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Monday, September 26, 2011

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton: Commentary for Readers and Writers, Chapters 6-10


Last week, we started our new Monday series on Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures. As I read through the book, I comment as a reader and writer for your entertainment, to elicit discussion, and to give insights into a successful author that any writer can learn from. For the first five chapters, check out last Monday’s post here.

Enjoy!

SPOILERS!

Chapter 6

Anita returns to the club, Guilty Pleasures, where a vampire, Aubrey, has taken power over her friend Catherine and tries to do the same to Anita. But as an animator, Anita manages to resist. Jean-Claude arrives just in time to keep Anita and Aubrey from killing each other.

Reader Comments: There’s a lot in this scene that I don’t understand, but the danger is real, the conflict intense, and I trust Hamilton to explain the subtleties of vampires and Anita’s abilities soon. Oh, and Jean-Claude is elevating himself in my estimation.

Writer Comments: From the events and dynamics in this chapter, Hamilton in effect tells her readers that her world will be complex and teeming with subtleties and grays. I have not read even a summary of the series, so I derive this entirely from the context of chapter 6. Alone in this chapter, a large range of motivations from a wide range of characters are highlighted and hinted at: Anita, Jean-Claude, Aubrey, Catherine, and even Monica, who I assume will have a larger role to play. She comes off as the sort to either take vengeance upon Anita for ruining the evening or allowing someone to use her to enact some price on Anita or Catherine. (Again, never read beyond this, so I’m just surmising.) But in addition to all this, facets of Jean-Claude and Anita are revealed. Certainly, Guilty Pleasures hold some “evil,” but Jean-Claude as proprietor with his shades of mystery, heroism, and entrepreneur protection of business suggests that, in and of himself, he represents some of the grays Hamilton will explore in the series. (Those of you who have read it can let me know if I’m on the right track.)

Chapter 7

Jean-Claude, Aubrey, Catherine, and Anita go behind stage to determine the issues at hand. In exchange for a promise of Catherine’s safety, Anita agrees to work for the vamps to find the vampire murderer. The plot I’d suspected is revealed: Monica lured Anita and Catherine to Guilty Pleasures under the excuse of an impromptu bachelorette party so that Jean-Claude and his cronies could use Catherine to force Anita to their will.

Reader Comments: Just when I was starting to see a hint of good in Jean-Claude, he turns around and proves my distaste is well founded. Anita should have gotten that better guarantee then and there, and I hope Aubrey dies in this book.

Writer Comments: Hamilton executes a plan that a reader can predict but that also satisfies as it plays out. I had only guessed the basic structure of the vampires’ plot. The complexities of association between the vampires, the parameters of vampire power, and Anita’s interaction with them make it interesting. Hamilton successfully makes me hate some of the characters and cheer for Anita more. A reader does not need to like all your characters, but he should have strong feelings about them. Hate and the desire to see the heroine spit them and cook them to ash on a bonfire is a mark of a good storyteller.

Chapter 8

After seeing Catherine off, Anita taunts Aubrey into nearly attacking her again, Jean-Claude stops him, and the three head to this Nikolaos, their supposed master. Anita, grudgingly, goes as Jean-Claude’s lover to keep from drawing the police’s suspicions since her shirt is soaked in Aubrey’s blood from their earlier fight. As they walk, she realizes two frightening facts: Jean-Claude has not fed that night and he’s afraid.

Reader Comments: Yep, there will certainly be a fight between Anita and Aubrey. I’m torn on how to feel about Jean-Claude though.

Writer Comments: The reason why I have conflicting, uncertain emotions over Jean-Claude and vampires in general is because Hamilton provides conflicting information. At points, the vamps commit despicable acts like forcing Anita’s cooperation by binding the will of her friend and threatening to kill her. At other times, Jean-Claude acts like a dark hero. I can’t explain all the whys of this except that perhaps Hamilton’s choice of sensual and repellant words regarding him implies it. Beyond that, I’m not certain how Anita feels about vampires and Jean-Claude in particular. Normally, when uncertain how to feel about a character or group, I, as I suspect other readers do, follow the protagonist’s emotions and opinions. This seems conflicted or unclear in Anita, so I feel the same. It would be better if Anita’s perceptions were more explicit so I felt less disoriented as a reader. Even if Hamilton means to present an ambiguous perspective on Anita’s part, this should be plainer. As is, I more feel as though Hamilton forgot to include much of a perspective at all.

On the way to Nikolaos, Jean-Claude first kisses Anita to avoid the suspicion of the police. Jean-Claude and Aubrey bring Anita to a hotel where a female vampire, Theresa, pretends to be Nikolaos, who can grant Anita her guarantees for Catherine’s safety. Anita sees through the façade, and Aubrey knocks her unconscious before Jean-Claude can stop him.

Reader Comments: I’m starting to ask myself how Anita managed to kill fourteen vampires before the book started when she can’t seem to handle her own against Jean-Claude and Aubrey even occasionally.

Writer Comments: This chapter seems to primarily be about Anita and Jean-Claude. The significant moment is the kiss, which is described with such alluring language as silk but also with a sense of avoidance. Hamilton clearly tries to build something between these two; though, I’m not certain exactly what yet beyond an obvious potential romance. Beyond that, the incident with Theresa feels unnecessary unless Hamilton was trying to find an excuse to knock Anita unconscious after proving her ability to gage the power of individual vamps. Unfortunately, beyond that measuring ability, I’m having trouble believing that Anita is capable of killing vampires. Clearly, she can resist them more than the average human, but past that, she seems to have little ability. It will be interesting to see how Hamilton builds Anita’s credibility.

Chapter 9

Anita wakes in a vampire dungeon with a major concussion and, perhaps, skull fracture. Jean-Claude gives her some of his life energy to heal her enough to continue. In doing so, he makes her immune to the vampire gaze, a bit tougher, and risks the wrath of Nikolaos.

Reader Comments: Very interesting. I like the fact that I cannot predict Jean-Claude at this point. It makes him complex and intriguing. Beyond that, I’m glad Anita now has an edge or two more.

Writer Comments: The fact that Hamilton sets this one event in a chapter all by itself highlights its significance. The main problem I saw was that at point, it seemed like she was saying that Anita had a skull fracture and at others that she only had the concussion.

Chapter 10

A bunch of rats and wererats arrive to “entertain” Anita. She fights them off long enough for the rat king to drive them away. He doesn’t want his rats working for the vamps. Theresa comes to collect Anita and take her to Nikolaos, surprised that Anita is not gibbering on the floor in terror.

Reader Comments: Rats, ick. I had mice in my house once, and since, I’ve learned to dread all furry rodents that aren’t bunnies. Hamilton played on a good, common fear here. I’m curious about any future meetings between Anita and the rat king.

Writer Comments: Hamilton knows how to put tension after tension on the page. The threat never lets up, which is one of the big reasons Guilty Pleasures is so compelling. Not only is Anita locked in a vampire dungeon awaiting everyone’s master to force her to work for those she slays, she’s also assaulted by a bunch of rats and among them those that can turn her into a furry rodent by moonlight. The brilliance of this scene also comes in the fact that Hamilton draws on common human fears: rodents, being eaten alive, and sexual assault. This makes the scene far more engaging, threatening, and allows for a primal catharsis when Anita fights the rats off.

Join me next Monday for further forays into Guilty Pleasures.

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting comments about this book. I look forward to hearing more. As a huge fan its always interesting to hear the insights of someone who is reading The Anita Blake series for the first time. Thank you for putting your thoughts so well into text.

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  2. Yup, the Anita Blake series is all about gray. You hit the nail on the head, Laura. Anita starts out in Guilty Pleasures with some clear notions of good and evil, white and black. The knows that there is some gray, but I get the sense that she thinks she's able to stick to the white.

    It's been a while since I read GP, but I remember being struck with Anita's decision to be good and fight for the good.

    As for how she feels about Jean Claude, uh, yeah, she's conflicted. So, you're right on there. He's sexy as all get out, and she's definitely attracted on a very female level. But she's also repulsed, because at this point in the series, she holds firmly to the idea that vampires are in the black/evil. Maybe they can be a little gray, but they're never white.

    I loved the tension between Anita and Jean Claude in Guilty Pleasures, and that's what kept me reading. As the series progresses, Anita gets taken to school on the concept of gray. Her prejudices are challenged, and she changes, which is what every good heroine should do through a series.

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  3. I'm glad I'm not too far off on my guesses about the book. From what you guys say, I'm looking even more forward to continuing Guilty Pleasures.

    Do you guys think that Hamilton's exploration of good and evil and the gray between is one of the reasons she's written such a popular series?

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  4. I think part of Ms. Hamilton's success with the Anita Blake series is that Anita is ever changing and yet ever constant. She sticks to her morals, but her values are shaped by the relationships that challenge her and fill up the empty places in her. She learns. She bends, but always toward greater acceptance, thus opening herself to more love.

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