The world is ending, and down-and-out sadist Lee spends their days working for a big corporation and their nights wandering the streets of Brooklyn listening to true crime podcasts. But everything changes when Lee is dragged to a warehouse party by their best friend, where they find themself in the clutches of the seductive and bloodthirsty X. When Lee seeks her out again, she's nowhere to be found. Amid the steady constriction of civil rights and the purging of migrants and refugees, the U.S. government has recently begun encouraging the semi-voluntary "exporting" of undesirable citizens—the radicalized, the dissident, and the ungovernable. Word has it that X may be among those leaving. If Lee doesn't track her down soon, she may be gone forever.
A queer, near-future noir ... Lyrical and nonlinear, with sentences that feel like carved obsidian: dark, sharp and shiny. Here, however, the voice is less poetic and more terse, like the patter of a hard-boiled detective from a classic film. This is a queer noir world, full of inexplicable violence, an encyclopedia’s worth of sexual deviance and a deeply flawed, untrusting and untrustworthy antihero. At times, Davis’s styling goes too far, torquing sentences into awkward shapes...but the overall effect is masterly, a perfect mating of style and subject ... Not all readers will be able to personally identify with the novel’s stories of sexual waterboarding, but many will recognize the experience of devouring, adjudicating and enjoying the worst (and often last) days of someone’s life for entertainment ... Again and again, X shows us how sex and death are entangled for many people, not just BDSM queers from the future ... Indeed, the darkest parts of X are not the scenes of snuff films or future fascism; they are what the novel suggests about our present. We are not reading some far-off or improbable future. At times, the novel feels like a dispatch from next week.
X is far from an ordinary love story — it's a shocking and moving novel about what it means to be an outsider in a world that's crumbling around you ... There's a lot going on in X, but Davis weaves the threads beautifully. The novel is elegantly structured, with seamless transitions between the present...and the past, when they discuss their childhood and young adulthood as a budding sadist. The technique amps up the narrative tension ... Lee themself is a fascinating character; introspective but not navel-gazing, and at times drily funny. Davis leaves it up to the reader to decide just how reliable they are ... Davis is a remarkably self-assured author, and X is a dizzying, beautiful novel, and a fascinating look at a subculture that mainstream American art has frequently shied away from. It's also a grim take on what happens when a government gives in to intolerance and hate and turns its back on its own people.
An astonishing speculative tale of sex, power, and gender ... Vivid and witty, Davis’s prose hurtles between moments of beauty and darkness, often in the same breath ... It’s just one of many ravishing explorations of the margins of a punishing world. This one hits hard.