Saturday, July 13, 2013

Incubus Dreams--chapter 27-29

So something really weird happens when Ronnie shows up: The book stops sucking.

Oh, it's still bad. But it loses whatever it is that makes it terrible. It stops being boring. Anita stops being an utter waste of skin. Nathanial becomes interesting.

Ronnie comes into the apartment and she and Anita immediately start talking about men. I know talking about men is kind of cliche for female characters, but FYI most of the conversations the girls have at work wouldn't pass the Bechdel test either. Whatever. Anita and Ronnie talk about Nate being domestic for a while. Okay.

Ronnie then starts talking about Louie and how her problem is that she just doesn't get any space around him, and this is something I can completely relate to.

She shook her head. “No, but I want my apartment back, the way it was. I don’t like coming home and finding that he’s rearranged everything in my cabinets so it’s easier to find. If I want to dig through every cabinet to find tomato paste, then it was my choice. He didn’t even ask, I just came home one night, and he’d organized everything in the kitchen. I couldn’t find anything.” She must have sounded pouty even to herself, because she jerked off the glasses and gave the full force of those pain-filled gray eyes. “You think I’m being silly, don’t you?”
See, I get that LKH is going for the "How ungreatful this woman is" Line, but I have had this exact problem before and I am going "yep. Yep. Preach it, sister" as Ronnie goes on about the tomato paste.

Then they start talking about how their parents respectively fucked them up, and I dig this too. My favorite poem is "This be the verse" and I can quote it from memory at the drop of a hat. The first line is They fuck you up, your Mom and Dad. I read this over lunch and I was all like...this is entertaining. This is not greatly or wonderfully entertaining and I would much rather be reading ANYTHING ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE...but I am interested enough to read the next paragraph without dying.

And then Ronnie says the real issue, and this goes from being a shitty talk to something that is actually valid:

“But if I don’t agree to something, he’ll leave. We either move forward, or he’s gone. That’s him trying to force me to marry him.”

Because hey, this is a human emotional state that I can relate to on every level, and as yet I can detect no sense of being condemned for not playing the game or anything.

Of course it quickly peters out into a "Look at how happy Anita is with all this domestic stuff" and I start rolling my eyes and skimming again. But hey, for just one second there was a real-ish issue on the table!

Yeah, three pages later we're all "Don't take your issues out on my relationships" while Ronnie is trying to understand how Antia can have two boyfriends. Given that Louie is probably not poly, this is a worthless point of conversation.

So they keep talking and it's kind of like "Hey, is that the real Anita? ...kinda. But this is definately mostly her. And hey, that part was actively funny" and then Nate shows up.

In full stripper gear.

Because it has all these straps and two of them are busted and he needs a hole punch, and the whole point is, of course, to trail Nate around in front of Ronnie so that one fictional character can see the fictional character that another fictional character is fucking...and it's actually kind of funny in an "OH GOD I SHOULD FIND THIS DEHUMANIZING AND HUMILIATING BUT IT IS ENTERTAINING" kind of way.

The better issue, though, is that the writing is competent. There are no "He was sexy the way chocolate was sexy, in a dark chocolate way" sort of description. Nothing is implied. Nate just wanders around the room looking for his leather punch and Anita keeps looking over at Ronnie, who keeps turning various shades of red and pale while Nate walks around in the male version of that duct tape costume from Fifth Element. You know exactly how hot Nate is, exactly how Ronnie feels, and exactly how amused Anita is watching this, all without anybody having to repeat things sixteen zillion times. It's not PC or healthy by any means, but it's also not hair that is red the way rubies were red if you spun them out and made them into red hair. And part of what makes it so interesting is that the whole time Nate and Anita are having this non-chalant conversation about how the idiot who lost the leather punch is no longer allowed to touch Nate's things.

And then Nate demos how double jointed he is, and it goes back into sucking.

And then Ronnie and Anita talk about how sex isn't a sin, and it stops sucking because this is an issue relivant to the book, and it's the first time anyone even THOUGHT about addressing issues relivant to the book.

Look. I'm grasping at straws here. I'm trying to explain why the last twenty odd chapters weren't even remotely entertaining and this one vaguely is.

Anyway, they keep talking, and while nothing is resolved I actually enjoyed watching two people and talk about relationships without having it turn into a "My schlong is bigger" contest.

Next chapter: Anita has to go to work. Apparently she and all the other animators told their boss to fuck off at one point, and rather than being fired their boss treated them like "partners in a law firm" which makes little sense, but it DOES allow Anita to go to work in a black mini skirt that is THE bone of contention between them for most of this chapter.

Also, Anita is wearing a necklace that Jean Claude and Asher once gave Juliana. I did not know that I had a list of "Instant cause for dumping" items, but "Gift of dead girlfriend's jewelry" is apparently item number one. Seriously. HOW ARE YOU NOT CREEPED OUT BY THIS ANITA.

 They move off the skirt and then discuss how Anita now has to have Nathanial sitting out in the waiting room. Because the Ardeur might rise. And she might have to have sex right fucking now. 

...And she actually has to explain this to her boss in antagonistic detail. 

Trust Bert to find just the right thing to say. “Yes, Bert, that’s it, I’ve become a nymphomaniac. I need sex so often that I have to take a lover with me wherever I go now.”

I read this part with my mouth open. Really, how can you tell your boss "I have to have a lover here for sex at all times. Suck it."and think you can do anything other than get fired.

Also: Has he already danced at Guilty Pleasures? Is he about to? Is it too much to ask for a FUCKING TIME LINE at this point?

So then Bert gets down to business...and again, the book stops sucking.

Apparently a young man was murdered, and his parents want Anita to raise him so they can find out who killed him and his girlfriend.

And they will pay Anita oodles and oodles of money to do this.

The problem is that a murder victim will immediately try to kill whoever murdered them--also munching through anybody standing between them and their killer--and Anita would be responsible for each and every death her zombie caused. So the short answer is no. The long answer is "oh HELL no" but the family is willing to pay fifteen thousand dollars for the privelage of being told no in person.

Anita agrees to tell them no in person. She agrees because it's a chance to talk them out of it, and there are plenty of magical types who would go "Sure, give me your money" and then either not deliver, or let Junior go eat his way through most of St. Louis.

I already know this won't amount to shit in this book, but it's a good delimma. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE START OF THIS BOOK PEOPLE.

 Chapter 29: The suck returns gradually, but when it hits it comes on HARD. Mom shows Anita pictures of Junior AKA Stevie, and by "pictures" I mean all of them. Every picture ever taken of Stevie that Mom thinks might sway the mean old animator into giving her son life for a few more hours.

Anita says no, I can't do it. Mom brings out his prom and science fair photos and starts talking about how sweet he was.

They keep talking, and Mom keeps getting more upset, and finally Burt comes in and says that it is time for everyone to leave...and that's when Mom attacks Anita.

Anita goes batshit insane on Mom, getting her into an arm lock and twisting until she almost breaks Mom's arm.

Mom is an upset woman who lost her son. Anita Blake is a trained martial artist and a no-holds-barred killer. Please keep that in mind for the next part:

I didn’t have as good a hold on her as I should have, I was still trying to be nice to the poor bereaved crazy woman. She twisted in my grip and dug her nails across my hand. I tucked my elbow tight across her throat and pulled up sharp on her arm behind her back. She cried out, but it stopped abruptly because I was applying pressure to her neck. I knew how to do a choke hold so that all it did was make you pass out. I knew not to crush the Adam’s apple or anything stupid. And I admit I was pissed by this point, but Mr. Brown shouldn’t have done what he did.


 So Dad punches Anita in the face, and while violence against women is never ever ever ever EVER okay, after three books of this stupidity I have to admit the image of Anita Blake being cold-cocked by a random dude is absolutely fucking beautiful. 


...and then being punched brings up the ardeur. Because the most perfectly natural reaction to being punched in the face by a dude is the urge to have both sex and blood play at the same time.

Nate manages to get everybody out of the office before Anita kills and/or rapes someone, and the chapter ends with her begging him for help.

I think the biggest issue I have with Anita at this point is what this chapter highlights perfectly: Anita gets to do whatever Anita wants to do and there are no consequences. Anita just physically damaged an already damaged person. DO NOT TELL ME THAT MOM COULD NOT HAVE BEEN BROUGHT BACK UNDER CONTROL WITH SOMETHING LESS THAN A FUCKING CHOKE HOLD. Anita did that because Anita didn't like dealing with Mom's greif, and Dad objected by punching Antia (Again, it's not okay...but somebody just punched Anita. Guys I am so fucking torn in how I ought to react to this). And Anita is now freaking out because Magic trumps Dead Children? And now Nate is there to fix things, and of course it will be all "Poor Anita how much she suffers" and no one will dare say "So, uh, do you think maybe you ought to have deescilated that situation before Mom imploded?"

A good heroine would have been able to get that situation back under control, either by using her own know-how or by bringing someone with that know-how into the room. Giving another woman a choke-hold--especially a woman who probably isn't trained in martial arts--is not a sign of how bad ass you are. It is a sign of how fucking out of control you are.

It is really amazing how these last few chapters had everything that was ever wrong with this series, as well as little hints of how good it was when things went right.

Oh, and I hate this book.


  1. I know talking about men is kind of cliche for female characters, but FYI most of the conversations the girls have at work wouldn't pass the Bechdel test either.

    Most real-world conversations between men wouldn't pass a reverse-gender Bechdel test either. But conversations in fiction (And especially movies) are horribly stripped down compared to real conversations. The Bechdel test is simplistic, but it is a useful way to check whether the female characters have in-universe lives and motivations of their own or exist solely in relation to the male characters.

    It fails in the Anitaverse of course, because in these stories no characters have any purpose other than to highlight Anita.

  2. I read this one a year or two after our landlords had lost their youngest son. I have never seen a deeper grief than theirs. They haven't made words for the anger I felt that we were supposed to be rooting for Anita over the grieving parents. I don't know how self-centered one has to be to write something like that but I suspect it's some kind of epic level.

  3. Just as a Mom here, wtf?! I know LKH has a daughter -- can't she just, you know, THINK for a moment about how she'd feel if her daughter was murdered? How she'd want to find out who killed her and get some kind of justice? I don't think I could ever write a scene like this, because, geesh. I'd be rooting for Mom and Dad to at least get out without any violence towards them.... even if Anita did have to say no.