All the Time in the World

My taste in reading material is wide and varied: SF/fantasy/"speculative fiction", mysteries (police procedurals, mostly), history, fanfic, straight fiction, smutty vampire books, biographies, poetry, cereal boxes, assembly instructions, the fine print, and your mind.

Narcissus in Chains

Narcissus in Chains - Laurell K. Hamilton One of the things I initially liked about the character of Anita Blake was that she had a moral compass, and her job as an animator (the kind that raises the dead, not the kind that draws Bambi), her consulting position with the cops, and her burgeoning skills as a necromancer all kept putting her in positions where she had to evaluate her behavior and decide if she was still one of the "good guys." Not that I'm saying I'm the kind of person who carries multiple guns, hangs out with vampires and/or shapeshifters, or has power over the dead, but I empathized with her conflicts. She did things she later regretted, yet knew she would have done exactly the same thing in the same circumstances, even knowing that she'd be torn up about it later. Most of the time if you asked her to justify her position on an issue, the only thing she could come up with it "it's the right thing to do." I can understand that. I'm bad at parsing the philosophical underpinnings of my decisions, but I know "right" when I feel it.

As the series continued, Ms. Hamilton started to lose me with what I call "Ayla syndrome": as in Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series, where the main character is credited with increasing numbers of skills and discoveries (Ayla discovers fire. Ayla invents sewing. Ayla tames horses), Anita is given new abilities at virtually every juncture. Up to a point, it makes sense: Anita puts herself into situations or asserts authority without perceiving the consequences of her actions, and only by virtue of dumb luck, strong skills with firearms, and her metaphysical abilities (and later training) she manages to avoid getting killed and most of the time saves the people she cares about, with the result that she usually wins the respect of former enemies (or kills them!) But as we went along and new skills and/or complications continued to pop up and get integrated into her world, it began to beggar the imagination that one person could encompass all of it. The only explanation I could come up with was either that these people Anita's supposed to love have lied and/or kept major important facts from her (which in past would have been cause for her to terminate the relationship - one way or another), or that Ms. Hamilton couldn't figure out how to keep things fresh without adding on new complications.

The other thing that started out believable and degenerated to "completely unacceptable" (in my opinion) was Anita's sex life. Now, I like a good sex scene as much as anyone else, but the sexier Anita became, the more uncomfortable I grew. At the beginning, Anita was holding out for marriage, because that's the way she was raised and how she felt about sex. She acknowledged her attraction to certain men, but she was not into casual screwing around. With two extremely hot men wooing her, she didn't even sleep with one of them until the 6th book. The woman had standards. In NiC, tho', she gets overcome by the "ardeur", AKA, the lust-monkey power of her vampire lover, Jean-Paul, which compels her to fuck pretty much anyone. "Oh, geez, honey, I know I used to be a good Catholic girl, but now that I have your love buttons on me I just can't say no to a nekkid man." It's very disappointing, especially since the book just previous to NiC, Obsidian Butterfly, was very good, almost a noir treatment, and I thought Hamilton had made a real leap in her writing. Maybe that was it. Or maybe Hamilton divorced her old husband and started fucking some young stud* and felt she had to write about her quality orgasms. Of course, she also started another series around the time NiC was published, and it's almost pure soft porn, so it's not like she didn't have an outlet for all the sexual energy she was putting out there.

* Wholly speculative. Please, Ms. Hamilton, don't sue me.

So I will say this: Hamilton's Anita Blake books are fun, the writing from the first (Guilty Pleasures) up to Obsidian Butterfly improved markedly, but don't bother with NiC (or Cerulean Sins, which is where I gave up entirely on the series), 'cause you'll be disappointed. So saith me.