A guest review by Jenre
A short, but exquisitely written, anthology of stories set in the world of Anchored: Belonging.
The hottest name in network news is Daniel Halstrom. He is a sensation, a rising star. He is also a slave, owned wholly and completely by NewWorld Media.
But before he was a star, he was a frightened child from a bad place with a promising, if limited, future ahead of him. In The New Kid, young Daniel begins his schooling. Then, for a slave, the simple pleasure of a Bathroom Break is sometimes the only pleasure to be had. Later, Daniel doesn’t know it, but A Chance Encounter might be the most important of his life. Next, in Camera Obscura, one of Daniel’s colleagues reflects on the fact that as much as the camera may show, it can hide even more. Finally, when you’re a slave, Independence Day is just another day.
This book is a short anthology of tiny stories set in the world of Anchored: Belonging which I reviewed here, and are all based around the past experiences of Daniel, the hero from that book. Some are written from his point of view and some from the point of view of other characters. They all give us a peek into the world where slavery is the norm, and takes in the views and behaviour of slaves and non-slaves. There’s even a short extract from Counterpunch which is a novel by Aleksandr Voinov set in the same world as Anchored. I now looking forward to reading the whole book when it’s published later this year.
It’s not exactly necessary to have read Anchored: Belonging before reading these stories. I have, and my experience of this anthology is therefore tempered a little by my knowledge of what is to come. The anthology ends with the prologue and first chapter of that next book which I’d read before but those who haven’t read Anchored: Belonging will find them a good taste of the next step for Daniel. For those people, these stories give a flavour of the world building which can only enhance the experience of reading Anchored: Belonging. For me, having read that previous book, the anthology provided some insight into the years prior to the story and gave more depth to the character of Daniel. It enhanced my reading of Anchored: Belonging as well as made me want to re-read that next book.
Each story is a masterful slice of life and I found myself drawn into the Anchored world once again. What really stood out for me was the way that each word is precisely placed to show us something of Daniel and his situation as a slave, as well as tell us something of the narrator of the story. So, for example, in the first story written from the viewpoint of a trainee companion slave, my heart broke a little over the matter of fact way the boy refers to his training but we could also see how shy, unsure and afraid Daniel is of his new situation at NewWorld Media through the other boy’s compassionate eyes. Later we are shown how Daniel’s training has created different masks for him to wear, as described by his handler. This theme continues through each of the 5 stories, gradually adding to my knowledge of this alternative reality that the author has created. Not only that but each story is packed with emotion, mostly a sense of injustice and sorrow for the slaves, but also a resignation of this is how life is and to take what you can from it. I found it very moving.
As well as supplementing my understanding of the setting, each of these stories has helped in my perception of Daniel as a character in Anchored: Belonging. One of my niggles about Anchored: Belonging was that Daniel is just so passive at all times, so helpless, and reading these stories helped me get why that is.
If I have any niggles it’s that I wanted more. More stories and stories of greater length than these vignettes, mainly because I was left with a small sense of dissatisfaction over how short the anthology is. I know that the author plans to write a sequel to Anchored: Belonging, so I shall have to be patient until then.
So to conclude. If you haven’t read Anchored: Belonging and want a taste of what that story will entail, then this would be the perfect place to start, as long as you are willing to read books with the sometimes disturbing theme of slavery. These are also not romance stories, although some are erotic in content. If you have read and liked Anchored: Belonging, then this is the perfect companion piece to that book. I enjoyed Where He Belongs a great deal and would recommend it.