Monday, 18 June 2012

Uneven, Anah Crow

A rivetting, emotional, edgeplay book. A must for those that like it rougher.

- Review by Kazza K

An excellent read that pushes readers to, hopefully, expand and challenge some embedded social mores regarding (different) sexual behaviours and varied inter-personal relationships.

The two MC’s are incredibly interesting from many aspects – tastes, desires, psychology, behaviours - I was wholeheartedly along for the ride with them both. I thoroughly enjoyed being a voyeur, a fly on the wall of their relationship, so to speak.

On the surface Rase Illium is a big player in the business world, he’s a wealthy man, from a wealthy family, married to his second (socially suitable) wife at the behest of his father, prior to his death. However, underneath the business persona, Rase is incredibly insular, repressed, mired in sorrow, attempting to keep a lid firmly on his deep seated desires, feelings, sexual orientation and needs; until an unusual encounter with a stock-boy from his own company opens up his own Pandora’s Box of emotions. This ‘encounter’ sets Rase on a new and difficult course; one that he definitely needs to take to see whether it can bring him back to life and hopefully make him a more functional person. Even in his 40’s Rase has never been his own man, struggling to come out from the shadow of his father’s expectations and all-encompassing domination. Rase’s father had pathologized his son, his desires from a young age – being gay, with submissive, masochistic predilections - compounding Rases’ continued self-loathing, that he can never do enough, be good enough, try hard enough, be straight enough for his father. Whilst not liking his father and his ways, Rase has found himself somewhat channelling him now in the way he is behaving, with particular reference to his own son.

Gabriel the other MC is more enigmatic, particularly given that this book is strictly from Rase’s viewpoint. You get a marginal picture drawn of a 24 year old man that appears to be from a blue collar background, has studied to better himself, but has seemingly found himself victimised and back at his roots. He appears outwardly aloof in his demeanor and is sexually dominant with a partner that is a professional dynamo, his boss, which, I perceive, scares him; on top of the fact that he is somewhat on an emotional knife-edge about his own proclivities for reasons that are alluded to but not fully fleshed out.

Things that really worked for me –
This book started out with a detached, bleak outlook from Rase’s perspective, the writing beautifully stark, his thoughts were those of someone who was skating precariously on emotionally thin ice, with clear fissures.

(Rase was) 'carrying on the family tradition of being someone who merited such things as assassination attempts. It had begun with his father, of course, and Rase hardly blamed anyone for that. Himself, he did his best to do better than his father, while keeping the shareholders happy, but the cruelties of the economy left no one happy some days, and he was an easy target. He should have minded, but he sometimes had trouble mustering up a great deal of concern over whether he lived or died.’

'Morning came every time with an inevitability that weighed Rase down and made him feel that a year had passed for each night he made it through.’

Through to a more realistic and positive outlook –

‘All he could do was wait; he had no control over anything anymore, it seemed. He could live with it, though, because he felt like he was slowly emerging into the real world from behind the façade he’d put on in order to survive all the years before.’

‘He might have been making life more complicated, but he thought he also might be happier than he’d been in years.’

All the secondary characters, bar the trophy wife, are really 3 dimensional and form an integral part of the story. I really liked Rase’s secretary, Allen, he is a great character in general; a good employee and someone who genuinely cares about Rase, more than just someone doing a job for an employer. Allen helps Rase in many ways, most importantly not judging him, just assisting. His relationship with his first wife, Maggie, and his son, Tarkis, were being re-explored by Rase in a positive and healthy way. He came out to his son first, then Maggie, both supported him and it fit their respective characters, they were decent and caring, they behaved like family should.

Edgeplay is to the fore in Uneven, as opposed to a lot of erotic books’ lighter, more romantically themed BDSM – there is blood play, the use of cuffs, for more than restraint, aggressive use of a belt, including on the genitals, the use of furniture to harm, erotic asphyxiation, plus degradation and humiliation. While the first time Rase and Gabriel interact is powerful, the first ‘scene’, at Gabriel’s, is painfully graphic and intense, particularly given their non-existent personal knowledge of one another, and therefore their lack of emotional attachment and what they do. Their play does inch back slightly after that, but it still pushes the boundaries throughout. It is dangerous, kinky, erotic, brutal and paradoxically touching and loving. These are two conflicted men - a younger dominant who is somewhat unsure of exactly what he is doing, fuelled by strong past emotions, and an older, more powerful, yet submissive man filled with self-loathing; making both men somewhat unstable. They do make it work and by book’s end they’re finding a place for themselves and their relationship.

My only complaints -

Uneven was not long enough, this book would have benefitted from extra pages with more backstory on both of the MC’s, particularly Gabriel. I felt Gabriel’s missing POV was unfortunate because his need to inflict pain, his first encounter with Rase and, in particular, his second were borne out of so much hurt and anger that missed essential exploration. Rase tells us Gabriel ‘loathes people’ like him, but we’re not shown the why of it; there was a very small picture painted near the end but not enough to qualify the intensity of his feelings or proclivities. Likewise, I get Rase had a detached, critical and clinical father, but not enough was given. For example, plenty of people/characters fit into his situation without the need for base humiliation, angry domination and the inability to control a submissive, masochistic nature to the point of dangerously not knowing when to say no; ending up in surgery (previously) for a scene gone too far.

I just wish the book had been edited more tightly in regard to typos. There were more than a few and I felt it did the strong writing a disservice.

Well, this was my first Anah Crow read and it was a beauty, a real page turner, one where I felt emotionally invested in both the MC’s. Given the subject, it's interesting how well others have embraced the characters, which speaks volumes for the writing. If you can be open, endure the harder edge of BDSM, with an emphasis on sado-masochistic tendencies, and you like a strong, emotional, character driven story, then Uneven is definitely well worth picking up and reading.

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