Product Review: Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body

Straight after reading Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body I sat down with my friend and watched the stunning movie experience that is Your Name.

Was that entirely fair on Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body? Not too sure but, if I’m honest, the moment you put in a gender swap plot I am basically going to jump on consuming that media content anyway.

Besides, I was actually struck by just how similar the two pieces of media were. Both involved a male/female body swap, both took the time to explore the interpersonal relationship clashes that might occur, and both had an intense rush against time culminating in a gripping climax.

As for the differences? Read on to find out.

Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body

Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body is an 18 chapter-long story documenting the strange occurrence when a high stakes businessman named Alan swaps bodies with a high-class sex worker named Hana. Along the way Alan, who had previously respected women and assumed that all men (although perhaps a bit crass at times) shared a similar regard, suddenly starts to realize that life as a woman (especially a sexually objectified one) isn’t quite as equal to that of his own as he might hope.

Imagine the potential in a story like this.

At the same time Hana, Alan’s body swap counterpart, gets to discover what it’s like being a man of a good physique, in a position of authority, with all the general perks that one might encounter…just as long as she can avoid getting herself stuck in her trouser’s zip.

The story starts very promptly and I didn’t expect this at first. The author, William Quincy Belle establishes the bare bones and then lets us discover more of Alan (who is our point of view for the book) and Hana as they unite, try to figure out what has happened, and how to fix it.

I didn’t really know what to think of this at first. Much like Alan himself, I found it rather jarring to go from him settling down in bed on page one to suddenly waking up with a man’s penis in his mouth on page two.

Mind you, that is, when you think about it, an excellent way to project you in the character’s confused state almost straight away.

Still, I pondered how I felt about this for a long time, then I watched Your Name and found that it took a very similar approach, which also got me thinking and, after much deliberation, I feel like I appreciate this approach. Not only does it bring you in to an equally confused and exploratory (almost Sherlock Holmes) mindset as the characters, but it also means that you learn about them and see them grow as time goes on. That’s the ideal outcome at least.

And, given Hana’s profession, and Alan’s initially low outlook on sex workers and initially hopeful outlook on men and women’s experiences in the Western world, we get to confront some interesting issues along the way.

William is great when it comes to his descriptive scenes.

As it happens (and as most sex workers can attest to), Hana is very well educated and even has a strong academic background in psychology, with a specific focus on sex and relationships. This means that, for every pre-conceived notion about sex workers, men’s attitudes to women, and one’s freedom to explore sex openly and honestly, that Alan holds Hana is there with a counter.

As a result this book addresses quite a few socially relevant questions, including (but not limited to):

The unfair vilification of sex work.

The exchange of services for pleasure in all fields but sex.

The commodification of women in society.

The hierarchy that conventional patriarchal systems impose on men and women.

Body dysphoria and the importance of feeling like your gender and sex match.

Homosexuality, sexual identity, and the blurring of lines that might come in to play (Alan is, as he puts it, ‘a flaming heterosexual’ and very assured in that position).

Polyamory, monogamy, and the pressures society puts on social pairing.

Marriage without communication.

Relationships with or without communication, trust, and a desire for your partner to be happy in all pursuits.

Body image and the way society addresses men and women comparatively.

And, on principle, I agree wholeheartedly with each topic that comes up. Alan, in most of these instances, is the one asking questions, challenging Hana for her way of life and trying (politely all the way) to listen and learn. Meanwhile, as Hana is educated and very world-wise, she is able to give eloquent and extensive answers.

The only problem being she will often give very similar arguments, repeat points that have been addressed at least twice before, and generally focuses on sex and relationships for the entire book.

This was something I appreciated at first, and I found Hana’s confidence and carpe diem approach to life incredibly likeable but then she spoke about sex and relationships again…and then again…and then again. It got to the point where even Alan was jesting about how she lectured over the topic, how she was saying the same things, and how he had come to expect it from her. Heck, even she knows and acknowledges it. But pointing out a tedious trend in dialogue does not excuse it and hearing the same discussion loop did get tiring at times.

And this is why, ultimately, I was relieved Alan was the lead.

Here’s the thing about good stories: They need character progression. A character needs to start a certain way, have established strengths and weaknesses, and eventually confront things in life and overcome the challenges of their situation to grow come the end. Humans crave development and we love watching characters go through an arc.

Alan does this. He has a few diverse quirks. He learns, he grows, he keeps his strengths, and builds upon his weaknesses. Hana really does not. And this is a crying shame, because I’m sure that she is a complex individual. By her own admittance she’s well traveled, has overcome the adversity society puts upon her in the past, and has plans for the future. But she gets over her fear of the initial swap very swiftly and, from there on in, she is basically just a mouthpiece for non mainstream views of sex and relationships and not much more.

Nothing beats having a physical copy of the book.

The way Hana approaches sex, respect, and relationships is amazing, and I enjoy seeing how she goes about it, but most of the interesting parts of a sex swap: The physical sensations of sex, the way we can enjoy different clothing, the bodily and hormonal changes, and the dynamics when two swapped bodies come together, are disproportionately addressed compared to the long running dialogues between Alan an Hana. This is a damned shame because William is very good at describing these swap topics, and I feel like we learn a lot (if not more) from these interactions.

It’s not exactly a case of ‘show don’t tell’ but it’s similar: These interactions just feel more natural. I learn alongside Alan and Hana when they experience these clashes rather that basically being spoken to in length by Hana through her exchange with Alan.

 That, I would say, is the biggest flaw with this book, but I still really enjoy Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body and do think it’s worth a read.

For body swap fans, the body swapping is there and it is very well executed. William is astute in recognising the subtle and overt gender differences people might face, and how suddenly being in the opposite sex’s body might feel. Alan and Hana are likeable and the body swap is plausible in the narrative (playing in to its finale). Come the end there are a few twists and I was ultimately satisfied with the ending.

Plus, let me just say, this book is wonderful if purchased as a physical copy, rather than just digital. The pages are neither to thin nor thick, the cover is flexible and glossy, and the sizing is just right to really get intimate with this book. There are no massively explicit or in-depth sex scenes, as you might expect but that wasn’t the point of William’s story.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body is a tale about gender perspectives, relationships, and our outlook of sex, sex workers, and a woman’s place in the world comparative to men and their believed understanding of the lived experiences of women.

If these topics interest you at all then there is pleasure to be found in this book. This is especially true if you find yourself engaged in debates about the topics listed above and want strong counters because, trust me, Hana’s got your back in this regard.

Recommend to:

People who like gender/sex/relationship politics.

People who like body swaps.

People who like dialogue-driven narratives.

Do Not Recommend to:

People who prefer mostly experiential stories.

People who want to see a more varied body swap (in terms of hobbies/topics/etc).

People who were looking for smut (this book is, like Alan, mostly respectful in a reserved way).

Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body was provided by William Quincy Belle in exchange for an honest review.