Sunday, June 08, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Read: 4/22/08-4/27/08
LibraryThing tags: Vampires, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Necromancy, Suspense

Scanning through some of her books a bit at work, they pretty much looked like trashy romance. I'm afraid I picked up this book because one day, I thought I was in the mood for that. I know. I'm sorry. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by a good book without even any sex scenes. There are some undertones, but no sex scenes. I hear the books get worse later in the series. For now though, I like this world. It has good touches.

Everyone knows about vampires (and assorted creepie-crawlies), the secret's out. Not only that, but in the U.S. they're legal. Killing a vampire without an execution order is considered murder. Work of the liberals. Equal rights for everyone, and all that. Crosses won't work against vampires unless you believe in them; there's a line somewhere (either in a different book in the series or I didn't note down the page number for quoting purposes) about how "nothing's more pitiful than the sight of an atheist waving a cross at a vampire" (probably not exact wording since, well, see above). And the vampires have their own church, based on the promise, easily verifiable, that they offer eternal life.

Although the main character and her sense of humor seem to be very typical of urban fantasy from the little I've read (see Sunshine by Robin McKinley), I like her anyway. It's a good sort of character. In fact, she frequently reminds me of Liz. She acts very much like Liz would, I think, except that Liz would have killed Jean-Claude long ago.

The edition I read (first hardcover) had an afterword by the author. It added a couple amusing insights. Such as, "I did not love Jean-Claude in this book. There were tons of sexy romantic vampires out there. I had no intention of contributing to what I saw as a problem. I mean, they are walking corpses, what the hell is so sexy about that? I just didn't get it. It would take me two more books before I began to understand that I couldn't kill Jean-Claude off, that losing him would hurt both Anita and me. In Guilty Pleasures I was still betting good money, loudly, to anyone who asked, that Jean-Claude was not a romantic lead." Can you say denial? It was very obvious. Too bad, though, since I agree that it's a problem. She also says, "Guilty Pleasures is a hard-boiled detective mystery. It is also a dark fantasy, or a horror novel, because it has vampires, zombies, ghouls, were-wolves, and a few other shapeshifters, I think." I agree, except with the first part. When you say, "detective mystery," I think of things like Agatha Christie novels. Then I think of Guilty Pleasures, and of this scene in Fruits Basket where Tohru "figures out" which animal Kagura is after seeing her change into it. Anita is like that. There's very little to figure out when the villain tries to kill you to your face. Suspense, thriller, yes. Mystery... well, of a kind. Not the Agatha Christie kind, or even the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency kind.

I realized something else sometime around when I read this novel. Vampires, with our current storytelling methods, may come the closest to being a current active mythology for us. Werewolves and all that too, and fantasy in general to some extent, but especially vampires. At least, in certain respects. I'm not saying that there's any kind of widespread belief in them, but there is a sort of cultural agreed upon backstory that each individual storyteller draws upon, changing specific things and retelling to suit their needs. Even in fantasy (the elves, etc. kind) there's more commonly a greater sense of having a responsibility to create one's own world entire, of having to explain who elves are even if you do use them and keep them unchanged. There's not an agreed upon world that each new writer takes from. Not like with vampires. It's a little disturbing. Why do we do it? Why are we drawn to the dark? It's certainly interesting though, seeing similarities in these books even with the Twilight series, when Stephenie Meyer said she made a point of not reading other vampire stories, fearing too much similarity or difference.

Anyway, that's all I've got. Here are some of the fun quotes, to give you that sense of the tone and style, and just because I love quotes, as you all know.

“Everybody underrates bruises. They hurt. They would hurt a lot more after I slept on them. There is nothing like waking up the morning after a good beating. It’s like a hangover that covers your entire body.”

No quote makes me think of Liz more than this one, for whatever reason.
“One dim light bulb gleamed over the threadbare carpeting. In places the off-green walls were patched with white plaster, but it was clean. The smell of pine-scented Lysol was thick and almost nauseating in the small, dark hallway. You could probably have eaten off the carpeting if you had wanted to, but you would have gotten fuzzies in your mouth. No amount of Lysol would get rid of carpet fuzzies.”

This one especially endeared Anita to me.
“I would have to spend the afternoon shopping. I hate to shop. I consider it one of life’s necessary evils, like brussels sprouts and high-heeled shoes. Of course, it beat the heck out of having my life threatened by vampires. But wait; we could go shopping now and be threatened by vampires in the evening. A perfect way to spend a Saturday night.”

On the Church of Eternal Life, the vampire church:
“‘Pretty,’ Ronnie said. She nodded in the building’s direction.

I shrugged. ‘If you say so. Frankly, I never get used to the generic effect.’

‘Generic effect?’ she asked.

‘The stained glass is all abstract color. No scenes of Christ, no saints, no holy symbols. Clean and pure as a wedding gown fresh out of plastic.’

She got out of the car, sunglasses sliding into place. She stared at the church, arms crossed over her stomach. ‘It looks like they just unwrapped it and haven’t put the trimmings on yet.’”

1 comment :

sapience said...

I love the first couple Anita Blake novels--the later ones, I slogged through the sex because it does (in some places) have a plot function. But the latest couple books have been primarily Anita resolving her sexual issues and I'm about ready to give up.