Unicorn Mountain - Michael Bishop
In the Author's Note, Michael Bishop indicates that he did extensive research on gay culture, AIDS, Ute Indians and the Sun Dance religion, "montane ecology, equine diseases, [and] unicorn lore". The story doesn't wear all these sources lightly. Particularly in the case of AIDS and homosexuality, Bishop sometimes seems to be ticking off a list of points he must inform, and enlighten, the readers about (the book was published in 1985). The research was in service of a story that can't be accused of lack of thematic ambition. Illness is a metaphor for Bishop; U.S. culture suffers from a spiritual sickness, which apparently kicked up a notch when Cowboy Ron was elected, since Bishop associates that event with the beginning of both AIDS and a deadly disease killing unicorns. But the decline of Ute culture was happening long before that. Bishop weaves together many disease metaphors, and introduces optimism in the form of healing attempts by both doctors fighting on the physical level, and Sun Dancers working spiritually. Plus, sex is a recurring theme, though I haven't analyzed how it ties in.

This novel is enjoyable to read because of its well-paced storytelling, juicy language, and humor. But in spite of good writing and avoidance of some of the most obvious stereotype traps, I don't think it fully escapes the risk of exploitation that looms when a non-minority writer uses minorities for metaphorical purposes. There is a definite trace of "magical queer" and "magical Native American" here. Bo has little page-space in the book which isn't concerned with him dying of AIDS. And in the case of the Ute characters, all the events of their lives are another metaphor. So I can recommend the novel, but only with reservations.