan to Feudal Japan and back to where it all started: ancient Rome. When the dark shadow of his half-brother, the sinister Obsidio, descends, his deadly kiss leaves bodies cooling in steam room corners. Nerites must adopt a new role: as defender of these hidden havens, his eternal orgy becomes a race across history itself.
I knew going in that this was an erotic book. (No pun intended.) But I suppose I’ve been spoiled by a softer sort of erotica. This starts out with, “The hot tub was a frothy mix of foam flecked with minuscule bits of fecal matter, white ribbons of semen and filmy water. I basked in this heady broth of hunger and lassitude.” That’s the first two sentences, and it never pulls back from the grit and grime of the bathhouse sex scene.
The writing is very pretty and Nerites is a lot more introspective than you’d expect from a man cursed to suck cock for all eternity. (He doesn’t seem to do anything else). And though it takes a good 1/3 of the book for anything resembling a plot to develop (just long enough to fear there isn’t one and that the Fellatiolympics is the more noteworthy thing about the book), one does eventually. Not much of one mind you, but one does develop.
This feels like someone from an academic background trying to make porny incest, pedophilia, slave sex and debaucheries intellectual. Like we’re supposed to read it as meaningful, instead of base and onanistic. And if you don’t like it, well, you just must not be intellectual enough to look beyond its purposeful prurience and “get it.” Or maybe not truly gay enough. Sure, ok, whatever. I see it, but It’s not really for me. Because even with the pretty writing and some hot scenes, 140 pages of blow jobs gets boring. I struggled to finish it.
In fact, I read 41% in one sitting, then went to bed. Having put it down, I really struggled to pick it up again, reading a chapter here, a chapter there and then forcing myself to push through and finish the sucker all at once. (Pun, again, intended.) My trouble came not with the amount of sex, number of faceless partners, frequency of orgies, the plot that just peeks out here and there, the incest, or the fact that modern ideals of age of consent don’t matter to Greek immortals. My problem sits in that first sentence.
I know this is a personal preference kind of thing. I appreciate having the fantasy of at least minimally hygienic, consensual sex preserved (or not trampled on too badly). There were just too many times Nerites sucked a cock and tasted shit—rolled it around in his mouth and considered it, even—got peed on, was the recipient in Bukkake, reveled in smegma, was borderline raped (though he’s always up for it), had sex on a corpse, etc. etc. etc. I know that for every thing that wrenched me out of what little story there was with a shudder, there’s someone out there for whom that’s a kink (and good for them), I just NOPED out on all of it in one book, after a while. I could have taken any individual thing, just not all of them all together. No doubt, that was partly Cardamone’s intent, to push people’s boundaries. But…
I appreciate the pretty writing. I read the afterward and appreciate how many books the author references (though he claims not to have done too much research, a statement contradicted by the those same recommendations). I liked Nerites as a character. And if I hadn’t so often been squinked out, I might have liked the book. In the end, I’m sure it will find it’s audience, it’s just not me.