Ok, so lets continue with questionable content. And I don’t mean one excellent webcomic, although the time probably will come for a webcomic post. Questionable Content… over 3000 episodes, 12 years of history, great start, likeable characters and some of the typical problems of a successful webcomic… but I’ll save my observations for later. I can certainly recommend this one, I like it a lot and I even have a t-shirt to prove it 😉
Actually, I might do the webcomic post next week… but now I’ll move to today’s topic.
Guilty Pleasures, volume one in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. I’ve mentioned that series a few times before. It usually went something like “and it was early-Hamilton good, not late-Hamilton cringeworthy”. And I meant it. Guilty Pleasures is a novel I’ve read with great pleasure, hardly any guilt, really, and I immediately ordered the next one. And the next, and the next. Somewhere around novel no 5 I started feeling less and less comfortable, when I realized it went from urban fantasy to paranormal romance to paranormal porn. But lets start with a short review of the first, and best, of these books:
Or not, yet another digression first. I quite like the covers of the first couple of books, not only Guilty Pleasures. Nice to look at, and something you can read in a public transportation vehicle:
I’m pretty sure these are the only covers like that in my collection, and if I hadn’t ordered a couple of volumes in one Amazon package, I’d stop reading the series earlier. I’m that shallow 😉 Although I think the rest of the series is by now available in the nicer version. To late for me…
Anita Blake is a zombie animator (it’s in her blood) and vampire hunter (that required lots of training). Small, pale, black haired. Smart, snarky, rather religious. In a world, where vampires walk around and crosses work as protection – good choice. Catholic Church’s intolerance towards necromancy (kind of understandable, I doubt even pope Francis would look kindly at such practices…) drove her towards episcopalism. Religion is a potentially controversial topic and I like it when authors don’t shy away from exploring consequences changes they bring to our world have on this field. One of the reasons why Dogma is among my favourite comedies 😉
So it starts, as these novels often do, whether action takes place in ancient Rome or on the Moon five hundred years from now, in an office of a private investigator (almost, actually a zombie animator and vampire hunter that usually subcontracts investigating, but often does the job herself). We have a mystery, vampires, fights, betrayals, enemies turned friends and vice versa, and zombie-rising rituals. Fast action, good humour, interesting world. Some romance, including one that will later dominate the series – when “monster she’s sworn to kill becomes the man she can’t live without”. But mostly it’s good stuff. Urban fantasy in its best, I had much more fun than with Butcher’s first. Shall I go into details? We all know how it goes, more or less, and details – why spoil them? If you like urban fantasy, it’s safe to assume you’ll enjoy this one. And probably a few of the rest.
Anita as a gun-toting vampire hunter and zombie-rising necromancer is badass. Her banter is smart and funny. Smart, strong heroine of a type that genre literature needs. The world she lives in is interesting and detailed. I like how the supernatural is integrated into the mundane. Anita has a degree in preternatural biology and works for an official zombie-rising company! Both police and FBI have special units to deal with the spooky stuff, units that have way more resources (and respect) than poor Murphy in Dresden’s Chicago.
Other characters are aplenty, my favourite is Edward, a mysterious, ruthless vampire executioner, who comes when he’s most needed to get Anita out of trouble (by killing whatever needs killing).
All in all – an urban fantasy like many, better than most. I won’t go into details about other instalments, but for a few volumes everything continues very much in a way genre readers are used to. Anita deals with main problem of the book, in the process learning a little more about the world she lives in and progressing a few major storylines.
But there are signs. In retrospect, visible from the beginning. Increasing amount of romance is something I found annoying, but some readers – appealing. Increasing amount of sex – for me, unnecessary, and later, more and more disturbing. When stuff you usually only find on more disreputable porn websites became norm. So I stopped. But it got worse, I’ve read. Because vampire hunting and necromancy were what Anita used in the beginning, before she unlocked her final power – the power of sex. Like, sex as a form of magic. In many different forms and combinations. Described in detail. Wikipedia has list of Anita 14 spouses. A lot? And if I tell you, that casual lovers were left out, and with this fourteen… lets just say that it’s not serial monogamy.
It’s not about double standards. I’ve never been a fan of Gor novels, either. What we have here is poor writing, disturbing, graphic descriptions of often non-consensual sex and a general waste of reader’s time. Shades of Grey of genre lit?
Even if you like porn, go somewhere else.
I’ve read somewhere, that after volume 20 it gets better again… well, I’m not going to check it, I’ve had enough. I was angry, I felt betrayed by the author. Anita Blake changed, from one of my favourite urban fantasy characters, to one of my worst disappointments. I wasn’t alone in this. One of my favourite fan fics is a HP/Anita Blake crossover 🙂 In Nuhuh’s “The Stalking Blood Sack”, when Anita gets out of control, it takes Harry Potter to bring her down. And so he does, in style. Highly recommended.
Score: Guilty Pleasures: 7,5/10 a few next instalments: 6-7 Rest: close to, and then below, 0