Davey Davis' 'X' - kink at the end of the world

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday July 26, 2022
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author Davey Davis
author Davey Davis

"How bad could a waterboarding really be if you could get up and walk away afterward?" So posits the spicy protagonist of multi-talented author Davey Davis' kinky dystopian new novel "X". It's true, sometimes opening chapters tell us all we need to know about the pages to follow and this one will seduce you inside, strap you down, and force submission even if you resist the temptation.

The action begins in the deep dark recesses of a Brooklyn warehouse where a dungeon party is in full swing and where Lee, the nonbinary narrator who has "paid good, nonrefundable money to have (my own body) chopped up and rearranged", preps themselves to play the role of a tortured, demeaned political prisoner at the mercy of "a femme who had me over a barrel".

Lee is in fireplace poker-hot pursuit of a dominatrix cryptically named "X" but first they have to endure the sadistic dark gratifications of Dom-femme Venus first in order to pry out any information she might share.

Certainly, things could be better; Lee's life has hit a low point. They just ended a rather rickety relationship with the masochistic Petra (whom they've imagined styling her funeral) and are bored working for a huge corporation where, to kill time, they take hourly bathroom trips and chitchat with a coworker who keeps her dog in her lap.

They spend days and nights searching for some semblance of human connection while trying to tread water in an America that has succumbed to the kind of dreary hellscape dystopia we fear most. It's a place where a fascist government "exports" citizens out of the country deemed to be socially and politically undesirable whether it be people of color, social justice activists, general detractors, or "sex changers" (an action now considered a felony in this universe), all in a grand effort to shorten "the timeline between now and mass extinction."

Here, in a dictatorship-ruled Manhattan, pleasure and escape come at a high premium and is sought like rare diamonds.

But Lee is also a sadist and has yet to experience any BDSM scene like the one shared with "X," so finding them has become an obsession. Their intense bonding, across a leather bench befitted with straps and stirrups, was life-altering and unforgettable and Lee is on a mission to recreate that session and maybe become one of X's properties.

Narrative tension

As the narrative tension ratchets up, so does the backstories that give vivid form and shape to who Lee really is, how they feel, and why finding X has become such a life-or-death pursuit. As the chase escalates, so does Lee's desperation as they lament that "I'm still handsome, but I also look like shit. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of my face, but I'd take a cheese grater to it if I thought it would help me find X."

One of Davey's enormous talents is world-building through tightly wound, imaginative descriptions of characters, moods, and places. After the opening bondage scene, a dominatrix's boots are artfully featured as "a bird's nest of black vinyl next to the toilet".

Lee's first sensations with X are blissfully dark, thorny, and gothic, and prime fodder for the ultimate descriptive passage: "There was something about her that was familiar, the way she held and moved her body, a visual aroma twisting against itself, a dynamic tension, as if the Helmut Newton photos of Grace Jones and Sigourney Weaver had locked eyes in the midst of an orgy, recognizing each other from a previous life. I didn't know her, but I instantly knew something important about her, which was that I had never seen anyone like her before."

Davis's 2017 debut, "the earthquake room," was a quiet success about a couple navigating life together in the Bay Area as climate and political disasters have made life unbearably nightmarish, including a disease making the rounds of the population.

If the premise sounds eerily familiar and a bit too relevant, it certainly is, and readers will want to start their Davey Davis journey with that first book. "X" surpasses that first effort, but both are terrific books.

Delectably provocative, adventurous, urgent, dizzying, mouthwateringly kinky, queer, and not for the faint of heart, Davis has conjured an ashen gray world where the end is near, but sex remains hot and ready on the tongues of the surviving outcasts. But whether in the form of a bloody BDSM release while tied to a St. Andrew's Cross or a sex date at the novel's underground Fist club, hope beckons and snaps right around the corner like the quick of a whip.

'X' by Davey Davis; Catapult Books, $16.95 www.books.catapult.co

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