I finished Bad Idea earlier today and I spent a fair amount of time reading reviews before sitting down to write mine. I expected it to be a polarizing book and I wasn't entirely wrong. People seem to either absolutely love it or get so confused by it they have trouble expressing an opinion, and they end up feeling guilty or perplexed because it didn't knock their socks off like it happened with Damon Suede's debut novel, Hot Head.
I'm one of the people who loved Hot Head when they first read it. It wasn't that I didn't see its flaws, but the intensity of Griff's emotions and his incredible chemistry with Dante helped me overlook them since the book provided a wonderful reading experience, overall.
That wasn't the case with Bad Idea. I could tell something was wrong right from the start, when the story's opening paragraphs, the pace, the dialogue, the characters, the writing style itself felt so weird, so alien, I had to keep reminding myself I was reading a Damon Suede, that I should be enjoying this, that I shouldn't be forcing myself to continue. But no dice. I kept putting it down and I had to psych myself up before picking it up again.
So, what went wrong?
Well, first off, (and this is something other reviewers have pointed out as well) my ARC was poorly formatted. I'm not sure things would have been much better if it weren't, but I have to attribute some of the confusion to that.
Second, and this was a major issue, the pace was frenzied. And I don't mean quick. I mean maniacal. It went back and forth, at times too fast, plot elements hitting me left, right and centre, then unexpectedly slowing down, moving at a snail's pace, dragged down by dreary scenes between the major and the side characters. The garbled, choppy dialogue made the effect that much more intense. My impression when I finished the book was that it could have easily been 1/3 shorter.
Most people prefer Silas over Trip, but I didn't favour either of them. They both felt a bit underdeveloped and they kept being drowned in the meandering dialogue scenes. Also, I understand that the story revolves around Silas's comic character, Scratch, and that Bad Idea is connected to an older title by Damon Suede, Horn Gate. But Scratch and the creation of the comic ended up hijacking the book leaving too little space for the characters and their relationship to develop. To me it felt like they had too little chemistry and even the physical part of their interaction, the sex, left me unmoved. There was also a D/s element and I guess it was there to make things a bit more interesting, with the scrawny, hung guy doming the beefy guy who loves to bottom, but it came across a bit awkward. As if the characters were asked to assume roles they wouldn't normally assume. Also, on a side note, I kept picturing them as hobbits because they kept calling each other Mr Goolsby and Mr Spector instead of using their first names.
I said "sex" and remembered the onomatopoeia/sound imitations. I'd noticed them in Hot Head as well and they didn't bother me much there, but here the whole thing was jarring.
"Thwit-thitit-thwit. Silas spasmed around his fingers, and pleasure boiled out of him onto them both."
Yes, that's the sound of coming. Here's another one:
"Switt. Swiiit-thwit. He bowed hard as the lava burst from him onto his face and shoulder and Trip as well."
"He scoffed and tested the trigger of the airbrush. Phht-pssst."
"…blew out the back of Trip's head. Ker-pow!"
"Silas gasped. 'Nhhauuuhhh!'"
"Trip squeezed her hand. Crick-crickkk-crick."
"He fidgeted with the pen in his hand, capping and uncapping and recapping it with his left hand: clickitaclick-clickita-clickit."
Then there were the parts that grossed me out a bit:
"He felt like he'd eaten a hash brownie that was giving him a prostate massage."
Nice visual, no? The hash brownie being digested and ending up giving him a prostate massage right before it goes out again.
Or this part here:
(one MC has two fingers second-knuckle-deep into the other MC)
"...the madness of claiming his horny barbarian on a stoop, taking Silas apart with his bare hands to get at the sticky gold inside."
The sticky gold inside? The ick factor went through the roof at that one.
There were also some neologisms (if I could borrow the term), like this one here:
"And not Lovecraftian fthooloomarula bibbity bobbity monster mash."
The similes, metaphors, and analogies. Most of the time, they were on crack:
"You cleared out of here like shit through a Shriner"
"His prick resembled a nelly golf caddy disguised as a bright orange buffalo wing"
"Silas battled for breath like a gladiator strung for whipping"
"She paused and used her tongue to unfurl the word like a poisonous scarf"
"like a stupid walrus pining over a seagull"
"ladled charm over him like high-fructose concrete"
"[his balls] rode high like anxious tangerines behind the short, thick penis"
"making his auburn hair float like hot Einstein"
"Awkward stillness filled the entire open Unbored space like inflatable felt dinosaurs"
"More excuses scrambled to the front of Trip's mouth like incontinent puppies"
"yells into the phone like a walking spleen"
"He felt uglier than a lard bucket fulla armpits."
Or the number of synonyms used for penis: Monster, branch, branch of meat, club, blunt truncheon, bone, crank, schwanz, roll of meat, shank, fat joint, fat slab, fat cannon, thick piston, blunt pole, firm meat, ying-yang, dork, whopper, beast cock, jumbo doodler, uncut bazooka, hot crowbar, hot spike, chunk of meat, fatness, torpedo, whanger, doodad, salami, schlong, hog (also: cap, helmet, knob, apex, snout for the glans.)
And I'm not sure I got all of them.
Likewise, there was nickname galore. Some were successful, like Cliff the Unboyfriend, some others not so much. For instance, Trip was also Tripwire, Drip, or Triptophane. Heh. Not funny. In fact, most of the jokes weren't funny for me. Like this one here:
"My fucked up hands."
Trip gave a slow, appreciative whistle. "Nuh-uh. Sexy."
"I always tell people I got it doing construction. Working with toxic waste."
"You mean like acid?" He balanced his chin on Silas's pec.
"No. Like Kim Kardashian."
Also, the sarcastic references to Star Wars? "Darth Hemorrhoid" and "May the farce be with you"? Heresy. Heresy, I say! I did like the reference to J.R. Ward though. She was even correctly referred to as "The Warden", so props for that. I also liked the reference to Anne Cain. She's such a sweetheart and such a talented artist.
The misunderstanding and the period of separation before the end were necessary, I guess. I suspected something like that would happen after Cliff's ugly reaction to the news of Trip's new comic hero. I liked the ending, it was fitting and the book closed the way it opened, with Trip and Silas in the middle of a zombie race. Only this time they had found not lost each other.
All in all, this story is unusual and packs a punch and I can see why many people like it, but it wasn't for me. I wish Trip and Silas luck. May the force be with them.