I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
With trigger warnings. Child abuse, incest, and dub-con, as well as violence.
Let me start with the issues I had: the main character, Marcus Selvage, wants to cut himself up, to become a machine, because of trauma. And this is iffy for me. What does that say about people like me? But the thing is, his orientation isn't technosexual. It's a kink for him: he's into a woman, Danni, and this is made clear from the beginning. So, it's not quite someone like me.
And I'm still coming to terms with that issue about this novelette. It's taken me a couple hours, and some thinking, some hard thinking, to come to this conclusion. It's also close enough to me - I want metal parts, I want to be all sexy metal parts! - that my first reaction is kind of to be offended by the implication that only trauma can mess you up like this. Other characters seem to enforce this. And I'm still more than a little uncomfortable with that view of the work.
But I came to realize two things: this is brilliant, it's well drawn out, and it's beautiful, touching, brutalizing, and well worth reading. Not only that, this is more a story about trauma than fetishes. It's about how trauma causes Markus to like pain more than modification and how he's been groomed since he was child, and how this allows him to be led into some really horribly poor choices. And because this story is about the individual circumstances, and a fetish, not an orientation, I've decided that it's not really saying anything about people like me, people who are horrified by how it's the opposite of autonomy working here. It's about someone stripped of power and knowledge and self-realization, and about something horrific that they have to expunge, have to work though, and how they do this.
And I know it easily could have been a condemnation of fetishes, or of people who don't follow the normal conventions of society, and I'm incredibly sensitive to that since the second applies so directly to me. All I can say is that it didn't feel that way. It did feel like a condemnation of child abuse, of cycles of violence, of loneliness and need, and of being so twisted up that you can't see straight.
It has a ton of triggers, but if you can get past them, it's a beautiful, heartbreaking read. Jay Lake, with ninety-five pages, has wormed his way into my favorite author list.