Background: As mentioned earlier, I'm an aspiring fantasy/sf author, who's managed to avoid (either accidentally or on purpose) many Great, or at least Popular, works of fantasy and sci-fi. So I'm making up for lost time, and posting recaps and reactions on this blog. I've already started on Wheel of Time, in the epic fantasy genre. For balance, in the contemporary/urban fantasy genre, I'm going with the famous-slash-infamous Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.What I know:
- Anita Blake paved the way for stuff like the (excellent) show True Blood (and of course, the book series off which it is based).
- Oh, and sex. Lots of sex. From what I hear, eventually Hamilton writes sex with the eagerness that Jordan writes descriptions. Which makes it a bit appropriate for this blog.
- To sum up: This comic. (Alt link.)
So, without further adieu, let's get to the first book in the Anita Blake series: Guilty Pleasures
First off, the cover is ridiculous. But I know very well that's not the author's fault - authors don't get too much say in the covers they get.
Setting: Vampires and other supernatural beasties integrated into human society. Cue politics. And romance! But not yet, apparently. Anita Blake, professional zombie animator (!) doesn't like vampires; despite apparently being a vampire expert. So naturally a vampire has come to badger her for help. Anita snarks at Sleazy Vampire and kicks him out. Aaaaand the chapter is over
, which throws me off for a second. I'm not used to books being short anymore.
Okay, so hang on a second. She's a professional zombie animator
? That sounds pretty interesting. Why did I never hear about that angle before? She tells us she's off to raise someone from the dead to clarify an issue with his will. I'm interested.
Anita is pointlessly coy about whether she is or isn't human. Sleazy Vampire says she isn't, because she can see him move at super speed (I guess; it might just be an illusion) and jump out of the way; Anita has not a solitary thought on this
. Why? Is she or isn't she?
This chapter isn't... amazing, but it's not bad either, and it has some pretty great lines. Sleazy Vampire wears Crayola green pants. "Surely vampires should have rich, melodious laughs." The opening lines - "Willie McCoy had been a jerk before he died. His being dead didn't change that." - are a good hook.Chapter 2
This chapter is even shorter, at a whopping 2.5 pages in mass market paper back. Anita lets herself get roped into
an upcoming plot contrivance
being the designated driver for a bachelorette party. It seems a little out of place, because I don't get the feeling that the author wants
us to think that Anita is a wimpy pushover. It's odder how Anita switches from "I really really don't want to do this" to "eh, I guess it might be okay" in under two pages, with no reasons proffered in between. I guess Anita felt the Pull of the Plot.Chapter 3
Anita and the Posse of Bachelorette make a surprise visit to the only vampire strip club In The World, because Anita's friends are total assholes who enjoy tormenting her. Or maybe Anita just never got around to telling them one of her central defining traits so far? Either way, Anita continues to be Pushover McPassive by going anyway instead of, um, bailing
like you'd think someone who's terrified of vampires
would. (I could understand if she had some motivation like being concerned about her friends, but we're never told anything like this.)
The club is called Guilty Pleasures, and it's run by a smarmy stereotype of "master vampire" Jean-Claude. He looks "like a vampire was supposed to look". Basically, a refugee from Anne Rice. Jean-Claude really really wants to "mesmerize" Anita with his Eyes of Supernatural Hypnosis, and Anita keeps resisting (which makes her, apparently, unique among humans). So... great, he's a would-be rapist? We get more Anita being terrified of vampires, standing up to vampires anyway, and the reader getting hints about something supernatural about her related
to vampires. Hints that go insistently without clarification.
Also, Anita gives up her cross, and we learn obliquely that she's a devout Christian. Um. This doesn't really fit with the S&M orgies I hear come later in the books - or maybe I'm wrong to automatically assume "fundamentalist/conservative" when I hear Christian.
On her giving up her cross: This kind of reads like her going into a club full of would-be rapists, who especially
want to rape her because she's hard to get, and she hands over her pepper spray
. ...What?! If you think that's a stretch because the metaphor doesn't quite match up, let me point out that Anita, at this point in the story, kinda does view vampires on that level. Why doesn't she just leave
More hot strip club action, showcasing a striptease by a hot guy covered in vampire bite marks, and everyone in the club gets briefly hypnotized as part of a vampiric show. Except for Anita, whose Vague Supernatural Powers of Whatever (we still
aren't told anything) protect her. Jean-Claude almost hypnotizes her anyway before she FINALLY bails. But not without more of his smarm!
Another thing I don't buy: The hot bitten guy is fed on by a vampire, and he enjoys it. Anita acts stunned - STUNNED! - about this - it's not that she's horrified, but genuinely astonished that such a thing could happen. Why? Do they not have Dracula or Anne Rice in this universe? Even if not, if the trope still holds true, how did she miss it if she's such an Expert on Vampires? (The Rest of) My Impressions So Far
So far, Guilty Pleasures reads more like something I'd want to write than Eye of the World; it's not necessarily superior so much as it focuses more on character than
setting, meaning it automatically appeals to me more. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Anita has some relatively good characterization, though minor characters could use some work: Jean-Claude is a cliche (intentionally so), and while Sleazy Vampire Willie from the first chapter directly deconstructs a vampire cliche, he's still just a different kind of cliche in a vampire suit. Anita being interesting is all I need to keep reading, though. For now.
Next time: Chapter 5 and beyond!