It's not a stretch to say that we're sold a bill of goods on this one. After months of promos and teasers about an unknown zombie disease ravaging people, there came a teaser trailer where the villain was clearly identified as Lover of Death, a Master Rotting Vampire, who'd been presumed dead. Except there was never any mention of him dying before. As I recall, the last word on him was killing seventy people in Europe at the end of Bullet. Yet the premise of Affliction is that he'd been thought dead along with Mother of All Darkness, so his appearance is a surprising twist. Except it's not, since we've already been told about it. Plus it feels like it was kind of thrown in at the last moment; Hamilton has a history of milking the latest trend; with zombies the hot property nowadays instead of simply returning Anita to her zombie-raising roots, she pulls a lame bait and switch and then shows her hand anyway. In a nutshell, what was thought to be a zombie affliction is LoD resurfacing to try to stake out a territory of his own so he can kill everything.
**SPOILERS TO FOLLOW**
What's Good: There are flashes, instances, glimpses of Hamilton actually trying to write a story. Every so often you'll get a decent passage, a zinger that'll make you smile, an insight that makes you pause for a second. The greatly diminished amount of sex is glaringly apparent- 3 or 4 scenes total- and once again belies her protests about not paying attention to criticism of the series. It's a giant step in the right direction. But as it's Hamilton, one step forward results in two steps back. Some will consider it good that there's a veritable roll call of characters trotted out for this book. JC gets some face time, even Asher and Richard get some mention here. And yes- Edward is very much present in the book, and it was a welcome sight, even though he's a far cry from the man we came to appreciate in the first place. Underserved folks like Lisandro, Ares and Bram get some time as well, and there's a few spots of actual continuity brought in.
What's Bad: Once again, you almost don't know where to start. From the beginning, LKH dishes up a few quotes about acquiring power and poetry balancing out excess power. If that don't make much sense, don't worry- it's all about foreshadowing and justifying all the powerups Anita acquires in the book, including hyena and what's left of Mother of All Darkness, and the ability to enthrall even vamps now.
Since there's a lot less sex and Hamilton is allergic to the plot, something else has to fill up the pages not devoted to wangst and love. You got it- Haterz! Page after page of ridiculous, borderline insane rants and diatribes about Anita's sex life... all right in the middle of a potential zombie invasion. They literally get prevented from interrogating some vampires because Hamilton drags out a cavalcade of nobodies to complain about who Anita's sleeping with. Plus it would've cut out about a third of the book if they had ever talked to them. Gotta have your priorities in place.
Anyone, even LKH herself, who says she's not writing PNR (paranormal romance) need look no further than this doorstop. It's all about the lovey-dovey here, so much that it overwhelms what's supposed to be the plot. Let's start with Micah: for someone whom Anita's been so in love with for years she knows jack-all about him. His mother calls, asking for him by his childhood nickname- Mike- and Anita has no clue what's going on, even though the woman specifically called because Anita's with her son and he's one of the few strays she's picked up that has a family, it never registers. In an almost 600 page book, it takes damn near the first 200 pages just to get out of town- and Hamilton must've thought of Boulder, Co. at the last minute because you don't even know where they're going until after they get there- meet Micah's relatives and sort out some family drama and most of them disappear soon after anyway. And then they start looking for zombies.
Micah's family dynamic is so goofy it's a cartoon, running the gamut of every stereotype and trope Hamilton can shove in to take up space- including, of course, haterz and religious zealots. Micah comes home to see his dying father, hasn't seen his family in 10 years and worries about explaining his M/M/F threesome to his divorced parents only to find they've got their own threesome going- with Mom's new hubby- and a couple extra kids as a result. Might as well say he gets it from his parents.
Got a couple of questions for you all: when you discover a dangerous master vampire setting up shop in a city, shouldn't you inform the Master of the City so he can deal with the problem? Wouldn't they feel its presence anyway? When a homicidal master vampire has an animal to call shouldn't you inform said clan about the danger? Rally the troops to help flush it out, maybe ease some tensions between paranormals and humans? When a horde of zombies is set loose on a killing spree shouldn't all of the above groups be involved to help protect the city? Answer: you do know what series this is, right? What's really funny about that is there was all this drama about who the MotC was and how to properly deal with him... and he never even appeared in the book. You see some of his flunkies when Anita and the boys are met at the airport, and never hear from them again. Oh, and didja know that vampires can become doctors now? Wonder how that even works, let alone if he's allowed to operate on patients and what'll happen if he's stuck in ER when the sun comes up.
You could almost count how many pages it would be before someone would start on Anita for her sex life or her furry friends, or because it's 2 o'clock. Whenever there was a spare moment or space to expedite matters, along came a pissing contest to fill the gap. I swear I was actually noticing when we'd go a few chapters without anyone complaining about Anita and her... oh, wait- there's another one.
The biggest development here is that Anita gets engaged... to everybody. Yep; first Micah, then JC proposes to her so now it's about who to legally marry and who to handfast or whatever with. Which becomes just another thing for the haterz to hate on Anita about. The second biggest development is that if you didn't think Anita and Edward were going to sleep together at some point, you best believe it now- Edward's loving, stepford wife-to-be Donna has signed off on it. Deal with it; it's gonna happen, probably before Anita gets hitched (who wants to bet it'll be the night before the wedding?). As usual, all the women who are slim and slender are mannish and waspish towards Anita; if they have any sexy curves, noticeable breasts or even a hint of femininity that's a dead giveaway they'll be on Anita's side. And Hamilton still can't resist injecting sex into nearly every situation. Ex: Nathaniel agrees to shift into his panther form to help track some missing people. To make the locals more comfortable he consents to wear a collar to show that he's under control; the collar he uses is his bondage collar with his nickname "P-Cat" (Amazon Edit) etched into it for all these cops to see. And the point is...?
With 20 years of stories under her belt, a veritable mine of lore and worldbuilding behind her, Hamilton always leaves you wondering why she's so adverse to storytelling. Probably because if she did, most of the stuff she writes couldn't possibly happen. It'd simply make no damned sense and take the focus away from what's important- Anita. During the book it's info-dumped that JC is the Head of the American Vampire Council, which makes him- and therefore Anita- all kinds of extra-powerful. Now who wouldn't want to read that story- JC making out like Michael Corleone as we witness the rise of a new American dynasty. Instead it's glossed over in favor endless declarations of love and pissing contests about the sex life of a blow up doll with a badge. Boulder, Colorado is noted from being one of the most progressive, eclectic places in the country- except when Anita's around, then it's a hotbed of racism against weres- and even though the hospital has a vampire for a doctor- go figure- a woman can't have multiple sex partners in peace while killing zombies and vampires to help these fools out. And if they insist on treating weres as a potentially dangerous group, especially after one gets possessed by a vampire and goes berserk on some cops, that just makes them a bunch of bigoted losers.
Oh, almost forgot: someone dies. In an effort to create tension one of the bodyguards bites the dust. Don't worry; about two dozen new ones float in and out of the story, so you won't even have time to miss him.
What's Left: An unedited mess of contradictory information and a storyline with its head up its butt. There were several instances of cut-n-pasted text that never got fixed since Hamilton still has that no-edit clause. You'll know them when you see them.
I can't even muster up any energy to get snarky about the book; the thing is just plain bad. Bloated, obvious, boring and bad. And the next thrilling episode which'll probably be all about wedding dramas with a couple of werewolves or something thrown in, isn't likely to improve things.