Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bookworming: Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures, Laurel K. Hamilton, ***
About four years before Buffy started its TV run, another vampire slayer was on the scene. Anita Blake lives in a world where vampires and other supernatural creatures are public knowledge, raises the dead for her day (night) job, and hunts vampires with and for the police on the side. Add in a noir-ish mystery, some splatter horror, and overly sexualized undertones and you have a great basis for a wonderfully fun, exploitation style series. Things didn't really turn out that way in the long run, so I'm going to do this in two parts.

First, the book on its own. Guilty Pleasures makes for a reasonable first novel with the sorts of flaws you would expect from one. The writing is repetitive in places. The main character's reputation relies a little too much on pre-established reputation. (Characters expressing surprise that Anita is The Executioner begins to sound like the "Snake Pliskin, I thought you were dead." line from Escape From New York.) The main villains have the particularly slippery horror combination of way too much power for the protagonist to reasonably be able to deal with and enough arrogance and stupidity to allow her to be lucky at the right times to actually stay alive. All that said, many of the things some might find as flaws, I can see as good use of the tropes of the genres being played with by Hamilton. It was a decent enough read that I continued with the series.

Which brings me to part two, the series as far as I got. The style and tone hold relatively steady for the first five books in the series, though sex gradually becomes a larger focus. (Note that Guilty Pleasures has no actual sex in it.) Once past book five, the books begin to lose the procedural elements and become more about the interactions between Anita and the various, and ever-increasing, supernatural creature groups around her. And those interactions become ever more focused on sex and or violence. By the eighth and ninth books, the series' tone had changed enough that my enjoyment waned and I stopped reading, reportedly just before it swerved completely into erotica territory.

For my tastes, I can't really recommend more than the first five books in the series, and those only if you enjoy the rather grindhouse tone being set.