Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Kiss The Dead Kiss The Dead
by Laurell K. Hamilton

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Katie Boyle

Reading one of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books is like eating a cinnamon truffle. Outside it’s smooth and sweet, but inside is a series of complex flavours and an unexpected spiciness.

In this latest book, a group of vampires is protesting the rigidly hierarchical system that vampires live under. Some members of the group have turned to violence to make their point, and this endangers Anita and her sweeties, among others. There is a short investigation and the danger is stopped in its tracks.

The first Anita Blake novel came out in 1993; over the last 19 years, the heroine has aged about six years. She’s matured considerably in that time, and changed a great deal—just as real people do. As a young woman she was very sure of her limits, and of who was a "monster"; as a 30-year-old her limits have changed, and her standards regarding what makes someone a monster have become less absolute.

Characters need to develop and age, or they become cut-out figures. (Look, for instance, at Stephanie Plum.) The kinds of changes Anita has gone through are believable (well, within her particular version of the world anyway) and compelling. Many characters from the original book(s) have fallen by the wayside and new characters have appeared, stylishly and beautifully drawn.

Though all of this is admirable in the long term, Hamilton focusses on character (most notably Anita agonising about whether she has become one of the "monsters") at the expense of plot. This 359-page book has a plot that can be summarised, without losing subtleties, in a short paragraph. Because of the nature of Anita’s supernatural powers, much of the second half of the series focusses on sex, specifically on Anita’s increasingly unusual sex drive and sex life. Some of the books could in fact be best classified as porn with plot.

However, there’s a flavour of realism to the way things work out in the books. In real life events don’t build to a climax the way they do in books and movies, and resolutions are often anticlimactic. And Hamilton’s writing style is compelling and subtle, making all the Anita Blake books (even the porn with plot) a joy to read.

One nit to pick: Hamilton has, in at least three instances, repeated herself in this book by describing or explaining the same thing in the same way. And this is in a book where the dedication reads, in part, "To Missy, welcome aboard, a continuity editor at last."

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