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The Lurid Sea by Tom Cardamone, Bold Strokes Books, $16.95; $8.99 e-book
For one-handed readers who enjoy erotic novels dripping with over-the-top sex on every page, Lambda Award-winning writer Tom Cardamone has written the perfect indulgence.
"The Lurid Sea," the author's latest after the bawdy beauty of his second story collection "Night Sweats: Tales of Homosexual Wonder and Woe," is a hypersexual, mythology-soaked novelty narrated by Nerites, an orally fixated "godling that grovels at the bony feet of men, one who sucks stringy loops of ambrosia from their warm laps and rolls in ecstasy on cold semen-stained cement floors." With his compulsive sexual appetite forever unquenched, this boy finds himself on a world tour of gay bathhouses, cursed with immortality and banned to this eternal existence by his father, Neptune.
The godling's life purpose now is to please men with his skilled and practiced oral skills, multi-talents perfected at the soiled feet of his half-brother Obsidio, who sexually abused him for years while they grew up in a tony Roman enclave, and was "the first to discover the congress of my throat." Black-haired Obsidio, son of Pluto, is akin to a living gargoyle: a fascinating, darkly dominant brute, winged but flightless with taloned toes, and mercurial when authority leaves the building, pouncing on poor Nerites to deliver his onyx-black seed into his brother front-to-back.
With a decidedly perfunctory plot, the story itself is but a minimal vehicle through which chapters upon chapters of raw carnality are delivered. The true sexy devil here resides within the details, and Cardamone excels at sketching out vivid scenery and set-pieces populated by crowds of toweled men eager to embrace the God-given gifts Nerites embodies.
Sure, subtlety is non-existent here, and much of the prose is schlocky. All of the "Fellatiolympics" are more than a little snicker-worthy, though terrific for some hilarious read-aloud moments at bedtime with the husband. Still, it's a pleasure to read a work of gay erotic fiction that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Feverish depictions of the boy's flaming desire are on par with more unfettered erotica. For example, Nerites' oral sex fixation is described as being akin to "a wolf that burrowed into the cave of my throat and dropped a moist litter into my bowels. I must feed these squirming pups."
Time-traveling from the Roman baths to Japan, Greece, Cairo and beyond, Nerites is consistently "drunk on sperm and emancipated by sexual exertion." But, in a strange shift of narrative gears, dark and deadly Obsidio is also marking his time shadowing his half-brother through his sexual escapades, and killing hundreds of men in his sinister path with lethal black sperm. This plot twist is overkill, pure comic-book shtick. Once the body count rises to unforgivable levels, readers are snatched from their steamy reverie and slam-dunked into a fantasy novel where sex is a death sentence.
Forgiving this, however, readers can still allow themselves to wallow in the pent-up energy of bathhouse culture, and enjoy the oversexed adventures of a boy on his knees and loving (and lapping up) every minute of it.