The Sexual Compass, by Michael Reed

the-sexual-compass-by-michael-reed coverGenre: Social Science Fiction
Publisher: Unmusic Books
Published: 2014
Reviewer Rating: four and a half stars
Book Review by David L. Felts

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Classifying The Sexual Compass, by Michael Reed, as science fiction is a bit of a stretch. There’s a speculative element — I suppose — but’s it’s a pretty mild one. That element being a supposed discovery that sexual orientation is a result of brain chemicals. Alter the chemical and sexual attraction can be changed, i.e. ‘straight’ people when exposed to the treatment turn ‘gay’. The focus on characters and relationships makes this more of a general fiction offer, since the idea of gender attraction change is simply the catalyst used to incite the social construct of relationships, both romantic and otherwise.

Wikipedia defines ‘social science fiction’ as a subgenre of science fiction concerned less with technology and more with speculation about human society, with a speculation about human behavior and interactions. That’s pretty much spot on here.

The Sexual Compass tackles the idea of gender identity and gender attraction in an intelligent and thoughtful manner. By using a variety of characters’ personal stories, Reed managers to present am intriguing and realistic outlook on the way sexual orientation makes up identity. Too, he makes a valid observation about the gullibility of the public, and the willingness of media to sensationalize regardless of the facts. All good and thoughtful stuff.

By posing the question what if homosexuality can be cured and using that the jumping off point, Reed delves into the lives of a variety of people.

Susan is a young single mother socially isolated and dependent on her brother and parents for support. Her brother happens to be gay, and the news of a ‘cure’ causes a him and his LGBT friends to have a crises of identity, since their identification of being gay makes up such a large part of their identity. Now that being gay is apparently a choice, what does that say about them and their cause? And what does it say about someone who chooses to change their orientation to straight?

Reed also explores story of John, the brother of Susan’s ex-boyfriend and straight. Overweight and a bit of a doormat, John’s never had too much luck with the ladies. The idea of changing his sexual orientation is intriguing…. Would he have a better chance finding a romantic partner and ending his loneliness as a gay man? John’s story is less about sexual attraction that it is about being lonely and desperate for a connection.

Despite its short length, Reed presents the reader with a complex, well-realized characters, and interesting questions to think about. It makes a statement about social activism, sexual identity, the role of the media, and the desperation some people feel to be accepted.

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