Chuck Tingle – Straight (2021)

Review by Justin Tate

Move over Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain, there’s a new king of satire! Chuck Tingle has been tackling all manner of societal issues over the last several years. Usually this involves mimicking erotica tropes to reveal the absurdity of news headlines and other pop culture conundrums. With brief stories and endless creativity, Tingle often adapts our world into the Tingleverse in real time.

Straight is his first venture into horror tropes for social commentary, and it’s also his longest work yet. The result is an absolute delight.

Inspired by Covid and The Purge, Tingle’s novel imagines a world where one day out of the year, seemingly normal straights become “overwhelmed” by queer people. The sight of same-sex couples holding hands, RuPaul music, or a general queer vibe is enough for the straights to transform into blood-thirsty zombie-like creatures. Most straights have received the vaccine for this condition, but many refuse to get it or lie about their vaccination status. Also, the elderly aren’t able to take the vaccine and thus are almost guaranteed to become “overwhelmed.”

For queer folks, they tend to hunker down that day or, if they have enough money, seek refuge at safe havens like Palm Springs.

Naturally our hero is not so lucky. He and his friends find themselves in grave danger when an onslaught of the overwhelmed find them. They must learn to work together despite being different letters in the LGBTQI+ community. They also realize how allies can be just as important on their journey, but that they tend to disappear whenever the danger gets real.

With typical Tingle expertise, the allegory is unambiguous, yet it doesn’t get in the way of a genuinely cute story. In this case, there are some legitimate apocalyptic chills during the course of a humorous satire.

My one criticism is that I feel Tingle could have utilized this fabulous fictional world to even greater effect. Though much longer than the usual “tingler”, the story is still barely a novella. Had he found more opportunities to expand the social commentary and flesh out the characters, this book could have been robust enough to find a mainstream audience.

As it is though, he hits on a lot of major issues that are even more relevant now than they were in 2021, when the book was first published. Sure, it could have been better, but it’s still one of my favorite reading experiences this year thus far.

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