Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter by Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty PleasuresThe Laughing Corpse (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 2)

Since my other review today was short, here's a little something extra from the archives.
Review written October 1999
Every once in a while, I take a bit of advice from the clerk at a bookstore. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In the case of the Anita Blake series, by Laurel K. Hamilton, I'm glad I did.
Gotta warn ya right up front, though, that these books are not for the squeamish. I won't say that there's grue just for the sake of gratuitous violence, but there is plenty of blood to satisfy the hard-core vampire fanz. I wouldn't recommend these books to my teenage daughter, but for the mature reader, they're darned good.
The series starts with Guilty Pleasures, winds through about six others, then (currently) ends with Blue Moon. This is another one of those series where I get the feeling I may have missed some early adventures in the pulp magazines, as there's some history that the heroine reflects upon every so often that must have a good story behind it. Or, it could be just like Zelazny's works, where he always wrote a few "out-takes" that rounded out the character, just to satisfy himself, then never published them. If you hear that they exist and where they are, let me know.
Circus of the Damned (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter)The stories all take place in an alternate reality St. Louis, where the creatures of horror flick and legend are "alive" and well. There are vampires, zombies, ghouls, ghosts and werecreatures galore, and they all seem to have found their niche in society. I'm thinking all through this series that there's a touch of social commentary on racial and sexual prejudices and intolerance fairly well disguised throughout Hamilton's writings. One of the main characters, Richard, is a werewolf - and he, like most of his fellow weres, lives in constant fear of being "outed" and losing his job as a junior high school teacher. People in the books also fear contracting lycanthropy through being wounded by or having sex with were-critters.
The Lunatic Cafe (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter)The heroine, Anita Blake, is a zombie raiser by trade, who just happens to also have a talent for killing vampires. She's a licensed executioner for the state, brought in as part of a special police task force whenever the supernatural is involved. Hamilton gives us just enough information about her world throughout to keep things interesting and as each novel unfolds, we learn something new about the creatures and customs of her world.
Burnt Offerings (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 7)If I was in the mood for it, I suppose I could toss off a bunch of philosophical stuff about the metaphors, conscious and un, that Hamilton makes use of to paint a picture of a world not so far removed from our own. Suffice it to say that they're present and accounted for, and whether you're looking for a set of novels to keep you entertained with some intense dark fantasy, or for something a little deeper, it's there.
The Killing Dance (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 6)Our heroine, Anita, also goes through a lot of character growth and change, and develops her skills and necromantic powers along the way. She makes new friends and acquaintances and loses some - violently - along the way. There's a ton of unresolved sexual tension throughout the series as a menage à trois develops between Anita, the master vampire of the city, Jean-Claude, and her furry beau, Richard (ooh, strange coincidence - as I was writing this line, a frenchman named Jean-Claude walked past my desk).
Bloody BonesEach novel reveals a new aspect of this alternate society. I hope I don't spoil anything for you when I say that we encounter nearly every kind of creature mentioned in dark tales at one time or another. Also, most of the villains are fully-fleshed personalities, with motivations that, tho possibly incomprehensible to us, are at least believable and well rationalized.
Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 8)There's only a couple of flaws - first, I never get the feeling that her world is actually populated by any "normal" people, who go about their lives unaffected by the presence of legends. At least, we never meet any, jump in a taxi cab driven by one, or have our garbage taken away by another. Second, some of the conflicts that Hamilton sets up appear to have absolutely no solution - battles with invincible vampires, e.g. - but then resolve in the last ten pages quite handily.
I picked up Guilty Pleasures just to test the waters, then rushed out and bought the next two or three at a used book emporium nearby. Those two kept me awake a few nights, so I ended up paying full retail at an un-named book retailer for the rest. Now, I'm eagerly awaiting the next sequel. Heck of a state of affairs.

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