Succubus Is Awful, Which Is Probably Not Controversial

Time for the table of contents and tl;dr review on Succubus.

Part 1: Pet Imp
Part 2: Drawbacks of Team Spooky
Part 3: Boringly Sexy
Part 4: Kill Ten Boars
Part 5: Abandon Hope
Part 6: Hypocrisy
Part 7: Cringe
Part 8: Abuse
Part 9: Revolting

Succubus started out as an unremarkable book sustained primarily by its pace and reasonably plausible setup that soon decayed into mediocrity punctuated by really awful hack writing. Its dialogue, action, and pacing are at times unremarkable and at other places noticeably poor, but at least not in a way that would kill the book on its own, provided the book was actually good at something.

It is a cruel irony, then, that Succubus’ most notable failing is when it adheres constantly and loudly to the morality that not failing is sufficient to make something good, the Nice Guy insistence that a lack of bad qualities is a noticeably good quality. Closely related is how, in a vain effort to make this work, the protagonist Ian’s opponents are the most evil thing the author can think of, and not being very creative, the most evil thing the author can think of is mainly real world evil things artlessly translated into the story’s setting. Rather than having the protagonist engage in actual heroism of any kind, the author creates villains who are transparent, often explicit references to corrupt televangelists and antebellum plantation slavers, not because he has anything at all interesting to say about either, but because pitting his protagonist against these particularly evil people will hopefully make Ian’s totally banal selfish asshattery seem heroic by comparison.

But Ian’s not a good person. He’s wholly selfish from beginning to end. Early on he learns that bandits are kidnapping children and selling them to orcs as slaves. After pounding his chest at how outraged he is by this, he saves the one family under immediate threat and then forgets all about it, making no effort to track down the bandits’ informant within the town until it happens to come up as part of his quest to have sex with a succubus, and never doing anything about the orcs who are actually buying the child slaves, and are thus the actual root of the problem. Even assuming the bandits are totally defeated after losing their informant, it’s only a matter of time before someone else finds a way to supply the orcs with the child slaves they’re after, maybe from that village, maybe from another. The orcs buying the slaves are the real problem here. Ian never even thinks about doing anything about them.

The confused morality only gets worse at the end, when Ian is allegedly growing as a person, but his “revelation” is that he shouldn’t be forcing his summoned minions to do things against their will…so it’s a good thing he stopped doing that about 15-20% of the way through the book. Ian has been pursuing his summoned succubus’ agenda pretty much from the moment she asked him to. It is her will that directs Ian’s actions, not the other way around. Ian stopped overtly coercing his summoned imp Stig before he’d even summoned his succubus, and if Stig is being dragged along on the succubus’ vengeance quest against his will, the narrative never makes this clear. As a result, at the end when Ian is moaning about how awful he is for enslaving his summons, it’s completely unclear if there’s any validity to this alleged moment of character growth, and certainly the inclusion of the succubus among his supposed list of victims is inaccurate. Ian never once made her do anything against her will, except sort of to summon her at all – which is something he did without checking (and while unable to check) if it was against her will, and which turned out to line up with her agenda just fine anyway. There wasn’t a scene where she asked him to free her and he refused out of fear she’d leave, so there’s no sign that Ian has grown at all. I generally assume people are opposed to slavery by default, but Succubus springs “I realize now that keeping slaves is bad” on us without ever even establishing that Ian was willing to do that. We didn’t know he could remove the summoning collars until he was already doing so.

Ian’s actual fault throughout the book is that everything he does is done in the hopes of wearing down the succubus’ resistance to having sex with him, and while he makes a vague claim about having learned that the true meaning of love is doing what’s best for the person you love, not just using them because you enjoy their company, this is immediately followed by his getting sex anyway. The scene cannot be a rejection of Ian’s Nice Guy mindset because the vague implication that it’s wrong to help someone purely to try and wear down their resistance to sex is completely overshadowed by the strong affirmation of Nice Guy morals that once Ian has decided that slavery is wrong (which is apparently something he didn’t already believe?), he is rewarded with sex.

Ian and the succubus kind of deserve each other, though, because she’s just as bad. The narrative is much more willing to hit close to the succubus’ real failings than it is for Ian’s, but it still allows those failings to be swept away instantly and painlessly when the climax rolls around and it’s time for them to bone. The succubus is constantly abusive, using Ian’s (creepy, monomaniacal) attraction to her to persuade him into doing what she wants without ever actually promising anything in return, and also to torment and manipulate him for fun. Not in a kinky way (indeed, what brief references this book makes to BDSM suggest that it thinks of BDSM as inherently abusive, which is particularly idiotic coming from a book which has as one of its major themes “your abusive girlfriend will change for you if you just love her enough”), but in terms of doing real harm and causing real distress to Ian. Ian protests that he dislikes the mind games – calling them by that term specifically – and yet within a few pages he’s back to being manipulated by guilt and lust into giving his succubus oral sex in exchange for nothing. Something which his succubus was just barely complaining was unfair, which is apparently only true when she’s on the bottom.

When the succubus does finally admit to having behaved poorly (although she phrases this as “like a bitch” rather than “pretty much exactly like the people who abused me, to the extent that it was within my power to do so”), it follows no change in behavior whatsoever. She finally gets Ian off, sure, but she already knows from the oral sex earlier that she’s going to enjoy it just as much, and she leaves before he wakes up, leaving behind only a note explaining that she’s going to go and finish her vengeance quest on her own because she’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. Which wouldn’t even be a terrible note to end on, except 1) she should have said so in person and 2) she should not have had sex with Ian. Sex and guilt are what she used to keep Ian under her thumb. If she were really turning over a new leaf, she’d be giving up on that arsenal, not making full use of it. By finally having sex with him, all she’s done is guarantee that if she ever decides she does need a favor for him, he will obey.

And wouldn’t you know it, the book ends with a sequel tease in which she asks for his help.

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