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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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03/26/2006 Archived Entry: "Book review: Deep, Dark and Dangerous"

Deep, Dark and Dangerous
By Jaid Black
Trade Paperback Original published by Pocket Books, 2006

Review by R. A. Landow

I enjoyed the romanticism of the general setting; Snow, ice and winter frost seem to be representative of a certain purity and freshness. This provided a beautiful atmosphere for the beginnings of a love story.

There was also a good use of character contrast; the materialistic Madelyn as opposed to the nonconformist survivalist Drake. It worked well, sort of reminded me of a "Xena" and "Gabrielle" type of pairing.

Otar's character was well defined. He came across as being more civilized than many men from the so-called civilization of the upper world. He represented honesty, love and a system of balanced ethics---the most honorable ideals of life in any society. He was able to sympathize with Madelyn's aversion to forced confinement; however, he was bound by the tribal rules and traditions, which protected himself, his civilization and his family. Thus Otar must learn to "toe a fine line." Given the limited resources that he had to work with, he did a good job in maintaining a sense of balance. The conflict that he experienced could be representative of the trials of any newly forming civilization or religion.

Otar's promise not to sexually force himself upon his new bride was absolutely touching. He was determined to control his passions until his bride was ready to give herself willingly to him. This defined the truest depths of love. Wonderfully done!

Good use of the "Taming Of the Shrew" ("Shrewd") analogy on page 7, ironic foreshadowing of the direction of the plot as the story developed. Both characters draw a romantic reference to the same movie, "Song Of The Viking." I love the sentimentalism. (Pages 19, 20 and 31.)

Good use of humor on page 25, in which the girls try to milk a male goat. Good "fish out of water" analogy. Hilarious!

Sexual scenes were not "rushed into." A plot line was developed in which the main characters were able to gradually acclimate to their sexual roles. The context for the coupling was well described, appealing, sensually gratifying and very well outlined.

I have a question: Are the other books in this series, "Hunter's Right" and "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down," intended to be prequels to this novel? Is there knowledge revealed in the aforementioned novels that is necessary for the reader to have in order to adequately understand "Deep, Dark and Dangerous?" If such is the case, it would have been helpful if a summary of the main points of each book would have been presented somewhere in the introduction. In that way, readers who have not read the first two novels would have had a better understanding of the plot line of the third novel. I made this observation because I felt that within the described Viking civilization, there were many missing pieces to the puzzle which were never filled in.

For instance, take Page 13, an issue that stretches the believability quotient. Why would a girl who went through such great pains to get away from society's comforts and luxuries tote her $70,000 bed halfway across the Pacific?

Pages 19 and 67: computer-generated voices and elevators in an old world Viking society? I don't think so.

Pages 94 and 95: description of the "auction block," a practice in which uncommitted women get auctioned off to the highest bidder. This society's first and foremost purpose should be to preserve and propagate its' race, given the limited number of available women. In such a scenario, it is logical to believe that the most virile men would be given preference to the women. Physical strength was usually associated with the ability to impregnate a female and bear healthy children (whether correct or not, such was a belief was commonly held in the context of underdeveloped cultures.) Money and land ownership would not be a determining factor in determining survival of the fittest. If a situation develops in which more than one man claims a certain women, it is reasonable to assume that the men would "fight it out" and the survivor would win the privilege of taking the woman of his choice.

Declaration of Hunter's Right, page 97--no ring, no family bond, no formal ceremony and no witnesses. No wedding band, family tie or public declaration to signify that one woman is bound to one specific man. In a society in which women are in such short supply, I would think that such would be necessary to protect the bride and to preserve the family rights of the groom.

There is also a "class" system in this civilization. Women of the so-called lower classes are considered as being too low in the social order to be worthy of marriage (Page 133). Now, get with the program, people! There is a shortage of women in your society! You need to marry and propagate, so that your civilization won't die out! The philosophy of being concerned with proper social class in such a context defies believability. Likewise, why is kidnapping unwilling women from the overground world considered a better alternative to choosing those from your own town whose only fault is being born into a poor family? The whole thing just doesn't make sense!

In such a xenophobic society, in which even a camera from the upper world is highly forbidden and must be destroyed at all costs, measure such against the threat of "racial contamination" from the "repulsive overworlders." Something just doesn't seem to balance.

Pages 108, 142 and 143: The barbaric treatment of women who were considered as unfit for marriage (those of the lower classes) is unrealistic, unbelievable and horribly cruel, especially in the context of such a society. They were required to dress like "playboy bunnies," when they walked out in the street, wearing outfits that left little to the imagination, thus tempting any male passerby to humiliate them. The women who choose to "work" for a living had an even worse deal. They had to parade themselves nakedly in a bar to service the drunken men who did all sorts of disgusting things to them, just so that they could earn a few coins to support themselves. Now, think about it, even putting standards of morality, decency and respectability aside, would not there be a fear that these women might someday be needed to help produce and raise healthy families? It's not like there were that many women to choose from. So, if even one woman dies as a result of being physically abused or as a victim of some type of venereal disease, the whole civilization is hurt as well. So, one would think that in such a scenario as the author describes, men would go out of their way to care for and protect women rather than abuse them.

The problem of how the women are forced to support themselves during wartime is completely irrational. The author describes Madelyn, her sister and her sister-in-law as being forced to put on a striptease show in order to raise enough money for bread and water while the men are away at war. Unrealistic--History would tell you that in most civilizations during wartime, when the men were away overseas, the women were able to step into their jobs. Many had the first real chance to gain any type of work experience, thus being able to reap one of the few benefits of being a wartime bride. So, logic would tell us that the necessity for wartime women to work in a strip club was indeed completely unrealistic.

The contrast between the Genetics Lab and The Underground Civilization: I believe that the author was trying to make the point that there were aspects of the Overworld which were much crueler and barbaric as compared to the Viking Civilization. Using the example of a Genetics Lab just doesn't work for me. Many contend that Genetics Research has done many good things to improve society. Some couples who struggle for years to have a child of a chosen gender would welcome the opportunity to choose the sex of their offspring. It's true that argument could be made from the opposite perspective as well. (Who are we to meddle with the intent of God and nature?) However, the barbarism of kidnapping a woman and forcing her to become a part of your society to maintain the gender balance seems to be a more unfavorable alternative to me than the aforementioned controversial aspects of Genetics Research. It just doesn't work for me. If the author wished to convey a horrible enough contrast to the Viking Society, a type of institution such as the Nazi concentration camps would do nicely.

Conclusion: in general, although I interjected several notes of criticism, I enjoyed this novel. It held my interest. The "rough spots" that I've outlined may need a little bit of smoothing out. However, I found the storyline to be lively, entertaining and even touching at certain points. Over-all Grade: B-

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