The Silver Metal Lover is what I’d describe as stealth D/s. Tanith Lee was one of those writers that spoke to me when I didn’t quite have the vocabulary to describe what I wanted in a relationship. Her lyrical, often purple prose can border on hysterical at times, with everything having an impossible loveliness and an emotional weight of a ton of bricks. That was perfect fodder for a teenage girl weaned on fantasy and sci-fi, the kind who wants to have adventures and see beautiful things.
I got so wrapped up in this book I wept. I admit it can be sentimental and overwrought to the ponit of silly, but it’s one of my favourites.
And it’s a literal owner/property relationship story about an android programmed to be perfect for his owner, and a sixteen year old rich girl, Jane. Like many of her ilk, she needs to find herself and her sense of self worth, but this incarnation of the trope is relatively well done, with just the right note of cynical self awareness to tie it together.
When we meet our heroine she’s a trembly mess living in her mother’s shadow, on a future earth where technological progress has put much of the human race out of work and left everything poisonous. Jane’s got abominable idle rich friend, and lives in a cloud castle trying to do what she’s supposed to do according to her mother’s careful plans that even change the physical shape of her body, and wanting none of it.
But, seeing Silver, for the first time in her life she wants something. Initially repulsed and unable to explain where she’s terrified by the man machine that looks like a metal troubadour, in short order she conspires to acquire Silver and run away from home.
Silver is incapable of being anything other than perfect, an amazing lover, an artist, but also naturally pleasing in whatever capacity he’s needed. He is about as inherently submissive as you can get in that regard, not embodying the doormat ideal, but the compliance and service aspect. his makes a good foil for Jane’s development- because he is compelled to be perfect for her, they embark on just the sort of relationship Jane needs to develop as the best possible person she can be, before they have to face the challenge of Silver’s existence as an artificial being.
I do think it did an interesting version of the standard plot of self-discovery-via-love. While waiting for a man to change your life is not necessarily the most healthy approach to life, the relationship depicted is an interesting use of the trope because Silver is not written like Aladdin-with-carpet showing her the world, but rather that the need to make a nest with Silver creates a place for her to do some developing and changing- and he manages to do something a lot of F/m fiction doesn’t seem to, which is make the need for each other feel mutual. and that’s part of the romance- although Silver gives everyone what they need, Jane finds a way to reach him as a person. The story, by presenting her with a perfect submissive, drives Jane to make the changes she needs to make in herself.
That’s actually something I don’t see much of- male doms can need to be “tamed”, but by and large the only taming that seems to happen to fictional female doms is death or dis-empowerment. Case in point, what keeps happening to Irene Adler.
I think the one criticism I might make is that initially it’s hard to spend long periods of time with Jane as a person because she’s so fragile and sad, but I think it’s part of what makes it a better example of dominant love- doms are not, for the most part, captains of industry or nobility. They have sad days and worry about things. This is very much a candi-floss book for the emotional. On the other hand it’s also what I’d describe of as the Twilight for the anti-Twilight but overly romantic girl.
So expect a heroine who waxes lyrical about how amazing her love is, expect that she will be derpy and feel alienated from her friends, but for once be relieved that the romance demands she learn to rule herself and her love and the ending cares about her being self actualized as a person.
Category: Sci-fi YA novel
Rating: o~o~o~o~o (5/5)
How I got it: Library
TL;DR: D/s without the fetish or the sadism, sweet and appropriate for a sensitive reader who doesn’t want to be submissive while they’re overcome with love.