Rameau Friday: Counterpunch – Aleksandr Voinov

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>
4 stars
Series: Belonging #2
Pages: 173 (ebook)
Publisher: Storm Moon Press LLC
ISBN: 1937058182
Published: November 4th 2011
Source: Bought

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26 thoughts on “Rameau Friday: Counterpunch – Aleksandr Voinov

  1. Darlene says:

    This one is intriguing simply because it seems different from what's out there. By the cover I didn't think I'd be interested but strangely I am. Lol.

  2. Anachronist says:

    I've read and reviewed some books penned by Mr. Voinov and also I tried some novels about contemporary slavery (which does exist, without any fantastical elements necessary, but I suppose authors always feel safer when they place it in a world which doesn't exist). I am not sure I would like to read it but a great review, thanks, and I am glad you enjoyed it.

  3. rameau says:

    It's little difficult for me to say simply because I don't know much about boxing but I thought the scenes were well written and integral to the story.

  4. rameau says:

    It was that, an intense dystopian read. Much better than the other book I read this week that was set in US and in this world. I remember the beginning being a slow read but not particularly difficult to get through. As for the violence, luckily it's not too graphic.

  5. rameau says:

    The difference with real world slavery is that it's by design depressing. If we haven't figured out how to solve that problem in real life, the book is hardly going to offer any answers. Whereas with fantasy, you can safely read the warnings and still find solace in your warm blanket and furry friend by your side. This was a bit of testing the limits kind of read for me. I've read slavery fanfics and I've never been a huge fan of them, but I wanted to see what I'd think about a proper book and an original story about the subject.

  6. SQT says:

    The cover would not have gotten me to pick up the book, but this review might. I *am* intrigued by both the slavery and the boxing aspects. Thanks for the review.

  7. Anachronist says:

    Let me also add that I simply ABHOR the cover art. Here, I've just won 'the most grumpy comment' award. ;p If we haven't figured out how to solve that problem in real life, the book is hardly going to offer any answers.Very true.

  8. BookaholicCat says:

    I have read couple of books by Aleksandr Voinov, his books always push my limits but I always end up liking them; this one sounds just like one of those, I'm adding it to my TBR.

  9. Ryan says:

    Not sure I would read this but after seeing a post about The Special Forces books by the same author, I was curious enough to go check it out online. And before I knew it, I was glued to my computer screen for hours at a time reading them.

  10. rameau says:

    It was the blurb that caught my attention. I wanted to read something by this author, not a collaboration either, so I was skimming through all the blurbs instead of relying on the covers.

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