Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Steve Williams at Suite101.com:
Examining The Dark New Book From A Rising American Genre Writer
In a future where technology is key, what do you do when you are being hunted by a volume of unknown, lethal, cyberneticaly enhanced assassins that can be activated remotely and at a moments notice, sent after you by an employer who’s reach in the world is unparalleled, and the Far East is the last refuge after the disintegration of the United States of America? Well, you might go into hiding in the very best way possible. You might change your identity, your name, your speech and become everything that you were not. You might even hide behind the thick makeup of the porcelain like Geisha.
This is the story of rogue computer analyst Claire, or Domino the Erotist as she becomes, the heroin in a wonderfully dark new novel from M. Christian. Claire adopts the hard, frozen persona of Domino to escape the clutches of her ex-employer who believes she has been stealing from him. Claire goes into a protection program of sorts, becoming Domino, who, with her excellently conceived kit of neuron stimulating inks and large, wand like brush, is charged with giving various clients a special service: using the inks she can stimulate any emotion she so chooses and create visions of fantasy more real than anything the client has previously experienced. But more than this, the Erotist can gauge a client, and in the guise of Domino, Claire is able to discern what truly motivates them and ‘pushes their buttons’.
The character of Domino is a fascinating creation, but there are others here for those interested in the world of science-fiction. ‘Many’ is a creature capable of jumping between bodies through some sort of data transfer, and is an interesting edition to the plethora of characters. Unfortunately, we only meet Many on an ironically few occasions, but he/she is certainly memorable.
Less interesting is Claire’s love interest Flower, a girl from whom she has had to be separated from. Whilst Flower is characterized by M. Christian in such a way that she is immediately recognizable with her own distinct tone and voice, she seems to function largely as a sounding-board in Claire’s loss of identity as maintaining the persona of Domino becomes more of a threat to her emotional health. There is nothing wrong with this, but had M. Christian chose to split the narrative apart and had it from multiple points of view, rather than from solely Claire’s, it may have served to give more of a life to Flower than what she ultimately had. However, when dealing with what could be perceived as a split personality to begin with – Claire and Domino wrestle for hold over the other – this limiting of the narrative voice may have been the right move technically.
The only real problem here, and one that is easily forgivable, is that, after a while, it becomes apparent that in order to write good erotica one must avoid cliché and, if possible, hyperbole. With these limiting factors in place, there are only so many ways that you can describe an erection through the eyes of a foe-Geisha giving sexual pleasures to her male clients through some nero-stimulant paints, without it becoming repetitive. M. Christian does remarkably well however in grounding his stories in strong characters, and because of this, this problem fails to blossom into any kind of real issue. It would be apt to call M. Christian’s descriptions here minimalism on the page, and the story benefits from this greatly.
On the whole, this is a story about love, betrayal, fidelity and an exploration of the dark desires that we all have, things that are seemingly inexplicable to our waking selves, but fundamental to our being. Once again, M. Christian exposes the underbelly of his characters and shows us truths that are rarely found in this genre in which he writes so well. This is a masterful piece of work, and recommended.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Now this is a treat: not only did the folks at Future Fire ("social political and speculative cyber-fiction") like The Bachelor Machine, my collection of erotic science fiction, but they also just posted a nice review of my non-erotic collection of fantasy/science fiction/horror, Love Without Gun Control:
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when Love Without Gun Control showed up to be reviewed. The cover is very retro-pulp-comic, a scene on Mars, all bright colors and simple lines, misleading as to the content. It seems more like a graphic-novel cover, or a series of 70's porn. The book itself is quite thin, only 155 pages. I was pleasantly surprised. The collection opens with the eponymous story, ‘Love Without Gun Control’, published for the first time in this collection. Ultra-violent and rather bizarre, it is somewhat reminiscent of a D. Harlan Wilson story. A sort of modern-day Western romance, the story really does defy labeling as it shows the effects of one snake-oil doctor’s ‘love potion’, applied erroneously, and the destruction that can come from thwarted desire. A fun, rollicking ride with a very unique flavor.
The second story, ‘Needle Taste’, is a unique concept with an ambiguous ending. The story itself is a totally different beast from the previous tale, but the wistful tone holds up the strange story well enough until the end, when it feels a little... abrupt. If there’s a weak one in the bunch, it’s this one, simply on a relative scale. It is in no way a bad one, it just doesn’t have quite the force of the others.
...seeking a forever-quiet man in the whole buzzing, humming, singing, cackling city.‘Hush Hush’ is my favorite story in the collection. The language is absolutely beautiful: weird, eery and slippery. The tale is half mystery, half internal journey. Whether he solves the mystery or not is really unimportant. What he learns along the way is not. This was a lovely to read for the language as for the story.
‘The Rich Man’s Ghost’ is probably my least favorite of the stories. It lacks the smoothness of voice, the weird beauty of most of the other pieces. The story is a little less Weird, too, and maybe that colors my opinion.
‘Wanderlust’ is one of the stories that I’m not really sure, at first, how I feel about it. On the one hand, the reader is kept in the dark until the very end of the story. I simply didn’t have a clue what was going on. On the other hand, the writing is very rich, so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to enjoy the ride. A man who inspires absolute ecstasy from everyone he meets comes across a bit thin at first, but their reactions if he stays around for longer than a few minutes are... interesting.
‘Orphan’ is chilling and haunting. A young man running from something, to something, carrying a horrible secret. There were a couple of places that could have used a clarity edit or that read a little contrived, but overall, definitely a memorable piece worth reading again.
Really, though, I’d be hard-pressed to say that any story in this collection is best skipped over or read in a hurry. There’s just enough variation in the stories to keep them unique, and enough cohesion to develop a voice that just draws me in more deeply, the farther I read. (The first story is an odd difference to the rest of them, but no less enjoyable.) The cover-art remains a sticking point, as it has no apparent connection to the content, and prose like this needs something lovely to wrap it up, and what it has is not something I would be wild about displaying on a shelf.
Read this one slowly, because each story is best savored and mulled over. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of M. Christian’s stories.
Labels: love without gun control
Saturday, June 6, 2015
The first thing that stuck me about Painted Doll was the very mannered, structured and layered language; clause upon clause of dense evocative phrasing which could serve to push readers away, but instead drew me deeper into Domino's world. The effect is a little like standing on a beach with the waves of a rising tide lapping at your toes until you're standing calf deep without really having made the decision to get wet.
The chaotic, dystopic future in which Painted Doll is set is expertly sketched amongst this layered detail. It is sufficiently fully realized to be concrete and real; sufficiently impressionistic to leave me with intriguing questions. I suspect the Ecole Polytechnique's creature may not be an obvious choice for a sequel, but the glimpses we're given into his/its mind really grabbed me.
This rich, layered language also heightens the erotic scenes in the novel - both the artificial professional sessions, where Domino wields distilled emotions without so much as touching one finger to her male clients, and in the more innocent and earthy remembered sex she shared with her female lover, Flower.
As a fan of the epistolary novel, it was an unexpected joy to find this vein of letter-based story telling running through this cyberpunk thriller. Although we never meet Flower directly, her character and her voice shines through. We only get to see the first flush of their love affair through the cracks in the masks of Domino's new life, but I could still see why they would fall in love, why it was worth risking so much to be together, which means that what happens to Flower as the story comes to an end really hits home.
This isn't an easy romance, either in its plot or the reading experience, but it is a very strong, compelling story which drew me in, and which I will remember for some time. M. Christian masterfully slides between the different parts of Domino/Claire's identity, building and revealing the world, the character, the conflict at the heart of the story, and it's a grand ride.
Labels: painted doll