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Blood Noir (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter) by Laurell K Hamilton

I don't think all this can be blamed on Mr Bram Stoker. Of course there is a sexual element to the exchange of bodily fluids of his Dracula and his victims, but this has become too much in this example of what can only now be loosely termed vampire horror. Anita Blake, US Marshall with distinction in killing unwanted undead, due to some part-supernatural skills of her own, lives with at least one regular sexual partner, Nathaniel, but takes herself off with Jason, an occasional lover and full-time werewolf, to help him.

Blood Noir (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter) by Laurell K Hamilton

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Category: Horror
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, and Jason travel to meet his dying father, hoping for closure with him, before an awkward case of mass mistaken identity drags them into something else. A most unusual, and I would say unusually poor, modern vampire thriller.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 464 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841496931

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Jason's father is dying, and although the two hate each other for past injustices, Jason needs reconciliation and closure, and a girlfriend to accompany him. Stepping from the plane he is immediately assumed to be someone else – a Governor's son, fresh from his father's beginnings of a presidential campaign trail, and about to have a high-profile wedding. You'll have to work out – with patience in abundance – what could connect what happens next – Jason getting into quandaries with the doppelganger's playboy lifestyle, while trying to have a quiet connection with his hospital-bound father – with the company of a vampire killer, with a nice eye in spotting baddies and their weapons.

I would say the opening scenes, a sexual threesome with Nathaniel and Jason, gets in the way of the plot – taking too many titillating chapters to say that sex doesn't get in the way of their relationships (which is later proved to be a lie anyway) – but it's not alone. There is far too much of a slow drift towards anybody for Anita to want to kill, much too much repetitive writing before there is a reason for us to enjoy any of the telling. The narration dismisses things as soapy long before trudging through so much waffle about the characters, their supernatural personalities and traits and connections, and then the whole risibly drawn-out look-alikey scenario, that you can only deem it soapy and wish for the whole thing to move on and find a finish.

Unless, that is, perhaps, you are a fan of the series and all this means a whole lot more to you. I haven't had cause to read any of the fourteen prior books, and I don't intend to play catch-up now. I assume the sexual character of the book is continued elsewhere in the saga, and I can only hope for a few things – one that there is a point to the series, of which this surely is a very weak episode, and that Jason is a minor character here given his chance in the spotlight.

I didn't much appreciate any of the nuances of the supernatural world being wasted – such as the connection so many of the characters have with some uber-undead beings being reduced to some paparazzi-flavoured shenanigans with press rumours to the fore, and actual killing and horror/thriller elements left way behind. I didn't find much in the character of Jason, nor the situation he left Anita Blake in, and certainly felt there could have been a lot more for them to do rather than cover the same ground again and again.

The repetitions are quite annoying in the writing, almost suggesting a complete lack of editing. Everyone has to be told how similar the similar appearances of Jason and the other chap are, and we're present every time that happens. Just open the hardback to page 133 and see the third paragraph be an unnecessary misquote of the first.

And when things do pick up – way beyond the half-way mark, there is almost too much of what the first-person narration calls the metaphysical, too much in Anita, and while we might welcome the horror-light, fantasy-light, thriller-light genre writing, it instead is too much. We can't win.

I wish I could remember more clearly the quote about porn, where it was suggested the real pornography in erotica was the non-sexual elements (the milkman's approach, etc) that gets annoyingly in the way of the raison d'etre of it all. This was brought to my mind by the numerous scenes of nookie this series must involve, and by the way it all seems to be disguising a complete lack of thrills, and no real grist to the thriller, no real sense of danger for any character a condom can't prevent, and certainly no cause for the character to be called Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter so prominently.

There was some mild pleasure to be had here and there – the scenario was certainly a novel one, the regular sex acts depicted here recognisable and on the whole borne from real-life, and the pace of the book sustained just enough to almost mask the lack of anything happening, repetitively. Personally though I just could not buy into this book, the characters, nor the entire series mythology and reasons, at all. It seemed a mostly clumsy telling of dross on the whole, and I could only give it two and a half stars as a result.

But I will admit there might be something I am missing – somewhere that Ms Hamilton has stated the overlying reasons for such a woolly, kinky, non-vampiric vampire series. It's not evident to me whatsoever in this sample what people see in her oeuvre, and I would only hope they forgive me if I am treading too heavily on their cult fandom toes. To them, and to them alone, this book gets a grudging recommendation, and a Bookbag rating of three and a half stars, but I hope there's enough of them to come out of the shadows and admit to me that yes, this seems a bit of fluff and nonsense because it is just that.

I would still like to thank Orbit for the Bookbag's review copy.

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