Written by Laurell K. Hamilton
Published by Berkley Boulevard Books
Incubus Dreams ostensibly follows necromancer Anita Blake as she fights crime, tries to stay alive, and bones an ever-increasing number of men in order to feed the awfully convenient ardeur–the irresistible craving for sexual contact that she inherited from her vampire lover and “master,” Jean Claude.
Long time Anita fans will want to know the following: we get more Jean Claude than we have in a long time, and Richard seems to be back, but how long that lasts and what his role will be is still up in the air. Edward, alas, does not make an appearance, nor does Asher. Much of the story revolves around the subservient were-leopard Nathanial, as well as Anita’s “relationship” with the implausibly “perfect” Micah, the erstwhile pard leader. The mystery/crime to be solved is, as always, secondary, and even more so in this novel. There’s really very little pretense here–this book is about Anita and her “love” life, which gets increasingly dull as the pages wear on. Sure, the first sex scene, even two, has some promise, but how many sex scenes can one read during a book you didn’t pick up for solely that reason? They become tedious and frankly boring, and simply skipping them would lose you about half the book.
Part of the problem here is that we know Hamilton is capable of much better. She creates some dull, one-dimensional characters, sure, but she also creates some very interesting onesâ€”characters you’d love to know more about. Damian, for example, gets a sex scene, but no real development; the author and plot use him worse than a cheerleader on prom night. Where are Anita’s much-vaunted ethics? Her religion? If she’s had a crisis of faith, we should have seen that happen on stage.
There is a brief interview on Amazon.com where Hamilton addresses the increased sexuality in her books. Her basic response is that she’s doing it because “people” told her not to. She seems to want to fight the male-dominated publishing culture in so doing, yet it seems also that she is spiting her fans more than her male cohorts, who use much less sex in general than does Hamilton. Her books now are comparable in sheer sexual content to the Gor series, and no one takes them seriously other than a few devotees generally considered disturbed by the rest of humanity. Of course, Anita generally has more consensual encounters and there is not one overly repressed gender in Hamilton’s world; however, Anita Blake is now a far cry from the hard-hitting, hard-boiled detective/zombie raiser she once was, and that’s something of a shame. While all characters should be allowed to grow as they see fit and far be it from a reader to tell an artist what to do, it is still regrettable when a series once enjoyable to legions of loyal fans becomes little more than porn for the Con crowd and begins to drive people away.
In short, if you are a loyal Anita Blake fan, sex or no sex, then you’ll want to read this one, if only to be a completist. If you aren’t yet solidified in your love of Anita, Jean Claude, and the rest, then this one won’t change your mind, and might make it up in the negative. Read the former books first to set the stage as this one, like the last few, does not really stand alone. Fans who read Narcissus in Chains or Cerulean Sins with horror or boredom will find this one only more of the same. On the other hand, fans who want to be able to buy pr0n right in front of their parents and read it in front of their teachers will be tickled pink. Meanwhile, we’ll just hope that Anita’s heart resolves itself soon, and we can go back to hearing more about her brain than about her…well, anything else.