Wraeththu is the name of a trilogy of novels penned by Storm Constantine. If you're going to read it these days, it will probably be from the massive single-bound collection, but the names of the individual books were:
- The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit
- The Bewitchments of Love and Hate
- The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire
Storm Constantine also penned a short story that explains a little of the back story. I read it in the short story compilation Knights of the Rainbow Sword.
In the distant future, displeased with the way humanity turned out, God finally decides to end The Age of Man. Wars break out and birth rates plummet to all-time lows. Yet, some sort of mutants appear, forming gangs, and begin to war with the humans. These mutants are called "Wraeththu," and are said to be the inheritors of the Earth, now that man has fallen.
Wraeththu are physically stunning, tall, lean and muscular. Their bodies are far more efficient than humans', and resistant to all known diseases and most known poisons. Wraeththu are long-lived, probably to several hundred years, although Constantine never provides an exact number. They are also able to attune themselves to mystical energies and use assorted occult abilities, depending on their training.
Wraeththu come about in two ways. They can be born, or human males can be "converted," via a magical ceremony/sex act. Parallels are often made, sometimes overtly, between the culture Wraeththu have made for themselves, and the culture of late 20th century gay men.
Initially, it seems as though Storm Constantine has done nothing more than create some sort of fantasy novel where a future Earth is dominated by gay men who espouce a hedonistic, PLUR-esque doctrine. This is especially true in the first book, which is essentially a coming-of-age novel about a gay teen who becomes Wraeththu and is chosen to become the Emperor. Thankfully, Constantine deepens the novels and turns them into an exploration of the meaning of gender: How do creatures that were once male adapt to being at once male and female?
Overall, Wraeththu was a fair read, but at 800 pages it won't be for everyone. I bought it for a six-month study-abroad experience in Japan, figuring that I'd need a good long book for those days when I just needed to read some English for a change. For this purpose, it served well, but Frank Herbert's Dune series is probably a better psychedelic science fantasy.