Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #22) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Some zombies are raised. Others must be put down. Just ask Anita Blake.

Before now, she would have considered them merely off-putting, never dangerous. Before now, she had never heard of any of them causing human beings to perish in agony. But that’s all changed.

Micah’s estranged father lies dying, rotting away inside from some strange ailment that has his doctors whispering about “zombie disease.”

Anita makes her living off of zombies—but these aren’t the kind she knows so well. These creatures hunt in daylight, and are as fast and strong as vampires. If they bite you, you become just like them. And round and round it goes…

Where will it stop?
Even Anita Blake doesn’t know.

Rating: 2.5/5

I’m going to resist the urge to break into my usual ramblings about Laurell K. Hamilton in this post, and I’m going to try my darndest to stick to just my thoughts on this book in isolation of my history with this author (which, once you’ve reached book 22 in a series, it’s pretty tough to think of it in isolation).

There were a lot of things I felt pulled this book down (bias prior to reading it aside).

For starters, I’m really not a fan of zombies. I read all sorts of gory things and have no problem with pretty much every other type of fantasy creature, undead or otherwise, but zombies just don’t do it for me. It’s not even just the fact that they simply aren’t sexy, because there are plenty of books with not-sexy evil things that I still love. I am just not a fan of the zombie trope, and as you can tell from the description, this book was mostly about zombies. That in and of itself was enough for Affliction and I to get off on the wrong foot. Now I try to be pretty unbiased about this kind of thing—it was executed pretty cleanly, so I can’t really dock it in rating just because I personally have a thing against zombies. And, honestly, this book had an Edward, so that pretty much re-balanced the scale, because I have at least kind of liked every single book that Edward has been in. He’s just that awesome.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just general content that made me a bit less of a fan of this book. Hamilton’s writing style … well, it irks me. I have a very long rant about this that I may write for another post. Here, I’ll pull specific examples (spoiler-free, of course) from this particular book.

Every book of Hamilton’s tends to have a specific detail in the descriptions that gets brought up over and over again. Sometimes I don’t mind it so much, because that really is a useful mnemonic device that I think every author should employ. I’m not sure if I’m bothered that Hamilton overuses this device or if I feel like she just doesn’t use it in the most appropriate of places. (One repeated detail frequently brought up by a member in my book club is her infatuation with the bumping of Anita’s cervix, which, I’m pleased to note, was only mentioned once in this book). The detail frequently brought up that drove me nuts after the first two or three uses and pissed me off by the time we had to have hit double digits was the constant commentary on “he wasn’t the kind of person who bulked up easily,” or “he didn’t have to work out too much to get the kind of muscle buildup most men had to go out of their way to get,” or “he was smaller, and no matter how much time he spent in the gym, he would never be able to get as much muscle as most of the other men.” (These are all paraphrased). Seriously, I don’t need to know that much about how hard someone has to work to get muscle. Yes, I realize that this is supposed to help us understand how large or slim each character is, but find a more diverse way to do it.

I also can’t quite decide if Hamilton just doesn’t trust her readers, or if she forgets that she’s already mentioned something (this may be more of a comment to her editor than to her). First off, she spent quite a bit of time toward the beginning reminding us who Requiem is. Quite frankly, I don’t remember half of the men in her life, but Requiem is on the short list of the guys I remember, simply because he was so prevalent for quite some time. And if he’s actually had a role in this book, maybe it’s justifiable to spend so much time making sure we remember him well enough, but he didn’t have a single line. This by itself wouldn’t have bothered me overmuch, but when he was mentioned again just a few chapters later, we were given a reminder about him yet again. All right, so maybe your readers don’t remember this guy from a few books—that’s fair, but give them enough credit to remember who he is after just a few chapters. There were dozens and dozens of details like this that we were reminded of repeatedly, and they just piled up more and more, to the point where I physically stopped what I was doing to roll my eyes.

I’m also of the general impression that every time Anita travels, we have a set of police officers who are pretty much copied and pasted from previous books—they have the same hangups, you have at least one officer who hates her, one who likes her, and one who realizes she’s pretty awesome and decides to really respect her. This theme is old. More on this when I post my rant.

But the icing on the cake: Almost every single time there is dialog, we get “he said” or “I said” after just about every spoken line. Sometimes Hamilton mixes it up a little and puts it in the middle of the line. Most of the time, this isn’t even necessary—I’m a very strong believer that you shouldn’t feel the need to spell out who’s talking, because your characters are supposed to have a strong enough voice on their own. The he said/I said should be there to help if you have long patches, but not with near the frequency Hamilton uses. Especially since, for the most part, Hamilton’s characters have unique enough voices that I don’t need that extra assist to follow the conversation unless there are too many of the “newer” men in her life talking at once (in which case I’m getting a little lost anyway, because it’s still usually “he said” instead of using an actual name). To me, this kind of dialog guide is a rookie tool, and someone with as much writing experience as Hamilton shouldn’t be stuck still using it to this extent.

All of that said, this was still a significant improvement on most of her last several books that I would argue didn’t have a plot at all! Bravo for improvement!

Note: I do admire Hamilton as an author for a lot of reasons that I can’t readily articulate in a post of this scope. I will be posting a rambling about this later, so if you’re a fan, you don’t need to hate me quite yet >.<.

Edit:

Another major thing that bugged me, which has bugged me for pretty much the entire series, is the tendency for conversations to completely derail what is actually pertinent at the time. For instance, Anita will complain about them “burning daylight,” and then a few pages later she’ll be in the middle of a completely unrelated conversation with one of her men. Again, I think this is a case of trying to convey more information to the reader that will end up being meaningful later. This is something I need to work on terribly myself.

Also, favorite quote to pick on: “Dead is the stoppest stop of all.” Anita actually said this after making some statement that the bad guys needed to be stopped. “Dead is the stoppest stop of all.” *shakes head* I don’t even have words to express my disappointment in this sentence …

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Posted on August 27, 2013, in Urban Fantasy/Paranormal and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I read some writing advice by Jim Butcher in which he suggested having a few descriptive details for each character that you use whenever you need to quickly remind the reader of who they are and how to picture them. While I haven’t read any of Hamilton’s work, I wonder if the repetition partly comes from getting carried away with that sort of useful tool.

    • Yeah, I’m familiar with the technique—didn’t know there was some advice from Butcher floating out around that specific thing—I definitely think it’s good to use to a certain extent. I think Hamilton overdoes it, especially when she starts referencing it multiple times for the same character. And there were points where she spent multiple pages making a comparison between two characters’ abilities to “bulk up,” which was a bit … excessive. She definitely uses this technique in other books as well, but it doesn’t always bother me as much as it did in this book. The earlier books in particular spent a lot of time talking about people’s eyes, which I thought was actually pretty great, and when it was overdone it had actual meaning for it. It’s a tool I’d like to get better at myself—I’m notoriously lacking on providing detailed character descriptions in my own writing …

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