Larry Kahn

Amazing New Review Exposes My Dilemma

King of Paine picked up some fantastic reviews during my December blog tour, but a new review on the blog Miraculous! touched me not only because the reviewer gushed about the book and the writing, but also because she captured the inherent difficulty of describing what King of Paine  is “about.” This is how Stephanie begins her review, in which she rated the book nine hearts out of ten, labeling it “one of my all-time favorites!”:

Can I first just say that the blurb of this book, as well as the cover, really, don’t do it justice? The blurb makes it sound like a fantasy novel, and the cover, something incredibly sex-targeted. While sex is one of the main themes of this story, it’s not what you’re thinking, it’s not just another piece of erotica. The “fantasy” aspect isn’t so over-the-top, either. In fact, it’s very scientific, very legal, in a way that I never expected just from the cover. Even with the sensitive issues of BDSM and euthanasia, I think King of Paine makes for brilliant, overall completely satisfying suspense science fiction — one that enters mainstream, and one that ought to be way better recognized.

I can’t complain about my marketing staff because it’s all me. A good friend (Michael Mollick, a professional graphics artist) designed the cover, which I approved and think is brilliant (one reviewer raved over it), but Stephanie’s review goes to a dilemma I’ve wrestled with for months. King of Paine is a complex, intricately-plotted novel that has two strong themes that don’t necessarily appeal to the same audience. One story line delves into the psychology of BDSM (bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadism/masochism) and the experimental selves we often hide from the world. The other main plot, which ultimately ties into the first, explores end-of-life issues, such as assisted suicide, moral accountability of the terminally ill, and our society’s treatment of the elderly. Reviewers rave that I’ve woven the two stories together well, often using superlatives that would make me look like a pompous jackass if I authored them myself, but they express pleasant surprise about the depth of the story because that cover screams “sex!”

I have stuck with the erotic imagery on the cover because (1) it’s hot, (2) I can’t think of a better way to capture the essence of the central themes, and (3) if I go with a stereotypical FBI-themed cover, I’ll attract many readers who will be uncomfortable with the story’s sexuality. I’m not looking to trick anybody into reading a book they won’t enjoy. But some reviewers love the book so much they feel compelled to reach out to readers who might turn away from a great story because of the cover’s erotic image. Stephanie did it in a way that has me walking on air:

Trust me, even though the topics are a little racy, the story is more than just twisted fiction. I seriously think King of Paine is the most canny and intelligent suspense piece I’ve ever read. Kahn’s literary style is, I cannot stress enough, very impressive, and his organization and consistency of thought (which are the essential elements of a good whodunnit) amazes me…What I think I’m keenest on, is how this book covers so many branches of interest. Not just the sex, but also the federal suspense, the science of youth, the medical world, the secrets. Accolades to Kahn for his ability to somehow weave all of this together.

My approach to marketing King of Paine to general audiences has been to cite clips from reviews like this in the book description. It’s impossible for me to capture the complexity of this novel in the short summary most readers have the patience to scan. And even though Stephanie gushed for almost 1,000 words, she ultimately still didn’t think it was enough:

I really don’t think my review does this book justice either. It’s just THAT good. Sorry if my thoughts are a bit messy, but if my review isn’t clear enough, you must go check this one out. At times, some of the scientific facts and law-related data become dull, but overcoming them heightens the adrenaline of its plot, trust me. This book will become your newest obsession as well as your biggest nightmare. Yes, I [expletive deleted] dreamed about it. What the hell. It is a medical suspense and legal thriller and contemporary literary sex propaganda all rolled into one. It is [expletive deleted] fantastic, not only for its stunning depth and complexity, but for its all-encompassing message that love, even when all hope is lost, shall prevail, but only if you really try, and only if you are willing to sacrifice all you have now and all you worked for in the past, to make it work out.

What do you think about King of Paine’s cover and book description?