I auspiciously read Hidden Boundaries at a time in my life when I was able to assimilate and appreciate the complex and intertwined layers of meaning found in this troubling tale of slavery and societal hive mind. The slavery parallels between this fictional story and the history of societal development within the human species proved to be personally sobering and enlightening.
The story describes the transformation of a free man into a slave over a period of say, 5 years. I'm unsure of the exact time it took, because the breaking down of a human mind and spirit is a gradual process, and marking an exact time to do that is impossible. The story also chronicles an evolving relationship between a specific "Master" and a specific "Slave."
I exclusively sympathized with the Slave(s). McClellan presented the Slave as a likeable character with a proud and (seemingly) independent past. The transformation into complete slavehood was painful and disturbing to read. In contrast, I did not sympathize with the Master. Maybe other readers would sympathize, but I did not. He came across as naive and unworldly, counter to his position as a supposedly learned, astute politician in his country. I realize his naivety and brainwashing was largely attributable to his being a product of his environment, but I am a stickler, and I hold people- and characters- to an impossibly high standard. I do not excuse observers and participants in abuse and slave-making just because they have been steeped in the norms of their societies.
Hidden Boundaries is a novel that will continue to peck at me for years to come. I will absolutely be reading the sequel Crossing Boundaries, and other slave novels from McClellan.
Slavery is a real modern-day pandemic, and McClellan's treatment and explanation of slavery in fictional form is transformatively valuable in understanding the non-fictional human condition of ignorance- willful and indoctrinated- and the evolutionary phenomenon of "dominator" and "dominated." Five stars for this highly believable and REAL fantasy novel.