Monday, September 4, 2017

[Jen's Review]: "Edge of Obsession"

romance novel covers, dystopian romance, Edge of Obsession by Megan Crane
Edge of Obsession by Megan Crane
Publisher: Swerve (January 5, 2016)
Series: The Edge, 1
Genre: Dystopian Romance

Tyr, a powerful man in a ravaged world, needs only three things to survive:

His weapons.
Basic resources.
A rotation of eager women who can give him the kind of down and dirty sex he needs.

But when a beautiful prisoner grabs his attention during a mission to restock his clan’s supplies, Tyr’s alpha instincts give way to something much darker–strong, unquenchable craving that cannot be ignored…or denied.

After two years on the run, Helena is snared by this powerful clan of hardware-wielding, tattooed, steel-eyed raider warriors who roam the land unchallenged. Strong to her core and with a mission of her own, Helena knows she doesn’t have to be their captive for long.

However, despite all the terrible things she’s heard about these brutal beasts, Helena is overcome by intense desire for the one ruthless man who has taken her. As their passion escalates, Helena will have to trust in Tyr in order to save both what’s left of this desolate, torn-up world…and herself. 

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Jen's Review:

Gather round, friends, and let me tell you about that time I hated the book everyone else loved. Let me back up. I saw the book listed as the Steamiest Read of 2016 by All About Romance. I thought to myself, “You like a steamy read! You like vikings! You like reviewing books for TBQ. You should read that thing.” Well, I must be the world’s biggest crank, because I struggled with this book from practically the first sentence.

Edge of Obsession begins with Tyr, a Raider out on a hunting trip with the fellow members of his clan. Raiders are the biggest badasses of the future. A century ago, decades of super storms ravaged North America, leaving half the continent underwater. The remaining settlements and islands are loosely organized into city-states, some more powerful than others. These superstorms still hammer the Earth for six months of every year, and humans have to basically hibernate until they are over. Tyr invades a settlement and takes off with the beautiful and rebellious Helena.

My major overarching problem with this book was the hapless, negligent world-building. World-building is more than having a knack for describing an apocalyptic landscape; it means that the world the author creates has its own internal logic and congruence. Shit has to make sense, and literally NOTHING in this book made sense. I know that’s harsh. But nothing in the book matched anything else---mundane details, the landscape, questions of time and distance, the culture of the Raiders, the use of technology, unfortunate anachronistic metaphors, and careless word choice. It’s just a random mix of ideas, cemented together with a bunch of sex scenes.

Here’s some examples of things that bothered me, but know that I could do this all day:

  • The Raiders are both expert seamen and also amazing at hand-to-hand combat
  • The storms were a hundred years ago, but there are “ancient” stories and myths surrounding the Raiders
  • There’s no electricity except from generators, but somehow Helena has a tablet (presumably one that’s a hundred years old!) that can somehow still hold a charge and work
  • The Raiders do have technology, and Helena intuitively uses a remote control, there’s something that sounds suspiciously like a hot tub, and she at one point uses a metaphor of how one bulb burning out will ruin a whole string of lights
  • Despite the lack of any kind of medicine, Helena and all the other women who don’t want to risk pregnancy just “drink herbs” every month
  • The wild, tumultuous ocean that erased the entire Eastern seaboard is clear and still enough that Helena saw the remains of drowned cities under the surface as they travel by
  • On one page, Tyr says he had lots of sex in the sea, and on the very next page, he claims to never mix pussy with the sea
  • Any and all racial differences seem to have been eliminated, but our current skinny white woman standards of beauty still apply

I’m hard pressed to think of a work of science fiction that was so disinterested in creating a believable, whole world.

Let’s say that poor world-building doesn’t send you into a rage stroke. Don’t worry. There’s more that goes wrong here. In some ways, the book follows a currently fashionable alpha-hole trope. But, because it’s *the future* Tyr and the other Raiders can be even more misogynist, homophobic, violent, and mean. After the prologue, the literal first line of the book is, “Tyr usually liked it when his enemies screamed like the little bitches they were.” In the next three pages, Tyr uses the adjectives pansy, toddler, and pussies to describe his enemies. He says his arch-nemesis has a hard-on for the Raiders. Enemies and storms and things that displease Tyr are bitches, cunts, and douchebags. I couldn’t help but marvel that even a hundred years after the destruction of humanity, men still call each other douchebags! And, what kind of heroine does every good alpha-hole need? One who is special, different, and not like other women. In fact, in case you didn’t get the memo, the phrase “other women” appears 11 times in this book. I am simply not interested in science fiction that exponentially multiplies the current sexism in our society, whether that be external or internal.

I do have to give credit to All About Romance: the book is steamy. The Raiders have conveniently created a class of camp women who love fucking, and there’s lots of private and public sex. On the other hand, Helena was raised in a settlement that is labeled “compliant.” Compliants enter into yearly relationships where the sex is strictly for the purpose of repopulating the ravaged Earth. But of course, the book wants it both ways. The Raiders are free-wheeling, orgy-loving, and open-minded about sexual partners. (I couldn’t help but notice that although there are some F/F moments, there weren’t any that were M/M.) The Raiders and the Camp Girls are non-compliant because they love sex for its own sake, and no one is shamed for it. But once Helena and Tyr get together, he’ll fuck her in front of everyone, but all of a sudden, he found some deep-seated, primal urge to be monogamous.

I honestly found the entire thing to be exhausting. The author creates okay characters, but the ridiculous plot and sloppy world building just made me want it to be over. At some point, I was hate-reading just to write this review.

1 STAR! 

My Recommendations Instead:

I’m going to end by making a couple of suggestions for what else you might consider reading if you think some elements of these books appeal to you, but you want them to be better. If you like it super-steamy and post-apocalyptic, but with thoughtful, careful, and thorough world-building: please go read Kit Rocha’s Beyond series. I honestly believe that Edge of Obsession is probably trying to mimic the success of the Beyond series, which is absolutely fine and how publishing works. But the Beyond series is simply better in every way. Those books have strong men who don’t denigrate women to feel powerful, the women are independent and courageous, and the sex is open and expansive. At some point, I bought a compilation that had practically the entire Beyond series. When I searched that same phrase as above, “other women”, it appeared sixteen times. That’s 16 times in 16 books/short stories, as compared to 11 times in one book. Give me all the science fiction where women like and respect each other, please.

If you’re interested in world-building that focuses on the clash of cultures, but with a focus on monogamy and finding one, true partner--try the Ice Planet Barbarians series by Ruby Dixon. In this series, Earth women are kidnapped by aliens. Their ship crashes and they are rescued from the bad aliens by good ones---super warriors who are large, blue, and living on an icy planet. The blue aliens and Earth women join together, breaking into couples, and bridging the divide between their two cultures to create something new. Again, the world-building is excellent. The focus isn’t on an external enemy, but the internal struggles created when two cultures clash but still need each other to survive.

Finally, if you’re interested in comics, you really must read Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. Bitch Planet tells the story of a hyper-patriarchal world, one where non-compliant women are removed from society and sent up to a prison planet. It’s entirely possible that Megan Crane has never read Bitch Planet, but I literally cannot hear the word “non-compliant” without thinking of it. In the comics world, the word non-compliant is as strongly associated with Bitch Planet as the phrase Golden Arches is with McDonald’s. If you do a google image search for “non compliant”, you’ll get hundreds of references to Bitch Planet and the NC/non-compliant logo. Along with being unapologetically feminist, Bitch Planet is also famous for including interviews and explainers about the feminist principles found in each issue. Unfortunately, the collected trade editions omit the extra reading material, but the comic is simply amazing. Reading Bitch Planet is a crash course in feminist theory. I dare you to read it and imagine what it would be like for one of the non-compliant women to fall in love with one of the patriarchal fathers. It’s literally impossible to imagine.

There’s always been power in women’s writing. So let’s all do ourselves a favor and treat ourselves to something that makes us strong, okay? 

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Jen bought this book.

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Thanks for the review, Jen! Ugh, nothing worse than a disappointing, frustrating book -- especially one that everyone else enjoyed. I can see why this one would annoy you so much; I think I'd have the same reactions, tbh!

Have you read Megan Crane? Do you have any other recommendations for dystopian/post-apocalyptic romance with solid world building and steamy times that's NOT so frustrating?


Until Next Time,

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