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Overall book 1 out of 5
BDSM/kink 0 out of 5 paddles
The concept at the core of The Gate is an interesting one,solid.
In a future moon colony, where government monitoring and control has become the norm, Carly becomes obsessed with her virtual sex partner, the only person who offers her a release from her cramped and boring life. When she attempts to divine the identities of the people who contributed to the program, she learns that he may be based on a real person: Devlin Bear, her best friend’s brother. The real Devlin is dead, killed in a lab accident while working on a top-secret government project, but when Carly orders a cybernetic sex doll programmed with her virtual lover’s personality, she discovers that the doll really does think that he’s Devlin Bear. He may, in fact, be Devlin Bear. And now that he’s back, there are people who want what he knows.
There were things I liked about this book. Devlin and his sister Brenda are both Arapaho. There’s a really nice bit about how the Arapaho language, being a “dead” language despite still being spoken by, you know, actual living for-real Arapaho, was left out of the translation databases in a typically privileged and dismissive jerk move. The language is now being used to organize rebel efforts and circumvent the nearly-constant surveillance. I thought that was really cool.
The feeling of being watched was well-evoked, and we never for a moment forget that Carly’s world is one of intrusive and disturbing governmental voyeurism. I, like a lot of folks, have a fear of being watched constantly, of having my behavior monitored and judged,and having my suitability as part of society judged by what I do in private, so this hit home in a major way.
Given this awful and emotionally-stunting environment, I can empathize totally with Carly’s desire to connect to something real, something that matters, something that is hers, in a world that really doesn’t value individuality or independence. Ordering a sex doll made to look and act like someone is kind of creepy,but it is a fantastic plot device and in context it totally works. Devlin was likable and the most interesting character. I really enjoyed getting to know him, and wish that he and Carly had been able to spend more time talking.
The book could have used a stronger hand in the proofing process. The prose was often redundant and the dialogue stiff, making it hard to build up any sense of urgency. If the dialogue had been tightened up it would have been a much sharper read.
It was a great idea but needed more detail about the characters and the world to really work, and I think that was the real failing of the story,and why it failed to really engage me. In fact, there’s one piece of advice I think would have fixed about 75%of my problems with the book: “Be more specific.”
What was the government doing that was so bad it required a rebellion? Surveillance and suppression is capital-B-Bad,but we never get the feeling that this affects Carly in anything other than a vague-icky-feeling kind of way. We don’t see that anything specific is at stake for her.
The rebels, while we want to like them because they are obviously standing on the side of justice and freedom and “Please don’t spy on me in the shower, okay?” don’t have much of an identity otherwise. We have no idea what specific goals they are working towards, or how that ties in to the plot.
There is little sensory detail provided except in the sex scenes, when there is marginally more, but still not enough to make the scenes really grab me. Devlin gets a little heated at one point, and that was hot – not just because I’m into rough sex, but because it was a well-done moment of genuine emotion. The sex scenes are successful enough, however, to be the best part of the book.
Overall, I think this was a very interesting idea that was executed in a disappointing way, and readers looking for SF erotica might do well to skip it and find something a little more highly-polished.
Reviewed by Naamah