Rating: 3 stars
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Radhi doesn’t want to sign the contract Oscar has offered. He doesn’t want Oscar’s money or Oscar’s affection, not after Oscar’s bizarre declaration that he is cursed with immortality. And the best way to make it clear they are done is for Radhi to go to Oscar’s home and explain it. Except when Radhi arrives, he finds Oscar being held captive in his own home. There’s strange medical paraphernalia and a bit of hired muscle. However much Radhi doesn’t want anything from Oscar, he certainly doesn’t want this for Oscar. In the heat of the moment, Radhi incapacitates the guard and breaks Oscar free from his prison. But instead of letting the man go his own way, Radhi is adamant he can help Oscar. Together, they escape to Lake Mead where Radhi’s family has a boat and Radhi knows of a secret place where they can lay low for a while. At least until whatever was happening at Oscar’s house blows over.
Oscar is grateful Radhi showed up when he did, not wanting to spend the rest of eternity as a cash cow for the opportunistic Dr. Killington. But the demise of his friendship with Karen Flowers and the Flowers family, who carefully guarded Oscar’s secret of eternal life for generations, has opened his eyes. Society has advanced too far for him to hope to stay hidden any longer. Even more pressing is the fact that Karen Flowers’ miraculous recovery from terminal illness thanks to a special treatment from Dr. Killington has broken into the news cycle. It doesn’t help that Oscar and Radhi have been painted as villains in the media for illegal immigration and assault respectively. Oscar is determined to turn himself over to the authorities just as soon as he can convince Radhi it’s the reasonable thing to do. If he can’t keep his powerful blood a secret, Oscar wants it used for the public good. Before he and Radhi can come to an agreement about how to proceed, however, they discover they are both the subject of a manhunt. As the government search parties draw ever closer, Oscar and Radhi must find a way to make peace with each other before they risk being separated forever.
His Boyfriend the Caveman is the sequel to R.G. Hendrickson’s Call Me Methusela. The beginning of the story picks up a little before the last one ended, providing a strong bridge between the two books. Like the first story, this one features a split timeline. In the present day, Oscar and Radhi are on the run, hunkering down in a secret cove on Lake Mead. Oscar spends most of his time writing down parts of his history and doing work around the boat like cooking and cleaning to express his gratitude that Radhi came back and saved him from Dr. Killington. Radhi spends a lot of mental energy on feeling bewildered by Oscar’s story of being what Radhi calls a “caveman” and worrying that he’ll be charged with assaulting the guy at Oscar’s house he punched out. As Oscar types on his computer, the story slips into ancient history and the reader is treated to another love story from Oscar’s past.
In the first book, the historical record of Diver (Oscar’s birth name) and his lover, Arrow, felt like the main attraction, while the present-day activity made Oscar’s history relevant. In this book, I didn’t get that same sense of balance. The present-day activities still drive the action, but they also feel far more consequential than the personal history Oscar is writing. And sadly, I thought the story we get about Oscar’s past with another of his lovers came across as meandering and unimportant. The only real objective this prehistoric story seems to serve is as a catalyst for Radhi to express some interest in Oscar.
The romance in this story isn’t entirely relegated to Oscar’s long-since-passed affair with an early human (technically a homo heidelbergensis). Even though Radhi and Oscar decided in the first book that they were not going to pursue a romantic relationship, there’s still a sense of connection between them. For being virtually identical physically, they often give one another appreciative glances. Oscar wouldn’t mind being in love with Radhi and maybe he never stopped. But Radhi has a hard time accepting the truth about Oscar and they agree to try just being friends. That sets the tone for the majority of their interactions. By the end of the book, Radhi has a change of heart, but it wasn’t really clear to me why or how. And given the cliffhanger nature of the ending, there wasn’t any time for them to explore this connection.
For me, Oscar and Radhi didn’t make for very strong main characters. Radhi comes off as pretty ignorant and insensitive. Even though Radhi’s put the kibosh on anything romantic or sexual with Oscar, he’s determined to be a friend. His way of showing friendship is by absconding on the family boat to Lake Mead and trying to stop Oscar from turning himself into the authorities. (Personally, my own estimation of Radhi has me at least partially convinced this isn’t due to any altruisticness on Radhi’s part, but his own desire to not get into any trouble.) Mostly, Radhi spends a lot of energy nagging Oscar to hurry up and share his story about falling in love with a so-called mainlander. Radhi is also preoccupied with fear of being arrested for punching out the nurse who was keeping Oscar under involuntary house arrest. For his part, Oscar just seems to be content existing, convincing himself it’s time to turn himself in to the authorities. He writes on his computer, and he cooks and cleans at Lake Mead to show appreciation for Radhi’s attempt to protect them from arrest. The Oscar of the past wasn’t very compelling, either. Though he finds a lover in one of the non-cannibalistic mainlanders, that thread feels very limited and does more to show that Oscar has had the same insensitive and ignorant thoughts about his mainlander lover that Radhi has had about Oscar himself.
Overall, I simply didn’t find the sequel to be nearly as engaging as the first book. Radhi as a narrator was exasperating and Oscar was ineffectual. The disconnect between the timeline from the past and the one from the future was substantial. For me, neither this venture into Oscar’s past nor the flight to Lake Mead in the present really helped develop the characters or the plot. Radhi’s insistence that he and Oscar are and can only be friends gets upended when he does a complete 180, but that happens so quickly and the book ends so suddenly that it was cold comfort. Perhaps a future book will add nuance to these events, but as-is, I thought His Boyfriend the Caveman wasn’t a strong continuation of this story.