Thursday, January 21, 2016

Erika VS Anita Blake (Burnt Offerings chapter 1-6)

I was in the tenth grade when a friend of mine excitedly handed me the first Anita Blake book. Those of you who know anything about Anita Blake are probably a little alarmed at the idea of a 15-year-old picking it up. The first book isn't that messed up, and actually only ever gets as far as a kiss. The story does not spiral wildly out of control into a non-stop train of orgies and violence (sometimes violent orgies) until further into the series. Those I was definitely too young to be reading, but the first few books were okay.

...I think. It was awhile ago, okay?

Still, I'm curious and afraid, so, I'm grabbing the seventh book in the series, Burnt Offerings, and seeing how badly I get burned reading it. Wow, that joke was awful. I'm so sorry. Not sorry enough to edit it out, but it's close. I'm starting with the seventh because, honestly, why should we all have to shuffle through the less weird and fucked up books when I can probably remember enough to keep us all up on what's going on? Well, maybe not... up, but, you know. Not totally lost.

For those of you who have never heard of the Anita Blake series, it's the prototypical urban fantasy about a necromancer-detective-vampire slayer who is also the (human) female leader of the local werewolves. Well, sort of werewolf Queen? She was boning their "alpha" (or what ever they're called) so he knighted her or some shit? They broke up because he ate a person. Like you do. Listen, I read these books over a decade ago. Give me some slack. Oh, she also has sex with vampires and there are were-critters and stuff. She has sex with those too. The books are also all in first person. Because this blog has apparently not seen enough first person books.

We're dropped in with Anita in some sort of work meeting with a convenient bit of character building that shows her as thoroughly professional and even-tempered.
My right arm had been sliced open twice by a knife. One scar was white and old. The second was still pink and new. My left arm was worse. A mound of white scar tissue sat at the bend of my arm. I'd have to lift weights for the rest of my life or the scars would stiffen and I'd lose mobility in the arm, or so my physical therapist had said. There was a cross-shaped burn mark, a little crooked now because of the ragged claw marks that a shapeshifted witch had given me. There were one or two other scars hidden under my blouse, but the arm really is the worst.

Bert, my boss, had requested that I wear my suit jacket or long-sleeved blouses in the office. He said that some clients had expressed reservations about my ah . . . occupationally-acquired wounds. I hadn't worn a long-sleeved blouse since he made the request. He'd turned the air conditioner up a little colder every day. It was so cold today I had goose bumps. Everyone else was bringing sweaters to work. I was shopping for midriff tops to show off my back scars.
So mature and professional. Then again, her boss also seems like a tosser, so, fight petty with petty I guess. She's in a meeting with a firefighter, McKinnon, who's a friend of her cop-boss, Dolph (not her necromancer boss). McKinnon and Anita get into a pissing contest over who's the manlier man by showing off their scars, until Anita puts an end to it by grabbing the glass off of her desk and maintaining eye contact as she eats the whole thing. There are a lot of pissing contests like this, and honestly, I'm not sure there is ever a time in the series where they don't end with Anita just ending them. We know McKinnon is a tough but good dude because rather than pee on more things, he cuts to the chase of what he wants.

He tells a story about a scary pyrokenetic that went around burning down buildings with people in them and how messy and horrific that was (how he got his scars) before going on to explain he thinks he has another firebug on his hands. It's still early, but he wants to catch this before the bodies start piling up again.  So yeah, Anita isn't officially on this yet, but once people start dying she obviously will be, so, uh, maybe look over the file? Anita, a woman who works with cops in her spare time, shrugs, isn't sure what she can do--pyrokenetics aren't monsters, just people with a rare skill--but she'll look it over. A strange touch of world building, just, yeah, magic happens, it's weird, but, wevs. Then again, if I was shagging a vampire, I would probably have a very different thresh hold for weird.

Before she has a chance, her vampire-slaying apprentice calls. He had been sent to stake some dead bodies that would, in a few days, rise as vampires (it's cool; it was in their will to stake them if this came up).  Basically he's all "Hey mom, can you pick me up from school the hospital" and she's all "Did you lose a fight again? As your slayer mom I'm not mad but I am disappointed; I told you to wear your 'I'm little and cute but I'll fuck you up' shirt until you build up your reputation" and he's all "I'M TWENTY-ONE I'M AN ADULT" and she's like "Do you want me to bring you a juicebox or not?"

He explains that someone tried to get him to stake a vampire but "lost" the paperwork. He refuses, because staking a vampire without paperwork is just murder, which he isn't super keen on. (As opposed to notarised murder, which is fine.) The orderly went looking for it while he went to grab a smoke, but came back to find this woman trying to murder this dude and got mangled with one of his own stakes when he tried to stop her. No one is dead, but this is a handy way to do some world-building and bring new readers up on the setting. She was a member of a splinter group (splintered from what?) called Humans First, which is going around trying to kill vampires like they're abortion providers. There's also Humans Against Vampires who are annoying but operate within the law. There was also a vampire mayor in Michigan who got staked recently, which Humans First is taking credit for. Anita doesn't think they're organized enough to have pulled that off. I assume this will be relevant information later. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Hamilton is just throwing around random world events for funsies. I don't remember if she's actually a good writer or not!

Anita gets her baby sidekick home and tucks him into bed after scolding him for leaving a vampire unattended in a morgue and leaving his vampire murdering kit unattended.

This is why you got mangled, Larry. You're too careless, Larry. You should shoot more people, Larry. Larry, in a great deal of pain, isn't too thrilled with being lectured, but he takes it because what else is he gonna do, get out and walk? His back has been replaced with stitches.

Once he's properly drugged and tucked into bed, Anita returns a call from a mystery number on her pager. I am cackling because googling the number isn't even an option to find out what it is. Also she has a pager. I know, I know, at the time this book came out it was a big deal, but to be honest, I thought pagers were funny when they made sense. Turns out it's a werewolf friend of hers, Stephen, who needs her help. Some were-panther is hurt and he needs her help to keep him from being dragged off by his irresponsible pimp. We get a quick fill in of how things are with the were-panthers: Not Good. (Anita killed their alpha because he was planning to make a snuff film starring the two of them.) It's deeply fucked up, which she owns, and admits she's forcing herself to be blasé about it because otherwise she's gonna lose her shit and she has things to do today still. Like, go make sure no one is pimped irresponsibly, apparently. This series is very pro safe, responsible pimps and sex workers. (Although most of the sex workers we meet are male if memory serves.)

Anita's response to Stephen's phone call is basically "I don't wannaaaaa" and Stephen is like "This guy has the worst pimp, Anita!  STRIPES AND ANIMAL PRINT, ANITA!" and then the villain drops in like "Are you phoning for help?  I have like one rule and it's 'no phoning for help', man" and Stephen begs off with "Please don't violence me I AM A SNUGGLING WOLF not a fighting wolf".  Villainous dude grabs the phone to threaten Anita as well, she yawns for a while and then asks his name (Zane) because she is an old-fashioned lady to likes a proper introduction before she breaks a man.  Zane does some "Grr, I'm a werepanther" posturing, Anita is just "Fool, by hurting my dog you activated my limit break" and hangs up.

She loads her gun with a few lead bullets in preparation. Silver bullets: werekitten is dead. Lead? Just a really bad day. Obviously, telling him "Dude I can literally kill you if I have to so knock this shit off" is not an option, but hurting him is. Anyways, into the hospital we go. Shockingly, Zane is causing shit. He keeps trying to use orderlies as hackeysacks. Not like, murdering anyone, but, you know, really one sided games of catch. She shoots him because hello is for losers, and makes it very clear he needs to stop this shit or she will murder him and feel very little about it. At this point he starts crying, relived that someone has come to be the new alpha of the werepanthers.

That is both my response, and Anita's. She figures if it avoids more people being used for ring toss, she can play along, but this is absurd. She isn't even a were-critter, and also, uh, she's like, the werewolf Queen and also something within the vampire community because now she's riding the local vampire leader on the regular. Also to keep her from exploding or some shit in a previous book the vampire had to mark her, therefore bonding the two and giving her some extra superpowers but also status in the vampire community? If Anita listed all her jobs and supernatural ties on her business card it would need to be two-sided and very small font.

The police come, cart off Zane, and Anita is left in the hospital room with her mangled werewolf friend, Stephen, while marveling at the deeply fucked up shit that happened to Nathaniel (the previously-mentioned werepanther who was being pimped out). I just--I don't even want to summarize it, because I feel like it's gross for the sake of shock value and disgusting, not because it actually adds anything. The only credit I will give is that Anita underlines "It doesn't matter if he's a sex worker, he could still be raped, and that is definitely part of what happened here".

A werewolf reporter pops up to check on Stephen and fill us in on werewolf politics. Richard, Werewolf King and Anita's ex, is out of town working on his Master's degree. While he's gone, since while Anita is Lupa (what they call Werewolf Queen I guess) she is decidedly removed from pack politics, another werewolf has stepped up to the plate to take care of the pups while he's gone. Her name is Sylvie and she is a naturally lovely and kind woman. Hah just kidding. She killed her way into the position to prove a point, and because the werepanthers under their old leader were a sack of shit, she has forbidden the wolves from helping. Cats and dogs, right?

Oh, Sylvie is also planning to like, double murder Richard to become the new Wolf King. We think. Anita still has Feelings for him, even if she made her choice to dump him because he eats people sometimes. For a vampire. Because drinking blood is fine I guess? She's aware that this logic is fucked up. So now she has to bully some werewolves to come watch their mangled friend who broke the rule by helping the pretty boy kitten, and probably have to fight Sylvie to do it. Being a normal human, that fight is going to end in Anita trying to murder her. Anita isn't thrilled with this, but eh, whatcha gonna do? Even Anita is getting concerned at her rapidly dwindling reserve of fucks. (Not the physical kind. She has many of those. So many.)

To keep things moving, Dolph, police dad, comes in to talk to Anita about what the ever-living fuck just happened, and there's this whole scene of them glaring at each other because she's fucking a vampire. He then blames himself for her having to hang out with monsters so much, and wonders if it's his fault, because she does it For Cases. The whole scene is kind of masturbatory, telling us how awesome and tough Anita is, but also that she's Damaged.
"You think like a cop, Anita. It's what makes you good."

"I think like a cop and like a monster. That's what makes me good."

He nodded, closed his notebook and slipped it into an inner pocket of his jacket. "Yeah, that's what makes you good."

That scene is followed up immediately by some werewolves coming to babysit the injured and a whole show of her being the pack dominant, the Lupa, and accidentally tapping into her ex's power to do it. Her vampire apparently bound them all together to keep them alive last book? (Look, none of us want me to wade through the whole series. Just trust me on that. So we're just going to have to accept some things are going to be question marks.) Anyway, it's the first time she felt his magic since they split, and she can tell even though he's very far away it pissed him the fuck off that she touched him that way. Which pisses her off and... you get the idea. Rage boners all around. The wolves then crawl around on the ground worshiping her a bit, trying to get belly rubs, and a nurse walks in before walking out very quickly.

Tuesdays, right?

This book is going to spend a lot of time with people being submissive to Anita, or her fighting to prove she shouldn't be submissive to them.

Tune in next time for Anita to go on a Hot Date with her vampire boyfriend, Jean-Claude Van Damme!

If anyone has read this series within the last decade and wants to point out anything important I've missed so far, please, chime in in the comments. Or just chat there anyways. It makes me feel good about myself.

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