Gay people battle homophobes in modern-day San Francisco and ancient Sodom and Gomorrah in this debut fantasy thriller.
When gay programmer Arthur Stevenson joins his co-workers at San Francisco’s Tech2AI Company for a group meditation session after the 2016 presidential election, he has a strange vision of a burning town, which he identifies as the biblical city of Sodom. But contrary to the Genesis story, in which God destroyed Sodom for deviancy, Arthur’s subsequent visions portray it, Gomorrah, and the three other “cities in the plain” as utopias of peace, prosperity, abundant leisure time, and acceptance of LGBTQ lifestyles. In the visions, King Chedorlaomer of the powerful hill city of Elam teams up with homophobic patriarch Abraham to try to conquer gender-nonconforming peoples. Back in modern times, San Francisco’s residents are captivated by accounts of Arthur’s visions when a newspaper publishes them—as is John Wesley the Third, the antigay leader of the fundamentalist “Baptodist Church,” who mobilizes all his resources, including a minion in President Donald Trump’s White House and a spy at Tech2AI, to destroy Arthur, his friends, and his gay-positive message. Fortunately, Arthur’s vision quest gives him superpowers, including the ability to immobilize people, which he uses against various bad guys, including a terrorist and alt-right thugs. Kaboli’s yarn stitches together two thematically related narratives—a reworking of the Bible into a saga of enlightened libertines confronting hatred, and a reprise of it thousands of years later with contemporary politics. However, neither is very focused or gripping. Although there are assassinations, bombings, and even tongue amputations, this long series starter bogs down in a profusion of sketchy side characters and backstories, scenes of characters rehashing plot points that readers already know, and gassy ruminations: “There is a back channel within humans that can bypass default to reach free will and liberty.” Still, Kaboli does sometimes manage to poignantly evoke a particular mood: “When Sam felt overcome with the impossibility of being with Melody, he disappeared from the world into the darkness of his lonely apartment, sitting on his sofa, staring at the reflected street light on his wall for hours.”
A grandiose but uninvolving tale of embattled queer communities.