Friday, August 6, 2010

Alive On The Inside by Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks


I'm not one hundred percent sure what to say about Alive On The Inside. It's a seriously screwed up book, but it's been a few days since I finished it and I'm still thinking about it. I'm not sure I'd call what happens in the story BDSM. Abuse is more like it. And much of it is really over-the-top, since this is a fantasy and the participants end up magically healed. By over-the-top, I mean someone biting the head off of a dick (it regenerates in under an hour), and someone using a spoon to take someone's eyes out (those take years to regenerate, since the Phantasmagoria has a reason for it to take longer).

I'm not even going to try to explain Alive On The Inside, I'm not sure it's possible.  Here's the blurb:

Nick Harper has a nice life, a nice job, and a nice girl. Until Labor Day Weekend, when the Phantasmagoria Traveling Wonder Show comes to town. Seduced by the dark and wickedly erotic charms of both the Phantasmagoria and Torturo, a man known in the freak sideshow as The Pain King, Nick embarks on a journey of self-discovery, love, and pain. But the show is not what it seems. It changes those who come with it in ways they can never imagine, not even in their worst nightmares. And Nick's changes are just beginning...

You can see why the book appealed to me - Torturo the Pain King? A "journey of self-discovery, love, and pain"? Right up my alley. The thing is, while every word of that is the truth, there are about a thousand truths not given, and those make all of the difference.

BDSM Elements:
  • Bondage and Discipline - a very small amount of bondage. The discipline happens when the bully gets mad, and then it's abuse, not discipline.
  • Dominance and Submission - Yes, but I'm not sure who to call the Dom and who to call the Subs. It's not a traditional D/s relationship, but there is certainly power exchange. Though, the true power exchange is not really between our two main characters. Sort of. I can't say more than that without spoiling.
  • Sadism and Masochism - Yes, though the main masochist in the story doesn't really feel pain anymore. He feels extreme pain, like getting the head of his dick bitten off, but he doesn't really feel normal pain. And the main masochist in the story sees himself as Dom. And the other masochist... like I said, much of it is abuse. Some of it isn't but... it's messed up.
As for the story elements, the plot is exceptionally well done and thoroughly twisted. There are pacing issues - but the book takes place over hundreds of years, so perhaps there are supposed to be pacing issues. Prose and dialogue are good (not great, but not really a problem, either). Character development was good, the book takes place over such a long time and the characters change so much in that time that the character development is an ongoing thing. World building is exceptional.

And the ending has a nice twist. Sort of.

I don't really know what to rate Alive On The Inside. It's a disturbing book, and it wasn't very titillating for me - as I said, the S&M stuff was over the top. It was so over the top that it didn't work for me. So the heat level is going to be a 1 of 5, though I'm thinking it may have been better to call it a titillation level. As for the main book rating, it's a well written book that still has you thinking about it after you've read it. But, I'm not all that happy that I read it. And the reading of it wasn't all that enjoyable - at a certain point is was more like a train wreck, where you just couldn't look away, even though you really wanted to. Some people call that a mark of a good book, especially horror fans, where a book has you wanting to escape it, but you can't because you need to know how it ends. I think I'm going to have to balance it all out by giving it an 8 of 10.

  • Book rating: Alive on the Inside: 8 of 10
  • Heat Level: 1 of 5
  • Intensity level: I can't really give it an intensity level. I want to say 10 of 10, but it would be misleading. Some of it is abuse and not really BDSM, and then most of the actual S&M isn't really normal BDSM. I'll just give the warning that the S&M is way over the top, the majority of it so over the top that it was no longer hot.  

I don't know if I recommend Alive on the Inside or not. There are good parts to the book, most especially the fact that it takes place over such a long period of time (well over a century), and that we see a whole lot of growth and change in our characters over that period of time.

One thing is for sure, it had an affect on me, and it's stuck in my head and won't get out.


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