That ubiquitous arbiter of internet fact, Wikipedia, describes metafiction as “a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work’s status as an artifact”. M. Pierce’s Night Owl doesn’t necessarily read like a metafictitious work – until you are introduced to the fact that Matt, one of the main characters in the story, writes hugely successful novels as one M. Pierce… Ooh. Cheeky. An intriguing premise, and the story itself is just as intriguing and original within this genre; Matt, as ‘Night.Owl’ is engaged in an anonymous writing partnership with a woman known as ‘Little.Bird’, conducting their back-and-forth narrative over the web. But things swiftly take a non-literary turn when their chat turns flirtatious – and then downright sexual.
The relative anonymity of the internet allows Matt to almost convince himself that what they’re doing is harmless, despite the fact he has a girlfriend who’s off travelling. But as he seeks, compulsively, to draw his and ‘Little.Bird’s worlds together, things get heated to say the least. Matt has an obsession with privacy – indeed, with anonymity – that is reflected in his mysterious, JD Salinger-esque reclusiveness despite his literary success. But it becomes a conflict when he meets ‘Little.Bird’ – aka Hannah.
Hannah is a voluptuous, confident woman in her early twenties, who’s just shot of a useless boyfriend and moving grudgingly back home to her family until she can get her life together. The narrative of Night Owl alternates between Matt and Hannah’s point of view, and both characters are compelling and well-drawn, somewhat ironically never feeling staged or forced despite the tease that ‘M. Pierce’ has written what we are reading.
The chemistry between Matt and Hannah is equally compelling, sexy and with just the right amount of tension. But I still long for a deeper exploration of why women in erotic fiction or romantic/erotic fiction are so often described as enjoying humiliation in a sexual context, given the feminist complexities it throws up. In Night Owl, at least the fact of this irony – that an otherwise forthright, non-submissive woman enjoys being essentially dominated and borderline-humiliated sexually – is acknowledged by Hannah, if not fully explored as an issue, and she recognises it as part of their dynamic. And, to be fair, the sexy scenes are pretty sexy…
But in many other respects, Night Owl does not stick slavishly to convention. As Matt’s deceptions begin to tangle with his and Hannah’s increasing feelings for one another, “the writer” handles Matt’s descent – and apparent relapse – into mental instability very well, and Hannah’s devastation and hesitant attempts to help are also very well handled. We’re left with an intriguing tease as the story ends, one that throws up all sorts of questions about where this planned trilogy is going next. I’m not often compelled to read on in a series, but M. Pierce has managed to pique my interest, that’s for certain. Well worth a read!
Cringe Factor 1.5/5
Is it Hot in Here? 4/5
For the Love of Feminism! 2.5/5
Overall Tasty Goodness 4/5