By Collin Kelley
Sibling Rivalry Press
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
The timeline of CCLaP's history is also roughly the timeline of Collin Kelley's "Venus" trilogy; we received the first volume from him, 2009's Conquering Venus, not long after opening for business, read through the second, Remain in Light, a few years later, and are just now checking out the conclusion, last summer's Leaving Paris which came out while we were on hiatus in 2016 from accepting new books for review. A sprawling tale that covers multiple generations, two continents, and a political conspiracy that gets deeper with each book, it's ultimately the story of two main people -- Martin Paige, a young gay American southerner who finds himself in and out of various complicated relationships over the years, and Irene Laureux, a now elderly veteran of the 1968 Paris student riots, the two pushed together by the universe through a series of waking dreams about the other, as well as a coincidental tattoo that they both just happen to have at the same exact places on their bodies. Their story then also has encompassed a growing amount of minor characters on the peripheries, all of whom engage with and inform the main story of love, murder and right-wing politics at its core -- from Martin's Memphis friend Diane Jacobs, a sassy Jewish teacher and divorcee trying to figure out what to do with her life, to Martin's new French boyfriend Christian Kigali, the shadowy French police inspector Michel Arnaud, closeted former Tennessee boyfriend David McLaren, and a lot more.
I've never claimed in these reviews that the trilogy is particularly great, an opinion I'm sticking with for this third volume; but certainly they're very readable, entertaining, and well put-together, and I admit that it's very satisfactory to see this story come to a conclusion after almost a decade of writing. In the world of small presses, where companies come and go in the blink of an eye and authors often lose the the financial incentive to continue ambitious projects, merely finishing a complicated, interlocking trilogy like this is an achievement unto itself; the fact that it's thought-provoking and tells a good yarn is merely a bonus, despite the fact that its scope threatens to get too big for Kelley to handle here by the third book, the characterizations are sometimes a bit inconsistent, the dialogue is a bit too sentimental at points, and especially here in the third volume he has the habit of making too many random people these characters encounter cartoonishly homophobic in the style of a 1950s moral panic film, an attitude that certainly existed in the Bush-dominated 2005 when this third book is set, but that feels like too much too often in the way he handles it. These are all minor quibbles, albeit ones you should keep in mind before reading the trilogy yourself; in general, though, I was very satisfied with these three books, including the way the entire saga is eventually summed up, and give a general if not strong recommendation to check them out for yourself if you have the chance.
Out of 10: 8.4