This is the text of the review from episode 9 of the podcast. Some of it appeared in an earlier review, but this has been updated and expanded to include volume four in the series and to discuss other characters and themes.
The previous review has some spoilers behind hide tags, if you’re the curious type or have already read the first three books.
This episode’s book review is actually a review of four books—the first four volumes of Steven Sejic’s comic Sunstone. It’s not a typical ‘collection’ of comics in each volume, as they were never published in print format—the story was created on DeviantArt. It’s still there and still being created and you can read the entire thing for free.
I am prone to migraines and thought trying to read a comic this detailed on a computer screen would make my eyes eject themselves from my head, so I opted to purchase the physical copies.
That was a wise decision, as Sejic reworks the artwork and lettering for printing. The print version is much less cartoony and much smoother (though the online version is still impressive and beautiful).
Both have their merits, I happen to prefer the print version—you can look at the DeviantArt site (there are images from the books there, as well) and decide if the books are worth it for you.
The artwork is digital but some of it looks like oil painting. It’s incredible. My husband and I have special names for those who have far more talent and skill than we ever will. We call them ‘bastards’ and ‘these fucking people’. ‘Would you look at this bastard?’ ‘Man, it’s another one of these fucking people. I mean, why do I get out of bed?’
Sejic is one of these fucking people. But at least us peasants get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Okay. So, the premise.
Sunstone is about Allison and Lisa, two women who meet online in a BDSM chatroom and eventually decide to play together in person.
It’s going to be light! And fun! Just some sexy, sexy time! You know, where one gets all bondaged up and beaten a little bit and the other gets to be a big, scary dominant type.
I mean, how do you spend a Saturday night?
But then emotions get involved like the pain in the asses they are and everything just gets are blerg. But sexy blerg.
The story is written from some indeterminate point in the future and we learn from the start that Lisa has been given permission from everyone involved to tell their stories. They’ve also told their parts of the story to her solving the ‘how could she possibly know that’ question for certain parts.
Other characters involved in the books:
Allison is the Dominant one and there’s her best friend, Alan. He’s also a D-type. He now designs fetishwear and fetish gear for clients including performers at the local BDSM club, Crimson. Ally and Alan first explored their kinkier sides together at university and are just friends now, but have zero boundaries.
Alan has a vanilla business partner, Chris. He’s tolerant of the kinky stuff but he’s also a little creeped out.
Chris’s sister, Cassie and her husband, Tom, got into BDSM after meeting Alan. They’re just learning and it’s very much just a bedroom thing for them. Poor Cassie is no good with rope, which is hilarious.
Lisa’s colleague at her diner job has a minor role thus far, though I have a feeling she’ll feature more heavily in future.
Anne is Cassie’s long-time friend and she’s very vanilla to the point of being a little squicked out. As her friend has begun exploring her kinkier side Anne has tried to be supportive by doing research online. Which seems to me to be a fast way to learn there are some extremely perverted people in the world, but you do you, as the kids say.
Anne becomes more important in later volumes. She’s also involved with other character’s lives because she’s a gifted tattooer.
There are a lot of redheads in this. Therefore I was immediately a fan. It was about kinky lesbians. Fan and fan. The artwork is amazing—dude can paint a nipple, okay? And I’ve laughed out loud a few times, as well.
Each character has their own emotional life and motivation. Each has their own insecurities and shortcomings and strengths.
We learn various character’s kink backstories or just general life backstories as part of larger arcs unfold.
The fetish gear and apparatus is inventive and varied. I give Sejic credit for his imagination or kink image library. The main texture favored by the protagonists being latex.
All sorts of good things happening in these books, is what I’m saying.
There are some some problems, too, though.
Ally lives in a giant house (there’s an explanation for that) and has a ridiculously huge fetish wardrobe (there’s an explanation for that, too) as well as an inordinate number of toys and such (there’s an…well, you get the idea).
I know that we’re not supposed to look to fiction for how to be kinky, but there are lots of conversations about what BDSM is and is not. And a lot of it is wrong. I don’t mean this in a One True Way sort of thing, I mean people who think being Dominant or submissive is all roleplay. After chatting online for a couple months, the women have one kinky night where Ally puts this big ass leather collar on Lisa and says, ‘I’m your Domme now’ and Lisa decides to wear this out to work the next day. She refers to Ally as her Domme for the following four volumes but they only have kinky sex and there’s no discussion of anything I would define as D/s at all. She’s just topping you, honey. I mean, she’s topping the holy hell out of you, but, uh…
I thought these two were supposed to know things about the scene?
And the use of Dominatrix and Domme interchangeably was a thing that happened. And calling scenes ‘sessions’… I was being picky, wasn’t I?
Then there’s the safety issues. People, don’t use this book as a guide. Don’t use any fiction book as a guide for BDSM safety, but certainly not one where two people who’ve known one another two months and have been playing together three weeks decide to employ a gag and not use a drop signal or any other safe signal because it’s more intimate. Ally is supposed to be hyper-concerned about safety due to a spoilery thing—she’s not an edge-player, yet here we are.
Occasionally an observation would be quite perceptive and accurate but then other times information would be so wrong it was almost baffling.
And the drama. I will give Sejic credit. He got the dyke drama right. The lesbosapphicus dramaticus is spot on. These two bitches have been whining about how they never meant to feel anything for one another since the first book. Sometimes I think it would be good if all women were as dead inside as I am because then they wouldn’t have all these feelings that I have to read about. I was with them for awhile, but after a certain point it starts to wear thin. Just fucking say something. If you don’t I’ll kill you and make it look like a kink accident. You clearly don’t care that much about safety so it won’t be too difficult.
The books sometimes have bonus material at the end—extra drawings, the characters in fetish pin up style poses, etc. The first volume has a super extra bonus, which is a spoiler (thanks, Sejic!). If you read the comic as he puts it up on DeviantArt it wouldn’t be news to you, but if you’re learning the story for the first time by reading the print version you wouldn’t know what he put at the end of the first volume. In fact, what he revealed still hasn’t happened even after the fourth volume was released. What I’m saying is, don’t read the bonus materials of the first volume if you don’t already know the story if you get the book. Just look at the sexy pictures.
The bonus materials in volume two are spoiler-free and there are no extras in three or four.
Overall, I’d give the series 4/5. I sincerely hope the next collection gets these two into a communication class (they need to go to Power Exchange Summit). I do enjoy it, and the eye candy is worth the inaccuracies.