Dead In The Water

Hit List (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #20) - Laurell K. Hamilton

It's official now- this series is dead in the water, not even a hint of inertia. Hamilton has crushed what little impetus the storyline had left.

This is another book about nothing: lots of talking, whining, snarling, blank looks, Anita's-is-bigger-than-your's-contests with cops, etc. Toss in a couple of semi-decent but somewhat hard-to-follow action sequences and some sub-plots to nowhere, and you get Bullet with less sex and a smaller cast. I spent the whole time reading this waiting for something significant to happen, something to raise the stakes, and never got it.

Since neither Hamilton nor Penguin has supplied a real plot summary yet here's one for you: The Harlequin, a cadre of vampiric enforcers under the control of the Mother of All Darkness, commit seemingly random brutal murders of were-creatures across the country in an attempt to lure Anita away from the security of her home city of St. Louis, allowing their mistress- the Mother of All Darkness- to metaphysically inhabit her body. Realizing it's all a trap, Anita and Edward must find a way to stop the Harlequin before they can both kill again and capture Anita.

This entire book can be described in one word: filler. From the unedited first chapter which is nothing more than an 'As you know, Bob' infodump to the dripping-wet rag of a finale, you're treated to endless amounts of pouting, emo-sessions and rehashing of old news. Hamilton blogged recently that her agent told her that Hit List would make a great starting point for someone who'd never read the series... not a good sign this far along since it means there's a lot of old info being recycled. You'd never think that hunting down the baddest set of killers on the planet could be so damn boring. Several sequences seem like they were lifted from Bullet and transposed onto different characters- check the scene discussing Olaf's proclivities and tell me it isn't exactly the same as the one regarding Valentina.

On the other hand there are instances where Hamilton may be realizing enough's enough. She claims she doesn't read any criticisms but this book belies that statement. Longstanding reader concerns like the lack of oversight for the vampire hunters, questions about her family (whom we've never seen in twenty books!), law enforcement agencies mistrusting her for her relationships with paranormals, even the idea of feeding the Ardeur with food instead of sex- all get some attention but then are quickly hand-waved away. Ex: Anita explains over some drive-thru that food won't be enough to sate the Ardeur anymore, it's gotta be sex. This might've made sense if she'd said it while slamming down some Surf-n-Turf instead of fries. Guess Hamilton got tired of always saying how food could control the urges while never having Anita eat anything, but that's out the window now.

But even that's not the worst of it. Many fans have expressed sentiments about either Edward or Olaf- or both- hooking up with Anita. All I'll say to that is Hit List has those roads laid out and paved with stone, particularly for Olaf. Edward's route is more indirect but appears just as inevitable.

But wait- there's more! In a promotional interview Hamilton stated that she wrote herself into a corner regarding MoAD, making her too powerful. The inference from this is that there's no story arc or endgame planned, making the whole series just a pile of 'whatever, whenever'. Even more damning is the ending of this novel which is so flat, so uninspired, so deflating and anti-climactic the loyalties of even the most diehard will be tested. MoAD is the biggest Big Bad of the series, allegedly the driving force behind the last few books and... well, if you've read the Merry Gentry series and thought what happened to Cel was lame, you're really not gonna be happy about this one.

Hit List is another meandering mess of sub-plots strung together and padded out into a novel. It's just more self-indulgent nonsense, and there's no place for the series to go now but off a cliff, and Hamilton seems determined to push it over the edge. To that end just remember what your mother said about jumping off of bridges.