Author – Thursday Euclid
Star rating - ★★★☆☆ (3 ½)
No. of Pages – 200
Cover – Nice.
POV – 3rd person, dual POV.
Would I read it again – Maybe.
Genre – LGBT, Romance, Science Fiction, Robot
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
*THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD*
*Warnings: Dub-con, Dom/sub elements, rape, emotional manipulation, mind control, drug use*
So, this is a tricky one. For one, I really loved the story and the characters. But, to tell you the issues I had with it that made it just a 3 ½ and not the 5 star it should have been, I have to ruin the ending for you. So, if you don't want the ending spoiled, I suggest you skip the part of my review below that is marked off with a massive spoiler warning. I've put it at the beginning so that you can skip past it if you want.
Let's start with the title and blurb. For me, the title is misleading. It's called “Built for Pleasure”, but that's just not true. Wolf, our cyborg, was actually built as a soldier then repurposed for pleasure. So right off, I'm feeling like the book is sort of misrepresenting itself.
Then we come to the blurb and things get even more screwy. According to the blurb, the big climax of the story should be the resolution of “How far will he go to ensure Wolf's freedom? Malcolm knows what he must do – for both of them – but it might cost him much more than his comfortable life.” Now, my issue is that this is ** SPOILER ** never resolved. Ever. At all. There's this huge battle that the book spends 50% leading up to and we NEVER find out the resolution to it. We don't find out if they win or lose. We don't see any fighting or anything. ** SPOILER **
Another thing that really bugged me was this quote, which suggested a little something that could have had a massive effect on the story, but was ignored once told and never even looked at again.
** SPOILER ** “they had all been human at birth, before the agonizing implantation process began.” Why was this never returned to? Why wasn't this used as a reminder, in the final war, that they weren't fighting cyborgs, but humans that other humans had turned into part-cyborg creatures, for their own gains? It could have been a really fantastic plot arc, but nothing ever came of it and that was truly disappointing. ** SPOILER **
I could stomach all of that if this was book 1 in a series or even just part 1 of a two book series. But it's not. There is no indication that this is the beginning of a longer story, so it can't be called a cliffhanger. It's an incomplete plot at worst and a major plot gap at the least. Whatever it amounts it, it left me with a sour taste in my mouth and nothing but frustration, after reading this great story.
For me, I could have happily done without the massive sex scene at the end of the book, if it meant dedicating much deserved time to the real fight that the whole book had been building up to. Instead, there was a whole lot of sex and then...nothing. Just, the end and we were left with this quote:
** SPOILER ** “He basked in it, untroubled that it might be cut short, that STAR might lose, that they all might die. Life had no guarantees, but it contained this wondrous feeling, this incredible lightness, and whatever came, they would face it together.” ** SPOILER **
Again, this would be fine it was leading into another book, but there's no indication of that. And for that, I can't think of this as a sci-fi, fantasy novel. I can only think of it as an erotic romance that lent more weight to the relationship than the massive story arc that took so long to build. So, although I loved the story (until that terrible ending) and the characters so much, I had to face the incredible disappointment of getting all the way through this book and finding out that nothing mattered more to the characters or the author than these two people getting together. Sure, as the reader, that's important, but I want plot over hot and will fall much more heavily in love with a good plot, well executed than a hot couple. That was what I fell in love with here and I was allowed to fall deeply, madly in love, only to be rejected and for the book to end up unable to fulfil the promises it made.
Leaving behind those issues for the moment, I want to talk about the overall story execution in other terms.
I wasn't keen on the story when it started. It didn't pick up for me until Wolf entered and became so intriguing. The reason was that the story began with your typical “weather opening”, though it was overdone and followed by an information packed history/planet description dump that made no sense. It could have, had it been placed elsewhere in the first chapter. Instead, we entered this new world in a state of confusion, trying to orientate ourselves in an unfamiliar landscape. Perhaps if it had been placed after we saw Malcolm standing waiting for a space transport ship, it might have made more sense within the flow, but it just felt disjointed and jarring. Too much information was given that we really didn't need and that could have been more seamlessly given.
There was also a big issue with the editing. Mostly, it was small punctuation problems, except for the one repeated issue of “homo sapiens sapiens” which really bugged me. There were only one or maybe two instances in the whole novel where “homo sapiens” was actually put in correctly. Every other instance was the double repeat of the last word. And if it had some sort of special meaning, in this futuristic world, then that wasn't explained. It simply came off as a possible full-document replace mistake that was overlooked during editing or never checked.
There are some really huge Dub-con elements, as well as Dom/sub elements, most of which made it supremely uncomfortable to read. Especially when I had to read Wolf's POV, while he was being raped under the influence of chemical mind control, with drugs that forced him to want and enjoy it. It was a huge trigger warning that I knew nothing about coming into the story. Though it isn't something I needed to be warned about, I know that it would definitely affect others, so I really wish there had been some warning other than the very tame and ambiguous “unwanted encounters” in the blurb.
Worse still, Wolf is put across as this cyborg victim of repeated rape, torture and sexual abuse by humans. Yet, he and Malcolm happily and freely talk like this during sex, which I find completely unrealistic. After being sexually abused, I don't imagine anyone (human or sentient cyborg) would actually willingly say these things, that would remind them so brutally of things that had been done to them in the past, with such violence.
“Tear me up.”
“Going to split you open.”
“He used Mal relentlessly, forcing his cock deep into Mal's yielding body, taking what he needed without hesitation or apology.”
No. I'm sorry, but these were seriously – like SERIOUSLY – uncomfortable to read, knowing what Wolf had suffered, and highly unlikely for any victim of sexual assault to actually say or think. I get that this was to further the Dom/sub element and show the “passion” or “humanity” or whatever of Wolf, but it was uncomfortable to the point of being disturbing. I cringed while reading the entire pages and pages of sex that followed.
Wolf was my favourite character, without a doubt. Often, I was struck by the realisation that Wolf – a cyborg – had more humanity in him than any other human in the story. In fact, the things I experienced in his POV just prove what a great writer the author is. It's just unfortunate that they didn't end the story. Saying that, this was one of the quotes that – although I'd already fallen for Wolf – really let me see into his soul and root for him as a human being, despite still calling himself “it”.
“There was the possibility Torvik would not require Wolf to perform sexual activities. It hoped that would prove true. It still ached from serving the crew of the transport vessel, and they had not adequately cleaned or maintained it on the long voyage.
Not that it truly mattered. Nothing could erase the stains it carried on the inside after a decade of service as a pleasure cyborg.
It would have been better to die a soldier.”
Keeping in mind that we later learn that Wolf was only 16 when all this started, I really can't express just how much his story emotionally affected me. Add on this next quote, and maybe you can see why I had some issues trusting the relationship that was to blossom between Wolf and Malcolm, who was always portrayed as such a hard-nosed, military man, until he suddenly did a flip to the sensitive, thoughtful man he became in the last half of the story. This is taken from one of the first real encounters between Wolf and Malcolm, which was probably why it took me about 40-50% to actually grow comfortable with Malcolm as a MC and a love interest for Wolf. Because, although this was his “job” and he didn't believe cyborgs were sentient, it was still difficult for me to reconcile Wolf and Malcolm falling in love when I knew this had happened:
“Wolf should not feel good, but it did. It wanted the pleasure to stop. This was not real. This was not how it really felt.
This hurt. Wolf knew it did. It was terrible and repugnant and forced, and Wolf did not want this, but it did, now, against its will and reason.”
Overall, there were some serious issues. I'm basing my rating off the fact that I loved it at the time and that I loved Wolf as a character, as well as the fantastic way the author wrote him. But the fact that it's only a 3 ½ rating is because I just can't ignore the issues: editing, incomplete plot, huge plot gaps and especially the dom/sub, dub-con elements and the dirty talk that made reading it so uncomfortable.
I also found it really difficult to remember or even imagine Wolf as a cyborg. I get that he was made human-like for the sake of the sex and being a pleasure slave and less intimidating, that he was very realistic and all that (except for his huge size). But there was no physical reminder of Wolf being a cyborg other than his pleasure-slave implants and his eye. The whole story read so much more like a Master/slave storyline than anything about cyborgs half the time that it made the romance aspect more realistic, but took away the awe we should have felt that Wolf was such a sentient being. In that respect, it was very iRobot-ish in that there was this one cyborg who just “was” a sentient creature, with thoughts, feelings and whatever, but at least in that the cyborg/robot looked the part.
Although the story made me cry and tear up in multiple places, I do take exception to the fact that there is NO ending. I spent almost the full story, but certainly 50%, waiting for the big revolution, the massive fight back against the Alliance and got nothing in return. There was a huge build up over nothing.
Sadly, though this story could so easily have been a 5 star read – even with the editing issues – the fact that it's left incomplete and was so uncomfortable to read (in terms of the dirty talk, not the general discomfort) made it impossible for me to give it the rating it should have had.
“Somebody. Wolf felt a fresh curl of happiness in its belly. Torvik called it a somebody, not a something.”
“Absolutely remarkable,” Mother said from behind Malcolm. “Now, let's get out of here and put some clothes on this nice young man. He's very pretty, but there are no occasions when a cock ring is considered the accepted or traditional attire.”
“I will endure.”