SoMa Paperback – Feb 1 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Scott, the pseudonym of a Bay Area journalist, has compiled a fun, frisky novel of shock horror from a grab bag of urban legends, but it's somewhat spoiled by Scott's spin on the material as a Graham Greene-esque spiritual journey. In San Francisco, realtors and developers call the bohemian district that lies South of Market Street "SoMa," trusting that a trendy acronym will boost condo sales in a squalid neighborhood. Would be-writer Raphe survives the dot.com crash by manning a penis enlargement scam joint while testing the limits of his sexuality in the "anything goes" SoMa sex world. When a homeboy roue, Baptiste, shows interest, Raphe can't help but perk up and love him back, finally coming out in an explosive sex encounter. Simultaneously, Raphe pines for stylish, redheaded Julie, a successful web executive who persuades him to begin what turns out to be an addictive regime of high colonics. Will bisexuality suffice, or will Raphe's anomie seek bigger thrills? In separate subplots, a sadistic millionaire, Mark Hazodo, plays dangerous games with unprotected "bareback" sex, while two comic suburbanites, Lauren and Jessica, crash private sex clubs and erotic shows (like "Bondage a Go Go") in search of excitement. Raphe eventually novelizes his own hesitant journey from white bread to pansexual potlatch, and the top-level conceit is that the book one is reading is the book he'll be writing. Scott can turn an amusing phrase and has his ear to the underground of the sexual revolution, but his characters are thin as shadows and his story gets unbelievable very quickly.
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"SoMa tells...what's really happening in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood." -- Craig Newmark
"I read the first page of SoMa and never put it down until I read the last page.... I know people who are less real than these characters." -- Joe Quirk
"An insider's look at a little known and gritty underground world...Shockingly, Scott's raw and gritty account of this dark world is all true, which makes for an even more fun ride." -- Andy Behrman
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
SoMa follows a small group of gay and straight characters through their explorations into the sexual carnival of that area's sex clubs, hookups, underworld connections, personal ads and creative cruising options. Raphe is a young gay man, a would-be writer who lost his job in the dot-com bust, is working under-the-table at a sleazy mail-drop storefront, and is disturbed by his unexpected attractions to other men. Lauren is a spoiled yuppie from an East Bay suburb, who drags her best friend Jessica out to explore SoMa clubs with names like "Bondage a Go Go", looking for excitement and memorable sexual experiences, but getting more than she bargained for. Mark is an Asian-American gay boy who is the head of a successful video game empire, which he has danger of losing if he doesn't rein in his wild sexual compulsions. Their paths intersect at various points, usually in the context of a sexual escapade or two, but the author is skilled at making them more than one-dimensional party boys or girls, and delivers vivid characterizations that tunes into their underlying insecurities and needs.
Not for the squeemish, SoMa is definitely explicit in its depictions of S&M and similar fetishes, but doesn't detract from the underlying development of the progress of the characters. A noteable first novel from an author I will choose again. Four stars out of five.
If you're looking for a peek into the underground scene of SoMa, look no further. Then again, I think the book is a kind of peek into all things we don't always talk about aloud - those things we're all a little curious about. Finding the next extreme thrill pops up throughout the story. I won't ruin it, but, trust me, these thrills aren't for the faint of heart. There are all sorts of sexual shenanigans going on if you just scratch the surface a little.
Finding a place to belong amidst all the craziness is perhaps the most enjoyable journey in the book. I love how the author uses sex and the fuzzy lines of sexuality to chip away at something deeper. These characters are unforgettable, and I can't wait to read Mr. Scott's future novels/stories/etc.
The author (in the book and especially on his web site) takes an "only in San Francisco" posture and accords the city, and South of Market in particular, a proprietary interest in kinky sex. Such nonsense. (E.g., BART riders did not invent subway sex. It was all the rage way back in 1983 after Rebecca De Mornay took Tom Cruise for a ride on the CTA in "Risky Business.") And so typical of San Franciscans to think they invented everything and that their city is the center of the universe.
Mr. Scott writes well, but I wish he'd apply himself to something more interesting.
The book is apparently based on real events, and I believe it. I see stuff like this all the time here in SF. People are like kids in a candy shop. And some end up having too much candy.
But this isn't just happening here. It's happening everywhere in the world where young people are free to explore their most intimate desires. Scott captures the truth about the generation that's emerging in this new millennium. You'll be thinking about this book for a long time.
In a way, SoMa is very subversive. On one level, it's very funny and entertaining and shocking. It hooks you and you can't put it down. I read it in a day! That's the dirty trick. The author has made this an easy and amusing book to read, but then he really twists it so you won't get it out of your head.
When I talk to others who have read this book, they each zero in on one thing they remember that they just can't shake. And each person picks something different! How weird is that?
I highly recommend this book. And if you are a bigot, a sexist or sexually insecure, I recommend it even more -- you especially NEED to read it.