Is it tickle-torture? Is it speculative fiction? Is it a deep exploration of relationship dynamics? Or an examination of submissive behavior and helplessness? Well, it’s actually all of the above, and if those elements sound too disparate to blend together, don’t discount the talents of
On a future Earth, a formula called Solution 9 has been added to the water supply to eradicate disease. One of the side effects is that it has also eliminated ticklishness except in a very few individuals. One of these is our hero, Wade, who becomes the coveted object of tickle fetishists Robert and Sloan and their Internet friends David and Glenn. Sloan, however, wants Wade for himself and devises a fiendish plan to achieve that end.
I must admit, tickle-torture is brand new to me. I know Courtois’ first novel, My Name is Rand, also features this kink, but I haven’t read it. I was intrigued as to how a storyline could be built around it, and Courtois comes through with an involved, yet not convoluted, plot that takes us from Earth to an asteroid somewhere in space and back, complete with pseudopod-bearing aliens and a holographic overlord. This, obviously, is the speculative fiction part.
Relationship dynamics? When Wade meets Robert and Sloan, a seed is planted that will eventually affect the couple’s partnership, and this is further complicated when David and Glenn are introduced into the mix. This portion of the novel concentrates on both couples, leaving Wade a rather flat character. However, this appears to be a conscious choice on the part of the author—and one wholly in keeping with the objectification of Wade as an instrument of pleasure. His personality is secondary (even tertiary).
Though Wade is entirely submissive, many of the other characters also have submissive aspects, especially when one considers that in relationships of this nature, the most submissive member actually has the most power. Without Wade and his acquiescence, the reason for his objectification wouldn’t exist, and the irony that emerges when Sloan finds himself equally powerless is absolutely delicious.
In the Time of Solution 9 is a thought-provoking,well-envisioned read, as interesting as it is inventive. Just the sort of genre-busting book expected from both Courtois and Lethe Press.
©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler