Title: The Goat: Building a Perfect Victim
Author: Bill Kieffer
Genre: Dark Paranormal
Publisher: Red Ferret Press (buy link: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-goat-building-a-perfect-victim)
Frank was a high school bully but he always paid special attention to Glenn. Now, with his wife gone on yet another separation, Frank is trying to deal with a mid-life crisis that has been brewing for quite awhile. Glenn becomes Frank’s new hobby… and eventually Frank is going to have to ask himself… which one of them is actually the victim in his new violent lifestyle.
Let me just say this first: Frank, our protagonist, is a bad bad person. There may be good aspects to him, but at the core he’s a terrible person. Without giving anything away, this is not a happy book, but it is powerful and oddly (sometimes repulsively) compelling.
Second, I didn’t label this a gay story as Goodreads did. Our main character doesn’t identify as queer (even though he clearly has some closet issues) so I can’t call this a queer book. It’s really that simple. Yes, he has sexual relations with a man in this novel, but it’s twisted and pushes the boundaries of fiction. Honestly, I don’t think we want this in the queer category.
*shoves the book at the straights* “Here, you take it! He’s one of yours!”
All joking aside, I’m not sure Frank really addresses his issues enough to have this be a queer story, and the way he does cope is rather… counterproductive and disturbing.
The blurb is a bit vague about what the book is about. I’m guessing that’s intentional, but I’ll give you a bit more because I don’t think it’ll spoil anything for you. It’s about jealousy and anger and trust and dysphoria. The setting is a world where magic exists. Most of this magic is evocation, illusion, enchantment, and transmutation based, and the world is affected by magic in nearly every way, from schools to fast food. Frank works in an auto shop and creates enchantments for cars for a living, everything from that new car smell to anti shatter window runes.
Specifically, the book centers around a group of mages who aren’t satisfied with their human bodies, and feel as if they should have been born in the body of an animal. Glenn is one of those mages. Unfortunately he also sucks at magic and he was denied access to the spells to turn him into his desired animal by some sort of magical governing body. He’s at his psychological lowest when he runs into a Frank, his old high school bully.
Frank sees Glenn’s vulnerability and abuses it, and Glenn puts up with the abuse because he’s desperate to have the humanity beaten out of him, so he can feel more like his true animal self.
Now, I don’t usually post my star rating in a review–you can always follow my Goodreads page if you want that kind of information–but I will tell you I rated this book four stars. Why? Why did I do that, when I hate abuse and Frank is a terrible person? Especially while there were probably more typos and errors than there should be in a published product?
Because the story was told well.
It was chilling and gruesome and I loved to hate Frank. He was vile and petty and angry and–oh my gods–he was fucking glorious in his rage. The plot was short and sweet, building up to a beautiful trainwreck. My soul bled–it was damn therapeutic.
This book will probably push a lot of boundaries for you. It pushed a lot of boundaries for me, and I happen to love asshole protagonists and violence.
If I had one legit complaint–besides the grammatical errors–it would be that the entire theme around Glenn and his fellow mages wanting to be animals was tragically similar to trans issues, and probably wasn’t handled as sensitively as it could have been. However, this wasn’t about trans issues. It was an allusion to a world I know nothing about, so I’ll defer to Kieffer for how furry culture should be handled.
I will say this, it certainly left an impression.
Ben Brock is a reviewer for The Novel Approach and Queer Sci Fi. He enjoys running, whisk(e)y, the mythical gluten-free donut, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.