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Broken Paperback – November 22, 2011
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"I think it fair to warn booklovers that I would consider it a good idea to schedule time to read these books, rather than just starting them on impulse. I had an extremely difficult time putting these books down." Snakeman
"The longer the books gestate in my mind they give me some things to think about in my own life, as well as stirring me physically. I.G. touches upon darkness that many of us hold within ourselves and the inner core that can be broken and rebuilt. She brought out the things that we will do and go through in order to achieve our life goals." Purple
"The sex never disappoints in I. G. Frederick's novels. Just like a great night in the dungeon, once the kinky action begins, it barely lets up. Frederick goes deep into SM fantasy and left me simultaneously satisfied and begging for more." Cecilia Tan, author of Edge Plays
From the Author
Cautionary tale about abuse and the meaning of consent.
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Even as stridently misanthropic, hyper-PC "feminists" like Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, or cluelessly detached "thinkers" like Robert Jensen continue to insist that the gentlest consensual sex act is tantamount to rape, BDSM has gone mainstream in a surprisingly big way, rising up from the dark subbasement of 1950s-era "criminal perversion" and "pathological disorder" to assume the status of acceptably edgy lifestyle choice for a brave few. In the second decade of the 21st century BDSM seems to be where swinging was at back in the 1970s; the stuff of bourgeois weekend diversion and wildly best-selling "guilty pleasure" fantasy fiction; an exciting hobby, enthusiastically embraced if still not always well understood beyond the dungeons of its true adepts.
I.G. Frederick's "Broken" delves into the philosophy and psychology of the BDSM lifestyle, largely by showing us how it's not supposed to be practiced. The author is conspicuously gifted, profoundly thoughtful; clearly capable of genuine brilliance. Yet, all too often, the story-telling takes on the tenor of an apologia; some readers may be left wondering whether the book was meant to be entertaining, or was intentionally conceived as a catalyst for controversy. The first installment in a two-book series, which feels like it began life as a single, much-longer novel; "Broken" often seems less of an erotic diversion than a rather clumsy vehicle for didactic illustration in the tradition of B.F. Skinner's "Walden Two."
A few fans of BDSM fiction and especially practitioners of the lifestyle may be unhappy with this book's occasionally less-than-flattering portrayal of the subculture. Some of the blatantly unethical, coercive behavior described in "Broken" and "Shattered" is downright disturbing (as the subtitle promises), teetering all too precariously on the edge of the "anti-erotic."
Indeed, what I wanted most in "Broken"--what I kept hoping for as I worked my way through it--was a character I could relate to, or, at least, root for. Unfortunately, I came away feeling more perplexed than satisfied; having been offered a cast of characters I could mostly either choose to hate or pity.
The 1st-century Roman philosopher, Seneca once said "No one can be crushed by misfortune who has not first been deceived by prosperity." Jessica has definitely been deceived by the illusion of her parents' prosperity; and when her father's Madoff-like house of cards comes tumbling down, she finds herself standing at his graveside, alone and destitute. The impression we get of this woman through the author's words is a bit confusing; she is spoiled, fastidious, almost pathologically appearance-conscious; self-absorbed and coldly calculating while emotionally vulnerable; she takes a scholarly interest in issues surrounding the clinical treatment of depression, even as she appears to lack any semblance of genuine human empathy.
Jessica's desperate need for money ultimately leads her into the repulsive clutches of the head of the psychology department; a vile, ethically-challenged sadist who promptly enslaves the young woman, and coerces her into a degrading life of BDSM prostitution. Through a series of painful ordeals, graphically portrayed, Jessica eventually discovers her own talent for domination, which becomes a means to self-liberation of a sort.
When it doesn't read like a textbook on the BDSM lifestyle, "Broken" feels like an outdated copy of the Nieman Marcus catalog, with more gratuitous luxury-product placements than a Hollywood summer blockbuster. The lavish, highly-detailed descriptions of fancy-restaurant lunches are more passionate and sensuously imbued than most of the sex scenes.
The characters seem pat, one dimensional, serving their function in the narrative like stock players in an old-time melodrama, baldly relaying information where needed, going through the stereotyped motions of their parts with a certain robotic efficiency. We are told far more than we are shown; the author cannot seem to resist the urge to explain her plot points and motivations at length--often repeating them several times throughout the course of the story, sometimes as dialogue, more often as narrative, as in this passage:
"Looking in the mirror, she stared at the chain links encircling her neck. She found it interesting that she could disassociate herself from everything that happened at Professor Branson's house, but the mere thought of servicing Professor Lawrence made her ill."
The only character for whom I felt even the slightest pang of empathy was Alyssa, the wise, "older" friend, who seems to function as the author's avatar within the narrative, delivering meta-messages along with small essential tidbits of information where needed, as in this example:
"That's what I mean by symbiosis. I am a Dominant, a Mistress. But without my slave I have no one to serve me, no one to make me complete. Klark is a slave, but without a mistress to serve his life has no purpose, no meaning. We fill each other's needs in a relationship that others might view as parasitic."
Later, Alyssa ruminates on the downside of BDSM's status as popular trend:
"The internet had perverted the lifestyle, permitting those with no experience to claim dominant status, and men pretending to be submissives to fulfill their sexual fantasies without offering anything in return."
While this may be interesting to a curious outsider--even quite enlightening, it hardly makes for an erotic page-turner. I do highly commend the author for endeavoring to bring a degree of seriousness and intellectual substance to her storytelling--almost totally unheard of even in the more rarefied examples of literary erotica. I sincerely hope that, in books to come, she may hone her story-craft to a point where it is worthy of her obvious brilliance.