Rampant by Eric Del Carlo – review

Rating: 6/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ Title: Rampant
Author: Eric Del Carlo
Genre: Fantasy, Erotica
URL: Loose ID
Price: US$6.99
Other Information/warnings: explicit m/m, horror, violence
Summary [from the publisher]:
Wyst’s forbidden intimacy with the Hex, Village’s mysterious goddess, leaves him with a damning stain and prompts his banishment. Denied the comforts of home’s orgiastic Reproduction Galas, Wyst wanders to City, a strange and plague-ridden place. Here he chances upon Gamomal, an exterminator of insects.
Amidst the fear and chaos, the two men are relentlessly drawn to one another. They carve out a tiny island of erotic pleasure, even as Wyst takes employment as a collector of the bodies of the plague victims.
But Wyst may have a deeper purpose. The Hex has charged him with curing the plague, though she has provided no specific instructions. How is he to accomplish this? Is it possible his body the instrument of salvation?

My review: This is another story that came highly recommended by Mrs Giggles, and another one that left me feeling rather more ambiguous about it than she did. The story is a familiar one of a fish out of water, the country mouse visiting the city cousin, yadda yadda, and the actual world building, while compelling and vivid, won’t stand too close an examination with its strange mixture of science and fantasy. Much is left unexplained, or makes little sense if you poke at it, so best to sit back and enjoy the ride.

The story is about sex – it being Wyst’s main skill, the McGuffin at the centre of the plot, and the tie that binds our two lovers together. Let me put on record that I hate the device of fucking and falling in love as much as I hate the instant attraction between ‘fated’ or ‘mated’ lovers. I’m an addict for the slow development of a relationship, so if you’re like me, this one may bug you. If not, then just note that there isn’t much slow development here. The slow development is in Wyst’s awareness, and learning to cope with the plague-ridden City, and his exile from his beloved Village.

Being so centred in sex, it’s a shame it’s not more erotic. Frankly, I found the sex scenes repetitive and unrealistic, with some very awkward ‘weeping cock’ style word choices, and a lot of it seemed to substitute for real character interaction. Regular readers will know that heavy sex content in a story is very rarely a plus with me, so take that into account. If you like masses of pornographic manloving in your reading, this could be the one for you.

But aside from the sex, this is an absorbing story, well-paced, lyrically and powerfully written (aside from one or two weird or mistaken word choices), evoking the panic of the plague-struck citizens, the slide into anarchy, the desperation as people try everything and anything to escape the disease. Wyst ends as a garbage collector – taking the dead away from the streets, until the job disappears under the sheer weight of death. The images are gruesome but not gratuitous. The two main characters are also compelling, if not always heroic. The author leaves them in a very uncertain place in their relationship and their lives, but with enough hope so we can believe it will be all right for them – and that’s all we need.

So – read for the smut, if you like that kind of thing, but read for the story-telling and the writing because when it works, it really works. I wish it had been more evenly excellent, with the sex scenes better integrated into the plot, but still, this is a cut above most fantasy m/m offerings, though at $6.99 it’s a bit on the pricey side for 137 pages. Recommended, with some caveats.