Monday, December 30, 2013

The Harlequin--chapter One

Onward ho, then.

...this intro is boring. Malcom, the pastor for the Church of Eternal Life, is in Anita's office. Big freaking whoop. She's the main squeeze for the biggest power in St. Louis. Of course he's going to start paying homage eventually.

Anita has an inoffensive coffee cup, a red sweater and a new gun. I don't know enough about guns to know what the difference between a Browning and a Sig Saur is, let alone a Hi-Power and a Dual Mode. Also, Malcom isn't all that handsome. However:

That same personality that made his Sunday morning television program such a hit.
That sentence all by its lonesome tells you Malcom is a POWER in the vamp world. How do we know this? It was a big deal that Jean Claude's folks were up and about at noon. Malcom is powerful enough to have a Sunday MORNING TV program. Vampires don't resist the pull of the sun, if I remember right. They just fucking die when the sun rises, and then wake back up whenever their powers overcome the sunlight. I got the impression that EVEN JEAN CLAUDE was having difficulty with pre-noon events until he got his power up during Danse Macabre. It takes YEARS to pull off a Sunday Morning TV slot, and the timeline on these books is really tight. A month between books, maximum. Malcom has been showing up Jean Claude in the wake-up call department for a very, VERY long time.

I've always liked Malcom as a (fucking wasted) concept. The Church that is exactly what it says on the tin: Eternal Life. As long as Earth never self-destructs and it's still legal to be a vamp and you keep your nose clean, you're alive.

That would really suck after a while. Seriously, people aren't made to live forever.

Malcom tells Anita that she's going to get a death warrent for one of his members. Anita actually has two, so she decides to play "Whose dick is bigger" with Mal for a while.

I swear to God, two pages in and it's a dick measuring contest. Anita brings up that Mal doesn't blood-oath his membership, which apparently means they can do whatever, whenever, and don't have to worry about consequences. On the other hand, it means they have free will and can tell the guy in charge to go get fucked if, for example, they order the membership to go line up for blood apple duty. Let's see, the freedom to murder everybody verses the freedom to tell somebody no, they won't fuck you today.

Don't you just love LKH's moral conundrums?

God. Please. Fucking PLEASE come up with a word other than "sweetie" for your fuck-buddies, Anita. It's cloying, old fashioned and it really doesn't fit the personality of somebody who 1. was a virgin for most of her adult life 2. has about six different guys currently on retainer and 3. Is supposed to be twenty-seven sometime in the mid-ninties (This is a guess. Please do not make me unravel the Anita Blake Timeline. I don't think it can be done).

 Their choice, if they understand that it is a choice, but no blood oath means that they are not mystically tied to anyone but the vamp that made them. You, I’m told, do the deed, most of the time. Mal can order the vampires to do whatever? What's the big deal, then? I mean, you basically just said that these idiots aren't a threat to JC because they're cut off from a lot of potential power, and Malcom can order them to drop and give him twenty any time he wants. I mean, unless you're going to, IDK, forget huge chunks of your own mythology, Malcom having pet vampires who aren't oathed to Jean Claude shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Anita Blake then argues that vampires having free will is a bad thing.

This is the heroine of the novel, people. THE HEROINE OF THE NOVEL IS SAYING FREE WILL IS BAD.

 Anita then passes along that Jean Claude gave Mal and his people an ultimatum: either he blood oaths them, or Jean Claude does. Or they move and blood oath someplace else. Malcom shrugs.

Anita reminds us all that she got grandfathered into being a Federal Marshal because she killed vampires for a really long time, and she could pass a basic gun course. This alternate United States Government isn't filling me with confidence.

“You were trying to take away one of my people to be killed with no trial. You shot him to death on the church grounds.”

Mal has a good point. That's a huge civil rights issue, and of course it's a no-go because having to provide a vampire with a trial would give Anita fewer bad-ass scenes where she just whips out her fifty-cal and goes to town. Of course, the contrast between vampires and every other discriminated group ever is a really shitty one to make given that vampires feed off people like leeches or cancer and that's exactly the accusation made against most marginalized people.

“That’s true, but no human can mesmerize other humans so that they help in their own kidnappings. Humans can’t fly off with their victims in their arms.”
Stockholm syndrome. The Girl in the Box. Freaking Waco and Jonestown. YES THEY FUCKING CAN. Also, maybe we can't fly off with victims, but we can certainly stuff them in a van, which has happened, or a basement, or a plywood box. It is frighteningly easy to manipulate another human being into becoming a victim, and it is equally easy to make another human being disappear. Maybe a vampire wouldn't have to work quite so hard to get away with it, but vampires aren't alone in the "killing people" business.

Malcom tries to convince Anita that she's got the wrong vampire, and that somebody else ate the victim. Anita blows him off a few times, and then he pulls out the boogeyman card: something really big and powerful visited his church and he's got no idea what it was, but it was around the time of the murder.

I would not buy that if I were Anita, but she finally starts listening.

I thought about it. Malcolm was no Master of the City, but he was probably one of the top five most powerful vampires in town. He’d be higher, if he weren’t so terribly moral. It limited him in some ways.
It's been four books, and I still do not understand Laurell's grudge against conventional morality. I'd get it if it were because it discriminates against a lot of people, but it's not. It's like "OOOOH YOU HATE MURDER AND STEALING AND RAPE. YOU'RE A STUPID PRUDE", and that's kind of how serial killers think.

 Oh, and both the warrents of execution are on women vamps. Because we can't start that sexism early enough, I guess.

 And then we have a guessing game where Malcom tries to name Anita's date and/or sex partner tonight and Anita just says "nope" to all the names.

PLEASE tell me we're going to have more action than sex this time. Seriously, a fifty-fifty cut would be nice. Please. PLEASE. least make most of the sex consensual. Or at least not life-destroying. Please.

“Very well; your sin is lust, Ms. Blake, as it is the sin of your master and all his vampires.”
BWWAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA please tell me you did not think anybody would take that line seriously. ANITA SPENT SEVENTY PERCENT OF THE LAST BOOK HAVING SEX, and I think that's a low-ball estimate. Oh, did I say sex? I'm sorry, I meant RAPING PEOPLE. Also having emotional breakdowns where she tried frantically to get away from abuse, only to be manipulated back into the five or six abusive relationships she's got running at the moment. If we narrowed the sexscapades down to consensual sex, I'd say that we spent maybe twenty percent of the last book on that.

So no. Anita's sin isn't lust. It's not wrath either. Anita doesn't spend any more time being angry than she does being lustful. If you made me pin a "sin" on her, I'd say Gluttony was her biggest issue, given that sex is her food.

“I’m Christian, too, Malcolm.” 
“Do you worry about getting into heaven, Ms. Blake?”
 It was such an odd question that I answered it. “I did, for a while, but my faith still makes my cross glow. My prayers still have the power to chase the evil things away. God hasn’t forsaken me; it’s just that all the right-wing fundamentalist Christians want to believe he has. I’ve seen evil, Malcolm, real evil, and you aren’t that.”
Yeah. The cross glowing thing bothers me. As I've established before, I believe that God mostly honors those who honor Him, and Anita doesn't do shit to maintain a "Good Christian Relationship" with her Higher Power...but she does go out of her way to criticize other people who follow the same path, mostly because Anita Has To Be The Best At Everything. I would gladly give Anita this point if the Cross glowed for everybody, because the alternative is that God is honoring the kind of faith that only goes to Him when it gets something. And God doesn't have the greatest history honoring that nonsense.

In other words, if God hasn't forsaken Anita, those Fundies, and most of the rest of the faith, should have His protection too. And sadly, that's not the case in the Anitaverse.

Malcom asks Anita if she knows any preists that would be willing to give him absolution.

“I am still a believer, Ms. Blake; being a vampire has not changed that. I wish to die absolved of my sins.”
Oh Jesus. How can an author look at that and pass it up in favor of unsexy sex scenes? THIS IS THE STORY I COME HERE TO READ, LAUREL. WRITE THIS STORY PLEASE. I would read the story of a Christian vampire desperate for forgiveness. I would read the shit out of that story.

The chapter ends with Malcom leaving the office being morose, and Anita deciding that Bad Shit is coming down the tubes.

Ten bucks says the bad shit ends in sex.


  1. I'm reading Kiss the Dead now and I'm almost done with it and the 45-46 chapters are actually pretty similar to this---Anita argues that free will is terrible for vampires and they need masters that they're "blood-oathed" to, and the story of a vampire monastery started by a vampire whose faith was still strong enough to make holy objects glow and who, like Malcolm, wanted to live the most Christian life he could in spite of his undead condition.

    Like you, I want to read that book big-time.

    1. I seem to remember there being a former knight in one of the early Anita books who managed to regain a lot of his faith, the ability to daywalk and an animal-to-call (butterflies) in the course of the book. Of course, he dies tragically to save Anita, but I remember loving the crap out of that character.

      Also, there's a re-writing of Dracula (The Dracula Tapes, Fred Saberhagen) where Drac is a strong Orthodox Christian who was repelled not by the Eucharist, but by Van Helsing desecrating the Eucharist (also, Drac did not kill Lucy. The UNTYPED blood transfusions Van Helsing gave her are what killed her in the end.) It's a really interesting take on the concept of a believing vampire.