Sunday, September 09, 2007

Honourable mentions – Micah & Strange Candy

At first glance it may appear odd that I am giving this volume an honourable mention as, long term readers may remember, I looked at Laurell K Hamilton’s Micah as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ and concluded that it was not vamp.

However, whilst Micah was released in the US as a stand alone novelette, here in the UK we have an omnibus of Micah and a collection of Short Stories by Hamilton called Strange Candy. Strange Candy has three stories out of fourteen set in the Anita Blake universe and it is because of these that the book gets an honourable mention – there is some vampiric action, but the majority of the stories are not vampire genre.

Indeed it is within the non vampire stories that some of the finest work appears, in such tales as ‘A Lust of Cupids’ and ‘A Scarcity of Lake Monsters’. But it is the minority of three stories we are interested in here.

The first one isn’t vamp either, but is historically interesting. ‘Those who Seek Forgiveness’ is an Anita Blake story that concerns a zombie raising, but is most interesting as it was written by Hamilton before she decided Anita would be the Vampire Executioner and would simply be a zombie raiser. The vampire rules at this point are brushed upon and are different to what we would get in the novel series.

Anita’s client wonders if Anita can raise her husband as a vampire rather than a zombie and Anita tells her it is impossible unless he was bitten by one when alive. However even if it were possible, vampires are rare and illegal. Other than this there is no vampire lore mentioned, however it is a short but satisfying look at a zombie raising, and what can go wrong.

The next story ‘Selling Houses’ is the most satisfying of the three, set in the Anita Blake universe but concentrating on ordinary folks. In this case a realtor called Abbie who investigates a house she has to sell that was the scene of a demonic slaughter. Eventually she manages to get the house cleansed and sells it to a vampire family. In truth, not a huge amount happens but it is nice Anita Blake world background story.

Finally we have a story that I had already read, as it is also in the compilation ‘Bite’, named ‘The Girl who was Infatuated with Death’. This irked me when I read the earlier compilation but, as it had been awhile, I reread it to discover if it still did and why.

The story is set at a time when Anita had not become as promiscuous as she is in the later novels and this should have been a good sign. Indeed the set up is great, with a woman wanting her to find her daughter as she is on the verge of being bitten a third time and becoming a vampire. The daughter is 17 and so it would be murder – in the Anita universe you can only choose to become a vampire at 18.

More interesting is the moral conundrum that Hamilton sets up. The girl has bone cancer. She is due to have a leg amputated the next week and the symptoms have appeared in her other leg. The vampirism will remove the cancer danger and allow her to keep her legs and yet if she waits until she is 18 she could only become a vampire sans at least one leg – if she lives that long.

Unfortunately, for the reader, after this brilliant set up Anita visits Jean Claude, the city’s vampire master, and all this is sidelined. The situation with the girl is dealt with off stage by other characters whilst Anita flirts and Hamilton writes some heavy petting scenes. Even when the vampire, who does bite the girl a third time and kills her we are told, is delivered to Anita so she can take him to the authorities it is glossed over in one sentence and we are quickly at another heavy petting scene.

Okay, Hamilton is the writer and how she focuses is down to her, but to me it felt like she had lost focus and missed the essence of what was actually interesting in her story.

As for the volume as a whole. If you are a Hamilton fan generally the two volumes in one are worth having. If you are an Anita Blake series fan then the volume is not essential but interesting and good value as it contains the two volumes in one. If you are looking for large amounts of vampiric action then I’d steer clear.

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