- Paperback: 440 pages
- Publisher: doorQ.com Publishing (June 17, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0692240993
- ISBN-13: 978-0692240991
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,969,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Passion of Sergius and Bacchus Paperback – June 17, 2014
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About the Author
A native of Chicago, Illinois, David Reddish demonstrated early verbal gifts, first speaking in complete sentences at nine months old, and an ability to read by age one and a half. By age five, he was already writing short stories and plays which he would often produce in his living room for family and friends. His talent with words lead him to work as a child stage actor and classical vocalist before turning to his focus to writing in his college years. A decorated scholar, Reddish graduated with a degree in Film from the University of Central Florida. Always known for his brash, outspoken manner and eccentric behavior, David Reddish has won awards for his political activism as well as pop culture acclaim for his fashion design work, his style ranging from grunge rock to Cyberpunk chic. Working on occasion as a model and go-go dancer gained Reddish notoriety as a Los Angeles socialite, his circle of friends ranging from poverty row to the Hollywood A-List—his persona, like his written works, always versatile and original. He resides in Los Angeles.
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Top customer reviews
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I also like the way the author uses description. I usually don't care that much about what people or settings look like, because I'm not a visual reader, but the author has a good sense for how much to describe something to actually give you a sense of the place or person without lingering on it like the background or character is posing for its closeup if you know what I mean. (We all know authors who don't know when to quit with the adjectives.) Oh, and it was cool that Sergius was a soldier that did not in fact love battle. He abhors death and violence even as a competent soldier, doesn't relish killing at all. That made him relatable.
But truth be told, despite liking a couple things about it, I didn't really like the story very much. The overarching idea is okay: Sergius meets Bacchus while defending Julian, he continues to be adviser to Caesar while advancing his career and searching for his love, he establishes a relationship with Bacchus and learns what he's living for, he has a faith crisis, and he ultimately has to learn how to reflect his true values with his actions when his morals are challenged. Some of the faith messages were heavy-handed and it sometimes felt convoluted to me, especially since at first Sergius and Bacchus were concerned about the possibility of converting to the Galilean faith because it might shame them into giving up what they love most but later they seem to credit said faith for sustaining and inspiring their relationship (even though they had it far before they even considered conversion). I love the message that love is what living is for and I liked the search for a love that can transcend death, but the way this message was presented here didn't move me because the words felt more like the characters had become mouthpieces for it. Some of the conversations felt like "no, you can't do that, it's against scripture" / "but Yeshu would want us to embrace love!" / "oh okay well I guess that's all right then."
But no comparable love-based exception was extended to the supposed fairer sex in this book. I don't know quite how to put this but I had this feeling while reading it that I was meant to agree uncritically that women are beneath men and are not full human beings. I could certainly pick up that all of the characters felt this way, and it's hard not to read it as a central message of the book when the narration consistently found unnecessary ways of bringing up how inferior women are. The worst thing that can happen to a man is that he might be treated like a woman; if one man has sex with another then the real problem with that is that one could be seen as feminine. Caesar was spitting with rage at the idea that someone could even suggest he wear some of his wife's jewels for a coronation because that would taint him with female filth; the phrase he used was "Keep my wife's feminine trinkets away from me!" Someone mentions that he'd like to talk about his family, including his daughters, and slides in "even if they are just females." Crying is for girls. Womanliness is the most horrific insult that could be delivered to a man.
The women on screen are simpering, silly, mewling creatures who aren't really people. In a couple places you see sex workers in a brothel and all they do is cower or jockey for attention, and though Sergius wanted to protect one that was a virgin, his only protection was agreeing to not personally have sex with her. (News flash, Sergius: you didn't save her from anything by not being the one to personally deflower her.) Other women, like Helena (Julian's wife), are only shown to think about desiring men, dressing pretty, and having babies, but they're too dim to even be able to figure out where to sit down without a man to tell them what to do. The featured women's inability to function is portrayed as typical, and women basically do not exist in this story except to cause inconvenience to men as they chafe and struggle to tolerate their illogical, vapid values. And of course women also exist to die as a way of forwarding male character development, which was so odd to read since Julian clearly seethed with hatred and was disgusted by his wife but was also somehow destroyed by her fate. She didn't do anything but ruin a great man and inspire a message about how vulnerable love makes a person, which was then transferred onto Sergius and Bacchus's relationship as Julian became critical of it.
We did have one inspiring female character: Macrina. (Though even she as a Galilean leader had to have her thinking on her religion straightened out by guys who were just learning about it, but to be fair Sergius does use his protagonist guy powers to correct everyone, not just the ladies.) What's notable about having one female leader in a book where other women are lesser humans is that the text explicitly marked her as exceptional for a woman. There was a specific line that told us she was not like other women and had distinguished herself through her extraordinary virtue and wisdom as being above her station. Men who are better than other men aren't "better than a man" in this book, but if a woman is smart or good, it's indicated as weird for a woman to be that cool, you know? It really bothered me and I wish I could say it was a minor thing but it really wasn't. In a book where femininity is horrifying and explicitly used several times to shame men as the ultimate insult to their humanity, I was not happy about seeing a competent woman who was not used to challenge these assumptions. She doesn't teach us that there is no law that says women aren't disgusting and beneath men; she's just a special character who is portrayed as great despite her femaleness and has overcome inherent flaws attached to being a woman. Good female characters generally aren't shown as having transcended their womanhood to be great, but the text literally said that's what she did, and we still don't have to question men's superiority.
And of course as a person who is an editor I can't not complain about the poor editing on this book. There were literally hundreds of mistakes in the text, as though it had not been run through a spell checker much less an editor. Misspelled or invented words popped up all over the place ("savoir" is not the same thing as "savior"). There were dozens of instances of homophone confusion (reins/reigns, lead/led, bridal/bridle, taught/taut, its/it's, than/then, cord/chord)--and it wasn't the occasional mistake, because the wrong one was used much more often than the right one. Possessives were consistently used incorrectly (stuff like "Sergius took Bacchus hand"). Incorrect words were substituted when a similar word was clearly the intended term, and this happened a LOT. "Equestrian" was once used instead of "equine"; a horse cannot have an equestrian body part. "Dolling" was used instead of "doling"; you can be "dolling" only if you're dolling someone up, as in making them like a doll. "Arian" was used instead of "Aryan" to describe Bacchus's features, and I know it was meant to be Aryan because it was used correctly a few times too (which also weirded me out). At one point Sergius was said to be "opining for winter," but "opining" means giving one's opinion. There were incorrect plurals, sometimes with apostrophe + S used to indicate more than one of something. And there were tons of glitches like extra letters and people's names being spelled wrong, and quotation marks being forgotten at the end of dialogue. Plus there was my good old friend the unnecessary speech tags; people will say "sorry" and the tag is "he apologized," or they'll offer a compliment and then get tagged "he complimented," or be invited with a tag "he invited," which is always one of my pet peeves because if a piece of dialogue IS an apology, a compliment, or an invitation, the narration does not need to tell me so. (And maybe it's just a personal beef but I got very sick of seeing Sergius's "ebony locks" and Bacchus's "amethyst eyes.") If I see these sorts of problems to this extent in a published book I feel like I'm reading a first draft, and then I don't relax and enjoy it; I read it like an editor instead and sit there on edge watching errors pop out at me. It's extremely distracting and sometimes confusing if the incorrect possessives or misused words are egregious enough that I can't figure out what's being said until I read it over a couple times.
There were also bits where the narration telegraphed stuff to us and then tried to set it up for a reveal, like when Bacchus was preventing a rape or Bacchus was getting tortured and Sergius somehow became really obtuse about who was in front of him because the reveal was coming. Sometimes there were simple editing glitches that could have been caught by a good developmental editor, like one time there was a scene where the narration described five place settings but then six people were eating at the table. And while I like when characters struggle with their faith and I like Sergius's inspiration for wanting to embrace the Galilean faith, it felt externalized somehow--like the Galilean faith idea led him instead of him leading his own authentic exploration of faith. The switch was very abrupt for something he ended up defending so deeply, and his makeshift wedding wasn't as heartfelt as I wanted it to be (or as touching as some of their other moments together). Finally, his relationship with Julian confused me throughout. Julian dropped accolades on Sergius for bravely defending him even though there were many other soldiers who did so and got hurt doing so, and though I guess his philosopher nature was special to Julian, the ascent of Sergius to one of Julian's top dogs and subsequent interaction never felt like it quite matched the statements of loyalty Sergius himself uttered in his narration. I found nearly all of the interactions Sergius had with others to be a little stiff and a little disconnected from his thoughts. It might have benefited from a bit more intimacy with Sergius's inner voice, which the author did occasionally demonstrate that he has the chops to do.
I think I would recommend this book to people who are particularly interested in this historical setting and might be familiar with the saints who inspired it, but for me it wasn't much of a character novel and a lot of the things I described as frustrating me or bothering me were just too much for me to say I actively enjoyed reading it.
The story, of course is the well-known legend of the martyrdom of two soldiers who were lovers in the Roman Army in the period immediately following the establishment of Christianity as the religion of the empire by Constantine in the 4th Century CE. Sergius and Bacchus encountered each other while serving in the “western army” under emperor-to-be Julian while he was fighting the Germans in Gaul. Julian, called “the Apostate”, was known as “the last pagan emperor", and after the death of Constantius, who had been Caesar Augustus in the east, Julian took over the title of Augustus, supreme emperor. He was determined to restore Rome to its ancient glory and worship of the Roman pantheon; he launched a vendetta against the “Galileans”, his term for Christians. Although Sergius and Bacchus had been extremely loyal, and Sergius was in fact favored by Julian as his “Philosopher soldier”, once the two men became Christian, Julian demanded they recant. When they refused, they were martyred most viciously.
Reddish does a creditable job of developing the historical background of the story. He is accurate in describing the ambivalence of Roman culture with respect to the relationship of Sergius and Bacchus as lovers, as well as in discussing the “theological” attitudes of the early Christian community, including the conflict between the celibacy teachings of Paul versus the emphasis on love as the dominant ethic taught by Jesus. The dramatic tension the author develops in the process is quite effective. The descriptions of the sexual encounters between these two men are relatively explicit, but handled tastefully. To me, the recounting of the battle scenes and the extreme violence of the tortures meted out to the two main characters were significantly more disturbing, and in fact bordered on the excessively graphic.
In sum, the greatest positive value of this book is that it deals with the reality that homosexuality was not considered a major impediment to salvation in the early church, and that there was indeed a place in the community for dedicated and committed lovers of the same gender. As a historical romance novel, therefore, it is a good read.