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Hadrian’s Lover: Upside down, inside out

by Drew Rowsome

Patricia Marie Budd has done what I thought was impossible in making me root for the coming out process of a heterosexual. Her novel Hadrian's Lover is a sci-fi warning novel in the tradition of 1984Dryland's End and On Wings of Song. In a future world the colony of Hadrian (formerly northern Manitoba) is exclusively homosexual and is the one surviving utopia in a world choked by pollution and overpopulation. Heterosexuality is seen as dangerous to the social structure with the environment used as justification for ruthlessly expunging those who love in other than a same sex fashion.

Budd states explicitly that she wrote Hadrian's Lover to express her horror at how gays have been, and are, treated, and her imagining of what it would be like if roles were reversed is an attempt to illustrate this. The concept of ex-gay tactics being reversed is particularly enlightening and absolutely devastating. As such it is highly successful and highly disturbing. I did occasionally find myself wondering if a straight reader would get the analogies, the metaphor, or just read Hadrian's Lover as homophobic; but I suspect I am just not giving hetero readers credit. Every time Budd seemed to slip or go over the line, there was an empathetic moment that draws the reader back to the main thrust of her argument. And if nothing else, Hadrian's Lover inspires internal debate and thought. As a text in a high school classroom it would do wonders and possibly change the world.

Hadrian's Lover is cleverly structured in alternating chapters with the admittedly pulpy main storyline being studded with newscasts that provide the necessary exposition that can bog a speculative novel down. The prose is determinedly young adult - good for its target audience - and occasionally repetitive (why the obsession with people's height as a defining characteristic?) but once the plot kicks in, Hadrian's Lover is relentless and impossible to put down. 

The foreword laments that the editors of Budd's former books would not work on Hadrian's Lover because of all the explicit, particularly the explicit underage, sex. Coming out stories, even when in a fun/horror house mirror, require crossing that line and Budd does it with enough taste that when the really explicit and horrifying sex happens it packs a punch. I'm still unsettled and pondering. And that is a good thing. 

Hadrian's Lover is available at Glad Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St. 


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