Counterpunch was not at all what I was expecting. Truthfully, I thought it was a BDSM novel; it’s not. There are probably some that would argue that point with, ‘But… but… there’s a St. Andrews Cross and a pillory and handcuffs!’ Uh huh. I’ll give you kinky fuckery and that’s my final offer. As much as I thought I’d be disappointed by that, I wasn’t. Mr. Voinov made me engaged in a book about a boxer. Who knew?
Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Initially Storm Moon Press, now reverted back to Mr. Voinov
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
From the Publisher
Brooklyn Marshall used to be a policeman in London, with a wife and a promising future ahead of him. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose father was a Member of Parliament and had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the overcrowded prison system, Brooklyn was sold into slavery rather than incarcerated. Now, he’s the “Mean Machine”, a boxer on the slave prizefighting circuit, pummelling other slaves for the entertainment of freemen and being rented out for the sexual service of his wealthier fans.
When Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn’s services for a night, it seems like any other assignation. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it “love”—such things do not exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to help get Brooklyn’s conviction overturned, he dares to hope. Then, an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he has worked so hard to achieve and sending him into the most important fight of all—the fight for freedom.
Brooklyn Marshall is a slave. No, no an actual slave not the kind I was thinking when I started Counterpunch. He’s committed a crime and rather than going to prison he’s enslaved. He’s also a champion boxer on the slave circuit and a rent boy. Mr. Voinov likens Brooklyn’s situation to that of a thoroughbred which I agree with for the most part, although I think thoroughbreds are treated better than Brooklyn. He has a ghost management team that “handles” him. When he’s not at an appointment he’s under the ever watchful eye of Curtis, a “bodyguard” with his perma-tonfa and/or his coach, Les.
“…I’m temperamentally unsuited to being a slave?”
Yes. Yes you are.
Brooklyn is a complex character; he’s taken some pretty serious blows and somehow found a way to survive. Honestly, if I saw him coming down the street, I’d likely cross it. His nickname isThe Mean Machine and he’s tough as nails. Seriously. I wouldn’t cross him. Had I not been privy to his inner musings I probably wouldn’t like him all that much either. However, Counterpunch is told entirely from Brooklyn’s perspective and, yes, he’s tough but he’s also vulnerable; he’s erected a façade to endure his slave status and the only place he can be free is in the ring-the only place where he’s not under someone else’s thumb.
“I’m a fighter. And when they hit me…” If it hurts, I find more strength. I get mad. I want to kill.”
This in depth characterization is what Mr. Voinov does best. He reminds me of a great character actor who immerses himself into the character until you don’t remember that he’s an actor. If you’re at all familiar with his work this should come as no surprise. The level of research he must’ve done to make Counterpunch authentic, I can’t even imagine. Everything from the lingo, training regimens, studying opponents, looking for weaknesses to how to fight, even what it’s like to actually be hit repeatedly and still get up at the sound of the bell is illustrated remarkably well-not that I’m an expert on boxing or anything.
Reading Counterpunch felt a lot like a boxing match actually. It took me to my knees in the late rounds. It’s not an easy read. Brooklyn has to endure some truly heinous abuse, most of which happens off the page but the impression is clear and it’s not pretty. Thankfully, the silver lining is Nathanial. Nathanial is, in my opinion, kind of obsessed with Brooklyn and a little bit relentless. He books him repeatedly and we find out later why. It was a bit of shock, I’ll say that. I’m still uncertain about the longevity of their relationship and Counterpunch leaves it on a bit vague. We’ll find out soon enough in the forthcoming Suckerpunch how they’ve fared.
My only quibble is the world wherein Counterpunch takes place. I spent about 75% of it thinking it was occurring sometime in the future until Brooklyn puts on a t-shirt that says something about 2012. So… we never got rid of slavery? When did we institute slavery as an alternative to prison? And I sure as hell hope we’ve cured things like HIV and herpes because there’s not a condom in sight! I’m not asking for extensive explanations but perhaps a prologue.
All told I really did enjoy Counterpunch as much as a book this gritty can be enjoyed. Though, to be fair, I am partial to Mr. Voinov’s writing style which is always intelligent. He has an uncanny ability to make his characters relatable, three dimensional and I enjoyed Brooklyn’s sense of humor quite a bit. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Counterpunch to everyone, but if you enjoy a read that will make you uncomfortable and maybe a little bit angry I think you’ll enjoy this.
Best LOL moment:
“Fuck, you move like a wraith.”
Well, I thought it was funny.
Where to Buy
At this juncture Mr. Voinov retains rights and is intending to re-release in due course.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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