KAIN (Sex, Drugs and Cyberpunk Book One) by Brie McGill
Publication Date: May 2013
Genre: Adult Romance, Dystopian, Cyberpunk
Beaten to a pulp, drugged into a daze, and brainwashed into oblivion, human experiment Lukian Valentin gambles his life to evade another eviscerating afternoon with his trigger-happy superiors. Fifty stories of a maximum-security building and hundreds of trained special operatives can’t hold a candle to his will to escape. Beyond the laser bars of his holding cell, Lukian must surmount the even greater challenges of repairing the fragments of his broken mind, forgiving himself for his unwilling involvement with the Empire, and learning what it means to live on his own.
The sassy and commanding Naoko Nai wonders just what to do with the soft-spoken, socially awkward, and totally ripped guy she was assigned to train for employment. She knows nothing else about him, other than the fact he was granted asylum, is great with a knife, and his little white apron gives her distinctly unprofessional thoughts.
When the Empire comes to collect, Naoko unwittingly provides the perfect bait to reel Lukian back to headquarters for a fresh series of brain implants and repair.
To save the woman he loves, Lukian must summon the deadly powers implanted in him by the Empire—powers he fears he can’t control, powers he struggled to forgive himself for using, powers that may drive Naoko away forever—because no ordinary man has struck a blow against the Empire and lived to tell the tale. To save Naoko, Lukian must emerge victorious from the battle against himself.
At the end of this book, McGill asks the reader:
“Did this book give you nosebleeds, whiplash, or fear of black helicopters circling above?”
How can I answer that? Let me give you a visual reaction to my reading experience:
Now, that I have that out of the way, I’ll elaborate on my reactions to the book. It was an intense, somewhat mind-boggling story interspersed with a bit of humor to lighten the mood, oh, and some pretty steamy love scenes for mature readers. I experienced such a range of emotions as I followed Kain or Lukian Valentin’s emotional and physical journey to freedom: anger, disgust, amusement, and hope. Lukian lives in a confined, ridiculously controlled, and sadistically abusive environment where he serves the warped“Glorious Empire Daitya.”
Lukian’s character has such depth that I could easily empathize with his misery and despair as he searches for a way to escape the suffocating and brutal life he is forced to endure. Lukian has been reduced to an object for experimentation by the Empire in their efforts to create a superior being, one who has transcended human limitations. So far, Kain is one of their best super soldiers, even though he isn’t fully cognizant of the ugly deeds he is commanded to carry out. His mind is scrambled, fragmented, dulled by the never-ending injection of drugs designed to stifle his personality, his individuality, and to ultimately try to turn him into a robotic, mindless being. However, Lukian will never become the “Kain” Commander Brigham wants to control; ironically, the Empire’s scientists have created a man who can use his super strength and abilities against them.
Only after I finished the book did I notice the last letters of Lukian have been transposed in Kain, which, for me, shows the contrast of Lukian’s true nature once he is freed from his perpetual drug-induced haze in Jambu. Lukian symbolizes the beauty and strength of the human spirit to endure and overcome. With that said, however, being in Lukian’s head was at times “mind blowing,” as if I were on an imaginary psychedelic trip right along with him as he fights to hold on to his crumbling sanity.
Another aspect of Lukian’s character that surprised me is the magnitude of his vulnerability. Although he has a magnificent physical stature, despite the scarring from brutal beatings, and is extremely dangerous, he doesn’t have the dominant “alpha” personality that is typical of other heroes often found in romances. Actually his personality is congruent with his upbringing since he has been cowed into submission for most of his life, and this actually makes his character more believable. McGill delves into Lukian’s character in her guest post below, which is both informative and enlightening.
The plot is engaging and suspenseful but teeming with explicit violence. The characters who befriend Lukien after he settles in Jambu are oddly amusing and provide a bit of comic relief to the otherwise serious tone of the novel. However, I did find the scene shifts to be too abrupt for my preference, and there are a few minor proofreading errors that caught my attention. Overall, though, McGill has written a creative, vivid, and thought-provoking novel that certainly kept my attention.
I received a copy of this book from the author to provide an honest review.
Doctors suspect Brie developed an overactive imagination during childhood to cope with the expansive corn maze known as rural Pennsylvania. Unable to afford an operation to have the stories surgically removed from her brain, she opted instead to write them down.
Brie currently lives in British Columbia with her boyfriend and naughty black cat, somewhere not too far from the sea. She enjoys trips to the local farm, chatting with her long-distance friends on a rotary phone, and roflstomping video games from the nineties.
Brie’s favorite storytellers include Anne Rice, George Orwell, and Hunter S. Thompson.
Kain: Hero Dissection: Not an Alpha, but Totally Hot!
Alpha males… they’re everywhere! They’re smoking hot, powerful, assertive–what woman doesn’t want a man to be all these things? They are a powerful archetype ubiquitous in the romance scene, and for good reason. But I don’t just love alphas–sometimes it’s great fun to go on a hunt and catch a handsome loner, or to figure out what it takes to make that shy guy scream (in delight!). When I wrote Kain, I wanted to take a step away from the traditional alpha formula, shake things up, and experiment with a different kind of sexy.
Alpha, beta, omega, these are all designations in the pecking order of male social hierarchy:
Women are naturally drawn to alphas: they’re at the top, always confident, always in charge. While alphas can have any chick they want, the downside to that position is that it includes a constant power struggle with other males to maintain, and some alphas may tend to look at women in terms of what they may get from them.
Beta males are wingmen; they are handsome, ‘nice guys,’ and will either try to challenge the alpha for his status, or will openly submit to him. Betas may get friendzoned if they lack the raw sex appeal of an alpha.
Gammas are indifferent to the social hierarchy, and may be loners, or have philosophical inclinations. They reject social convention and move to the beat of their own drum. They have dominant psychological tendencies like the alpha, but are not moved by social convention to compete.
Deltas are less self-assured than the aforementioned types of males, and feel most comfortable following trends, and hanging out with other deltas. They may place women on a pedestal.
Finally, omegas are at the bottom of the pecking order. They are submissive in social situations and reject convention. Their guise of non-conformity is tied to a deep insecurity about an inability to perform socially like the alpha.
I broke the alpha mold when writing Kain because I felt, for the story, making Lukian a pure alpha would have been boring, cut-and-dry, predictable. Inner contradiction makes characters interesting; it makes people interesting; it is also inherently seductive. Lukian’s physical power is also so strong that it required extreme tempering to maintain suspension of disbelief, because it borders the line of superhuman. Therefore, to create an interesting and balanced character, if he is going to be exceptionally strong physically, he has to hurt for something somewhere else.
Due to Lukian’s traumatic upbringing–his strength is the result of horrific government experimentation–a submissive psychology suited him better than a dominant one.
This makes him beta.
A wounded and sensitive soul, Lukian’s own pain makes him aware of the pain and fragility in everything else; he is hesitant, deferential, and considerate. His social mask is a shy guy, but the submissive flavor of psychology also makes him more apt to engage the “nice guy” behaviors that are typical of betas. (Nice guys don’t always finish last; many traits of the beta psychology are what make a partner that is a lifelong friend, sensitive to women.)
Part of Lukian’s deepest internal struggle–after he escapes, falls in love, and his woman is abducted in an attempt to lure him back–is the right application of force. Being on the receiving end of abuse for his entire life, Lukian is wary about using force at any cost. Yet, he’s trained to be one of the finest fighters the military ever created; to win at the end, Lukian has to make a decision about when and for what it is important to fight.
He’ll never boss a lady around, but there’s never a stronger man to have your back in the street at night. In the story of Kain, I much prefer Lukian tempered with the sweetness of a beta to a pushy, domineering alpha. The magic is in the subtle nuances of his personality.
One Print Copy and Five Digital Copies