The reason I’ve never been drawn to civil war fiction or to non-fic slave narratives, is that I’m not especially interested in social commentary on slavery. I like a slave fic that looks honestly at the underlying hypocrisy of the system and doesn’t threat slavery solely as a vehicle for romance, but to be honest, I read slave fic to satisfy my kinks, and really not for any other reason.
This book is not quite mm romance (although it is a little), not quite social commentary (although it is a little) and not quite a dystopian story (although it is, and more than a little), and not a traditional slave-fic (because the slave/master relationship doesn’t really develop any depth)
. In a way that’s good because it defies easy categorization. But it also means that anyone starting this book thinking it’s going to be any of the above is inevitably going to be somewhat disappointed. And it means the author was juggling a lot of balls at the same time. While reading, there were many many points where I stopped to reflect on how good a passage or scene was. And when I finished the book, my general feeling was that it was well-written, entertaining, engrossing, and well worth spending time reading.
But did it satisfy my dark and twisted slave fic kink? No. There was no Stockholm Syndrome, no on-page torture, no real hurt/comfort.
Make of that what you will. At the beginning of the book we’re told that due to overpopulation, most people are no longer allowed to have sex. All procreation by the lower classes is by artificial means. I have to admit, while this premise is necessary for the story, that this did not make any sense to me. To correct the overpopulation, it would make more sense to control reproduction, not sex. And then why would you be dumping more artificially created kids (like Derek) into the slums at all, if over-population is your main problem?
Derek is a rebel against the ‘no sex’ law, and goes on a sexual escapade rampage for several years. Of course, he is caught and become a sex slave, because society dictates that sexual deviants must be put in a controlled environment (a very clever plot device!) where they can have their fill of sex but under the command of a master. Derek continues to rebel; his master Marcus continues to try to make him a good little sex slave, and apparently Derek challenges Marcus’ beliefs enough to motivate Marcus to step outside the system to help him. The resolution at the end is my other little gripe – it is a little unbelievable – I never felt that Marcus had enough motivation for putting so much effort into engineering a happy ending for Derek, and also the ending Marcus engineered didn’t feel like any kind of long term resolution (are they really going to grow old living off of bird eggs and root vegetables in the woods?). On the other hand, maybe what this means is that the story is crying out for a sequel where these themes can be further addressed.