dead ice book cover

Poly-amorous Love Circles and Zombies

Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

A new house for me meant a place for the books – finally. That meant opening old boxes, cataloging books, putting cherished series back together, and even admitting that it was time to donate some of the lesser denizens of my library. During all this fussing and reminiscing, I came across my original collection of Anita Blake books, back when Anita was stolidly single, edgy without being cruel, and still slept in a bed full of plush penguins while she had nightmares about her gruesome yet ultimately altruistic police work. Those were the days – fighting crime, raising zombies, discovering her inner tough chick all against a background of a modern day (albeit parallel) St. Louis filled with were-animals and various forms of the insatiable undead. I weakened. I came back to Anita, thinking that surely those later books during her post-succubus aggressively polyamorous soap opera days couldn’t have been all that bad. Well, let me tell you, they were. The original character we loved is buried under a strange surfeit of self-indulgent eroticism, bad editing, and a plot line that’s going nowhere and doing it slowly.

spooky woman

The write-up on Dead Ice promises more. For once, it says that it’s not about the silly, sadomachitistic and lamely pornographic politics of were-creatures/vampires and their various pseudo leather, pseudo medieval attire. This time, Anita is back at Animators Inc. (you’d totally forgotten about them, hadn’t you), and she is raising the dead. You know, that day job she never seems to go to. While she is once again working for her daily bread, the police consult Anita on an especially disturbing case. Someone is raising zombies so intact that they look human and is using them for Internet porn. That’s not even the worst thing: these zombies are being raised with their souls, their awareness, their basic original being still very much intact behind a rotting, abused shell. Only Anita can figure out how this is possible and stop it before the new, abusive industry blooms.

Of course, these zombie problems mean that Anita needs to get her head out of her own relationships and all the various were-animals and vampires dumping their psychic baggage in her bed. Not that she does. Instead, Anita plays the anti-woman strong female role, hating everything she is supposed to like (weddings, rings, commitment, security, being called a girlfriend/fiancé, and all that jazz) just to be purely bloody minded in her own, ahem *unique,* rage-filled, psycho with a hidden soul, tiny-but-tough, I don’t need nobody way.) And so the entire story (of which, admittedly, there isn’t much) is sidelined by a vague prophecy we barely remember, a forced inclusion of yet another partner in the commitment ceremony (cue Anita’s discomfort with other women and the exploration of her the-lady-doth-protest-too-much lesbian side), the ever readiness to trot out a defense of the poly life (regardless of whether the story/situation has any relevance), the utterly pointless return of Narcissus, and Asher – so much bloody Asher. It’s enough to make you want book burning reinstated.

Towards the end, finally, Hamilton returns to the reason for the zombie season – catching the other necromancer who is raising zombies with their immortal souls intact and sexually torturing them at the behest of a hidden and moneyed Internet audience. Now, with her relationship to the current twenty odd steady paramours, Anita hasn’t spent more than a chapter or two trying to solve the mystery of the new baddie in town and rescue the very human zombies whose afterlife is a literal hell on earth. Luckily, the killer/Internet torture king has fewer steadies and zero sense of intrigue. He finds Anita, tells her what his deal is and why, and then executes a plot where she follows him and conveniently vanquishes him just as the novel finally starts to focus a bit. It’s all neatly tied up – this entire plot inconvenience – with probably a minimum of five actual book chapters being devoted to what the back cover burb promises.

The only upside is Warrington, Anita’s cognizant zombie, raised at the behest of a dippy historical society (who is so stupid as to actually take the zombie to a Denny’s). Warrington’s story, while it dips off into the realm of weird sex (as does anything Hamilton writes these days) is compelling in that it has a glimmer of the old days. Anita’s newfound power has promises and pathos as Warrington finds himself devolving into a craving for flesh while he still maintains his human soul and morality. The situation has the potential to be quite fraught, yet ultimately after some tense and intriguing chapters it passes with a nod and a shrug, and we’re back in the midst of relationship woes.

scary woman

And so, a brief and beautiful surge of nostalgia brought alive by a desire for something spooky that has some pathos and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-eque vibe has once again been killed. Hopefully this is the one and only time my misbegotten and bedraggled fandom for the Anita-verse will be resurrected. Let it lie in peace with the once upon a time nice heroine who didn’t spend her days bullying while wielding tolerance for her lifestyle like a machete across endless pages of repetitive drivel. Let it lie with those –you know what’s – that we as the collective audience no longer give. 

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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