Fear by K.A. Merikan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
How does a zombie plague and pony boy fetish fit together in early 1900s London? It oddly combines together quite well.
In FEAR, K.A Merikan bring to light the underbelly of London slums. Reuben is a son of a baker. He's hit his full potential as a closeted gay man who can't read, bake or do anything productive. He can't even hook up at a pub without being mugged. Then again, his one skill is catching rats and killing them. Reuben the rat boy is probably how he will be known as if he died in this disgustingly depressing and dirty place.
Author K.A. Merikan does a good job with the description of post zombie plague London. The reader may want to take a shower after reading about the sewers, filthy air and even filthier populace. Had I known the first third of the book is spent mucking in this gloom from Reuben's eyes, I might have not read the book. Because honestly, Reuben is not the kind of character I like nor is he someone I want to read about. Fortunately, I methodically plowed through to the good parts.
Reuben's life is desolate and it's very first world middle class of me, but I just don't care. He's kind of a waste of human life and the authors show him to be this way. He's slow, makes bad choices and is easily conned. They do a great job of demonstrating how worthless his life is and it shows when he's tricked into slavery. What is interesting about Reuben is that he doesn't think he's dumb. He takes offense to it because he is bright enough to know when everyone treats him like a moron. He even questions people why they think he's stupid.
"Is there something in my face that says 'moron'?" He [Reuben] swallowed the food and straightened up.
Erik furrowed his eyebrows, getting lost in thought as he cleaned his hand with a napkin. "No, it's more about your eyes, I believe." (p. 96)
Ouch. This just gets better and better as everyone makes Reuben feel inferior. This does change when he's been captured and taken to Bylondon where the rich revel in their perversities. He's sold as a slave to Erik aka Bluefinger. Erik turns Reuben into a pony boy named Copper.
This is where the story becomes interesting. Reuben is suddenly transformed into a very worthy stallion. Copper's potential is much higher than Reuben's. In addition, Copper's life is filled with luxuries despite the depravity he needs to suffer through guilty pleasures such as ass fucking and cock sucking. The sexual interludes with Erik as well as the punishment are delightful. The fisting scene is what saved this book for me.
The characters in this story are for the most part disengaging. The secondary characters are either wimps or thugs. The only one in this story which is admirable is Erik's cook, Mr. Fry. He's the one lone character who seems to be both humane and with a gentle touch. His scene in the kitchen with Copper is the sweetest and most redeeming in this story for me.
It is commendable about how the author changes the main character from something worthless to something of worth. It is not only in the eye of the beholder, but how one trains a person. Copper is given training and praise. He thrives under all of this. Is this perhaps a social commentary in a My Fair Lady allusion?
From a worldbuilding perspective, despite the gritty details of Reuben's surroundings and Copper's luxuries, it's rather sketchy. This world which is focused just on a little part of England with big protective walls to keep out the zombies bring a World War Z feel to it. If one has seen this movie, then it helps fill in a lot of blanks. There is very little details about how the zombies came to be. There is very little detail about the rich in Bylondon or even about Erik's family. What exactly does Erik do? He is very good at some kind of forgeries, but what kind of forgeries? From a story plot substance, this book is emaciated. This is not a bad thing because the focus is really devoted to Copper's transformative journey. It's a beautiful thing to see when this rough diamond is found and polished.
This m/m novel is recommended for those who don't mind zombies interfering with their ponyplay sex.
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