Originally posted on Goodreads.
Larissa Glasser’s F4 is filthy, bizarre, ultra-violent, and hyper-(trans-)sexual, and I’m sure it’s meant to be all those things. For a few moments, it’s also quite melancholy.
It’s a novella about a gang of women and a boy, most of whom have penises. They’re stuck on a cruise ship, which is grafted onto the dormant body of a massive Kaiju. Within chapters the lecherous passengers of the ship morph into outer-worldly hellspawn, and it only gets wilder from there on out.
There are lots of guns, impossible shapes, oozes and other fluids, hybrids of the human and inhuman that should not be. And dicks. And dick energy. It’s all a bit overwhelming.
While I am a trans woman, I haven’t read all that much fiction by and for trans women specifically. In some ways, what Glasser writes sometimes borders on the objectionable, were it written by anyone other than a trans woman. I would call it objectifying and fetishizing. But I don’t believe in the death of the author in this regard. The thing is: being a trans woman entails, to a certain degree, a near-constant hyper-self-awareness, an objectifying of the self. We have to, because we don’t fit into any of the standard cultural (or sexual) modes of being in our society, and this is the only way for us to make sense of ourselves.
On some level, all of the over-the-top bizarro hijinx feels like an exorcism, an outlet for how much like *freaks* we trans people often feel. The lurid, lewd parts of F4 embrace that in a rebellious and in-your-face way. It wants to say: “So what if we’re freaks? So is everyone and everything else, if you really look at it.”
It’s for this reason that the ponderous middle part of the book, which focuses on a much more down-to-earth (trans) history of Carol, the protagonist, is valuable too. It shows a woman much like any other trying to get by in a world where other people (predominantly men) don’t really seem to care for your well-being all that much.
I’m not sure how well all these parts fit together, but they do balance each other, and maybe even need each other. How apt then that most of the book takes part on artificial structures awkwardly bolted onto primal flesh. It’s a supremely janky ride, but somehow it’s one Carol and the other have to see through to the end. (Kinda like transitioning, ha!)
I don’t like judging things, let alone rating them. I put 3 stars here because I feel like Glasser is still busy refining her voice—and this *is* her first novella. F4 is a strange hybrid of ideas and radical honesty about trans feelings and horror, and it sometimes feels awkward—insert ‘mouthfeel’ joke here. But this is also me listening to a story told by a sibling, a story no one else could tell quite the same way, and that is something you can’t put a price (or a score) on.