The Janus Cycle by Tej Turner
This is one of those books where you start off thinking it’s one thing, but before long you start to realise it’s something else entirely. In this case, what initially seems to be a collection of slice-of-life-esque urban fantasy stories soon turns out to be much more closely interconnected than you thought, and by the time you get to the final story you realise it’s not really a collection in the traditional sense at all, but a carefully crafted mosaic.
There are eight stories in this collection, each told from a different point of view, and each told in the first-person perspective. Connecting each story is the club, Janus, a kind of alt-rock/counter-culture getaway frequented by society’s outsiders and fringe-dwellers. Every city has a club like this, where the people who don’t fall into an accepted mould hang out, brought together by their differences; a place where they can escape the derision of those who would have them conform. However, as the stories progress and the threads of the narrative are woven together, it becomes clear that Janus is changing, that the clientele are becoming more homogenous, and the outsiders are slowly being pushed out.
The stories themselves run a wide gamut of human experiences; the rise and fall of relationships, the need to belong, the quest for emotional fulfilment, the search for companionship and understanding, and the desire just to be accepted for who you are. In fact, the idea of acceptance is very much central to the shared narrative of this collection, with a good proportion of the characters falling somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. Consequently, each character’s journey has its share of pitfalls, as well as rewards. Sometimes this can make for difficult reading, though the prose is strong enough to pull you through the various hazards the characters face along the way. By the end of the final story, while not every problem or hurdle has been completely overcome, you’re left with a feeling that the individual protagonists have found a way to exist, that they’ve each found their own individual light to guide them.
All in all I truly enjoyed this enticing and intriguing little collection, and definitely recommend it if you’re into urban fantasy with a twist, or are looking for something with good, strong LGBTQ representation. A strong four out of five stars.