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, released by Lethe Press. 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.