Review: Hidden Boundaries by C.S. McClellan

With its homosexual relationships and dominant slavery theme, this powerful well-written novel seems a challenging read for those of us who are in the mainstream. Yet George Orwell’s 1984 hardly slots into the norm and we have no trouble reading about Winston Smith’s brutal torments at the hands of the virtual slave-state known as Big Brother. Most Goodreads members who have read Hidden Boundaries classify the novel as M/M (male on male) Romance, but that trivializes a work that may best be described as homosexual literature. The question remains as to whether we really need to make a literary sub-category based on sexual orientation.

Hidden Boundaries - cover

If you relish a thought-provoking read that will open your eyes to aspects of life you may not be familiar with, Hidden Boundaries is highly recommended.

The novel is set in an alternate universe, which technically makes the book science fiction, but it reads like SF only in the Orwellian sense. The author would have been wiser to choose, like Orwell, a near-future milieu. As it stands, the Earth-like setting plays such a minor role in the novel that it is essentially irrelevant. What matters is that one despised nation among all the others allows slavery.

Some people become slaves in much the same way as debtors once landed in prison in Victorian England. Fail to pay and you forfeit your freedom. Others are sold into slavery by those who have the right to make that decision, much like the African chiefs who once sold unpopular or unwanted tribe members to passing Arab slavers. Illegal and controversial raids on neighbouring countries garner a few more. The novel explores the fate of Cor, one such captured slave. His name is actually much longer, but slaves may not have impressive sounding identifiers.

As someone entitled to a normal life in his own land, Cor bitterly resents his status as a slave. He resists. The highly ritualized system requires that, like Winston Smith in 1984, he be made more compliant. A large portion of the novel deals with Cor’s prolonged and painful indoctrination process, which does resemble the horrors of 1984. Cor has no way to escape, so in some way, he must come to terms with his situation. How he does this is quite startling, yet makes perfect sense within the logic of his hopeless position. His owner is not especially keen on slavery, but an hereditary estate and his role as an elected official require him to take part in the unsavoury system. The complex relationship between Cor and his master makes up the other major aspect of the novel.

McClellan’s approach to the searing moral issues implicit in slavery is both insightful and horrific. Cor’s absolute vulnerability to exploitation of every kind, including the sexual, is appalling and illustrated with some brutal emotionally wrenching scenes. Yet this is not a novel of sadomasochism, nor is it homosexual erotica. We are looking at issues faced today by anyone victimized by human trafficking. Here lies some of the novel’s relevance as a literary work. It manages to illuminate the old historical evils of plantation slavery in the American South (and elsewhere in the New World) and the new evils of human trafficking in the present day. At the same time, it explores the kinds of intricate caring relationships that can emerge even under such inauspicious circumstances.

If you relish a thought-provoking read that will open your eyes to aspects of life you may not be familiar with, Hidden Boundaries is highly recommended.

You will find Hidden Boundaries and other works by C. S. McClellan at Amazon and other eBook outlets.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

6 thoughts on “Review: Hidden Boundaries by C.S. McClellan”

  1. What a surprise! Thank you so much. I wasn’t expecting anything more than the Goodreads review, so this pretty much makes my day. I particularly appreciate the insights, since most reviews emphasize the readers’ emotional responses. Not that they shouldn’t have any emotional response, but I hoped the book would take people further.

  2. This sounds like a highly interesting novel, Thomas. I think I’m going to add it to my ‘to-read’ list. Thanks for these occasional reviews!

  3. *Hidden Boundaries* took me into new territory so the review needed a lot of hammering out. (Moreover, I am not an experienced reviewer.) I do think it gives some idea of what the novel has to offer. Let me add that I admire writers who have the courage to tackle controversial moral issues and challenge their readers by presenting fresh perspectives.

  4. I’d consider it an excellent review even if it wasn’t my book. It’s the kind of analysis I hope for when I’m trying to decide whether a book is worth reading.

    As for controversial moral issues and fresh perspectives — I have a lot more of them coming, believe me.

  5. Be careful what you are thankful for, Mari. Your novel, *The Quickening*, is up next! LOL It was a very enjoyable read, by the way. Moody atmospheric stories have been among my favourites since I first learned to read.

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: