jducoeur: (Default)
[personal profile] jducoeur

Okay, let's get the awkward part out of the way. Sunstone (a 5-volume graphic novel from Image) starts out with, "This is a love story about two BDSM-loving girls".

No, it's not porn.

Well, mostly not. Bear with me.

Our narrator is Lisa, a struggling writer (and novice sub), who works as a barista by day and writes BDSM porn online by night. Her primary series of stories is "Lisbeth", something of a MarySue featuring the title character and Allison, who is based on...

... Ally, a successful game programmer (and moderately experienced domme), who has been Lisa's online penpal for some time now.

The story opens when Lisa finally gets up the nerve to ask to meet Ally in person, and they get together to play out their fantasies a bit. They hit it off really well, and the book follows their evolution from play partners, to best friends, to roommates, to...

... well, that's the hard part. Sunstone isn't porn; it is very much a romance novel, about the difficulty of admitting to your best friend that you've fallen in love with her. It head-on tackles the not-unusual problem of modern society that sex is easy, but romance can be much, much harder.

Now, normally I'm not a huge fan of romance novels -- I've hit a few too many stories that depended on someone being outrageously dumb, or some Terrible External Force Keeping Our Protagonists Apart, or something like that; stuff that I can't really relate to all that well, and which has made me a little cynical about the form.

Sunstone has basically none of that: our heroines are smart and witty, there are basically no antagonists (indeed, pretty much everyone in the story is quite likeable), and nothing horrible happens. Rather, both Lisa and Ally are real, well-rounded people -- but both are smart enough to be horribly prone to over-thinking things, a little bit proud, and insecure enough to be lousy at communicating about the stuff that really matters. In short, they remind me an awful lot of me and many of my friends.

It is pure character study, and most of the content of the five volumes is simply people talking. I credit the author, Stjepan Sejic, for managing to pull that off well enough that I intentionally read the story quite slowly, a few pages a day, just to savor it. (At the end, he confesses how terrifying it all was. He seriously contemplated putting an alien invasion into the middle, just so it would be more in his comfort zone. Fortunately, he thought better of it.)

Now, I should explain that "mostly not" above. While Sunstone is a pure romance novel in structure and style (and quite a sweet one at that), it is a novel about two people who get together over their shared interest -- and their shared interest is BDSM. So bondage is a constant element of the story, and if you get off on beautiful women in leather and vinyl, you'll find plenty of lovely artwork here. There's a moderate amount of nudity, and there is occasional partial porn -- you'll sometimes find yourself three pages into a scene, and just around the time you start going, "Wait, this is getting kind of porn-y", it snaps back to reality as you realize that it has digressed into Lisa's latest story, which she is using to process what's going on in real life. And at times it gets a wee tad didactic about Safe Bondage. Suffice it to say, it's not porn, but it's not SFW either.

There isn't much "will they or won't they" tension to it -- the entire story is told in retrospect, from a viewpoint about five years later, and it's pretty clear that they will wind up together eventually. This is all about the road to getting there: the initial nervousness about meeting, the passion at the start, the settling down to deep and abiding affection, the stumbles, mistakes and fights (including what amounts to some hard-learned lessons about poly), and eventually figuring it out.

It's a delightful journey, and I regret getting to the end -- I've been using it as my end-of-the-day reading, because it pretty much always leaves me feeling good, as few comics do.

Highly recommended, especially if you like romance stories. Not quite High Art, but excellent enough that it's going onto The Shelf, at least for the moment. The story reaches a clear end with Volume 5, although Sejic is by now having enough fun that he is moving on (as often happens in romance universes) to spin-off novels about Lisa and Ally's friends. Check it out...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-03 05:11 pm (UTC)
alexxkay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexxkay
I second the recommendation.

I used to think I didn't like romance, but I realized differently about a decade ago (mostly via Lois McMaster Bujold). Romance, like most genres (and mediums) is subject to Sturgeon's Law, but I definitely enjoy the good stuff. (I still don't tend to *seek out* romance without otjer modifiers, but that has more to do with limited time, and a super-abundance of reading matter.)

I recently stumbled across a manga named "My Love Story!!!" which I enjoyed the heck out of. Interesting, adorable characters, almost never any antagonists, the major obstacles being shyness and insecurity. I found it a great antidote to the news.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-03 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] serakit
Well, now I *have* to go look this up. And volumes one and two are requestable through the Commonwealth Catalog. I am shocked; while libraries can sometimes get away with erotica books, graphic novel erotica is *really hard* to avoid the accusations of "porn!" about.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-04 01:21 am (UTC)
alexxkay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexxkay
Well, if it were a film, I expect it would easily get an R rating, or would need only minimal changes.

In this decade, anyone who was using Sunstone as wank material must not have access to the internet.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-04 12:54 pm (UTC)
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
From: [personal profile] dsrtao
Waltham has Alan Moore's _Lost Girls_; you can even check it out.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-04 06:01 pm (UTC)
alexxkay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexxkay
That IS impressive!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-05 12:06 am (UTC)
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
From: [personal profile] dsrtao
Weighs 20 lbs, too. Not a thing I was going to spend $150 to read, and not (IMHO) worth rereading.


jducoeur: (Default)

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