So before we start this newest Anita Blake book, let's think about what we'll probably receive in the first chapter. Hmm...
- Someone inexplicably interested in Anita's personal life, and not in the holy-shit-you're-fucking-a-teenager-you-sick-pervert way.
- More clothes.
- Weapons stuff meant to show Anita's badassery.
- Backstory that is totally irrelevant to what's going on.
- Ego masturbation.
I wonder how many of those things will happen. I'm just AGOG.
“SO, YOU’RE ENGAGED,” Special Agent Brenda Manning said.
First sentence, and we are already disappointed! Where's that booze I had?
She wore a black pantsuit with a heavy belt that could wrap around her waist and hold the gun at her side.
"Unlike me! I was too tough and awesome to carry a gun like a mere special agent would, on a BELT. And wearing a pantsuit! How stupid! You should dress like a hooker who hasn't figured out how bras work, or you're trying to be a MAN!"
She was FBI and didn’t have to worry about concealed carry, so the fact that her gun flashed when her suit jacket flared out, which was every time she moved, wasn’t an issue.
I'm pretty sure that is NOT true. A woman's pantsuit jacket doesn't "flare out" every time she moves because they aren't made like flamenco dresses, and unless she has that gun on a chain around her neck, it shouldn't be exposed constantly. I know LKH loves the idea of flashing her manly penis-substitute at everyone, but most other people don't feel that way.
“Yep,” I said. My own gun was at the small of my back, underneath a suit jacket made to hide the gun from the clients at my other job.
Right. There was a conversation going on. The paragraph of talking about guns and clothes completely made me forget it. Great writing there, LKH.
I’d also started getting belt loops added to my skirts so I could wear a belt that could stand up to the weight of a gun and holster.
- So she couldn't wear a gun belt before... because she didn't have belt loops.
- I may be wrong, but I suspect those belts don't require you to have belt loops. Feel free to tell me if I am.
- And you know, if you want belt loops... WHY DON'T YOU WEAR PANTS? For someone so allegedly macho, Anita seems really attached to wearing skirts.
- Even though, you know, skirts are less convenient, usually attached to feminine clothes like heels, and slow you down if you need to run. And they're a style men previously tried to force women to wear instead of pants.
- If Anita were as "practical" as she pretends to be, she'd be wearing pantsuits.
Anita exposits about how she works for Animators Inc. but is also a US Marshal, even though this exposition should REALLY be elsewhere in the book.
Bert, our business manager, didn’t believe in hiding the fact that raising the dead was a rare talent, and you paid for talent.
... is she boasting about her paycheck? Because otherwise, I don't know what paying for talent has to do with guns, Marshals, her hours or wearing a skirt.
The other very special agent (which is like a "super-duper-ultra-awesome special agent," but not as good) is Brent, who is young and hot and Anita is super-interested in his gun. No, not that one. He's not a vampire or a were, so she's uninterested in the gun in his pants. It's really boring that Anita has to lecture us on the exact gun placement of everybody she meets in law enforcement. I would have assumed that FBI special agents are probably armed, so devoting a paragraph to how well you can see their guns against their clothes is just tedious.
We were in the office of our head honcho, Lieutenant Rudolph Storr.
No, he's not Anita's head honcho. I know LKH doesn't want to acknowledge this, but Anita is not a cop. She's as much a cop as I am a Klingon. She has a grandfathered-in, honorary Marshal status, and that's all. Regular cop stuff is totally unconnected to her.
So where is Dolph while the FBI are stomping all over his home turf and using his office? He's somewhere else. No, really: Dolph was currently somewhere else. I guess since he's not fawning enough to be Anita's buddy, but no longer an evil bigot, she's got no place for him in the story. The fawning buddy position will be taken by Zerbrowski, a man with such tiny testicles that he and his weird wife will craft their guest list entirely around Anita.
He was my partner, my friend;
Her partner? Since when? He's an actual cop; Anita was just called in for special consultation. That's like saying Shawn Spencer is Detective Lassiter's partner.
I’d just met Special Agent Manning, and I didn’t owe her my life story.
Oh shut up. It's called small talk. Ever heard of it? Or were you shuttled here like Superman from Planet Bitchybitch, where people just sit there sullenly and creepily staring at each other lest they have any "girl talk"?
For someone who loves to mention how famous she is, and how the tabloids breathlessly follow her love life, Anita doesn't seem to grasp that a PUBLIC PROPOSAL might get some attention for the Kim Kardashian of the preternatural world.
She smoothed her shoulder-length hair back behind one ear and it stayed put, because it was straight as a board. My own curls would never have behaved that well.
... wow... she.... actually managed to mention having curly hair without bemoaning her white-skinned Mexicanity.
And I just realized... despite her bitchiness towards Manning, she hasn't made an openly racist or misogynistic comment yet about the woman, her clothes or her sexuality.
WAS THIS BOOK EDITED?!
And instead of an epic bitch-out at someone DARING to mention her recent, public and extremely tabloid-worthy engagement, Anita just sighs and makes it all about how she has a vagina. Well, we couldn't expect TOO much real-world logic, could we?
If you’re a cop and a woman, never date a celebrity; it ruins your reputation for being a hardass.
- Right, because if a male cop dated a celebrity, he would totally BE known as a super hard-edged badass cop, and not as "Tits McFamous' fiancee."
- Oh wait, he wouldn't. Because that's not how the world works.
- After all, wasn't Marilyn Monroe known as "Arthur Miller's wife"? No, she wasn't. If anything, it was the reverse.
- Because in a dumb-celebrity-obsessed culture, we can identify more about tabloid fixtures than law enforcement, astronauts, politicians etc. The only exception is if they fuck up so spectacularly that we tune in to watch the trainwreck just for the lulz.
- Or are we supposed to appreciate Anita for her awesome badassery? Like how she keeps ending up sitting there while other people kill the bad guys? Or letting bad guys escape because she was too busy getting porked in her office? Or slurping the biggest, baddest, most evil villain in the world like a melted shake?
- Yo, LKH, if you want us to care about Anita being pissy because people are seeing her as the preternatural Kim Kardashian instead of Dirty Harry With Tits, why don't you try making her more impressive?
- And I know this is a shocking, shocking idea, but... just hear me out...
- Not all social interactions are about sex. Not all perceptions are based on gender.
- Mind blown, huh?
We're assured that the actual proposal wasn't a big splashy romantic affair, but something done after shower sex
probably with soap as lube where JC just kind of wandered in, fucked Anita, proposed and wandered back out. It was one of the least organic proposal scenes since... uh... ever.
It had been spontaneous and wonderful and messy, and very real.
- Yes, so spontaneous that he just kind of appeared out of nowhere, even though it involved traveling to another state... which is supposedly a big deal in this series.
- It was probably messy because Anita barely ever bathes.
- "Very real"? In what way?
- Is that LKH's response to people who thought the proposal was weird? Or is she hinting that that is how her husband proposed to her?
- And the romantic quality is somewhat diminished when you consider that she's also planning to "marry" a few dozen other sex partners, including Cousin It, Wiener With Woman Hips, and a bunch of other people I don't give a damn about.
But because JC is now the king of all vampires... wait, what? When did that happen? I knew there was a new vampire council... which randomly popped up between books, and which JC is in charge of even though you'd expect the Master of Washington, New York, L.A., or some other more important city to be a valid choice. But when did he go from head of a council to "king of the vampires"?!
And considering that until recently vampires had an evil queen that they all feared, why the fuck would they be so eager to have another fucking monarch?
And why the fuck is the US government just fine and dandy with not only multiple criminal organizations who are not policed or monitored AT ALL, and who make murder and rape a way of life.... BUT WITH A MONARCHY ESTABLISHED ON AMERICAN SOIL? I hate to break it to LKH, but they would not tolerate that shit.
Hey, remember how this scene involves FBI Special Agents? Well, we STILL don't know what this meeting is about. We've been told that JC proposed while porking Anita in the shower, because that is relevant information right now. But we DON'T know why the FBI is involved. Because who cares about THAT when you can hear Anita wank about how much she hates romantical stuff.
They expected their king/president to have a certain flair, and the real proposal was too mundane. I hadn’t understood that flair would include a horse-drawn carriage—yeah, you heard me; he’d actually picked me up in a freaking horse-drawn carriage. If I hadn’t already said yes, and loved him to pieces, I’d have told him not only no, but hell no. Only true love had gotten me to play along with a proposal so grand that trying to imagine a wedding that topped it sort of scared me.
I get the feeling LKH gets her knowledge of class and elegance from a lot of reality TV shows, because that's the kind of "over-the-top" gesture you'd expect of two trashy broke assholes pretending to be rich on the Real Housewives.
Apparently the idea is that the powerful vampires are super old-fashioned and want big grand gestures the way they did centuries ago. Except... this is so not what royals from times apast would do.
- Even if previous centuries had had TV, they would never have televised proposals. That's left to the Kardashians.
- And a carriage ride was not a big gesture. It might be today, because nobody uses carriages in everyday life. But back then, a carriage ride was as mundane as a car ride is now. It's like sweeping your girlfriend off her feet by showing up at her workplace in your Honda to propose to her.
- I mean, if you read old books like Little Women or Age of Innocence or Pride and Prejudice, carriages aren't regarded as a romantic thing. Sure, you COULD write a romantic scene in one, but it wasn't romantic in itself. So no, it isn't a "freaking epic romantic gesture" like Anita thinks it is that would satisfy all the old vampires that JC is royal enough or whatever.
- For that kind of thing, you'd expect more of a formal ball for an ANNOUNCEMENT, not the proposal itself.
- And you know why? Royal engagements were NEVER about love or romance. You'd think vampires would expect some dignity.
Why am I thinking about this?
We're also told that Zerbrowski was like Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comic: Dirt and mess just seemed to be attracted to him within minutes of his walking out of his house. LKH, Peanuts is one of the most famous comic strips of all time, and Pig-Pen is not an obscure character in it. We don't need to be told what Pig-Pen you're talking about.
“Yeah, I’m all about that princess shit, Zerbrowski,” I said.
Agent Manning frowned at both of us. “I’m getting the idea that I stepped in something. I was just trying to be friendly.”
“No, you were wanting the princess to talk about how wonderful the prince is, and how he swept her off her feet,” Zerbrowski said, “but Anita is going to disappoint you like she’s disappointed the last dozen women to ask questions about the big romantic gesture.”
Shut your fucking mouth, Zerbrowski. The last thing we need is you encouraging Anita's bitchy misogynistic bitchery towards any woman who acts semi-normal.
Oh, and guess why LKH included this whole carriage thing. That's right: because she had one at her wedding. So clearly Anita is complaining because... she likes to complain. She thinks it makes her look tough.
I like to think Agent Brent has quietly lapsed into a coma during all this wedding discussion, because so far the entire chapter has literally just been about Anita bitching about wedding stuff and sex.
I wanted to say, it wasn’t a big romantic gesture, it was a freaking epic romantic gesture and I had hated it.
- Of course you did. You hate everything.
- Because liking something, especially a romantic gesture, might be seen as something... GIRLIE.
- After all, badasses can't appreciate romantic gestures. It's in the handbook!
- And no, no it's not. A freaking epic romantic gesture would involve renting an island or something like that. That is a merely above-average romantic gesture... and it loses points for being impersonal.
Jean-Claude had loved being able to finally pull out all the stops and just do what, apparently, he’d wanted to do for years while we dated—the whole princely sweep-you-off-your-feet shit.
But because Anita is surly and uncooperative (which is super-charming), she has never let him do any of this stuff just to make him happy. Because love means never doing anything Anita doesn't like.
I liked to keep my feet firmly on the ground unless sex was involved, and you can’t really have sex in a horse-drawn carriage; it scares the horses.
- Of course that's what Anita is thinking about. What else would you do in a carriage BESIDES sex?
- Or a car. A church. Grandma's living room. The Lincoln Memorial. A hearse with a dead body in the back. The Hollywood sign. A sports blimp. Music stores. Children's playgrounds.
- Really, what's the point of any place on Earth if you aren't having rumpy-pumpy in it?
- And of course, that means that Anita TRIED to have sex in a horse-drawn carriage, because otherwise she wouldn't know that sex scares them.
- Of course, HER brand of sex involves ultrasonic shrieking, convulsive thrashing and the smell of blood, so... what animal WOULDN'T be spooked by that?
Anita bitches some more about having an engagement that anyone actually knows about, and about how annoying it is for her. Of course, this is actually necessary for JC's power... but we all know Anita's preferences matter more than, you know, not getting deposed and killed. She'd just fuck whoever deposed him anyway.
I’d smiled for the camera so I wouldn’t hurt Jean-Claude’s feelings, but it’s not my real smile, and my eyes in a few frames have that “wait until we’re alone, mister, we are so talking about this” look.
"How dare you maintain your power by doing something I don't like! Stupid bastard! I only want an engagement that is miserable, secretive and filled with surly manliness!"
I decided to appeal to Manning’s sisterhood of the badge
WHAT'S THAT? She is admitting she is a woman?! And that any cop might have feminine thoughts?!
And lest you forget: in Incubus Dreams a wedding planner dared to ask for Anita's help in reining in the groomsmen, and Anita snarled at her for assuming that her being female meant they had anything in common. But when ANITA wants something, suddenly it's all "we gurlz need to support each other!"
And she completely bitches out.... no... wait... she actually says to Manning that this bothers her. And she uses the word "sorry." And Manning is... not demonized in any way for doing something that annoys Anita. She's treated perfectly civilly. And instead of a page of filler, it's over in just a few sentences.
This is a very weird sensation for me. Despite the awful opening and Anita bitching and the trademark awful infodumps... this chapter is... almost... decent. You can actually see the parts where the editor went through and ripped out all the crap, or had LKH rewrite things so they aren't... well, typical of her. It's not quite good... but it's weirdly not as bad as I expected.
This could be hard to snark.
“I’m sorry, I hadn’t thought about it like that. Years of being one of the guys and building your rep, and I ask you about your engagement first thing.”
Casual misogyny based on profession! Ah, that's the LKH we know and despise.
Brent and Manning have a fun little moment where Brent is teasing her about going all nerdy fangirl over this. Yeah, it's another "people are impressed by Anita” moment, but oddly not quite as annoying as usual.
He seemed fresh-faced and less jaded than the rest of us. Ah, to be bright and shiny again, when you thought you could actually win the fight against evil.
- Instead of just becoming evil. Why win when you can become a supervillain yourself?
- And you have to love the blinding arrogance of LKH/Anita condescending to an FBI SPECIAL AGENT.
- Remember, she is a goth-wannabe hausfrau who freaked out when she saw a white van in a public area, and hid from a flower delivery boy.
- SHE is sneering at the naivete of a FBI special agent.
- Remember, FBI special agents do stuff like counterterrorism, investigating government corruption (which is always seedy and grotesque), drug cartels, neutralizing dangerous weapons, and spywork.
- They don't get to be "special agents" without seeing serious, important stuff and being able to handle it in ways normal folk never could. They undergo intensive
- Anita boffs boytoys and occasionally investigates a killing. Her only "training" is that she buys guns and ineffectually shoots them on occasion, usually after someone else has made a killing shot.
- And LKH is delusional enough to think that Anita can sniff and look down her nose at someone like that, who has actual experience in something other than being a consultant and professional orifice.
- Congrats, LKH. You just made Anita seem like even more of a poser wannabe than before.
- Hey, here's an idea: if an FBI special agent can seem "bright and shiny" despite the shit he's had to see, then maybe Anita's not as tough and cool as you think, if she's so easily affected by bad stuff.
And why the fuck is the FBI talking to her?
She's basically a don in the supernatural Mafia, who make murder, rape and slavery a way of life. She's completely corrupt, and has made it clear that she will lie and withhold information for the sake of herself and her boytoys. And now the weres and vamps are creating THEIR OWN MONARCHIES within US borders. They should be arresting her ass. Throw her in Guantanamo!
“It’s the horse-drawn carriage,” Zerbrowski said. “Chicks dig that kind of shit.”
“Not this chick,” I said, quietly under my breath.
"I totally don't like girly stuff because I'm such a MANLY MAN! Even though the author had a horse-drawn carriage at her wedding and clearly likes it, I, her self-insert, must bitch and moan about how much I hate it to maintain my miserable bitch cred!"
Finally we stop talking about the fucking wedding proposal and carriage. See, Brent has a video to show her.
It was another first, an FBI agent admitting that something bothered him.
... according to a author who has never spoken to an FBI agent about anything of actual importance.
I didn’t want to add another nightmare to the visuals I had in my head.
I thought that she was so much more experienced than the special agents, and Brent was all "bright and shiny" because he hadn't seen the horrors she had. You know, horrors like shooting a minor character in a fight. Or cigarette burns. Or getting dumped by a college boyfriend. You know, that kind of stuff.
I couldn’t let the other badges think that getting proposed to by the vampire of my dreams made me one bit less tough.
Because that's how normal people think. You know how dishonest people think everyone is lying? And cheaters think everyone cheats? Well, Anita expects everyone else to be judgmental, misogynistic and constantly on the lookout for (feminine) weakness.
How could someone who let a man lead her into a Cinderella carriage carry a gun and execute bad guys? It made even my head hurt, thinking about it.
That's because you're stupid, and you can't wrap your tiny brain around the idea that a person could be more than one thing. There are plenty of hard-boiled cops and army women who can go out there and be all kinds of badass, but still want the princess dress and Cinderella experience for their weddings. And no, nobody thinks any less of them. Including their male coworkers.
It means that unlike Anita, they are secure in what and who they are. And they don't expect people to be all about fulfilling an image instead of being who you truly are. Anita cares desperately about what people think of her, and she's constantly trying to "prove" herself to her own loathsome biases. People are not just one simple cliche or stereotype that can be easily fit into a box. And you know what? People are NOT constantly keeping an eye on everyone else in case they do something less than badass. They aren't constantly waiting to go "AHA! I should have known you aren't actually brave or smart or a badass! You've admitted that you're not a cold stone sociopath, which means you're a sad-sack weakling who can't be relied on! You aren’t the machoest and nastiest person ever, pretending to have no weaknesses!"
Oh, and Anita's executions are mostly people tied to gurneys. Anyone could do it.
I did the math in my head and realized he had to be around thirty, the same as me, but I’d used up my shininess years ago.
Because unlike this guy, you're not tough. You're nowhere near his league. You're FRAGILE, because even small problems cause you to become emo and dark and tarnished.
It's not a sign that Anita's life is so much darker and more traumatic than theirs. It's a sign that she's a lightweight.
For some reason, they don't really explain what Anita's reason for being here is. Wait, someone this difficult and obnoxious actually came to talk to the FBI... and she didn't expect some kind of explanation?
And if she doesn't even know why she's here... why in fuck was she sitting there thinking about her engagement?!
“Awesome,” I said, “but the foreplay is getting a little tiresome;"
Isn't that what she always says? Just get down to the giant penii ramming into her ladyparts!
“Are you always this cranky?” Manning asked.
Zerbrowski laughed out loud and didn’t even try to hold it in. “Oh, Agent Manning, this isn’t even close to cranky for my partner.”
"Normally she shoots people for mildly annoying her, and dances on their corpses shrieking, 'I'm a US Marshal! I'm the Executioner! Fear me, peasants!'"
“We heard that about her, and you’re right, Blake. I did come in here expecting the proposal to have softened that reputation. I didn’t think I had that much girl left in me, and if I’m assuming that it softened you up, then your male colleagues must be making your life . . . difficult.”
I would kick this book in the balls for its misogyny and its idiotic assumptions that a woman in law enforcement must not have any "girl" left in her, but sadly it doesn't have any balls. Any. Ever.
And the sad thing is, this still is better than most LKH books on the misogyny front.
It was my turn to laugh. “That’s one way of putting it, but honestly it’s the whole engaged-to-a-vampire thing that’s making some of my fellow officers doubt whose side I’m on.”
I wonder why that is. Could it be the lying? Getting people killed and infected because she didn't want to tell the Marshal service about what she knew? Shacking up with supernatural mob bosses? None of that makes her untrustworthy!
“Vampires are legal citizens now, with all the rights that entails,” she said.
So what? Being a legal citizen doesn't mean you don't have loyalties to illegal, immoral groups.
“Legally, yeah, but prejudice doesn’t go away just because a law changes.”
That's right. Never mind that they're creating whole monarchies on American soil, and that Anita is the consort of BOTH "kings." Never mind that they make rape, murder and slavery a way of life, and claim to be incapable of handling even local democracy. Never mind that they're habitually violent, and the whole underlying philosophy is "might makes right."
No, if you have a problem with them, it's because you're a bigot. That is the ONLY reason anyone might be worried about them.
LKH then trots out the hilariously unrealistic "Anita totes has killed more vamps than anyone else, lolz!" claim, despite having been at it for fewer than ten years, and spending most of her time with legs in the air. We're also assured that while someone else (Denis-Luc St. John) has more lycanthrope kills than Anita, he has Troll-Hounds so it totally doesn't count. She's still more badass than him.
Wait... Denis-Luc St. John? Is that... a character from the early part of the series? Holy shit!
“He raises Troll-Hounds; they’re the only breed of dog ever raised specifically to hunt supernatural prey. It makes him the king of tracking through wilderness areas, after shapeshifters.”
“Are you implying that the dogs make him better at the job, or that he’s somehow cheating by using them?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Neither, just a statement of fact.”
"I would NEVER suggest that someone is better at a job that involves killing than I am. I'm the best!"
I have to wonder if Manning's question is another editorial touch, because... it's actually relevant and semi-intelligent. And given that Anita just HAD to assure us that he raises Troll-Hounds, which is the ONLY reason he has more kills than her, I think the editor might have intervened to make Anita sound less bitchy.
Zerbrowski finally gets them to stop wasting time and tell them what it is.
“What the hell is on the video, Agent Brent?” I asked.
“Zombie porn,” Brent said, and hit the arrow in the middle of the screen.
That said... really? Zombie porn? THAT is the unspeakable horror that these people are so shaken up by? And are acting like they've never heard of it before?
I mean, yes, it's a horrible and disgusting idea on several levels. But Rule 34 applies here. If zombies existed, there would be porn using them, because... well, if it exists, there is porn of it. And given the existence of the Internet, just about every weird fetish in existence could be turned into porn. I don't KNOW if there is dendrophilic porn out there, but I'm almost sure there is. And that's positively vanilla compared to some of the stuff out there... ugh, I'm making myself sick.
Seriously, there was a bestselling vampire series that was basically the author wanting to fuck a marble statue.
Agamaltophilia. That was mainstream, people. The idea of zombie porn is not outside the realm of my imagination.
In other words... with animators supposedly having been a thing since FOREVER AGO, you would think that zombie porn would be a thing like child porn: highly immoral and illegal, but still something we know about rather than an OMGSOSHOCKING new development. It would be something they would be clamping down on GENERALLY, rather than "OMG this one person in the whole world is making it, and we've never seen anything like it before!"
But this is LKH's world... shallow and poorly-thought-out, with no thought about how the world would have developed realistically. Everything that happens now only started when Anita graduated from college. Yay.