Guilty Pleasures

Monday, April 12, 2010


Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Book 1)
Laurell K. Hamilton, 1993


I opened this book with a bit of trepidation, because even though I've read it before, I was a bit concerned how it would hold up. But you know what? I kinda love this stupid book.

This series eventually winds its way into increasingly ridiculous, and what I like to call porn-tastic, situations, but this first one, while slapdash and odd, has some real charm. One big thing you have to be able to just go with to enjoy this book is the seemingly commonplace male strippers. The vampires seem to be easy to accept by comparison, according to various people I've spoken to.

In re-reading it, I realized specifically why I like it. It's an unapologetic modern pulp novel. It's a first-person, flamboyantly described, sex and violence pulp novel. With paranormal stuff and a female protagonist. In my book, that spells super fun.
I had gotten to see the sun rise as I drove home that morning. I hate sunrises. They mean I've overscheduled myself and worked all bloody night....My apartment always looks depressingly white and cheerful in morning sunlight. The walls are the same vanilla ice cream white as every apartment I've ever seen.
Hamilton's world includes vampires, other forms of undead, all manner of were-creatures, and animators, aka zombie-raisers. Vampires have just been recognized as legal citizens of the USA, and a lot of fun is had with that idea, particularly in the attitudes of some minor characters vs. our heroine: Anita Blake, animator and licensed vampire slayer. She is under no illusions that vamps are like humans. She also has a degree in preternatural biology and works with the police as a vamp/supernatural expert. Like any good pulp hero, she runs from crisis to crisis, just trying to keep her head above water.
Dammit, it should have worked. The bad guys weren't allowed reinforcements when I was already outnumbered.
The details are nice. Hamilton puts a lot of thought into the guns Anita carries, the hassles involved in her line of work, and the various implications of legal vampirism, The Church of Eternal Life being the most obvious.

It was intriguing reading this right after Interview wtV, because of the characters which are adapted (ripped-off) from Anne Rice. The two most important vamps in the story are a way-too-pretty French vamp and a kid. Which, happily, is where the resemblance ends.

*Small Character Spoiler*
Jean-Claude is hardly in this one, but when he is, he's gently manipulating Anita to serve his own complicated political goals. In the next book he's quickly established as a great business vampire, very personable, very good with humans, realistic about most things, while still being dangerous and seductive, and very not mopey. Nikolaos, on the other hand, just rocks the little-girl vampire aesthetic. She is the most powerful vampire in this book, and has clearly decided that she can be sickeningly cute, powerful as sin, and anciently seductive, all at the same time. And evil. She's really good at evil. Claudia had much more psychological depth, but for sadism she just can't rival the girl who can pretty much rip your mind out with her eyes. *End character spoiler*

This began one of the first few really popular paranormal romance series, before it was its own subgenre. Unfortunately, the many sequels to this book ran off the rails once the author got way too emotionally involved with the characters. The books eventually turned from sexy thrillers into occasionally violent erotica, and Hamilton began using them as her personal therapy sessions.
On the other hand...

4 Stars - A Really Good Book

But today I'm just looking at the first one.

Vampiric powers in Guilty Pleasures include:
Hypnosis, including long-distance compulsion after either biting a human, or putting one into a deep trance. Depend on eye contact. Animators have a limited immunity to this. Crosses also help humans resist mind control.
Also most can do general mind tricks, for example: can create mass illusions, appear to look different, move faster, implant some emotions.
Super-strength
A degree of super-speed, but a lot of that is part of hypnosis
Animal Control! We haven't seen animal control in a while. “Master” vampires (more powerful, not necessarily oldest) can control a particular animal. The one in this book calls rats.
Cannot turn into bat, wolf, dust
Appearance stuck at time of 'death'
Some have limited levitation
“Mark” humans. More below.

Limitations include:
Asleep during the day. More powerful vampires can awaken before full dark.
No stated connection to soil from native land
Is not stated in this book whether they need to be invited into a building, I think in the second or third it comes up that they do need the invitation.
Unclear whether weak against garlic, or wild rose
Driven back by holy symbols, when backed up by faith. Holy symbols glow and become warm in the presence of a vampire.
No stated difficulty crossing running water

New vampires?
Not stated, implied that they are made by draining the blood of the victim while under mind control over three (bites? nights? unclear). A neat twist here is that even though a vampire has some power over someone he/she has bitten, that control can be revoked, (and, it is implied, the vampirism process halted), by cleaning the wound with Holy Water. It just hurts like hell to do this.

Special:
Master vampires can also “mark” humans, each mark gives the human partial supernatural abilities. One is a metaphysical connection which gives stamina and healing, two a mental connection which allows some telepathic communication. After four marks, the last of which involves consuming vampire blood, the human is immortal, so long as the vampire is. It's a one-vampire-bonded-to-one-human sort of deal, though, and killing one will injure or kill the other.

How to destroy:
Take out the heart, sever the head. Fire or sunlight work as well. Anita prefers to take out the heart with a shotgun or a handgun with expanding rounds, although she's seen a flamethrower used to great effect. Injuries caused by silver are hard to heal, and Holy Water causes pain and scarring.


Next Week:
The time has come. I'm going to read Twilight. Send help.

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