Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vintage by Steve Berman

[Steve Berman's first post on GLW will be up next Monday. To help introduce him, I posting a review of Vintage I originally wrote for my own blog back in August of '07. Hopefully, you'll get why I'm so excited Steve has joined the Guys Lit Wire team.]

“Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience, of which the purpose is too deep, going too deep in the blood and soul, for mental explanation or description.” - D. H. Lawrence

My most constant disappointment with fantasy novels is a scarcity of subtext. Like Lawrence says, legends about werewolves, witch covens, and unicorns gave people ways to explore the psyche long before modern psychology. Every monster man ever invented was, beneath all the fur and fangs, just a reflection of himself, his worse fears and darkest impulses, every intangible quality hat made him human.

Too many fantasy stories don't do that wonderful source material justice. (When I say “fantasy,” I’m talking about urban fantasy, horror, and any story with supernatural elements.) All those "deep in the blood and soul" myths are hung up like crêpe-paper bunting. They’re pretty, sure, but they’re just decorative.

All this is a round-about way to say go read Steve Berman’s Vintage.

I was nervous reading Vintage. Steve said some very nice things about Tripping to Somewhere, and I really, really wanted to be able to say nice things back about his book. Luckily, he made it easy on me by writing the kind of book you want to tell everybody about.

His narrator is a teenager whose parents have kicked out of the house after they discover he’s gay. Feeling out-of-place and miserable, he meets the one person lonelier than him, a ghost who’s spent forty years walking the same stretch of highway, trying to get home.

The narrator’s internal struggles reflect the external weirdness, and that enhances both. Then Steve turns the whole damn thing inside out. As the living boy grows and changes, the dead one remains, literally, a trapped soul.

Go buy it. Now. Seriously. Steve announced a few days ago that Harrington Park Press, Vintage’s publisher, has been sold, which means that this extraordinary book will likely fall out of print soon. Go buy a copy while you still can.

Every magical beastie sprang from a human mind. We built Frankenstein’s monster, breathed fire into the dragon, and hatched the basilisk egg. That makes us, with all our trials and small victories, more of a marvel than any of them.

[Since I wrote this over a year ago, Vintage's fate has been tumultuous. The Harrington edition did fall out of print, but despite low sales, Vintage earned enough accolades , including nominations for the Andre Norton Award and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, prompted Lethe Press to re-issue it in 2008. The Lethe edition is still available on Amazon.]


Steve Berman said...

Thank you, Kris, for repeating such kind words about my book.

One correction: the Lethe edition of Vintage is alive and well. Trust me.

Here is the link to the book on

-- Steve

Anonymous said...

You've got me convinced! I'll definitely be checking this book out. Thanks for the recc.

Anonymous said...

I know when I was a teen, fear of social pressure would have scared me off from anything involving "gay." I was already an overly-sensitive sci fi nerd and...well, we all know what high school was like.

That said, I'd recommend all the guys who read this check out Vintage. Read it in the privacy of your bedroom if you have to.

It's not only a good fantasy novel, with all the subtext and meaning Kris mentions, but it's a great way to figure out in our own teenage heads our approach toward gays, straights, and all the other categories we'll encounter in adult life.

Kristopher said...

That's weird. Steve, I THOUGHT it was still around, but when I did a search for it (admittedly pretty late) last night, all that came up was the Kindle edition.

Anyway, I've got it fixed now and have decided to blame the whole thing on elves.