Rating: 4.75 stars
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After all his calls to his girlfriend Alex go right to voice mail, Damon is worried enough to go to her house to check on her. He knows yesterday Alex visited with her parents, something that always leaves her upset and needing time to herself. But it has been longer than usual since he has heard from her and now Damon is getting worried. When he shows up at Alex’s house, Damon is surprised that a strange man answers the door, a man who looks weak and sick and a total mess. But he is even more shocked when he realizes that the man is actually Alex.
Alex is a gender shifter, something he has kept hidden from Damon for the two years of their relationship. Although he is comfortable with shifters, the idea that Alex has been keeping such a big secret from him all this time upsets Damon greatly. But he is even more shocked and upset when Alex reveals that his parents drugged him and inserted a medical implant in him against his will, an implant that prevents Alex from shifting and has left him static and permanently male unless he can get it removed.
Alex is devastated at this new inability to shift. While he only showed Damon his female body, Alex spent about half his time as a man, changing to adapt to the gender he felt inside at the time. Even when Alex was with Damon or at his day job and couldn’t switch from his woman’s body, at least he knew that shifting was available and something he could do soon. But now he is facing the possibility that the implant will not be able to be removed, and even if it can, that he will have lost his ability to shift at all. The idea of being stuck in the wrong body is unbearable to Alex, especially since the ability to shift was stolen from him by his religious zealot parents.
Damon is also quite thrown by the situation. He understands why Alex was afraid to tell him, though he is still disappointed that something so important to their relationship was hidden from him. But even more frightening is what this means for their future together. Damon loves Alex, is comfortable with shifters, and fine about being perceived as gay by being with Alex. But the real problem is that Damon has never been attracted to men, and, as awful as he feels about it, he is not sure he can even feel the same way sexually about Alex now that he is in a man’s body.
As Alex faces the idea that he may never be able to shift again, both he and Damon must figure out how to handle their potential new reality. Alex must deal with facing coworkers and friends who only know him as a woman. He must decide if he should press charges against his parents, even if that means his younger sister will be left in foster care. And most importantly, Alex must face a potential future as a static without being able to shift, and living much of his life uncomfortable in his own skin. And Damon must figure out if the love he has for Alex is enough to overcome the fact that Alex now has a man’s body. Alex and Damon love each other deeply, but the problems they face may be too much for them to overcome.
Static is such a fascinating and creative story, one that I found both moving and heartwarming. I really had no idea what to expect here but I was completely drawn in by this book and totally loved it.
First off, Witt builds something so clever here, combing sort of a science fiction element to highlight a real life problem so many people face. We start with the idea of these gender shifters, people who have the ability to change between male and female bodies at will. Some people shift all the time, others only occasionally. But each shifts bodies to match the gender they feel inside. So basically we are looking at a group of gender fluid people who have the ability to match their bodies to their current gender. The ability to shift is a genetic trait, one that is often passed down within families. But shifters face a lot of discrimination and even hatred from people who don’t understand them, or think they are an abomination. This is certainly the case with Alex’s parents, who force him to have the shifter implant to make him “normal.” But it is also much more widespread, with lots of hostility from people who don’t accept or understand shifters.
So of course, this idea parallels so well with other forms of real life discrimination, specifically with trans or gender fluid individuals. When Alex talks about how he feels stuck in the wrong body, and how impossible it is to imagine having to live part of his life that way, we can feel his pain so clearly. He can barely speak or look in the mirror sometimes because he can’t face seeing or hearing the way his body clashes with how he feels inside. And of course there are a whole host of abuses, nasty comments, and discrimination Alex and other shifters face from people who can’t accept the idea of anyone being different. Witt manages to really highlight these issues so seamlessly within the story that it illuminates these problems without ever feeling heavy handed. It is all so wonderfully done and we can really feel for Alex and understand what he is facing.
I also loved Damon’s role in the story and how we see the effects on their relationship. Damon could have come across as a bad guy, and I really appreciated how instead Witt shows him to be a kind, loving man stuck in a situation that is beyond anything he could have imagined. Damon is open and accepting of shifters and all kinds of other sexual and gender minorities. But at the same time, his life is just turned upside down when he finds out the woman he loves and wants to marry is suddenly, and perhaps permanently, in a man’s body. Damon’s love for Alex never wavers, but he isn’t sure if sexually he can ever be attracted to Alex in male form. He wants to be there to support Alex through all of this awful situation, but he also is not sure what kind of future they can have together. Slowly over time Damon begins to see the Alex he knows inside this different body, and I loved how we see the incredibly strong bond between them and how the love they share ends up being the most important thing to Damon.
I found this story fascinating and wonderful and incredibly poignant. As I said, Witt manages to take this otherworldly idea and make it so current and relevant to our lives and world today. My only tiny criticism here is that as important as these issues are, and as well conveyed as Witt makes them, at times things began to be a little repetitive. Much of the story takes place in each of these characters’ heads, so we spend a lot of time with them thinking over these problems, or discussing it with others. So at times I found we were going over the same issues a lot. But again, this is a small complaint in a what overall is an amazing story.
Just to clarify here, I tagged this as both science fiction and contemporary because the book is classified as sci fi in many places, including by the author. The sci fi angle accounts for the shifting idea, as well as the implant to prevent it. But other than that, this story reads as purely a contemporary. It is set in the current world, in present day, and feels completely like our real life. So I just mention that as I know sci fi/futuristic isn’t everyone’s thing. But truly I think this story will work for anyone, even if you don’t typically read that genre.
So I thought this one was really fabulous. I loved the story and the creativity. I adored both Alex and Damon and thought they were fascinating individually and wonderful together. And I love the way the book takes something other worldly like gender shifters and uses it to highlight so many issues we face today. So wonderful story and very highly recommended.
Note: Static was previously released in 2011 by Amber Allure and has now been rereleased by Riptide Publishing.
Cover Review: OMG, I can’t say enough about this cover. It is so beautiful and completely captures the whole idea of the story. I love the fluid way it moves from female to male. It is really amazing.