What happens when the personification of Fate falls in love? Can Fate intervene on his own behalf? And what role does Destiny play? These are the questions that drive the plot of S. G. Browne's second novel Fated.
In this hilarious offering, Browne satirizes human nature ala Terry Pratchett, tells a fast-paced urban fantasy in the style of A. Lee Martinez, and riffs the recent spate of myth-based tales engendered by Rick Riordan.
Like a more sexualized version of Bruce Almighty, Fated tells the story of Fate (also known as Fabio), the personification of the same, who is suffering a mid-century crisis. All of his clients of the modern era are taking side trips from their assigned fates, using their free will to derail their assigned future. Even though Fate sets them fairly decent lives, most throw the pleasant fates of being a semi-successful mid-level manager, happily married, or even living to a ripe old age down the sex and drugs crapper.
Poor Fabio is powerless to stop them, as each person does have a choice in how their lives turn out. Fate's disgust is compounded by the fact that the great individuals, those who will be Nobel Laureates, presidents, and humanitarians are all on the path of Destiny, and Fate has no say in their lives. Poor Fabio is stuck with the five and half billion human beings who live simple, workaday lives, and yet are the less content than their contemporaries under Destiny's care.
But then Fate meets Sarah, a successful realtor that is on the path of Destiny, but for no apparent reason he can discern. Fate falls in love with her, and that love prods him to commit the most grievous sin a personification like Fate can commit, he interferes in humans lives. God, known also as Jerry, will not be happy when he discovers Fate's dirty little secret.
Not as sacrilegious as it may first appear, Fated is a tamer, gentler Dogma that uses humor to explore notions of fate, destiny, and free will. Browne looks at our desire to consume and the desires which take our every waking moment to have what our neighbor has. How we seem unable to save ourselves from making bad choices and repeating them over and over again. Browne offers no real solutions, preferring instead to point, shrug, and occasionally laugh, but he is still right to do so. By using humor to disarm the reader's "don't preach at me" defenses, Browne effectively points out flaws in the character of humanity, perhaps even in the reader.
There is high sexual content with fairly candid description. The personifications of the deadly vices (Temptation, Lust, Sloth, Gluttony etc.) and virtues (Trust, Wisdom, Justice, Secrecy, etc.) as well as Fate, Luck, emotions like Anger, and Destiny are all sex-addled, which adds some humor, sure, but also dominates the other material. "The thing about Destiny is that she's a nymphomaniac." (p. 5) pretty much sums up a great deal of the content of novel. This would not be so bad, except that in a novel that is thematically about relationships and their zaniness (especially when one partner is a demi-god) the only relationship Fabio and Sarah have is a sexual one. Only a few small comments hidden in their bedroom antics lead the reader to believe there is more between Fate and Sarah than just the flavor of the moment. The end result is a relationship that furthers the plot but does nothing for characterization or theme, leaving the relationship superficial and two-dimensional.
Told entirely from the first person perspective of Fate, the tale is certainly entertaining and reads very quickly. Browne uses parallelism to great effect, often having Fate think in threes (hints of Greek mythology there) like so:
Think malignant tumor.
Most of the time I ignore these pockets of nothing.
These warm embraces of air.
These reminders of my limitations.
These three sentence poems of parallelism permeate throughout the book, and really give the character of Fate an amusing method of thinking that keeps the book jocular. Sometimes the funny is self-deprecating, sometimes sarcastic, but always played to great effect.
There is also a neat little gambit Browne has for describing the various personifications that Fate meets. Like in the description of Destiny above, throughout the novel Browne uses the formula "The thing about X is that he/she is Y" to add humor and a sense of connectedness to the tale.
Fated does not end the way I expected. The climax sneaks up on the reader a bit quickly, not out of the blue so much as too fast, with the rising action getting suddenly very steep climb to the climax when before it had been a slow uphill scale ascent. The ultimate end of the ill-starred love between Fate and Sarah takes a twist that, while evident in the text, is not evident while reading the text. While it is not a happy ending; it is a satisfying one.
Browne is undeniably an enjoyable writer, and this book is certainly engrossing and entertaining. I really enjoyed reading it, but am also aware that the high sexual content and descriptive scenes of sexual acts or implication of such (there is mention of statutory rape, BDSM, autoerotic, etc. though nothing is described other than standard sex) will be a deterrent to many readers. With the caveat that the reader must have a high tolerance for sex in fiction, I would otherwise recommend this novel as a fun romp through the nature of expectations and each human's role in their own future.
This post originally appeared on Grasping for the Wind.