Harmony Ink Press, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-63476-884-9
Contemporary Romance, 2016
For a story in a line that is designed to be one big virtue signal – “Read us! We are all about diversity!” – Gene Gant’s Bender portrays an unexpectedly sweeping portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle as that of a sub being abused by the Dom. Mace Danner, our 19-year old hero, blames himself for the death of his brother, so our male escort is A-OK with his clients treating him badly. He deserves it, after all. And he also drinks, because every new adult story needs abuse and self loathing – they are the latest “in” thing now that actual characterization work is passe.
Who cares about actual story, after all, when you can appease modern day millennials these days who are all:
“Oh, hi, nice to meet you! My preferred pronoun is xe/xir/xiraffe and I’m a huge abuse victim!”
“Nice to meet you! I’m a genderqueer piranha-kin trans-tyrannosaurus non-binary were-antelope, and you can address me as hi/hihi/hihili. Oh, and I was gang-raped by mongrel-kins when I was twelve, so I turned to the bottle!”
Anyway, Mace. He calls himself plain, but hot girls want him. He claims to be a loner, but still manages to be all bro with two guys Buy My Book Next and After That, My Book Too. Oh, and Mace can’t feel any desire for any people, so maybe he’s asexual. Wait, you may be thinking, how can he be certain, right? Maybe he actually gets it up for, I don’t know, corpses or barnyard animals or pet rocks, right? Fortunately, Mace soon meets Dex Hammel, who is actually an RA and not a porn star, and he’s soon gagging for it. Okay, not literally, as BDSM is literally abuse and hence Hitler, just metaphorically. Or something. Oh, and too bad about the girl Mace has been stringing along for two years without even giving her the bang she wants so badly – Mace wants to be Dex’ed and Hammel’ed now, and girls, this is why you don’t become fruit flies thinking that he would somehow one day come around and fall in love with you. If he’s not trying to get past first base in two months – much less two years – it’s time to ditch the bro and move to someone else with an actual chubby for you.
Anway, Mace is like oh, Dex will never want him, no! Of course, if you read this thing, you may notice that practically everyone who meets Mace wants him, so it’s all just drama queening on his part. Look, I know how it can be as a teenager. Okay, so Mace saw his brother having sex and got so depressed because he couldn’t get all sexed up himself, and tried to kill himself only to have the brother bite the big one while saving Mace. That can be traumatic… if this is real life.
But this is fiction, and the author is serving survivor’s guilt in a superficial and lazy way, just so to have a Mary Sue of a dude spend the entire story wailing and flailing as if his life is bleak. And all this while, he’s surrounded by people who are willing to be his life lines. In other words, Mace is an idiot who insists that things for him are far, far worse than they actually are. Bender is cheap, shoddy melodrama that substitutes one-dimensional angst and trauma for actual work needed to make a story well-rounded.
The end result is a story where I actually wish that the whiny douchebag will follow through and actually jump off a cliff for good. Then again, that idiot would probably mess up anyway because Mace is just a messy-ass cheap drama queen who views life as one long ALL CAPS Tumblr entry.