Stealth is a novel with an interesting premise that never got off the ground. Judging from the beginning, I would have expected that the main protagonist, an intersex individual who, having been raised as a male child, experienced a surgical intervention to reconcile her ambiguous genitalia with her female persona, would be dealing with her gender issues on some level. However, this was just not the case, at least not directly, as she went about her life and her job as an investigative reporter for a San Francisco newspaper in a “normal” female gender role, with nary a later reference to her transformation. OK, the book is called, “Stealth.” However, I found that this novel, amazingly enough, was to the issue of gender identity, as alien abductions are to the subject of cooking.
It appears that the story itself was operating in “stealth” mode. For me, the stealth reference proved to be just too obscure. Maybe that was the author’s point, but, if this was the case, this book proved to be a “one-trick pony.” Additionally, I found Stealth to be lacking in candor, openness and without a relational quality to the characters that would have provided some redeeming value. I found no in-depth character interactions other than nasty arguments. There was some sex, but even that fell flat. In fact, almost everything about this novel had a two-dimensional, hollow feeling to it. Yes, there was a sense of growing mystery as to who was setting the fires that were consuming the fields and forests of he Australian Outback, but that was not enough to provide a sense of worth to the reader’s investment.
The book is filled with unlikable and shallow characters, people who become only moderately interesting when they are arguing and angry with each other. There was some sense of wonderment and anticipation about the possible potential for a romantic relationship that never got off the ground. Characters seem to fade in and out with the author sometimes shifting gears so quickly I never realized we were in a different scene. In the final analysis, I found this to be a non-gender identity novel, cloaked in an uninteresting mystery.
Another thing, according to the website of the Intersex Society of North America, iterations of the intersex condition typically show up in about 1 in 1500 births, so although being intersex is a fairly common condition, it’s still a bit rare. That’s fine, but although I forgot much of my college statistics courses, I wonder what are the odds of two such individuals randomly and arbitrarily appearing as characters in the same book in a somewhat forced attempt to tie the story together and make it meaningful? I’m afraid we’re pushing the envelope here.
Finally, I must say that about three quarters of the way through, when I had just about given up hope for any understanding of what this was all about, I did finally come to realize that all the folks had secrets they were being stealthy about. Eureka, I finally got it! I then recalled that early on there had been a remark by one or another of the characters to the effect that "what we don't share about, we're stuck with." Was that this “stealth” meaning? We all have secrets? Yes, this novel was finally beginning to make some sense, but alas, much too late for my enjoyment.
[Reviewed by Samuel]