LGBTQ Fiction, Short Reads, Gay Fiction
Feb 11, 2023
Lenni lives on the civilised side of the wall, a hard worker who follows the rules. Super-fit and healthy, with everything he could wish for -- an office, app-friends, and enough medications to suppress the extraneous. Like everyone in his country, Lenni’s safe. So why does the big, handsome guy cry each night? What of his aching heart and empty arms? When supervisor Lion offers a place in Bite Club, why would Lenni jump at the chance to cross the forbidden wall? Fighting? It doesn’t make sense. Maybe that’s the whole point.
Mino lives on the wild side, with untamed hair and oh so gentle hands. He understands a lot -- about the desperate people who sometimes make it over the wall, and of the ancient deal between governments which established the whole façade. It’s got nothing to do with him. Until the day his people force him into the circle to confront the guy from the medicated side. Very soon, everything clever Mino knows becomes as meaningless as dust. Nobody can appreciate what it is to be needed, even loved, until it hits them right between the eyes.
When Lenni and Mino are thrust together in the Bite Club circle, both men are shocked and confused by what happens afterwards and by the raging thirst ignited within them. Is it Bite Club, or snuggle club? In the end, you don’t have to talk about it to understand.
Review by Gordon Phillips
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
At just over 12,000 words, “Bite Club” manages to tell a story that is intense, at times bizarre, and emotionally powerful. The unusual use of present tense took some pages to get used to; yet, like pretty much everything else in and about the story, it ends up working too.
Action precedes context for Grey, representing the kind of close-up, opening shot that, while tantalizing, is to no small extent confusing—at least initially. So, the story begins with Lion and Lenni arriving at the wall, which Lenni is to climb over, as part of the Bite Club, without any explanation of what any of this is.
Various things happen to Lenni beyond the wall, including biting, but the reader must wait until chapter 3 before learning the reason for the Bite Club. Meanwhile, there are intense experiences, and emotions, lots of confused impressions, all of which work to capture the reader’s interest.
Grey’s writing is not realism, but a more concentrated style, in which only the important elements are represented. Thus, it forms a kind of concentrated art, a bit like poetry in fact. This style, while introducing at times a certain lack of coherent clarity, works brilliantly in producing resonance and depth.
The effect is akin to Van Gogh’s painting: visceral and palpable, in a sense more powerful at presenting experience than realism generally achieves. This is not to say that realism cannot pack as powerful a punch—only that to do so it must be carried through with great artistry, as in Tolstoy. And, in painting, Vermeer’s meticulous realism is as potent as Van Gogh’s stylized works; both are great art.
Grey effectively hypostatizes what in our world are subjective experiences, mixing emotions and physical sensations to produce an artistic representation of reality that is as compelling and enjoyable as it is uncommon—because this sort of thing is difficult to carry off. Grey does this effortlessly.
One result of Grey’s stylized world-building is a conflation of sex and love. While this isn’t too much of a stretch, it does step around the reality of our world, in which the two are not automatically paired—all too often for gay men sex is the consolation prize.
The story arc of Bite Club” has a lot of good exchanges, the meeting of kindred souls, and those diametrically opposite, the former coming with tantalizing hesitations, the latter with misunderstandings.
There is the meet-cute, with Lenni encountering Mino and realizing that this time something’s different, something special. After which there is good development, with the narrator Lenni being all over the place. And bizarre observations like, “My brain has never been so stuck, or so free,” which work beautifully. And, when things really start to fall apart for Lennie, it is done with the same artistic effectiveness.
If there’s a complaint about the story arc, it’s the ease with which the narrator and love-interest character catapult into love. There is frustration and suffering experienced by the main character, but this comes strictly from himself and his own world, rather than from the love-interest. Had there been more fumbling missteps between the narrator and love-interest, the final connection would have been more gratifying and possibly, given the power of the storytelling, even rapturous.
Nevertheless, it all works very well. Finally, a tiny quibble, because endings are important and powerful (notable examples being Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and E. M. Forster’s Maurice—though in the last case the power and beauty lies not the last, but the last-but-one paragraph), the final line of “Bite Club”(the end of the ending as it were)would have worked better as: “I take it and go with him into his world, for good,” which would make the action a choice, and because nothing lasts “forever.”
“Bite Club” leaves the reader not only with pleasure of having read an entertaining story told in an artistically pleasing way, but also with a desire to read other pieces by this author. Part of this is the simple desire for further pleasurable reading, but part is due to curiosity: wanting to see what Grey will next pull out of the hat, so to speak, in her ongoing exploration of society and the human soul.
Review by Xanthe
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Bite Club is a short story by Eule Grey, who is a new to me author. It took me a minute to understand quite what was going on with Lenni and in his world. What is Bite Club and the reason for it? Why is Lenni taking part when he seems equally reluctant and excited?
Lenni’s world, on his side of the wall, is very isolated. The only person he sees face to face is Lion when being driven to and from the wall. He lives and works in one place, takes medication to stay healthy, calm and content but it’s only when he is on the other side of the wall, taking part in Bite Club, that he feels anything at all and that has become important to him.
The Other Side is well written, sounding beautiful and full of nature as opposed to the city blocks Lenni lives in. When over the wall, Lenni is open to new sensations of animal noises, scrapes from plant life and interactions with other humans. It’s all of that that causes him to feel such pain when he goes back, but especially after the connection he makes with Moni. It’s unexpected, intense for them both and something Lenni desperately wants to feel again. My heart went out to him as he was clearly in pain with loneliness and the soul sucking technology. This whole life of possibilities, connections and love is something he strives to return to on the other side of the wall.
I found this to be quite an interesting story and enjoyed it once I got into it. Lenni’s feelings become more intense as we go through the story and for a short one, there’s a lot in it to take in.