For those without a passing understanding of the BDSM world, the idea of slavery, especially sexual slavery, is repellant. It is a fascinating relationship dynamic, built on trust, communication, but most of all consent. Taking a page from Indecent Proposal, this novel asks the questions: Would you consent to be a slave for millions of dollars? Do you have a price? I.M. Tellings The Slave Factory ponders these questions and delves into the motivations of those who choose to serve, those who train, and those who seek to be Masters.
The sordid, blood-soaked history of slavery, of forced subjugation, is well-documented. What is discussed in this book is a far-cry from the abomination of forced slavery. To willingly give of one’s body is an act of submission, an agreement between consenting adults that serves as one of the closest relationships found in the BDSM community. Telling introduces his audience to Per il piacere del Maestro, an international organization that connects wealthy people with those who have a willingness to serve for a price. The name of the group roughly translates to “For the Master’s pleasure”.
It’s an interesting concept for a story and a departure from what is typically depicted in the genre. Most mainstream stories that explore this idea use it as a backdrop for coerced sexual slavery. Telling avoids this well-used trope, instead allowing the audience to follow a training class from start to finish. Each of the trainee’s brings a unique character to the story. The characters are endearing and all of them have a difference perspective and reason for agreeing to join the organization. There are times where the characters are not fully three-dimensional but those instances are not overwhelming. I found myself caring for these characters by the end of the journey. I feel the narrative structure may have been tighter if only one or two characters would have been the focus but that is only a minor gripe on my part.
The central conceit of The Company, as its referred to by the trainers and staff of The Academy, does sometimes stretch the boundaries of believability but it is little more than a secret society, of which there are plenty believed to exist in the world. Repeatedly throughout the novel allusions are made by the staff characters and the omniscient narrator to some of shadier aspects of The Company. It’s reasonable to expect that an organization engaged in global prostitution would have some blood on their hands. Several of the clients and upper echelon members of The Company are revealed toward the end of the novel. Most of the clients are shown in a decent light but there is only so much humanity that can be shown. The clients, particularly Mr. Green, have an air of (sometimes) extreme detachment that one would imagine as common to sadists and masters of their social and economic stature. Mr. Green, in particular, is a standard sadist who earned wealth but not the respectability that often follows. Anyone in the BDSM community would recognize the Mr. Green archetype as the one person you warn new members of the community about.
Since this is an erotica novel, I should mention the sex. There’s a healthy amount of sexual activity in the book and more than a little fetish play. Activities such as orgasm denial, impact and stinging play, needle play, etc. are written with exquisite detail. Telling manages to capture the inherent eroticism of such activities without delving into hyperbole. This novel would be a good introduction to BDSM concepts and scenes for someone with an interest in them who has never had much exposure.
There are a few inconsistencies in the book, however. Several times there are misspellings and grammar errors that can trip up the reading, but these are not overly disconcerting or found too frequently. The choice of omniscient narrator does give Telling the ability to use exposition but there are times where it’s a bit heavy-handed, particularly when discussing the background of The Company and the futures of some of the lead characters. There were a few scenes I would like to have read involving a pair of unlikely couplings at the end of the novel but I chalk that up to writer’s prerogative. The ending is emotionally satisfying but expected. I feel a less optimistic ending might have been more appropriate but I can see why Telling decided on the ending presented. The idea of one of the characters ending up in a dire circumstance might have been too much to use as an ending.
The Slave Factory explores a world where servitude, class, secrets, and money coalesce into a dark sensuality. The question of cost is raised frequently by author through the characters. It isn’t just the cost of the servitude in terms of dollars that is examined but also the emotional cost of agreeing to become someone’s slave. The Master/Slave relationship is a challenging dynamic to tackle, even for people within the BDSM lifestyle. Telling’s novel scratches the surface of this dynamic, providing an intriguing glimpse with a spectacular setting. As a novel, I enjoyed the work and highly recommend it. As an entry into fetish erotica, it’s a fine addition and begs to be explored further, discovering more about the dark recesses of human sexuality.