REVIEW: The Serpent’s Gifts, Part 1: The New Beginning (Richard Bacula)

baculaTITLE: The Serpent’s Gifts, Part 1: The New Beginning
AUTHOR: Richard Bacula
SUBGENRES: apocalyptic fantasy, magic sex

Richard Bacula is a total mythos-tease.

The Serpent’s Gifts, Part 1: The New Beginning alludes to cosmic cataclysms and ancient prophecies, ushering us into a world where giant serpents coil through the heavens and mysterious one-armed men proposition us for sex. It’s a set-up worthy of a multipart sci-fi/fantasy epic. But Bacula’s narrative contracts when we expect it expand, undermining our expectations in an almost perverse fashion. His book is essentially a two-hander, as confined and claustrophobic as a David Mamet play. The world outside might be coming to its end, but we don’t have time for that now. Our heroine, Rebecca Powell, has just been propositioned by an enigmatic stranger with a sack full of cash. Let’s forget about the world-annihilating implications of that mystical serpent roaming the skies and concentrate on these two people getting into some late-night hanky-panky.

This book is baffling, unpredictable, and wonderfully bizarre. I don’t think I’ve been this taken aback by a work of erotic fiction in quite some time. Bacula is ruthless in his refusal to broaden the scope of his narrative—perhaps in preparation for Part 2?—but he certainly doesn’t skimp on the sex scenes. The supernatural underpinnings of his world are explored primarily through the book’s central coupling, which quickly takes a turn toward the magical and miraculous. Bacula’s emphasis remains on the erotic, the sensual, the trepidations and self-criticisms one might experience if a mysterious one-armed stranger propositioned us in such a way. I liked how his characters remained grounded and insecure, even as the world around them grew stranger and stranger. The book might frustrate some with its purposeful lack of completion (although I suspect later volumes will answer some of our lingering questions), but I found it altogether unique, fascinating, and—yes—damn sexy.

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