Imagine a modern Britain where at least two or three decades ago the politicians gave up on trying to keep up with the ever-growing prison population, chucked the fourth article of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, and started to commute life sentences into slavery. Now people are both born and condemned to it. And it’s not just in Britain, it’s all around the world.
Brooklyn Marshall was born free and worked hard to build a good life for himself. Then a simple mistake, an accident, at the job took all that away from him. He was made into an example and his life was no longer his own. Now he boxes because it’s better than getting shot at in a war zone, and he fucks and is fucked because he is told to. He is used. He’s chattel that can talk.
”You haven’t resigned yourself to slavery yet, have you?”
“No. And I never will.”
It’s cruel to give hope to a such man, but that’s exactly what Nathaniel Bishop does.
I’m not a fan of romanticising slavery, and I’m not a fan of any relationship that’s based on a severe imbalance of power, but I’m always curious to see if the author can make it work. If those obstacles of differing wealth, social status, and culture can be overcome believably. Realistically. Even in urban fantasy.
It works here because Brooklyn has never accepted his status as anything less than a human being. It works because both Brooklyn and Nathaniel recognise how wrong their situation is, and because both are fighters in their own way.
Much of the story focuses on the boxing—again, something I know nothing about—and how it reflects Brooklyn’s growth as a character. He’ll never see any of the winnings, but the fighting he does is for himself. He’s broken and beaten both in the ring and out, and he is affected by it, but he’s also a survivor. What doesn’t kill him makes him stronger, and the final fights show this vividly.
If I hadn’t struggled with the beginning of the story—it was good but not amazing—the ending would have earned Counterpunch its fifth star. Voinov opted out of the fanciful and kept it realistic.
P.S. The story includes triggers for <spoiler>rape.</spoiler>
Series: Belonging #2
Pages: 173 (ebook)
Publisher: Storm Moon Press LLC
Published: November 4th 2011