Uncovered, by Kyell Gold – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
“’Uncovered’ is a romance novel intended for an adult audience only and contains some explicit sexual scenes of a primarily Male/Male nature. It is not for sale to persons under 18.”
This is Book 4 in Gold’s award-winning Out of Position series, following Out of Position (2009), Isolation Play (2011), and Divisions (2013). The series follows the lives of the tiger Devlin Miski and the fox Wiley “Lee” Farrel as they become secret homosexual lovers while seniors at Forester University, then graduate. Dev, a college football player, is signed onto the professional Chevali Firebirds, while Lee applies for a non-playing job with his team. When Dev becomes the first outed gay football player, their lives and the lives of their families and Dev’s teammates are thrown into turmoil, with some staying supportive and others turning hostile. Dev and Lee can now openly set up housekeeping together, but each is faced with many problems.
Each Book relates a year in Dev’s and Lee’s lives. They are narrated by Dev and Lee, in mostly alternating chapters. To repeat a previous comment, “Looking at [the series] objectively, there is almost no fantasy, save for the characters being anthropomorphized animals. This is a realistic novel about two young homosexual lovers beginning life after college.” Also, as Lee says in Uncovered, “You don’t have to like football to get through it […], but it helps.” (p. ix) A lot!
As Uncovered begins, Dev and Lee are devoted to each other, but their different interests are pulling them apart. Dev is almost monomaniacal about improving his playing and helping the Firebirds win their first championship. He resents the distractions of Lee and other gay activists trying to get him more involved in gay causes, including being interviewed and appearing in commercials specifically as a gay football player. Lee, on his part, gets exasperated by Dev’s refusal to support The Cause, especially after it is revealed that anti-gay prejudice has led a second, secretly gay young player to commit suicide. Each tries to be more understanding and tolerant of the other’s feelings.
Dev, as a football player, gets a role with a Firebirds teammate in a TV beer commercial. It’s his first acting job:
“But ‘ready for you’ turns out to mean that they want me to sit in a chair for twenty minutes while they brush out my fur, examine it under lights, apply tint to it, get some of the tint in my eye, apologize, make me take off my Firebirds t-shirt, bring out three Firebirds polo shirts for me to choose from while I’m sitting there shirtless, apologize for the tint in my eye again, dress me in the shirt, and then take the shirt off when the director comes over and says, ‘Get that off him.’” (p. 13)
There are long, detailed scenes of Dev’s football games. Gold does an excellent job of making them exciting even to readers who know and care nothing about the sport. There are sharply contrasting pictures of the two lovers’ families. Most of Dev’s extended Siberian tiger family (not his brother Greg) fully supports him, while Lee’s father is supportive but his mother is bitterly condemnatory, leading to his parents’ divorce and his mother joining an anti-homosexual hate group.
Dev is conflicted by the feelings that he is letting Lee down, and what his known homosexuality is doing to his team. Lee has two job prospects; one as a talent scout for the Yerba Whalers, and one as a gay outreach councilor with Dev’s Chevali Firebirds. The job with the Firebirds fits naturally with his gay activist inclinations, and it would enable him to stay in Chevali with Dev. But it’s an experimental position for three months only, while becoming a talent scout for the Whalers is long-term, and Lee loves being an insider in the world of football even though he’s not a player. But it would require him to move to Yerba, hundreds of miles from Dev.
Aside from his job situation, Lee learns that the parents of Vince King, the secretly gay footballer who was pressured into committing suicide, have filed a lawsuit against Families United, the group that drove him to suicide (and that Lee’s mother has just joined); and that Equality Now, Lee’s former gay activist group, is planning a high-profile publicity campaign to support the parents. Lee, equally conflicted, withdraws from Dev to concentrate on temporarily returning to his gay activism and the lawsuit, without distracting Dev from his football goal. But outside events increase the pressure on both; and, separated from each other, each of the two feels more alone and vulnerable.
I say that this series has almost no fantasy except being set in an anthropomorphized world, but there are plenty of those scenes.
Dev: “Instead, I’m in a tiny chartered jet with our recently-added receiver Lightning Strike, a cheetah who has lived up to his name in the three games he’s been with us. He’s dyed his fur blue and gold – the Strongwell beer colors – and in close quarters, the dye smells pretty strongly.” (p. 3)
Dev, on his first trip to large, cosmopolitan Crystal City: “We pass strip mall after strip mall, crowded with more kinds of people than I can count, gold fur and red fur and brown fur, long tails and short tails and fluffy tails, dye jobs that make Strike look restrained. I even see one species I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, a woman with a long narrow muzzle, butshe’s past the window before I can look twice.” (p. 6)
Lee: “Saturday I go out walking. Hellentown is as humid as Chevali is dry, and my fur feels thick and unruly by noon.” (p. 35)
Lee: “The plane is so full that even with the Neutra-Scent tissue I bring to my nose every so often, the scents of all the people crowd me, make me dizzy.” (p. 66)
To repeat my summary of Divisions: “[Uncovered] is full of realistic conversations ranging from polite social discourse to raunchy locker-room banter. There are no dramatic events of the suspense-thriller variety; just a very well told tale of two young gay men making a life for themselves. Read wherever there is any interest in serious gay fiction, fantasy or not.” And really good literary fiction, I should add.
The wraparound cover by Blotch illustrates a scene on pages 154 to 162 where Dev and Lee are filming a TV commercial. Blotch also drew ten full-page interior illustrations.
Uncovered is also available in a $39.95 hardcover edition, with a bonus forty-page novelette, “Getting to Sleep”, set between Divisions and Uncovered.