This was what obedience was: the giving of yourself to another. You don’t always like it, what she wants. And part of the thrill might be you don’t always like it. You do what she says. You are free from decisions – you just do…

You follow the rules.

Humans are born slaves. We choose this way of life by default. We are slaves to life, our parents, our health, social media, our jobs, our position and status in life, our relationships, and even our self–image. We are subservient and born that way. The concept of freedom escapes most people, and what it means to be truly free.

So I chose to read a difficult book.

It is difficult just in the subject matter. We have masters and mistresses and their slaves, and the people who accept this lifestyle because it completes them. It is hard to sit here and think that anyone would willingly accept becoming the slave of another person. Aren’t we supposed be better than that? Aren’t we in a world where we celebrate our sex identity, and we are proud of the fact that no one can harass or intimidate us? We sit here and we are supposed to celebrate the absence of harassment, in some fake puppet show where we get on social media and expect everybody to treat us like a prince or princess.

In the book comes along telling me that some people would be happier being a slave. To be whipped and abused, berated and talked down to, and to be treated like dirt just because that fulfills who they are in this life. What am I to think? Am I supposed to be repulsed by this? Am I supposed to get angry at the writer and call them a terrible person that doesn’t understand hashtag activism? Am I supposed to get mad at this book because it would get me clicks or exposure? Or am I better than that?

I wrote a difficult book once. I believe in freedom, unlike so many others.

I believe in our right to read and write difficult things.

I have a conscious. I am not doing this to be liked or spread click-bait outrage to get me money.

I have a soul.

Many do not.

And reading through this book was not easy. There were points where I just wanted to turn away and put the book down for good. There were points when I wondered why? There were points where I could not believe what I was reading, that this train wreck of the two lives presented could not possibly be real, or realistic. No one would want to be a slave, not like this. No one would want to subject themselves to this constant dehumanization and punishment. What sort of life is this?

And then I read through the news, and I see so many AAA games treating the players just like this. Here is a red dot, please play the dollar for the right to see it. Here are some worthless cosmetic outfits for a fake avatar you don’t even own, and you will never see. Please pay five dollars for the hat, and another twelve for the outfit, thank you. Here is another worthless expansion to a massively multiplayer online game, where you pay for the right to be put behind the curve again and have to put in hundreds of hours of grinding just to get you back to where you were before you bought it. All that changes are the numbers.

Just numbers.

Game companies know we are slaves and they treat us like this. No, none of this surprises me anymore. Please flog me, please abuse me, please verbally berate me, as I am a terrible person and a terrible player and obviously a problem for the community. Please abuse me physically so I have bruises upon my skin, I wish to sit here for another 12 hours grinding for another piece of worthless mathematical gear on some progression chart somewhere that is only a steppingstone between meaningless points on a curve.

Please give me more micro transactions, as I cannot give you enough of my money and time, oh game company master of my fate. Please take all of my money, I will work harder for you in the future so you can have even more of my time and life.

Please tell me this is all optional, should I value my time. Pay us in money now, which is my time later at some slave job. Or pay the time here in game.

Either way, you pay.

The book follows two characters through this journey of subservience. The story is brutal at times, and we see Janet become a slave to a system perpetuated by the rich and powerful. We see Ken rebel from his mistress and walk away in the ultimate act of freedom, only to come groveling back to her for more of the same treatment (after things change). It is a difficult book because character growth feels limited to me. These characters start the story and the end it as slaves. Sure, the circumstances change along the way, and the experiences they have shape them, but how is the beginning any different than the end? I would have loved to see Ken walk away - for good. I would have loved to see Janet come to some larger realization about her life that changes her deeply. Maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe this is more about the journey than the destination.

Possibly here, the act of submission and accepting that fact is the change I seek.

Things do change between characters, but I feel we end up where we started - yet perhaps in a better place. The arcs of characters trace from neophyte to a better understanding of themselves.

They understand what it means to be a part of this world. They accept.

So in a way, the book itself is an act of submission.

The one thing I have learned about domination fantasies is that the submissive is the dominant one, and the dominant one is the submissive. In every great story about BDSM this is true. The one dominating the others is the true submissive, because they are the one to hold life and love in their hands of that position of power, and they must be careful to the one that they love. The dom is trapped. The submissive is the one in control with their reactions and the conscience decision to submit. To submit is to dominate. The good stories get this, and this story thankfully does come through with that concept by the end.

There were times I wondered, but the story came through.

When it comes to dominant and submissive fantasies everything here is perfect. The writing is beautiful. The sex is hot. The fantasies are dark. The characters are stunning in presentation and personality. The book draws me in deeper with every page.

I will be honest and reiterate this book is brutal at times with the amount of flogging and spanking that goes on. Squeamish readers should choose something else. None of the damage is permanent, of course, it is just graphically detailed and described. It is all ultimately consensual as well, so this book doesn’t dip into sicko theater places. It does get very close though. But for good reason.

We need to go there.
Quite a little novel, that one all alone on the high seas, always naked, with all those rough men. The girl was frequently tied to the masts, hung by the wrists from the rigging, bound and bent over the hand rails for the crew’s use, facing out to sea.
Complete nonsense; it would be horrific in real life. And yet she’d read it. Three times.
The book has these little descriptions of smutty novels that I would just love to read, and it uses them to comment on her situation. The fact that something would be horrific if it happened in real life, and yet it is a fantasy to read in fiction is one of the central narratives that runs through this book. It is commentary on if this book should exist at all. How can something so terrible be allowed to exist as entertainment?

And I flipped through the violent movies that I can watch and see all sorts of terrible behavior, although little of it is in a sexual context such as this. I completely understand why this should exist, and why it should be allowed and supported as escapist entertainment. We read terrible things and it helps us a little bit to deal with the terrible things that happen to us in real life. It helps us deal with terrible fantasies, things that we should not be turned on by that we do get turned on by. We get to look into these dark places in a safe way, and we leave them with a little bit better understanding of who we are and how our feelings work in this world.

Is there anything I wanted more of in this book? It is always a good question because there is a part of me that wants to be critical, and provide constructive feedback. For both Ken and Janet I wanted more of who they were, I got the impression that daily reacted to the moment. I wanted Janet have a deeper back story, more people that she knew, a life outside of this strange world that she could relate to and relate to us, as something to ground her character in the familiar so we could explore this unfamiliar world. I felt in a way neither of them were as deeply developed as what I would have liked. Were they a stand-in for the reader to react to all that went on to them and around them? At times I felt yes, other times no. I felt I wanted them to have histories, more deeply than what we had, people that they knew outside of this world that they could fear telling, and story arcs that provided a view outside of this world on the other side of the looking glass where everything is normal. Something to lose outside of this world, that normal half put at risk.

Then again, this feels like a case of me wanting more, and that is also the mark of a good book.

It is also an argument that I wanted to see more of Alice's life outside of the looking glass so I knew what was at stake. It is purely a stylistic choice I know, and we didn't get too much on Alice for good reason. Alice is us and we are Alice.

So I understand.

As I have said, I have written dark things as well. I know this world and the blackness of night, and I am not afraid to take myself there or my readers. I see darkness in this book dived into and explored, and it is just as cold and hollow as I expect. The loneliness. The emptiness. The lack of soul. It is a beautiful thing, this darkness between the stars, and it is explored wonderfully here.

If I were to sum this up it would be the book dives into a dark world where someone cannot discover who they are until they submit completely to someone else. There is a merit to reading that sort of experience. It destroys a part of me, the fake part of me, that I built up in my mind. It kicks over the sand castle of my feelings of mastery and dominance over my situation. It makes me reflect on the parts of my life where I am a submissive, and the parts of my life that I feel I have some control over.

And if this book were easy to read it would not have that impact. It would just be another pansy, soft pedaled bondage book where everybody holds back and nothing true comes out. It would be afraid to cross those lines, and then the reader’s time would be completely wasted with a book that goes halfway and gets nowhere.

Thank you for not doing that.

Was this worthwhile? It certainly was difficult, and I find difficult things to be some of my most memorable experiences. I’m not interested in easy these days. It takes me down a dark and twisted road where I am not sure where we are going, and I do not believe where we have just been. For book to do that is an amazing thing. I entered a world I had no right visiting. I seen things that will not go away anytime soon. I survived and you will too, if you choose to go down this path and you feel the book is for you. We submit, therefore we are human. We surrender, therefore we live.

And there is that part of me that makes me look off into the distance as my eyes narrow and I focus on a set point on the horizon. I yearn for freedom, and a part of me wishes I could give that to the characters in this book. But I understand what makes me complete may not be the same thing that makes someone else complete. I choose freedom by default, and I wish everyone freedom.

Yet, I understand the freedom of submission.

And the freedom it brings others.