It's a big book. Lots of words. Lots of sex. Not much plot.
I was hoping for better from Laurell K. Hamilton's INCUBUS DREAMS. I've been sticking with the Anita Blake series, and finding the last few books still readable if not up to the level of the first books in the series (up through BLUE MOON). Unfortunately, I'm seeing a big decline in quality in this one.
In past books Hamilton has created some core characters that we get to know and care about. Instead of concentrating on this core group, she has Anita in way too many sexual situations with characters who are strangers to us (and to Anita!), and then these characters are never developed further in the book. Except for a very sweet and sexy scene with Jean Claude, most of these sexual situations in the book are weirdly unerotic to read. Even the big Jean Claude, Richard and Anita three-way (that many of us have been looking forward to!) is a dud.
The plot is an afterthought, or at least it seems so, since it takes up relatively little page space in a long book. There is a group of serial killer vampires who move from community to community preying on strippers, and Anita is in the thick of things as usual. There are hints and portents of trouble to come, and a master vampire of tremendous power who never shows up (I assume he or she will turn up in the next book).
Anita's emotional state is...well...undescribable since it's all over the map. In CERULEAN SINS it seemed she was at least moving forward and coming to grips with her powers and her sexuality, but I'm now having trouble seeing who Anita really is in the arc of this book. One of the things I used to like about the series was Anita's sarcastic and wry sense of humor. In this one, there are just too many Anitas warring with each other, and waaaayyy too much whining going on.
There were an amazing amount of spelling and syntax errors in this advance reader copy. "Wretch" for "retch". "Loose" for "lose". I wouldn't mention this, expecting the errors would be corrected in the hardback, except I seem to remember there were lots of problems like this in CERULEAN SINS. These errors just drive me nuts and can really cut down on my enjoyment of a book.
There are some of us so invested in Anita that we will probably continue reading the series, but not with the anticipation of former years. I certainly won't buy the hardbacks--I'll put my name on the hold list at the library for the next one.
I'll be very interested to see if any of you have a different response to the book.--Suzanne (26 Aug 04)
Ok, about INCUBUS DREAMS. [Fans self....]
I liked this book a lot. I'll probably buy the hardcover as soon as it comes out because I really feel it needs a reread. And probably will buy the ebook although I'll wait on that until the ebook goes down to paperback prices. I'm a book junkie though.
[Fans self some more, just remembering the book.]
But I'm probably weird. Part of that may be that I do read erotica, even though I do like a romantic subplot in that, so I may have a higher tolerance for overt and extensive sexuality in a book. This book has some scenes that I found "hot" but not erotic. In spite of being explicit, the underlying structure and purpose of the scenes didn't strike me as erotica-based but as aspects of character development. I would agree that this book could use somewhat more editing--more about that in a minute--but I like big, juicy books with lots of character stuff, and I'm happy with less plot.
In fact, there is a plot in this book, and if Hamilton were less successful, somebody could probably take the six or seven chapters that deal with strippers being drained dry by unknown vampires and the two or three chapters about a group of vampires that belong to a "vampire church" that doesn't follow traditional vampire protocols (and which may be producing--ummm--sort of "unhealthy, badly taught vampires") and there would probably be a book that the fans of the early Anita books would like. Especially if there was just a chapter or two of sex or sexual tension.
But what we have is the other half of the book which has a lot of stuff about sex and power and sex and Anita's relationships. And power. And sex. We see a lot more of Richard in this book, and this book seemed to rationalize what had happened to that triumvirate as well as explaining some of the character changes that we have seen in Jean-Claude, Richard, and Anita. I liked this partial redemption of Richard. It didn't seem to me that we had that many more new characters. If you haven't read the last couple of books recently, they might have blurred together, although they
didn't for me.
Unlike Suzanne, I did like the Richard/Anita/Jean-Claude scene. I would agree with her though that it wasn't erotic, but in fact was somewhat edgy and awkward because the characters were experiencing it as edgy and awkward. I thought that was the point, but I can see how it wouldn't work for people.
I liked it that it seemed to me that Anita was moving toward a view that she could learn to live a life that wasn't what she expected it to be in terms of little house with a white picket fence. For me this had a wider symbolism that life isn't what we expect and sometimes it is scary and pushes us places we never wanted or expected to go.
By a conservative estimate probably half the book is sex scenes or leads up to sex scenes. I regard that as a feature, not a bug, but in spite of all the sex (and you may be gathering that there is a lot of sex, with a number of men), it isn't erotica--it's something else. I'm not sure I have a name for it, but the discomfort seems to me to be part of the intended effect.
And I think it's interesting to note that as the sex quotient has gone up, the ick/yuck/gore quotient has gone down. There were early books when I was skipping the dripping ichor... And I really haven't heard people mentioning that.
I did find plenty of Laurell K. Hamilton's trademark humor in INCUBUS DREAMS. For example, one character complains that he doesn't want to be offered sex only when it is a "metaphysical emergency, which for some reason I found hysterically funny. It still gives me the giggles a couple of weeks later. And Anita at one point says that a particular sexual episode was "accidental" (i.e., to feed the ardeur) and Jean-Claude comments wryly that only Anita could claim that she had "accidental sex."
I do have one major beef mentioned above about editing. I would hope that a lot of the numerous typo-level errors will be corrected in the published version of the book. But there is a *major, major* continuity error where a whole subplot was taken out of the book, and you lose a whole day and a whole series of events (Hamilton's blogs had given clues to what was deleted). And then at the end of the following chapter, there are still a bunch of artifacts from the part that is gone and still the effect of something that no longer happened in the book.
On the other hand, some continuity problems from previous books (e.g., Damian's age) are corrected in this.
The people who don't like the way the series has been going aren't going to like this book at all. And a lot of people who might like this book would never like or read the early books because they are fundamentally different, and you would have to like both. The style now almost reminds me of Diana Gabaldon, not in its discipiline, but in lush writing and character development over a number of books.
Obviously the publisher thinks someone will buy it....
So I liked it and recommend it but only if you are OK with what has happened so far because we are obviously still in for a long complex ride in books to come....
[Fans self again, looking forward to the release so I can read it again.]--Lynn (26 Aug 04)
I was torn when thinking about INCUBUS DREAMS and finally realized why: this book is both a discommend and a recommend from me. It is discommended to anyone who has not been following the series. Without the last several books in the series, INCUBUS DREAMS is more like "Anita Does St. Louis, i.e, lots of sex and perhaps not enough context without the back story.
And that is the main flaw with INCUBUS DREAMS. For readers who have been following the story arc, INCUBUS DREAMS pulls together alot of the relationship threads that have been developing. This is definitly a relationship book; Anita is forced to deal with her relationship with the men in her life and also her relationship with her new powers and the fact that so many of them are channeled through sex. But INCUBUS DREAMS does not stand on its own within the series, this book definitely requires the books that are before it for a framework.
Most of the Anita Blake books have a strong action or mystery plot that goes along with the character development. In INCUBUS DREAMS, the action part, involving a serial killer who targets strippers and may be a vampire, is rushed and short-changed. In fact, it reads as if the book should have been longer (and it is already a very long book) but the author had to compromise in order to get it to a reasonable size. Not being psychic, I could be wrong on this, but I kept thinking the mystery had gotten squeezed out, and indeed, it is left with a bit of a cliffhanger and the feeling that it will be revisited in another book.
There is a lot of sex in this novel--to the point where it is tiring. But I think part of that was deliberate. While some of the sex is sweet (like a wonderful scene with Anita and Jean-Claude) and some results in Anita growing and realizing things about her relationships, some is necessary work brought about by the powers Anita is gifted (burdended?) with. Anita is not quite comfortable with the demands that power makes on her, nor is she comfortable with the fact that she is definitely not living the white-picket fence, monogamous existence she had been brought up to believe in, and her discomfort carries over to the reader.
INCUBUS DREAMS was interesting and kept me turning the pages, but it was not a stand alone novel, and I would not recommend it to someone new to the series.--Shelley (30 Sep 04)
I just finished listening to Laurell K. Hamilton's INCUBUS DREAMS on audio -- all 30 hours of it. Wow. I pretty much agree with other comments I remember. If you liked the last couple of books, you'll like this one. If you didn't, you won't.
If someone hadn't read the other books, I have no idea how this one would work, but I don't think I'd really recommend it. OTOH, if you recommend beginning at the beginning of the series, you then have to give a bit of a warning about how the series changes over time. Very confusing. It's been a while since I've read the earlier books, so it'd be interesting to go back though the series and "watch" the developments again. In INCUBUS DREAMS particularly, there are many references to how much Anita has changed.
However, my main comment is that LKH made it all work for me, including lots of elements that would be way too high on my "ick" meter normally. This has more to do with the violence and gore, and worse, the *attraction* to violence and gore, than with the multiple sex partners. Although I do find it fascinating that she can write so much sex and yet have it really not be only about sex. And I don't mean the metaphysical stuff that gives the "excuse" for all the sex. I mean that all the relationships feel real and personal to me, even if all the interpersonal dynamics are damn confusing.
Other random comments --
Some really great moments of humor. Loved Jean Claude's comment about how only Anita could keep having "accidental sex, and her musing that "accidental sex" made it sound like she'd simply tripped and happened to land on an erection. What an image.
Somewhere about midway through the book I was getting frustrated with the constant metaphysical/sexual emergencies -- I wanted to see more real "relationship" moments. Then I seemed to get my wish. :-) Still lots of emergencies, but more moments of real emotional connection as well.
LKH does a pretty good job, I think, of reminding the reader of previous events. Enough to work for me, whereas often in a series I'm either frustrated if I haven't recently reread previous books or bored because they keep rehashing stuff.
Can't think of anything else right now, other than another WOW. I really like the way Laurell K. Hamilton writes. I assume the next book is going to be a Merry Gentry book, and I hope it's going to be on audio like the first three were.--JW (23 Oct 04)***
Looks like we both finished this at the same time. Funny how it hit most of us the same way. What's really funny is that after writing how I was thinking of not reading the next book because Anita's multiple partners were growing so numerous, I read my review of CERULEAN SINS and found I had recommended it. So while I'm reading, LKH's writing is so good that I can't put the book down even if it's so over the top of what I would normally like. It's only long afterwards my brain starts thinking "enough".
You know, I seriously can't imagine listening to this story. An involving sex scene in print will usually sound silly when voiced out loud. And considering all the sex scenes in INCUBUS DREAMS...it boggles the mind.--Linda (23 Oct 04)
I almost didn't read this. The number of men in Anita's life had grown so large that I was contemplating not continuing with the series. I was also hesitant about the length of the book. But then I decided to try it anyway and was very surprised to find that I enjoyed it a lot! I agree with all that Shelley said in her review so will just add some of my reactions to it. One thing I had forgotten was how LKH manages to grab you and not let you go. I actually stayed up late reading several nights in a row because of this book!
INCUBUS DREAMS is definitely a relationship book, which is one of the things I liked about it. One reason I had so much trouble with Anita and her men in the past was that she was uncomfortable about it, so I was too. Anita started out resisting having more than one man in her life and ended up having NUMEROUS men. With the ardeur plot device, I can't really blame her, but she was constantly blaming herself and pushing the men in her life away. I understood this at first, but I also wanted her to make up her mind and stick to it! In this book, she has sex with even more men, but she also starts accepting her life for what it is now and learning to embrace parts of it. She also has more changes in her powers and her ardeur.
The serial killer plot was very interesting, especially learning about the Church of the Eternal Life and the vampires that belong to it. And I'm very interested in seeing what develops with Truth and Wicked, some new vampires we meet. :-) I enjoyed the mystery and was surprised that it wasn't completely resolved, but I remember she left a killer loose in a previous book whom I'm surprised we haven't seen again.
I did have an odd thought while reading the book on how the vampires have changed. In the beginning of this series, they were scary. Now, most of the ones we see are involved with Anita and put up with so much from and for her that they should be saints! I actually like most of them a lot. I don't know if it's Anita's influence on them or just that her perceptions have changed since she's become a monster too, but they have definitely taken a huge turn for the better. I do hope in further books that they get a chance to show their scary side, too. Against people other than Anita anyway.
So, if you have been reading this series and were thinking of stopping, you might try one more. Definitely not the place to start the series. A little more sex than I needed but except for one scene, I handled it pretty well. :-) --Linda (23 Oct 04)***
Yep, we're pretty much on the same wavelength on this one. In fact, having read your comments, I'll qualify mine. If a reader was unsure about continuing the series after the last couple of books, it might be worth trying this one. I was happy to see Anita coming more to terms with her new life. Although you have to get past the first half of the book before it really starts happening ... And it is very much a relationship book. You just have to realize that there are a lot of relationships. Complicated relationships. :-) --JW (24 Oct 04)
I've finally finished this tome and will recommend it those who have been following the series. I'm thinking newcomers would be find it terribly confusing.
This one begins at the wedding of Larry and Tammy (whom after this interlude are not mentioned again). Anita is one of Larry's groomsmen. Her dates are Micah and Nathaniel (hey, why bring one when you can have two?!). Anita's trying to duck out on dancing with them when she's called to visit a murder scene. Yeah, a murder investigation. I thought, the book is getting back to its roots! No need to get excited, though, as it's only for a moment then we get back to the sex.
As expected at this point in the series, the book features lots of sexual tension with Nathaniel (he of the beautiful violet eyes and desire to be bound and beaten) and Damien, and Asher, and Richard, and Jean-Claude, and Micah, and...well, you get the picture. When the book begins, Micah is Anita's #1 bedmate and partner, but as the book progresses Nathaniel finally moves up a little in the ranks. I was thrilled to see this as I have soft spot for Nathaniel.
This book was described to me by a friend who enjoyed the earlier books as "boring porn" and I can easily see why she felt this way. The sex with strangers which fills far too many pages is dull, unnecessary, and frustratingly vanilla. How many men does Anita need in her harem anyway? It has reached ridiculous proportions. She'd be waddling like a penguin if she were human.... If the book had been subjected to a little editing it could've been so much better, IMO.
However, I still thought it was much better than the last few Anita Blake books because LKH does delve a little deeper into some of the relationships. The Jean-Claude/Richard/Anita triangle is explored. Micah breaks down and becomes more than just another pretty face (though he's quickly forgotten for most of the book). Nathaniel comes into his own (take that however you will) and becomes a little less of a doormat for Anita to use for feeding her various hungers and for cooking and cleaning. Hey, where can I get a Nathaniel, anyway?
The plot is all over the place. At one point Anita is called in to raise a zombie. I'd almost forgotten she's a necromancer so it was nice to see her "working" again. But that plot, which I found very interesting, quickly went nowhere. She's also called in to investigate a suspected vampire serial killer targeting strippers. This plot fizzles and limps to a less than fulfilling end. In between the short moments of work, Anita seems to be angsting about the way her life has turned out and dealing with the ardeur and attempting to reconcile her feelings and complicated relationships with all of her boys.
INCUBUS DREAMS managed to hold my attention for most of its many pages which is something most books can't manage to do these days, so I'm sure I'll read the next one.--Laurie (1 Jan 05)