Incubus Dreams

by Laurell K. Hamilton

Cover image

Series: Anita Blake #12
Publisher: Jove
Copyright: 2004
Printing: October 2005
ISBN: 0-515-13975-0
Format: Mass market
Pages: 733

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This is the twelfth book in Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series and would probably be incomprehensible to anyone who hadn't read the previous books. There was enough of a rehash and reintroduction to get me started again despite the long break since I'd read the previous book, but people new to the series should start at the beginning.

I'll admit it. I'm traditionally someone who gets annoyed at all the sex in a book happening off-camera. It's better than attempting a description if the author is miserable at writing sex, but given the choice and adequate authorial skill, I prefer to see at least a little on camera. Detailed physical descriptions are rarely interesting, but sex is usually extremely important to the characters and it can be an important characterization moment. (Not to mention that a little erotica around the edges doesn't hurt.)

With Anita Blake, however, I give in. It's okay. I've seen enough. Hamilton can take some of the sex off camera now. At least occasionally. Please?

About a third of the way into the book, while reading yet another chapter that comes to a close with Anita clearly about to have sex with someone, I found myself waving politely at the characters and sidling for the exit. I found myself thinking, "That's right, you just go have sex now and I'll discretely close this door and when you're all ready to get back to the plot, you can come fetch me." And then, inevitably, I would turn the page and find that I'd been taken firmly by the hand and pulled into the room for yet another four or five pages of clothes being removed, this rubbing against that, naked bodies, hair everywhere, and orgasmic metaphors scraped so vigorously off the bottom of the barrel that I think they had wood shavings in them.

I never quite started skimming, but I must admit that at some point between "Anita discovers her g-spot" and "Anita discovers female ejaculation complete with made-up vampire term," I stopped making any attempt to imagine all these bodily contortions, stripper outfits, and meetings of flesh. It made the book go by much faster, and I don't think I missed much.

I believe the scene which sums up the entire middle of this book is a very earnest and serious discussion between Anita and Richard about the pains, pleasures, and variant reactions to cervix bumping. The conversation makes perfect sense in the context of the book, Anita acts like her opinionated and snarky self, it's a good bit of characterization for Richard, and yet somehow I could have happily lived the rest of my life without having ever read that particular conversation. Really, taking one vampire and werewolf soap opera, adding the earnest helpfulness of The Joy of Sex complete with frequent demonstrations and case studies, and beating vigorously (er, sorry) doesn't work quite as well as it might sound. And it sounds stupid.

It's a shame, since honestly, for whatever reason, I still really like this stuff. I am not one of the people who got turned off this series by the emotional drama. I can, in fact, read it quite happily as pure dramatic soap opera, I think because Anita (while rather screwed up) manages to retain some sense of humor and quite a bit of sarcasm through the whole thing. Given that rampant sarcasm was always what I thought would most improve soap operas, this works for me. And the relationship stuff that happens in this book (other than the reappearance of Richard, who is a self-righteous ass and who I could do without), particularly Anita finally getting her head together about Nathanial, bodes well for the future of the series. I liked the gender role bending, I liked seeing Anita figure out something of a household pattern for herself, and I'm still enjoying the constant power ramp-up. And when we finally get to the action of the book, the last hundred and fifty pages or so is truly great stuff. Despite a bit too obvious "to be continued," the actual vampire slaying, once we get there, holds up to anything else in the series.

Really, there's just too much sex. Well, and a bit too much repetitive description, rehashing of the same angst point, and wallowing in the same personal philosophy. A general tightening wouldn't have been amiss, although next to the sex, that's a minor page-waster. But if Hamilton had found a way to streamline two or three hundred pages out of this book, I think I would have liked it as well as the rest of the series.

The book still drew me in, and I'm still going to read the next one (particularly given that it takes place out of St. Louis, and some of the best books of the series have involved getting Anita out of her normal stomping grounds). I'm afraid, though, that with this book I finally had the reaction that most everyone else has been having to the last few. My tolerance level seems to be a bit higher, but there is still a fine line between erotic and boring and Hamilton is rather far across it.

Followed by Micah.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-01-10

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21