Being a US Marshall is not an easy job. Being a US Marshall is a world where you are a born necromancer with psychic powers, and Federal law has legalised the co-existence of vampires and were-animals (leopards, lions and tigers as well as wolves) alongside humans, makes for interesting times for Anita Blake. As a specialist investigator into preternatural crime she is essentially a legalised vampire-hunter: someone who seeks out (and where necessary kills) those supernatural beings who break humanity’s laws. Anita also has a strangely complicated love life, living as part of a threesome with two were-animals while also dating a powerful vampire. Local law enforcement accepts that she straddles the divide between human and non-human in her own strange way because she is such an effective investigator; outside of her home city of St Louis, she is seen a little differently.
In her latest outing, Affliction, Anita gets a phone call that changes everything. The mother of her boyfriend Micah, estranged from his family for a decade, calls to say his father is dying in a hospital in Colorado. Anita sets out to take the prodigal son home, but the manner of his father’s illness sets off professional alarm bells – he was attacked on the job by a zombie and is now rotting slowly to death with his doctor unable to stop it. Zombies are nothing new or particularly strange in Anita’s world, but she knows that they don’t bite people and that they are not contagious. A little investigating reveals several other victims, all of whom have died within hours or days of being similarly attacked. So what exactly is going on, and how can Anita defend her friends against this terrifying threat?
Affliction is the 22nd book in the Anita Blake series and marks the 20th anniversary of the first appearance of the character in print – Laurell K Hamilton is nothing if not prolific. Since 1993, the books have been translated into 16 languages and have spawned more than 6 million copies worldwide, and it is perhaps no surprise that a film based on Anita is currently in production. I have only read one other book in the series, the previous instalment Kiss The Dead, which I was sent a review copy of a year ago; I found it to be moderately enjoyable but rather like a HBO show in structure, as scenes to move the plot forward were interleaved with largely unnecessary and explicit sex scenes. Affliction was mercifully better in this regard, and largely unnecessary and explicit sex was not encountered until at least a third of the way through the book and relatively sparingly after that.
So has this reduction done anything to improve the books? Well, not really. While being imaginative and having great action sequences that are tightly-written and exciting, much of the other writing looks like an early draft that has been rushed or which wasn’t properly edited: overly extensive character descriptions (do I really need to know he is 5 feet 9, has brown eyes and the exact details of his outfit?), repetitious language, info-dumping, telling rather than showing…all the things we told not to do when learning to write fiction. The book is long (567 pages in hardback) and would seriously have benefited from some firm editing, especially in the opening few chapters. I got seriously exasperated in many places and can’t see me becoming one of the series’ legions of fans based on the two books I have read – sorry.
Hard-core fans will read Affliction whatever I say, but I cannot really recommend it to people new to Hamilton’s work. With less sex and more action, these have the potential to be enjoyable books, but as they stand they just seem to be something of a missed opportunity.
Affliction by Laurell K Hamilton
Published by Headline, July 2013
With thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy.
|Buy book online