Friday, June 20, 2008

I just read a bad book

Every so often I come across a book that makes me say aloud while reading “I could do better.”    Book One in the Anita Baker series, “Guilty Pleasures” by Laurell K. Hamilton is one of those.  I’m not even going to link to it because I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

First let me say two things.  One, this post will probably contain spoilers for those interested in the series.  Two, I’m not a published author so I technically don’t have a leg to stand on in that respect, but I am a consumer of written materials so my criticism stems from being an unsatisfied customer.

Let’s start with the length of the book.  Barely over 250 pages its definitely light reading.  I find the Jim Butcher “Dresden” series to be enjoyable popcorn books (similar to popcorn flicks) but even those are respectably over 300 pages. Not to mention better in many more ways.  Also, the events in the book occur over the course of basically 72 hours.  To have that much bullshit jam packed into three days is crap. 

Characterization in this book is flimsy at best.  We spend more time reading about what characters are wearing than seeing any action from them or dialogue that reveals them in any real fashion.  Anita Baker is the stereotypical tough “short chick.”  Even with a first person narrative you really don’t get a sense of her.

Motivation is also another issue.  Actually, a HUGE issue.  This is a book about vampires, werewolves and all that bump in the night shit.  Suspense of disbelief is de facto with this genre, but when even in these situations you’re wondering what the fuck is this character thinking, you have problems.  Anita really doesn’t do anything of her own volition.  She rolls with the punches and barrels ahead with no real thinking.  The book is painfully plot driven.  At one point the phone rings and she jets off to put a zombie back in the grave, instead of formulating a plan of attack to kill the 1000 year old vampire that’s after her.  Her excuse to perform this ritual is so paper thin it hurts.  Its just an excuse for the author to put her in another “situation” that she needs to get herself out of.  Very very lame. 

Even one of the main traits of this character is brushed off at the end.  From the very beginning of the book we see Anita rail against mind control.  She has an intense fear of it as is shown throughout the book, YET at the end of the story she lets the one vampire that is actually infiltrating her mind live.  Intense pathological fear that gives her the willpower to resist it most of the time and she lets the one that CAN invade her mind live cause he’s a lace wearing frilly pretty boy. Nice.

The final showdown was disappointing as hell too.  Anti climactic to a T.  You think a 1000 year old vampire would A, fight a hell of a lot harder and B, not be such a 1 dimensional “sadistic child” character.  We get that she’s a child bride figure.  It’s written almost every time the character appears.  We get the fucking point, but it seems that the author forgot that the child bride deal was supposed to be a facade for the vampire.  You don’t live 1000 years by being a petulant child, you accomplish that by being a ruthless cold blooded motherfucking killer with Machiavellian skills.  How did this temper tantrum throwing little bitch become a master vampire of St. Louis? 

The more scrutiny the book is under the more it falls apart, which is sad.  I was looking for a good supernatural series in an Anne Rice sort of vein.  Instead I get this weak attempt at a narrative that might get better for the first couple of books, but which devolves into thinly veiled pornographic romps with nightmare creatures.  C’mon, Anne Rice’s sex was erotic not Skinamax.  I’m not willing to invest any more time in a series that might be ok for 3 or 4 books but slide into shit (as per what many of the reviews have said).

It was like a bad film, not B movie or campy enough to be amusing.  All it did was leave me unfulfilled and wanting my money back.

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