Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Control by Nikki S. Jenkins

I've been following Nikki S. Jenkins for a while now over at The Feminization Station, so I jumped all over the chance to give her latest novella, Control, a read.

Make no mistake, this is some dark, taboo-breaking, uncomfortable stuff. It starts out innocently enough, with a young man who suddenly finds himself able to read the thoughts of others. Unfortunately, one of the first things he 'overhears' is that his girlfriend has been cheating on him. The shock of that revelation causes him to lose all control, and lands him in a coma. When he awakes a month later, he discovers that his new-found powers don't stop there, accidentally forcing his best friend to publicly come out of the closet.

Jenkins handles the transition to power exceptionally well, revealing the doubts, the fears, and the uncertainties that Adam must face. He really doesn't want to hear other people's thoughts, but he becomes addicted to the power. His experiments start out small, like forcing a young man to dress in women's lingerie, and forcing his girlfriend to streak naked through the mall, but it's all about practicing control. Once he's in control, he immediately starts going big, targeting the rich and the famous to benefit himself. There's a sinister undercurrent of morbidity to it all, but the danger is that the rewards are so attractive. Even when he begins using his powers to punish others, we may be horrified by how far he pushes them, but we can sympathize with his motivations.

By the time Adam takes his turn into darkness, selfishly using his powers to 'fix' people and exact his vengeance upon then, it's almost too take to regret every sympathizing. What Jenkins does so well here is make it clear that even Adam regrets what he's done. As far as he goes - and this goes to some incredibly perverse, inappropriate places - he feels genuine guilt. He justifies some of his actions with the knowledge that his subjects are happy, but even then he regrets taking things so far. Control is a wonderfully written story that examines the seductive nature of real power, the ethical concerns with becoming a godlike being, and the ultimate question of whether the end can ever justify the means.

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