Before jumping into the review, I'd like to thank author Cy Wyss for the free digital copy of DIMORPHIC. Cy is the author of "Sinking" a short story starring Inspector Richter. I enjoyed this piece of short fiction so one could probably imagine how excited I was to be gifted a full length novel by the author. I was even more intrigued after reading the book's synopsis because it sounded very different from the type of narrative experience I enjoyed in "Sinking." DIMORPHIC is a story that's less about uncovering the truth about a murder and more about the journey of a superhero. However this hero (or maybe heroes depending on how you look at it) is not of the ordinary flavor. Judith and Ethan are fraternal twins whose lives change forever when Ethan "dies" in a tragic motorsport accident. Immediately after his passing, Judith finds that she takes over his body every time she goes to sleep and wakes up in her own when she goes to sleep in Ethan's.
HOW I RATED IT
4/5 In the same way that "Sinking" offered a uniquely edgy twist on the classic detective formula, DIMORPHIC is delightfully twisted spin on superpowered heroes. I should point out though that this is a VERY strange book and is therefore a bit of an acquired taste. This weirdness at the onset may be enough to turn some away, but if you bear with it, you will be treated to one of the most interesting and genuinely unique stories you have read in a long time.
The bizarre-ness begins with the characters. I know I have used the term "motley crew" before to describe odd casts of heroic misfits, but after reading this, I feel as though I've been using it as a descriptor rather liberally. A Chinese assassin whose behavior is heavily influenced by his time in Japan, a gay, black, midget, a pyromaniac who loves vampires, and a not-gypsy woman are just a smattering of what types of characters readers get to meet during the course of the story. To delve too deeply into what any of these characters' roles are would be quite a spoiler indeed. Even so much as mentioning them borders into spoiler territory because a lot of what makes this story great is that there is no possible way to anticipate who or what is around the next corner.
What can be discussed in this category though, is the main character, or maybe main characters. It's kind of complicated really since it's somewhat unclear as to whether Ethan is really 100% dead or not. Essentially, his motorsport accident leaves him brain-dead. His twin sister, Judith can't come to terms with pulling the plug on him, but she also has no way to afford his life support. It's a pretty dark scenario, but depressing soon gives way to weird when she goes to sleep and wakes up in his body. She's still her, but she also has to deal with now kind of being a man. She's able to waltz Ethan right on out of the hospital, but then she really gets herself into a pickle since she's hiding a man who's supposed to be dead. While she should be finding a way to sort that mess out, she gets herself into a deeper one when she starts trying to use Ethan's body like some kind of human supersuit. See, Judith's got a thing for superheroes. She wants to be one - just like Batman, her favorite. Aside from getting her brain-dead brother into all kinds of precarious situations, she also involves herself in an underbelly of criminal intrigue that will change the course of her life forever.
The characters here are certainly larger than life, but they are also all so strange that they feel like real people. That said, I know for a fact I have never met anyone quite like the characters in this book, but each of them has quirks that are so unique that I feel as though they COULD be real and that's a pretty nice quality to have in a cast as large and widespread as this one. .
The setting itself is fairly contemporary. There are a lot of really interesting locations that readers are taken to, but I'm not sure if mentioning them would be considered a spoiler or not since some are as strange as the characters they belong to. Maybe it will suffice to say that there is a nice range of places here. Some are serene, some are dingy, others seedy, and a bunch have this modern urban Asian feel to them. All have a dark sort of pallet to them though that's hard to describe. I think a lot of this has to do with the characters who inhabit these spaces and the bizarre gravity that they bring with them. Ultimately it's just important to know that the locations are fun and there's a lot of destruction that is done to them which can turn even the dingiest building into a vibrant stage for the action.
I think I've mentioned a thousand times already that this is a VERY strange novel. The tone is quirky, gritty, brutal, sexual, and ultimately there's just a lot of strange odd stuff that gets thrown into the mix. One example is that Judith wants to have gay sex when she's in Ethan's body, which maybe wouldn't be actually gay? There's also a seen where she has heterosexual sex in Ethan's body, but doesn't really know how to use the male anatomy. There's a lot of sexually-charged swears that get thrown around which I can honestly say I would never even dream of someone saying. There's actually a lot of swearing in general which some may want to know. Most of the time it does make sense in context, but there were some occasional spots where it felt out of place like when they randomly get dropped in a more casual conversation.
So far as the plot is concerned, I dare not reveal too much. Some generally safe things to mention would be that there is a ton of violent action that keeps things interesting and that the plot in general can't really be compared to anything I am familiar with. Part super-hero story, part crime drama, and part gritty action adventure, I ultimately found that I never really knew what direction the author was taking with this story. Normally, that would annoy me to no end, but a lot of the fun came from never knowing what I should expect. At any point, I could meet some weird new character, witness an unnervingly bizarre exchange, or run into a tense fight scene. The surprises are pretty much endless and it's nice that it's not just pure shock value - there is some substance here as well.
It you are in the mood for something a bit different from what's offered in the mainstream market, then I would highly recommend that you give this indie author a look. Having an open mind is definitely a prerequisite to fully enjoying everything that this book has to offer, which by the back half is actually quite a lot more than most will expect. It's just one of those rare kinds of treats that can't really be compared to anything else. There's also a sort-of-open ending that has potential for the story to go on, not a cliffhanger mind you, just an ending that invites the possibility for more to come. And hopefully the author does do more within this space because I think this is a fictional world that has even more to offer.
DIMORPHIC is available in eBook and Paperback editions on Amazon.