By Eddie S. Pierce, $2.99; Rainbow Room Press; 46 pages
Love Changes 1.0 is meant to be the first part of a series. And it might find an audience: Set in Chicago, it's light reading with lots of gay sex. Eddie Pierce drops some contemporary concerns for Black men throughouta character gets a HIV diagnosis and the Trayvon Martin case is name-checked occasionally. Yet, even for the more straightforward genres of romance or erotica, Love Changes 1.0 feels lacking.
Calvin is a recent cancer patient in a long-term relationship with Sean, but he can't stop thinking about his old flame Seron, which of course leads to Sean breaking up with him. Understandable, relatable: but a fundamental problem is that the characters are not memorable. Seron and Sean are both similarly named and even look alike, and while that feeds Calvin's attraction, the readers have little incentive to keep them straight other than trying to follow the book's timeline. While it's clear that Calvin fell madly in love with Seron, it's not clear why, and it's also unclear as to whether Seron and Calvin just hooked up for a while, or if they were in a relationship, which would change the emotional weight of how Calvin looks back on their time.
Pierce attempts some character development when it comes to Calvinhe shows him rebuilding his life as a newly single and newly recovered cancer patient, and includes a relationship with his straight business partner Greg. Probably the most successful scene is when Calvin attends a cancer support group and listens to Peter, a fellow survivor, talk about witnessing a bad accident on Lake Shore Drive and then realizing that waiting is a crucial part of life. But while cancer and car accidents are certainly part of the mundane, here they feel like the mundane of cliché rather than of insight.
In only 46 pages, Love Changes 1.0 attempts to cover a lot of ground, shuttling rapidly and inconsistently through Calvin's first time with Seron, their gradual loss of contact and his meeting Sean, all the while balancing a present-day narrative of Calvin as single man recovering from cancer. It simultaneously feels like there are several stories going on at oncebut there's no real climax. Calvin has the opportunity to reconnect with Seron in the last few pages, but this feels like the only real decision he has to make, and when he makes it, the book abruptly ends. All of Calvin's other decisions are presented in the endless backstory and are already made by his past self. Perhaps the-full length work as one piece would have been a better way to tell the story, allowing for better organization.
Sex scenes are a frequent feature of Calvin's flashbacks, and in the present he's often found masturbating to comfort himself. While admittedly this reviewer is not a regular consumer of gay erotica, the language around the sex feels stilted and clinical, or just vaguely descriptive, like when Calvin compares Seron to cinnamon coffee. The lack of commas causes dialogue that might be passable to read awkwardly and feel forced, which again adds to an emotional and possibly even physical disconnect with the story.
It's possible that readers are reading Love Changes 1.0 to get through the story and stop and enjoy the sex, and that their criteria are different than this reviewer's. But with the general narrative confusion and lackluster writing that tries to hold this very short piece together, their efforts might go unrewarded.