Affliction. Book Review

afflictionAFFLICTION by Laurell K. Hamilton

Headline, p/b, 688pp, £8.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

The problem with a lengthy series of books featuring the same main character is sustainability. The reader needs to feel that the events that take place are sufficiently different from previous novels in the sequence to continue to hold interest. The characters will, ideally, develop, learn from their mistakes, encounter emotional crises and come out of the situation changed. And there has to be a feeling that the author is still interested in their creation and wants to tell more episodes in the character’s life. There must also be familiar elements.

Affliction is the twenty-second book starring vampire hunter Anita Blake. The vampires in her world are capable of being scary but have rights in law. Those that disobey the strictures that govern their relationship with humans are ruthlessly hunted down and dispatched. That is the job of Anita Blake and her fellow Marshals. Over the series, Anita has encountered beings that have changed who and what she is. She is a highly sexual person and has a number of lovers, including Jean-Claude, the Master of the city of St. Louis. Jean-Claude is a powerful vampire. Others include were-tigers.

This novel begins when Anita gets a call from the mother of Micah – one of her live-in lovers. His father has been attacked by a zombie and is likely to die. Initially, when they arrive, Anita tries to keep out of it. This is not her jurisdiction, she has not been asked for help. As Micah’s father is a cop, the local police want to keep the situation in house. Yet she is curious and starts asking questions. This has not been the first attack, and people have been going missing. She knows from past experience that it takes a lot of power to raise zombies and there seem to be too many for any average sorcerer to handle. As the situation deteriorates Anita is drawn into it and despite her instincts, mistakes by others make matters worse and the body count rises.

There are elements in this novel that followers of Anita’s adventures will expect. Explicit sex scenes are one of them, gore and danger are others. Even the good guys can die. The supernatural stakes are raised and the principle characters have personal issues to resolve. A problem confronting the author of a series like this is how much of previous novels needs to be re-examined. The characters are not reacting in isolation, they have past experience to draw upon and some of their decisions will be contingent on what has happened in the past. In places, there is too much soul searching and explanations. They sit around talking instead of getting on with what is important. There is no ‘time-out’ in the kind of situations they find themselves in yet the clock seems to stand still while they discuss personal issues. There is a good, action driven story here, slowed down by a lack of judicial editing. Affliction will please the undiscriminating aficionados, be acceptable to most of Hamilton’s fans and annoy those who know she can do better.