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Review: Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kiss the Dead (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #21)Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A reluctant 3 stars, it barely deserves them. Let me just start by saying that this is not intended to be a snarky review. I don't understand the people who hate these books over and over again and keep reading them. Well, I kind of do, I find some of the well written snarky reviews to be funny, and some do point out some flaws that do need to be acknowledged, but I really don't understand why so many people who just hate this series continue to torture themselves by reading it. I will say that I stopped buying the books several books back and there is no way that I'd pay another dime for them at this point, and I'm not what I'd consider to be a hater. But if it weren't for the library there is no way I'd still be reading this sloppily written series, no matter how much I like aspects of it. And I really believe that there is no way that these books would get published if they has to be submitted as new books, and that has nothing to do with Anita's love life or the violent sex scenes. It has to do with editing. Which Hamilton seems completely opposed to. 

I liked the beginning of the book, I always enjoy the parts if the books that are more focused on Anita's police work because they're better written, they're have action, less monologues, less descriptions of eye colors and hair textures. But I was still so full of superwoman behavior it was kind of nuts; just once could someone else at least take a shot, much less make one? I get that Anita was the only supe in the room, but they were cops and the preternatural team, maybe the all didn't have to be completely useless. 

So Hamilton finally got a continuity editor, it's about time she listened to reader complaints. Unfortunately it didn't make much difference when it came to repeating herself. Anita made a big point about Zerbrowski not being her partner, then he called himself her partner over and over again. I lost track of how many times she said that Cyric was too young, she felt guilty for being with him, he takes too much energy, he can't handle her life, and wondered why she always fights against loving someone. Then how many times did she mention the guy code, and how she couldn't ask questions/keep poking even though she wanted to because it would violate the guy code, the guy code the guy code? News flash, Anita isn't actually a guy, and I fail to believe that she's the only woman in the world who can read guys like a guy. It's just more superwoman perfection, Anita can do no wrong, it's too much. Oh, and back to Cyric and his eyes, and hair, and Micah's eyes and Nathaniel's eyes and hair...  How many times is she going to explain to me why each man works out and each man's physiques? You get the point. I had to be super wordy to explain that Hamilton was super wordy and repetitive. If she ever tried to edit herself anymore at all and just cut out at least half of the descriptions and Anita's endless inner monologues then this would have been a much better book. It's a good thing to be descriptive, I like being able to picture the characters, and I want to know what people are thinking. But once is enough.

There were a lot of good things in the book. But as usual for the last few books, by the time I got to the end I was so irritated that I had a hard time remembering them. I did write down this quote, which was perfect for her and for the book, "How do you divide yourself between killing people and loving them? The best I had on that one was just to kill the bad guys, and love the good guys, and hope that the two lists never crossed." I do like her wrestling with the idea of what it means to be a monster, more because of her job as a Marshall than as a lycanthrope or as someone who is in love with the furries or vampires. That's a smart and interesting story that has been interesting to see develop over the course of the series and makes a lot of sense for someone at her point in her career. Having Larry suddenly be so awful to her was bizarre and shocking though, it made me feel like I missed a book. Continuity editor, anyone? As a fan we've watched him since the very beginning, if he's going to change that much it should be on the canvas. But when the canvas is so full of characters that don't matter, ones that do get sacrificed. 

More good things. Claudia. I've always liked her. Having a woman in the book who's smart and strong and who Anita isn't fucking is a nice change of pace. And continuing what I said above, she's someone who's been a consistent part of the series from early on, so seeing some development of her character was a great. I felt the same way about Zerbrowski. Other than the repeated awkward mentions of the word "partner" and a bit of repeating the same jokes about him more than once, I did enjoy his scenes. And I liked the addition of Brice, he seemed like a good guy. 

Although that brings up another point, it would be nice to have a man in the book who just didn't get involved with Anita just because they didn't, just once, just one guy who just wasn't interested in her. I know there's Zerbrowski, but he's happily married. The number of guys she's with at this point is just nuts. Who the heck is Dev? And God? Am I supposed to remember and care about these guys? And Domino and Jade and Crispin and Damian (someone mentioned London, Wicked and Truth in their review, not surprising I forgot about them since Anita seems to have too) and whoever the heck else barely got mentioned in this book or forgotten altogether and all of the "main" characters too. I support the idea of polyamory, and in real life I don't care what people do as long as they aren't hurting anyone, but this is nuts when it comes to storytelling. Maybe somehow Anita can care about all of these people, but as a reader I sure as heck can't keep track of all of these characters or care about them all, it's impossible. I don't know who's a vampire, who's what kind of lycanthrope, at the end when Anita was seeing through those guys' eyes I was pissed off for a while because I thought it was some new power, I didn't remember that they were more of her tigers to call or something or other and that was why she could do that. And frankly I really didn't care that much if they got killed, why would I other than the one major character who was involved, what jeopardy was there for the reader who barely has a clue who these people are? 

I'm happy for Hamilton that she has so much fun immersing herself in this world, but she doesn't seem to pay any attention to what the readers want. I don't know that any authors have an obligation to do so, I don't know. I think about what J.K. Rowling would say when parents would complain about the Potter books being too dark, that she was writing for herself and that no one was obliged to read. As long as people keep buying and reading what obligation does Hamilton have to change? None really. But I wish she would.

To be clear, the reason that I keep reading this series, and the reason that I keep bitching and moaning about all of the flaws, is that I'm frustrated because there is so much that's good about it and because the author can and should be doing so much better. She brags on twitter about how fast she bangs out these books and it shows. If she would just take some more time and edit, revise, tighten, do the things that professional authors who have to compete for shelf space do and not what authors who feel guaranteed to have their next book published no matter what crap they publish (Janet Evanovich) do then it would be so much better. The elements of really good stories are here and it sucks to see the ball continually dropped by sloppiness. Maybe if more people start doing what I did and stop buying the books she'll take the hint and continue the trend of the last two books and continue to tighten things up and write better stories. I hope so.

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