Ockham’s Razor by Alan Michael Williams
Micah doesn’t like how his Mormon faith pigeonholes his sexuality: that being "gay" is like being "hooked on a drug." When he was little, he would lie in bed at night and imagine God giving out awards to all those gay spirits who saw past the ignorance of the Church, living their lives on Earth freely. Micah figured he would just walk away from all things Mormon and never look back. That is, until Brendan came along.
This is an interesting book that attempts to blend a fictional relationship with an introspective on homosexuality, addiction, and the Mormon Church. While not wholly successful, it raises several arguments and different views which will be of note to readers who enjoy discussions on these topics. Fiction readers will likely be unsatisfied with the lengthy academic debates and lack of cohesive fictional relationship though. The writing choices are problematic and create a disjointed, awkward flow to the narration which ultimately combines in a book that is likely to have a very narrow, niche market.
The basic premise of the story is a look at the gay relationship between two young men and how their belief impacts their relationship. Micah is 21 and Brendan is 17. This isn’t exactly a young adult book though both men are immature and somewhat naive. Micah does a lot of research into the concept of gays in the Mormon Church and thus the story is really about how these two boys take their upbringing and knowledge to create lives for themselves and possibly together.
This reads more like an intellectual examination of homosexuality and its place within the Mormon Church than a fictional story. The fictional characters of Micah and Brendan exist to spark the discussion of gays within the church from two different perspectives ~ one within the Church and one outside. While these two indulge in an extremely odd and weird relationship, the majority of their conversations revolve around their relationship and problems within it. Additionally almost all of Micah’s conversations with others such as his mom or co-workers all revolve around addiction, homosexuality, and whether the two are connected.
While this information is interesting, the majority belongs more to a dissertation about homosexuality and the Mormon Church than thinly veiled in a fiction novel. The story is in first person point of view by Micah, but his narration alternates when referring to Brendan or others. The example below is repeated numerous times throughout the story:
He breaks the kiss and lays his head on my chest, his breath quick, his heart pounding. This is what I want from you; this is what I want from us.
The narrator, Micah, repeatedly alternates between telling the story and speaking to others in an internal monologue. This led to a very choppy and disjointed flow and pace to the story as well as the problematic characters themselves. The interaction between the two men is highly awkward with a stream of consciousness dialogue rather than actual conversation. Interspaced are lengthy pauses that regurgitate various religions and their belief systems. For example, here is a scene from their third date:
Brendan shifts at this, wanting to get up. He decides to stay put, though. “Marriage isn’t about getting stuck,” he says. “It’s about ~”
“But I personally agree with the German philosopher Heidegger who argued that there’s some kind of invisible string that connects one’s consciousness with everything outside it. Everything is interconnected, kind of like the way Buddhists think. Love is already out there waiting for us, so you just have to discover it. You get what I’m saying?”
Furthermore there was awkward verbiage and comments such as “It’s just that any gay guy who isn’t safe is asking for STIs.” There is also a comment Micah makes about being 100 when the year is 2078. Since Micah is described as 21 years old, this statement is jarring. Does that mean the book is set in 1999? There are also too many hyperboles within the prose such as “Amazing!” “Exactly!” and a variety of other phrases that end in an exclamation point so often it loses the effect.
Unfortunately this book is unlikely to appeal to a lot of fiction readers due to the heavy intellectual debate that is presented for the majority of the book. The fictional relationship becomes more of a focus in the latter third of the book, but the stalker like actions of Micah are disturbing and uncomfortable. The ending has little resolution for the characters but creates more questions and opportunities for discussion about the topics presented. This book will appeal to those who are looking for an examination of the Mormon Church’s stand on homosexuality as seen through the eyes of young gay men.
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4 thoughts on “Ockham’s Razor by Alan Michael Williams”
I admit that I bought this book for the pretty cover, and was a bit taken aback when read it, but in the end, I’m happy to have done it. It’s an interesting story, and I think that the young age of the author made it a bit difficult to read, he has not a smooth style, but probably with the age it will get better, so I’m happy to give him trust with his debut novel. (And BTW I really bought this book, it was not sent me for review). Elisa
Great comment Elisa and totally true. He’s a young author and has a lot to say. THe book isn’t perfect but he smartly marketed it and definitely I think is someone to watch. He’ll be lucky to get the publicity from you highlighting him.
Hi, Kassa! It looks like the author self-published it through Amazon’s higher-end service (BookSurge as opposed to CreateSpace) and got Anne Cain to do the cover. Very smart move on the cover art! That’s going to attract a lot of readers as Elisa’s comment proves. I don’t know about the story, though … it doesn’t sound as if the plot can support all the theorizing and wordage. It sounds like the story would have benefited with an editor to shape it.
While the author does need an editor and could use some shaping up, he’s still young and has something to offer. I think the thought provoking ideas are often weighed down slightly with too much philosophy ( a matter the author and I disagreed on in polite if firm emails) but really I think this is worth reading. It shows a gay man who loves his religion and struggles to find a balance.
Plus a stunning cover and good marketing should give this book a boost.