Review by: Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
Roe Horvat is an author to watch. Possibly what impresses me second-most about their books is the uncanny gift of prose, especially since, being Czech (or maybe Slovak) by birth, and currently a resident of Sweden, Horvat clearly uses English as a second—or third—language. The fact that they write better English than many native English speakers speaks volumes.
Did you notice that I said “second-most?” What really gets me about Horvat’s narrative is their uncanny ability to present us with these characters under high magnification. We see both the sad Dr. Mráz and the restless Dr. Chrs (see, not English names) close-up; and not only close-up but from many angles. It’s not just how Simon sees Matěj (I’m guessing: Matyei, which is Matthew), but how Marta sees Simon and Matěj; and how Lukas and Janos and Mike (Australian) see both of them. These two central, haunted, brilliant, caring men are the hub around which this story turns.
The book, in three parts, alternates between 2016-17 and 2012-13, laying out for us in carefully calculated detail the intense, stormy, and ultimately explosive relationship between Simon and Matěj, framed against the seductive, but also homophobic and ambivalent background of post-Soviet Prague. As our understanding of each of these men expands—colored and focused by deftly crafted input from all the secondary characters who orbit around them—we begin to interpret their actions, past and present, with a more finely-tuned appreciation for their motivations and emotions. This is enormously important, because there are two psychological labyrinths to negotiate, and a good deal of the time the reader is just as lost as our two heroes are.
A note about the sex in this book (which reflects my comments on Horvat’s earlier book, “The Layover”): Horvat follows romance norms, but only insofar as the sex scenes are integral to the forward movement of the narrative. Every bit of sexual activity in the book is revelatory, through it we come to know both Matěj and Simon better. For Horvat, the sex is not just extra frosting on a too-sweet pastry; it is an essential ingredient in something delicious and fulfilling.