Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 20-Apr-1994

Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #9 (Spring 1994).

Review by Cathy Krusberg

Laurell K. Hamilton. Guilty Pleasures Ace, 1993; $4.99/$5.99.

Guilty Pleasures presents the perspective of one Anita Blake, a.k.a. The Executioner: "I don't date vampires. I kill them." Contracts on vampires are only a sideline, however: Anita is by profession an animator, someone who can raise the dead as zombies -- for a price. Set in a not-so-distant future of legal rights for the undead, Guilty Pleasures tells how Anita is hired to discover why vampires are being murdered -- not just any vampires, but *master* vampires, creatures of nearly incredible abilities and power. Certain well-heeled parties would like Anita to investigate: she *knows* about vampires. If money won't persuade her, how about the threat of conversion to vampirism held over the head of a good friend? Not to mention a few threats over Anita's own head? Creatures who can fascinate with a glance, can move too fast to be seen, can conceal themselves or any part of their surroundings by the power of mind alone -- the vampires can make good their threats. Anita knows it. So....

Guilty Pleasures is a detective novel with a twist, suspense and atmosphere never flagging through shootings and rescues and animations and strange alliances. The only character who seems poorly handled is the hero herself: Hamilton has overdone the portrayal of Anita Blake as a tough-sensitive type. The "tough" part means obligatory terse/witty observations on life in general and whatever dilemma she faces at the moment in particular. The sensitive part means she collects stuffed penguins, one of which sometimes sleeps with her. On the rest of the humans, however, we get just enough detail to make them interesting and believable, ranging from Anita's boss Bert ("Sometimes I think if you cut him, he'd bleed green, fresh-minted money"); to Edward, the hit man with ice water in his veins; to Phillip, vampire addict who tries to keep his heart in the right place -- though by so doing he risks having a vampire rip it out for him.

Notice I haven't said anything about the vampires as characters. That's because they are really more like forces, always at a distance. Hamilton keeps them mysterious, and Anita Blake keeps clear of them whenever she possibly can. We learn a little about their powers and the rules of their existence, but not much, never much.

What I liked about this book: The vampires, always enigmatic. You never know what they're really up to, what their thoughts are, what *power* is behind the facade the creature chooses to present, smiling or frowning or neutral but fierce. I liked the unpredictability of their powers, the way sudden discoveries could give the plot a twist. I liked seeing a hero who gets scared silly and makes no bones about it. I liked the exception to the rules who is the key to the whole problem, and the tidy way Anita Blake undid him.

What I didn't like about this book: The vampires. They're a nasty lot, manipulative, scheming, power-hungry, untrustworthy, ruthless. The most powerful master vampire, weighing in at over a millennium, has all the finesse of a playground bully. And the way the rules shift and shimmer, with sudden revelations -- I don't mind surprises, exceptions, vampires grown unexpectedly powerful over the years, but when the hero herself is subjected to goings-on that are never explained so the reader (this reader, at least) can grasp them, I feel cheated. I don't like the hero's sudden sensitivities, the tendency of her shields to fall at the drop of a tear. It's hard to believe that someone given to cuddling traumatized zombies could have made it this long as The Executioner, no matter how good her skills with a throwing-knife, no matter how many kinds of firearms she can use, no matter what kind of holy objects she packs as a matter of course, no matter how many scars she has to show for near-misses.

But I still like the twist at the end. If you like detective stories and don't mind them gritty; if you want to see some vampires that you'd rather not cuddle up with; and if you're willing to be dragged along by an almost breathless narrative, Guilty Pleasures is worth your time.

Fanged Films

Japan, 1953
Ugetsu / Tales of Ugetsu / Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon After the Rain
USA, 2007
Impaler (photo: Tray White)

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

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