Monday, December 5, 2011

Review of Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover: Book 1 of The Black Sun's Daughter

When I finished reading  Unclean Spirits, I found myself staring at the cursor on my computer screen, not sure about what to say about this series.  I certainly am not overwhelmed by the story, but the book sorts of leaves you with a blank feeling.  

It begins with Eric Alexander Heller, sitting in a dive bar attempting to hire a few low lives to do a job.  He seems to have a sort of special sight that allows him to determine if someone is really human or, nosferatu or loupine. Apparently, these creatures implant themselves in human bodies, and the owner of the body is forcibly removed or exterminated. Yep, a sort of new take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He agrees to go with the men to another location, but quickly realizes that they are not who they originally appeared to be, and ends up dead.

Eric's niece Jayne, pronounced zha-nay (a point of which we are reminded about ad nauseum) arrives in Denver to settle his estate. She is met at the airport by Aubrey, who is a friend of her uncle.  We learn that Eric was never close to her parents, but that he always took time to be there for Jayne.  Out of the blue, Jayne says to Aubrey, "I just want you to know, "it's okay with me that he was gay."  Aubrey is shocked and tells her that he did not know that, and Jayne rethinks her assumptions.  It seems that she believed that Eric was gay because he did not get along with her religiously conservative parents. For a major part of this story, almost every time Jayne brings up Eric it is to inform the listener that he is gay.  It's like being hit over the head with a battering ram at times.

When Jayne meets with Eric's lawyers she learns that he is rich, which of course surprised her again because he was gay.  Can't think of how to respond that you have inherited millions of dollars, claim a gay uncle. When Jayne decides to visit one of Eric's apartments in the city she meets, Midian, a vampire with a penchant for cooking.  He spends most of his time worrying about what kind of food he is going to serve Jayne, Aubre, Ex, and Chogyi Jake; all of which are associates of Eric.  While in the apartment, some riders break into the apartment and attempt to kill Jayne (yeah the name does not get less irritating, and someone should tell Hanover that it's not a French name)  She of course goes all ninja, though she has never thrown a punch in her life. 

Back at Eric's Jayne determines that she has to kill Coin, the entity responsible for killing Eric.  Keep in mind that as a team she only has Aubrey, Ex, Midian, Chogyi Jake, whom she has known for a few days. This is spunky agency at its finest.  She is surrounded by strangers and has no skills but hey, it's off to kill the bad guys.

But before she can go off to kill the bad guy, of course she has to find to go out on a date and have some sex.   Having found Aubrey attractive since meeting Jayne decides to ask him out on a date which ends with the two of them having sex, because worrying that you might die soon does that to people.  When she wakes in the middle of the night she ends up going through his things and discovers that Aubrey is married and so of course she feels betrayed.  And what do you do when you're betrayed and someone is trying to kill you, you disappear for hours, telling no one where you are.

Of course, her first attempt to kill Coin fails.  Gee let's figure out why that happened.  She has absolutely ZERO training is surrounded by strangers and still has some doubt that the riders exist.  Why focus on failure when you can expand your stupidity and go for plan number two.  Yes, full blown spunky agency in action my friends.  But before we can get to complete destruction it's time to call in Aubrey's wife.  Why not make a ridiculous situation even more uncomfortable.  Of course, she still loves Aubrey and decides to throw in with the lot of misfits however, she carries a terrible secret.  You'll never guess...After pages of referring to Eric as the gay uncle, we learn that he had an ongoing affair with Aubrey's wife, Kim. That's right, the gay uncle is not in fact gay. All of the references to Eric's sexuality in the earlier chapters were ridiculous, but this revelation makes them absolutely inane.  What was the point to setting up Eric as gay, hammering us over the head with the fact that he is gay, and then revealing near the climax, that he is indeed straight? There's a trope somewhere, I just know it.  This character reminded me of the oft referred to lesbian shark.

In the end, of course plan number two fails. but Jayne consoles herself with the belief that Coin's plan failed as well.  Being the big tough heroine that she is when Coin suggests an armistice of sorts based in the fact that he believes that she is very powerful, she declined because Coin killed her not gay uncle.  In a somewhat interesting fighting scene Jayne emerges victorious.  I have to say, I saw that coming though we still as yet do not have an explanation on how she suddenly became a martial arts guru.  I suppose M.L.N will come up with some sort of woo woo based explanation in the later books.

In the end, Jayne decides to continue her not gay uncle's work and thus hires Aubrey, Chogyi Jake and Ex as her back up.  Of course they want the job, because though Ex and Chogyi Jake worked for Eric, he paid them peanuts and they are impoverished. Sounds like Mr. Wonderful not gay uncle was like any other rich guy - pay the help as little as possible, while hoarding the real wealth for himself. So, not only does Jayne swoop in and beat the bad guy, which her not gay uncle Eric could not do, she raises people out of poverty.  I wonder if she is going to walk on water next.

This is one book that I was happy to see Black people being erased, after seeing the treatment of Eric. As you know, on this site, we normally try to encourage the inclusion of historically marginalized people, but when an author fails this badly with one group, you cannot help but be thankful when they choose to leave others out.  I will however say that I was amused that that Hanover chose to go with a White voodoo priest.  

The best thing that I can say about this book, is that it's short.  I am going to assume that the whole not gay uncle thing was thrown in for comedy, and declare it to be an absolute failure.  At this point, the best thing that I can say, is that if you borrow this book from the library, your library card may not forgive you.