Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Bullet by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 19 of the Anita Blake series

Yes. I read it. I know I know, reading Anita Blake at this point redefines flogging a dead horse. But I feel compelled to finish this hot mess – and it's like a trainwreck, you just have to keep watching. So here I am, suffering through book 19 of the series. Book 19! Ye gods, who would have thought it would last this long

On the actual plot (let's cover it quickly since it's a relatively minor element). And there's some sorta there, carefully sandwiched between the drama, angst and random ongoing side issues.

It would appear the Mother of all Darkness is not dead. Though her body got all exploded, her spirit live son, possessing... the vampire council! And with this power Mother Dark can rule the world (dramatic laugh) and do deadly dark, evil things, using the power – political and metaphysical – of these mighty vampires to feed on death and destruction and raise up to new and greater powers until the earth is swallowed under a tide of badness.

Jean-Claude, Anita & the ever expanding posse will oppose this – by setting up a new Council and becoming a new pre-eminent power and part of this involves binding more power to them – especially the tigers – all the colours. The red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and... no, wait, that's Sing a Rainbow. Anyway, Anita & JC must bind to themselves to be the new Master of Tigers and Lord of the Day. Since (if you've been keeping up from the last book, or the one before. I forget, they all involved humping) Mother Darkness' arch-nemesis had these powers before Anita killed him after performing a sex show for him (yeah, I know, I know).

So, anyway. JC & Anita (and the posse) need to gather their power and their multi-coloured day-glo tigers (gotta catch 'em all!) and become the overlord of all Masters in the US to protect everyone from Mother Darkness.

That plot summation could probably have been done with little more attention. Probably. Sad thing is? The plot idea I liked. I was intrigued and the idea of again being forced to gather power to protect themselves and again facing a danger so epic and completely terrifying in scope as this was presented. And it was presented as that – it was literally a “oh shit” moment when you realised what the antagonist was. But it's so damn hard to be engaged in this series now with all the endless sex and utterly pointless angst that get in the damn way. I think the actual plot made up about 20% of the book, if that.

LKH also has a major issue with far too many damn characters now. And she just keeps adding more, I'm sure it's nice to “humanise” the bodyguards by giving them names and personalities (how else can Anita be appropriately angst ridden when they die!) but it was almost like a dating site, this is Godfredo, here's a quirk about him, here's his race over-described in “just in case you missed it” fashion. Next, here's Dino blah blah. There are so many characters now that I just don't know who is who and where they came from - Crispin? He was a tiger right? Sebastien... was he a tiger, or a merman, or a vampire? And whose this? A lion? A hyena? Am I supposed to recognise him? Is he important? It's becoming a blur. There's just these guys around Anita and I need a flow chart to keep up with them

And more, characters just DISAPPEAR because there's so many people now that we just lose them – Requiem, London, any of the British vamps? Not present in the book, and you'd think they would be. But worse is because they all have their own little angst bundles, we get odd cameos of not!plot from each of them – like before we had Requiem's constant grief that Anita didn't loooove him and now we have the worry that Valentina is going to go on a serial killer rampage. Just inserted for a paragraph or 2, in case the main plot was boring you. Sure it's nice for side-characters to have their own lives but... I really really do not care that Stephen and Vivian are having issues over whether to have a baby. Jason's issues with monogamy? Do not care. There's too much going on

And speaking of distractions, in this book we had Werelion drama, with more characters introduced and a couple of deaths that Anita went on to angst about for the better part of the book (including a long and detailed description of her cleansing work out session which, again, introduced a whole bevy of new people) and Asher drama, which I will get to (oh boy). It's almost a relief to have Richard seem to drop all his issues. Yes yes, Richard is actually being something other than a perpetual headache. Except it's a bit of a 180... apparently due to some amazingly good therapy. Does your therapist have a magic wand Richard? Oh we also start with some utterly dull and pointless beginning angst with Monica's son (remember her? I barely did) an an extremely long dance recital. One of the body guard groaned about it possibly lasting 4 hours. Well, I don't know if it lasted 4 hours, but it sure felt like reading it did (seriously, this is the first 8% of the book. I'm amazed I got through it). In fact, there is not even a whisper of plot until 27% in – the rest is angst, drama and sex.
Which brings us to the eternal and main distraction in this damn book. The sex. Because all of that 'hey we need to get powerful enough to fight mother Darkness!' stuff? Is going to be achieved through perpetual shagging. Again.

Binding the special tigers? Done with sex. Taming the other tigers? Sex. Forcing the Mother of All Darkness not to attack and kill them? Sex. Thwarting Morte d'Amour council member trying to spread slaughter? I'm actually vaguely annoyed that one of the main victories against Mother Darkness was done in the EPILOGUE as a passing reference. What, was sex not involved so it didn't merit a description?

I recall a snarky Dharma & Greg episode where Greg's rich mother asked for a chequebook announcing “I have a problem, I'm going to throw money at it until it goes away.” Well Anita has the X-rated version - she has a problem – Anita will now fuck people until it goes away. Behold, sex has solved the problem. Hurray. In fact, I'm beginning to think even LKH realises how ridiculous this has become with this DIRECT QUOTE from Anita “so I fuck everyone into their next power level like some pornographic computer game?” Oh how I laughed – I mean it's almost exactly what the plot of Anita Blake has devolved to – in fact, it's the entire plot of Meredith Gentry from start to finish.

Does Anita even remember she's a Necromancer any more? She seems to have forgotten.

In fact shall we have a competition now to see how can get the most innuendos out of the axiom “when all you have is a hammer, all problems begin to look like a nail”? (And I already call “all men look like someone to nail”).

One thing LKH has done in this book is ramp up the fetishism or gay and bi men to all new levels. Anita dips her toe in the pool of female lovers ish (but in a very Belle Mortey, 'the magic made me do it and I'm touching a man anyway' style') but the main is lots and lots of mansexing. Oh gods yes. There is a particularly special moment when Asher is all sad (again) because Jean Claude won't have sex with him and Asher, JC, Nathaniel and Micah all have long discussions about the various amounts of mansex they have, which Anita finds so hot even as, being such a good girl, she is so embarrassed. But Anita points out she's fine with Jean-Claude and Asher having sex, in fact she loves the idea and finds it soooo hot. So it's all ok then. Yes, the man-man sex is ok because the straight woman likes to watch.

In fact Asher throughout this book has been one huge headache. He starts it being moody and bad tempered. As always. We are then very very very careful to note that while so many of her men are bisexual, only Asher prefers men to women, everyone else has a much stronger preference for women. And Asher is moody and sulky and pouty and childish. And, despite his power, he couldn't be a master of a city because he's just TOO EMOTIONAL (well beats her actual gay vampires who are all weak and child-like). He repeatedly forces sexual advances on guys who aren't interested, then strops and announces that he is going to leave the city with his werehyenas because no-one loves him! WAAAAAAAAAH! But it's ok – because Jean-Claude has sex with him and that's it, Asher is happy happy happy. So remember, if your bi-gay is being too dramatic, give him a good dicking and he'll settle down and be a good boy. Ugh, excuse me while I take a walk.

Ok, back and less inclined to break things. On the plus side, Anita has finally met some strong women in this book who don't hate her *gasp* I know! Anita has zero female friends and beyond Claudia, virtually no women around her. The ones we do see either hate or are jealous of Anita (Monica, Elizabeth, Ronnie) or are weak and childlike and need her protection (Vivian). Here we have some potentially strong female characters at last – though Anita is careful to note how much curvier she is than them (does she get a star or bonus points for that? Hey another strong woman – don't worry she has bigger breasts so is better!)

Ok, with that I'm done, I've tried to be fair but this series hasn't so much jumped the shark as vaulted the killer whale.

Now I have to go read Hit List. Gods preserve me