Cleopatra's Nose

by Wally

Review by: Metabolick

This 128-page zine novel begins with the following intro by the author:
I wrote this story by way of experiment. How much, I wondered, could I change Bodie and still have him act as Bodie? This is what I came up with. The title refers to the well known quote from Blaise Pascal, “If Cleopatra’s nose had been shorter, the whole face of the Earth would have changed.”

As the intro implies, this is an AU where Doyle is our canon Doyle but Bodie isn’t our canon Bodie. He suffered an emotionally and physically crippling childhood which left him walking with a cane and incapable of forming relationships (in the opinion of Dr. Ross). Bodie works for CI5 in the computer division. In fact, he is a computer whiz.

Because of a shortage of manpower Bodie is called on to partner with Doyle in an undercover job where they must pretend to be lovers. As they are both bisexual, they decide that they might as well get some enjoyment out of the situation while it lasts and agree to bed each other with no strings attached. When the op ends they go back to being friends. But will they be able to stay that way? And what exactly has rendered Bodie an emotional cripple?

I’m very glad that the author explained how she came up with the catchy title. But as for her experiment, I think it fails. The Bodie in this story has lost his mobility, his joy of life, his toughness, his street smarts, and his past; in short, there is nothing recognizable as our canon Bodie except his looks and name. Despite all that, the situation could have been salvaged if the lads retained their ability to banter with each other, but we don’t even get that. As far as I’m concerned, this could be a story about any two men. On top of the lack of character recognition, there is very little action. Also, the premise could have called for heaps of angst, but we don’t really get much of it, and what angst is present is very much downplayed. I’m not one of those readers who has to have angst in a story to be happy, but it just seems to me that given Bodie’s emotional crippling a more skilful author could have made me feel more of what I would expect Bodie to be feeling. Finally, I can forgive a lot of shortcomings in a story if the writing itself is gorgeous, but sadly this one lacks that redeeming value for me. All I can say is that the writing is adequate.

It’s not all bad, though. I’ve read many an AU in which the characters of Bodie and Doyle in no way resemble our canon lads; if you enjoy that sort of story then you might like this one. It is an undemanding, pleasant read which explores an interesting premise. The love between the lads (when they finally admit it) is depicted in a nice, gentle way. I’m glad I read it simply because it seems to be a hard-to-find zine and now I can say I’ve done it and know what it’s about, but I won’t be re-reading it.

Metabolick, September 2008