This was a review that turned into a rant.
I’m a big fan of Urban Fantasy and what not. Always have been, even before it was defined as such. Movies like The Howling, tv shows like The Night Stalker- all that good stuff before we started getting drowned in the shit. Which is why reviews like this latest one I wrote pain me so much.
Affliction by Laurell Hamilton, the new release of the long-running Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, dropped last week, and dropped is very apropos of this doorstop.
Right from the start this thing went off the rails. The buildup was that a mysterious new incurable affliction had emerged- something being called the Zombie Disease because it was transmitted from zombie bites and rotted a person from the inside out while they were still alive. At least that’s what we were told until this promo trailer on YouTube surfaced.
Note the classic bait-n-switch. Now it’s no longer a unknown disease, it’s Lover of Death, a Master Rotting Vampire once presumed dead back on the loose. Except he was never believed to be dead before. The last appearance he’d made in the series was a couple books back in Bullet, killing seventy people in some distant, mystery land called Europe. So after months of buildup about a new type of affliction (get it?) it’s all a misdirection. But… shouldn’t that have been for the reader to discover between the pages? Why the clumsy, last minute attempt to jolt the audience?
Because this shit sucks like a five dollar crack ho needing a fix.
This book goes wrong so many ways all at once, I’m not even gonna list them here; check my Amazon review for the details. I honestly don’t know what the purpose of this story is, other than the usual Anita-iz-wunnerful/wimmins-iz- jellus-of her/Anita’s-the-tuffest-guy/Anita’s-da-zexxiest-gurl… Somewhere in this mess the father of Micah- one of her lovers- is supposed to be a dying from the zombie disease that ain’t, prompting her involvement. Other than gaining a couple more Sonic the Hedgehog powerups, the only advancement in the story is a romantic one; everything really important is info-dumped during casual conversation- like Jean-Claude becoming the Head of the American Vampire Council. Something that would’ve made a good story is merely handwaved away, I suspect because Hamilton is incapable of writing it.
Even beyond the usual spates of misogyny (from Anita herself), bad dialogue, implausible scenarios (even for a fantasy novel), the single worst passage in the book was when Hamilton has Anita describing someone she and the readers are meeting for the first time. From Affliction, Pg 429: “Seamus was tall, dark, and handsome, and very African, which made his name jarring. Someone who looked like he should’ve been hunting lions with a spear shouldn’t have been named the Irish equivalent of James.”
What are you supposed to say in 2013 reading something like that? Why the fuck would anyone even write it? And when asked about it on Reddit just last night, Hamilton deadpanned that the vampires who control their weres give them their names. Except there was never any mention of this before, nor any example of it in any book in the series. A bullshit excuse in plain sight.
I can understand if it were to show characterization; if so, Hamilton did a helluva job showing her audience what a cracker her personal avatar Anita Blake is, and by extension, herself. Years ago when asked why she didn’t have any black vampires in her novels she claimed she couldn’t figure out how to reflect the pallor of death with darker skin. In 22 books Anita has yet to encounter any vampire or therianthrope leader darker than an Aztec or an Asian, which are viewed as exotic and mythic. And sexy- not like blacks and hispanics in her world. None of her lovers or anyone part of her inner circle are, either. Vivian, the black Irish wereleopard (sic) is described in Bullet with “a complexion like coffee with enough cream to make it almost white.” Mind you, leopards, lions, panthers and hyenas all come from Africa, yet all of the people she frequently associates- and sleeps with- who happen to be those types of lycanthropes are white. Same with tigers; no Asians or Middle-Easterners in the mix- all white guys. Rafael, a Latino who’s King of Wererats, and one of the longest running characters in the series, has never gotten a sniff, either. Not that I’m really complaining; I’m happy the tribes have been spared from falling into Anita’s Crack of Doom- it’s just the point of how a character that screws anything paranormal at the drop of a hat still can’t add some flavor to the mix. Even if it’s just for coffee with lots of cream.