(US: Berkley, $23.95, 658 pages, hardcover; September 1 2004. UK:
Orbit, £10.99, 658 pages, trade paperback, October 2004)
Incubus Dreams is the twelfth book in the Anita Blake, Vampire
Hunter series. It's a big book (658 pages in hardcover), and it
slowly. Anita Blake, Lupa of the local werewolves, Nimir-Raj of the
local wereleopards, lover and human servant to Jean-Claude -- vampire
master of the city of St. Louis, animator, necromancer, licensed vampire
executioner, Federal Marshall -- and one very tough babe, is at a wedding
reception, whence she is called away to view a body. The body is that
of a stripper at a local nightclub. The stripper has been drained of
blood -- obviously killed by vampires. There is the usual tense banter
with the cops, most of whom do not know Anita and therefore resent her,
or know her very well and are afraid of her, some speculation as to
the motive and the identity of the perps ... After this, nothing much
happens for seventy pages or so, which is quite unusual for a Hamilton
What sets Hamilton's books apart, among other things, Incubus Dreams is no exception. The direction
in which the book moves, however, is one enormous detour. It is not
until page 516 that we return to the murder. Most of this very long
book is devoted to Anita's relationships with the many men (well, males)
in her life and to the compulsions of the ardeur.
their relentless energy. Things happen one on top of the other, the
first event often not quite reaching resolution before the next problem
is upon us. Hamilton's heroines typically get very little sleep, since
they're rushing about, solving crimes, fighting enemies, dealing with
various crises and having sex at all hours of the night and day. Once
it gets moving,
Those who have followed the series will know that the basis of Jean-Claude's
power is sex. This is true of all vampires descended from the line of
Belle-Morte, the master vampire who made Jean-Claude. Anita, having
been magically bound to Jean-Claude, is compelled to have a lot of sex
(or at least foreplay, though in some cases, a little blood sucking
can substitute) -- every fourteen hours at least. For this reason, she
keeps a lot of men around. She has been told that, as time goes by,
she will gain at least partial control of the ardeur, though
she will never be entirely free of it. Anita is wearily looking forward
to this eventuality.
In earlier books, Anita joined in a triumvirate of power with both
Jean-Claude and Richard, Ulfric of the local werewolf pack. In
this book, she inadvertently joins in another triumvirate with Damien,
her vampire servant, and Nathaniel, a werewolf who has to this point
operated primarily as her pomme de saing (literally, blood-apple).
Damien undergoes a psychic breakdown, driven mad by his former master.
Anita cures him with a bout of quick and violent sex. Nathaniel, among
many others, declares his love for Anita and, after some hesitation,
Anita comes to the logical conclusion that she might as well have him
too (a roundabout message from God that tells her it's OK helps her
decision). A visiting master vampire tries to take over St. Louis, and
Jean Claude can only fight him if Anita boosts his power reserves. Necessity
is the mother of invention, or at least of X-rated psychic adventure,
and so Anita "takes one for the team" and has sex with Byron, one of
Jean-Claude's vampires. She finally manages to gain control of the ardeur,
but proceeds to drain energy from her servants, particularly Damien,
if she chooses to forego the sex.
The necessary time frame, it becomes clear, is now six hours. By the
famous page 516 little more than a day has passed, and Anita has had
sex with six different men (one of them twice), each time in graphic
detail. Richard, her conflicted former boyfriend, returns and Anita
tells him that he must be true to himself, give up his own self-loathing
and come to terms with his nature. Using herself as an example of coming
to terms with one's nature, Anita declares that a ménage-a-trois
"just flat out does it for me".
At last we return to the mystery, which involves a band of rogue vampire/serial
killers ... but Anita still manages to get in one last round of vigorous
sex before the book ends.
All of this gets a little tiresome, for the reader as well as for Anita.
Few of the story arcs introduced in earlier books are resolved. We see
nothing of Anita's murderous friend Edward, nor of the psychopathic
killer Olaf, first introduced in Obsidian Butterfly. The "Mother
of All Vampires" is not here. Belle-Morte and the Vampire Council play
no role. In Incubus Dreams, Anita's love life evolves, as do
her powers, presumably to better equip her for the more demanding confrontations
that will come in later books. The mystery element in this book seems,
if not completely superficial, merely an add-on to satisfy those readers
who liked the series when it was simply a smart, hip, horror/fantasy/mystery
series with a plucky, sympathetic heroine. Hard to believe that the
first few books had no sex at all.
Oh, well, Incubus Dreams is what it is ... bloated, melodramatic,
pornographic and at least fairly engrossing. I still enjoy the adventures
of Anita Blake, but the reader should not expect tight plotting nor
much in the way of character development from Incubus Dreams.
I suspect that many of Laurell K. Hamilton's original fans have long
since left her, and those who like the direction the series has taken
will probably stick with her. This book, however, will garner her no
awards, little acclaim and, I am fairly certain, no new readers at all.
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