Blook Review: Tales Of MU

Female Paper DemonThere are worlds you can get lost in, and there are worlds you just want to get out of. It is testament to Alexandra Erin‘s writing ability that Tales Of MU is set in the former: the characters may be flawed, unlovable and downright weird, but you can’t help but continue reading, no matter what she throws your way. Erin does a marvelous job of hooking and bringing you in, but it isn’t all a gentle ride: very often you’ll find yourself cursing the hook and trying to break the line. And failing.

Mack (our protagonist) is one tortured soul: she is weak, spineless, and uncomfortable with her ancestry. We are introduced to her on her first day of college, and Erin keeps you going with little revelations about the rich world she has created. You want to know more: why are humans repulsed by Mack? Why does everyone carry weapons? And – this is an interesting one, this – what exactly is Mack?

Mack’s character development is a sore point for me: she starts off as a person everyone can identify with, but I found myself despising her for her lack of strength as the blook progressed. She is stepped on, pushed around and manipulated by almost everyone, and Erin offers no respite in what seems to be a solely female cast. But by golly is it addictive: you root for Mack, cheer for Mack, and you pray fervently that she finally gets her day and stands strong against all those weird friends of hers. Erin has succeeded in creating a character with a strong emotional bond with the reader, and that is one of the best things MU has got going for it.

That it is addictive hardly hides the themes MU explores: the story handles racism well, making use of the varied species (humans being uncomfortable with orgres? Priceless!) as a parallel to real world problems. The college divides humans from non-humans, and the segregation is subtle – early on in the blook Amaranth says a remarkable line: “Intolerance doesn’t go away because you legislate against it, it just becomes more sophisticated.”

The character of Amaranth brings us to the second strong theme in the blook: sexuality.

Sex is where MU differs from most fantasies. Throughout the blook Mack questions her sexual disposition – she is surrounded by lesbians, bisexuals and nymphs, and they influence the way she thinks about love and relationships. This quickly becomes a major focus of the story: MU dedicates whole chunks of chapters to explicit gay sex, and the relationships between Mack and her (mostly female) lovers. I didn’t enjoy any of this – these chunks of sex read like interruptions to the more interesting world Erin had developed behind … and the S&M relationship Mack develops with Amaranth, while brave, hardly makes for comfortable bedtime reading.

Erin states early on that one of her main goals as an author is ‘to challenge the idea that sex can only be included at the expense of–or instead of–a story.’ I have to say that she has failed – at least in my case. I found myself speeding through the erotica, waiting for more development in aspects like the civil rights Mack is fighting for, Two’s growth as a person, and various other non-sex related subplots Erin had skillfully woven into MU.

I was at Book 3 and it was midnight when I finally stopped reading.

Tales of MU isn’t for everyone, certainly. It is brave storytelling in an untested medium, and Erin doesn’t hold back in the situations Mack and her friends find themselves in. The characters are complex and believable (even if the sex isn’t), the story nothing short of brilliant, the prose fluid. Will I continue reading it? Hell yes, I will.

Just … minus the sex bits.

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Category: Reviews