Grace's Reviews > Incubus Dreams

Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton
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Aug 08, 12

Read from August 05 to 06, 2012

Incubus Dreams: Wherein Anita Gathers Superpowers Like Beads at Mardi Gras (and in much the same way you earn beads at Mardi Gras).

I tried to do live updates in the comments while reading this, but had to stop just over halfway through the book. I thought it would be fun, but it wasn't. At all.

I wish I could identify a plotline for you here; there's something about murdered strippers, but that can hardly count given it's only present for about ten pages at the start of the book and then a few chapters at the end. In between there's a vast plot wasteland where no one mentions the murders at all. AT ALL. You could be forgiven for forgetting it entirely. Halfway through the book we graze past Animators Inc for two totally unrelated mystery hooks, but then abandon both of them to return to nothingness.

But if the murders aren't the central plot, then what is? Horribly, we're left with Anita's internal monologue about her new "powers" and the multiple supernatural/sexual relationships she has with any number of worshipful, abjectly submissive men. I started reading this assuming that this would be bad, but I had NO IDEA it would be quite this bad. I absolutely hate prolonged unpacking of unearned emotional torment, and that's basically all that happens in this book. Much of it is spent justifying three-ways. Much of it chest-thumps about how manly Anita is, and how she wears the pants in all of her relationships and how her boyfriends are "wifely". Not subtly either - full-on conversations about it, repeatedly. And off we go, circling the drain indefinitely.

But how on earth do you fit so much tormented angst into one book? By ramping up "ardeur", of course! This piece of supernatural bullshit was introduced a few books ago, but now it goes into overdrive and forces Anita to basically go into heat every 6 hours. Which means lots of sexy opportunities to sleep with people and then dive into chapters of long, tormented, defensive thinking about the act. I guess you could say the central plot is Anita controlling that, but she doesn't really. She just flails, and we get eyeball-searing sex scenes and what I thought was going to be a bad but entertainingly outraging read turned into something that ended up feeling like an endurance test. I felt sick upon finishing this, I think because it was so much effort to keep reading when my brain was actively trying to shut down and throw me into a coma. You know the sickness you get when you stay up 72 hours in a row on a project, and by the end you're not sure if you're going to vomit or pass out? Felt like that.

Let's do a tour of the characters, shall we? Jean-Claude spends much of his time either talking to Anita on the phone or in her head, and I have to imagine this makes him a pretty useless Master Vampire if he's checked out for much of the day coaching his girlfriend on every single thing that happens to her. Nathan appears to have adopted Stepford Wives as his own personal bible. Micah is... there? Honestly, all of the men in this book just sort of trail after Anita, asking if she's okay, offering to sleep with her, chipping in with advice about pretty much everything and putting up with her frequent tantrums. Richard is the outlier, and that's because he continues to behave like a psychotic teenager who just had a growth spurt and has crazy impulse-control issues. The number of times Richard appears on the scene and should basically be shut down with "Not your business, turn around and get out" is infinite, but Anita never does, she just delves once more into his multilayered bullshit. He's been having the same issue for about ten books. This is boring.

Before I head into spoiler territory, let me just note that Laurell K Hamilton appears to have discovered the word "spill" while writing this 12th (dear god!) installment in this series. It's used to describe anatomical features, to describe hair, to describe body parts emerging from pants, to describe candles falling into a bath. At one point I counted four instances on a single Kindle page. It only appears in sex scenes, and it can feel like it's the only verb used in those scenes. Totally weird, but given the uptick of simple spelling errors in the second half of the book, I'm guessing the editor stopped reading too soon to notice the problem. I'd usually say something like she should give back half her fee, but let's face it, the woman's suffered enough. Call it hazard pay and have done with it.

And now the details: (view spoiler)

Much of Anita's so-called problems are rooted in the fact that she never does any research, never wonders about the rules of her "powers", and shows about at much empathy as an eggcup. She keeps saying "I never thought of that" when someone's reaction is explained to her, but the fix for her dangerous ignorance is to actually pay attention to people on a personal level, and she can't do that. Because then she couldn't have a "realization" and waste another twenty pages of my time shuffling round talking to people in her head and resolving absolutely nothing.

There's also an over reliance on Hamilton's own mythology. You can't have it both ways - either you set firm rules for your worldbuilding and then have characters experience the consequences of their actions within those rules, or you loosely define the rules and make the discovery/exploration part of the story. But that's not what's happening here. Instead, we get new rules and powers thrown in as consequences of mundane actions, seemingly at random. That makes reading less like a journey, and more like a laundry list. It is unspeakably bad.

This is a nothing book. There is nothing there except sex scenes, and they are outside my wheelhouse. What does it for Hamilton emphatically does not do it for me, and I think at this point we can all agree that the border between what is Anita Blake and what is Hamilton is the finest of lines, so now I know waaaay too much about how Hamilton likes her men and sexual practices. They're pretty much the opposite of how I like mine - I do not like long-haired, effeminate, submissive men, so she strikes out for me with each and every scene. The descriptions are excruciatingly technical, and this isn't erotica because that requires the writing to be erotic. This isn't. It's porn.

If we were to consider this form of porn art, then this book does this for me:
description
I'm done. I like reading bad books for the outraged thrill, but this was too awful for enjoyment. I'm not up for reading any more of Hamilton's dream diaries. I'm out.
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Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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message 1: by Grace (last edited Feb 02, 2013 11:10AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 1%: Anita is wearing a men's tuxedo to a wedding, as part of the wedding party. This just strikes me as goofy. If you don't want to wear an orange dress, fine, have at it - but to wear a suit cut for a man when you describe yourself as "curvy"? That's just bizarre. Wear a suit cut for a woman. It's not sexist, it just means you won't look like a lumpy hobo in all the photos.


Grace 3%: Ah, welcome back Dolph. I'm so glad to see we can once again go back to your default "I now hate supernatural things" and have the exact same spat with Anita that you've been having for literally books now. Change it up a bit, mock her for wearing a rental tuxedo from the menswear department, she's a sitting duck.


message 3: by Grace (last edited Aug 06, 2012 10:51PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 5%: I was worried that I'd have to wait for Hamilton's obligatory graphic rape/torture backstory, but it's right up front. Whew, suspense over. Micah (who has long hair like every man Anita sleeps with) confesses that it's long because Chimera made him wear his hair long "like a woman". From what I can tell, Dolph is the only man in this series WITHOUT long hair, so I call bullshit. Chimera's also been dead a while, and Micah's still got long hair, so.... cut your hair.*

Marion Zimmer Bradleyan levels of weeping and emotional sharing, by the way.

*sometime after I stopped these updates, Anita mentions that she wanted to cut her hair, but if she did Micah threatened to cut his, so neither of them have. So now we have two conflicting reports on Micah's long hair: it is a horrible reminder of extended abuse, and also some weird bargaining chip. WHAT IS THIS HAIR FASCINATION.


message 4: by Grace (last edited Aug 05, 2012 11:43AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace Addendum: I forgot that Edward has short hair. Just another reason Edward's my favourite (reason #1 is that he appears to fantasize about killing Anita just as much as I do). Other reasons I like Edward: He does not want to sleep with Anita. He enjoys his job. He puts up with approximately none of her crap.

Is it bad that if I were to identify any person in this series who could exist in the real world, it would be Edward? That's right - the most realistic character is the unapologetic sociopath. Who cuts his hair, wants to kill Anita and would never have sex with her.


Grace 6%: Anita pushes Nathaniel away a little, and suddenly she has to have a conference with Micah, Nathaniel and Jason about sex. That's what makes this groundbreaking erotica, you see: sex by committee! God forbid two grown-ass adults talk without witnesses and referees.


message 6: by Grace (last edited Aug 05, 2012 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 8%: Emotional weeping again, this time with a wererat. May I remind you we're at a wedding? In the past few hours, the following have been in tears in the parking lot: Micah, Nathaniel, Louie. I know weddings are emotional, but this is ridiculous. It's like a high school dance in here.

Also, Jason tells Anita that Micah and Nathaniel are her "wife". I do not know what to do with the effed up gender politics in this damn series, people.


Grace 9%: "I'd been treating him like a prince who needed to find his princess, but that was all wrong. Nathaniel was the princess, and he had been rescued, by me."

I honestly don't know what's going on here. If she were a woman who liked wearing men's tuxedos and sleeping with effeminate longhaired men, that's one thing. But she keeps banging this drum about being the male in the relationship and her partners being stereotypically female. Not "submissive" - female. She's being quite specific about this.

Why do I constantly feel like the character of Anita is an empty cipher, and Hamilton just keeps spackling on stereotypes around that hollow shell? It's like she thinks of a convention she dislikes, subverts it, and applies it directly to Anita. It's coming across less like a collage and more like a really disorganized Pinterest board.


message 8: by Grace (last edited Aug 05, 2012 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 10%: Just in case four people discussing one relationship wasn't enough, Marianne gets a "feeling" and calls in to fling her two cents. Honestly, doesn't Marianne have better things to do than do spontaneous tarot readings about Anita's love life? Does she also get "feelings" when Anita forgets to wear a jacket on chilly days, or when her credit card bill is due?

Hilariously, about three seconds of tarot-time talks about the dead woman in the strip club parking lot. Because that's not really important: meddling in the Anita/Nathaniel/Micah mess, on the other hand...

Oh, and Anita fondly recalls reading Charlotte's Web to Nathaniel in their bed, during which he cries. Kill me.


Grace 13%: I did not realize how long this book would be. I may soon resort to skimming.

Damian is wearing "poofy satin pants". Anita somehow creates a triumerate between herself, Damian and Nathaniel. In the process, she unearths bad memories by thinking about death. When encouraged by Damian to think of "happy things" quickly because he's holding the memories at bay and is about to break, Anita decides to argue about it. For two pages.

Her objections include "Why me?", "YOU do it!", and "What am I, Tinkerbell?" Essentially, she is looking at a bomb with 5 seconds left on the clock and whining about not wanting to snip the wire. There is absolutely no advantage to her bitching, option B is possibly dying, and yet she takes the time to be an ASSHOLE. All they want her to do is think of something nice, not donate a lung! THIS IS NOT HARD.

DIE.


message 10: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 16%: No clue what's going on. Fourth marks have been exchanged, everyone fell asleep on the floor, now Damian's woken up and gone insane and is biting everyone in the most tedious fight scene ever.

It strikes me that Anita does no research, ever. She just assumes that the world works like she thinks it should work, and so is constantly surprised (and outraged) when things turn out differently. She is negligent, but more than that she's plain stupid. The vast majority of bad things happening to Anita happen because she didn't shift her lazy ass to find out what her responsibilities were.

Honestly, though, there's not much entertaining about pages and pages of a mindless lunatic biting people. And just to make things worse, here's effing Richard.

Skimming in earnest now, or I'll fall asleep, and I'm already regretting kicking off this little experiment.


message 11: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 18%: This is exactly what I hate. MZB to the hilt - lots of vision-sequences interspersed with weeping and soul-searching and NO PLOT. They're all now huddled in a bathroom reviewing Damian's memories from I DON'T CARE.

I vote Nathaniel take over in general. He's the only one with any intelligence at all. I'm willing to overlook the fact that he just undid his hair and then covered people with it "like a blanket". All hail the glorious healing hair.


message 12: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 20%: For the thousandth time, Richard fails utterly. Fantastic. Tell me again why people keep insisting on including him in things? He's worthless in emergencies. Fingers crossed this was his obligatory cameo and he's gone now.


message 13: by Grace (last edited Aug 06, 2012 10:37AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 21%: apropos of nothing, the word chickened has been bolded. I've not bothered mentioning the spelling and usage errors, but chickened is hard to miss. It's not emphasis, it's not part of dialogue, it's just insanely, randomly bold.


message 14: by Grace (last edited Aug 06, 2012 10:39AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 23%: You'll be delighted to hear that Anita has acquired the superpower of not just healing, but plastic surgery. This is just so unbelievably dumb. And Jean-Claude is on the phone again - much like Marianne, I wonder if Jean-Claude is always hovering over the phone, waiting for a "feeling" that he really should call that psychotic nutcase he stupidly bound himself to for eternity, because she's probably done something to get them all killed again? Either that or he wants to tell her to take Central Street instead of Creek Lane, because there might be traffic because it rained an hour ago....

Seriously, some of his check-ins are about that important. He's like the annoying high school boyfriend who thinks the secret to happiness is bothering you every 20 minutes with a text that reads "hi ;) thinkin of u"

Seriously, can you imagine working for Jean-Claude? Half the time he's talking to people in his head, half the time he's yammering on the phone. He must have really good managerial staff.


message 15: by Grace (last edited Aug 06, 2012 10:42AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 25%: Hey! Richard cut his hair at some point! I know because Anita thinks how sad it is because she missed it and that he's barely got any now. So this is what happens when guys leave Anita's orbit, they finally cut their hair. Maybe that's another of her stupid superpowers, forcing men to grow their hair Rapunzel-long.

Aaaaand we're back to having a group discussion about how Nathaniel is a "bride"/"wife". Nathaniel is present for but not part of this discussion. He's busy putting his hair up into a "high, bouncy ponytail" like girls do. He's also serving tea and baking biscuits. He's ignoring everything said about him and leaving that to Anita, instead asking people how they like their tea.

This must appeal to a very, very specific subculture, I'm thinking. If I read a book where the gender roles were reversed, I'd still be pissed off.


message 16: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 27%: I get it, I get it. Anita's the man, her partners are the women, can we please skip a tour of all the possible sexual positions on this one? This is so clumsy it hurts.


message 17: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 30%: And now, a dissertation on polyamory with Ronnie.

Anita's constantly saying "I never thought of that". Much of those things she should have thought of, if she were halfway competent. Since the author writes her as supposedly competent, I'm assuming this is a shortcut for exposition. Why bother having your main character develop complexity when you can just vomit out your subtext as text?


message 18: by Grace (last edited Aug 05, 2012 05:32PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 33%: For those keeping track, a third of the book has elapsed since the introduction of a murder. Now we get a second, unrelated murder thread via Animators Inc. Maybe by 66% we'll get another bit of mystery writing, but don't hold your breath.

My own personal mystery is this: why has the spelling and punctuation suddenly got insanely bad? Before it was occasional, but now I'm noticing something every third page. It's like the editor couldn't be bothered to read past this point and just rushed it to print. I FEEL YOU, EDITOR.


message 19: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 34%: Credit where it's due, that Mrs Brown sequence was pretty good. Creepy and intense and a mix of predictable and unpredictable. Sadly we're now going to tip over into a freaky animal-sex place, but for those few pages with grieving parents and unhinged reactions, I'm thankful.


message 20: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 38%: I am not going to talk about the sex-leopard thing. I regularly tease my mother about having been required to read a sex-leopard book at one point in her career, and these two spheres cannot intersect. No. Suffice to say, the Nathaniel thing is 50% done.

And I've just seen the word "priviledged", which means this manuscript was not even spellchecked before publication. Sweet fancy Moses.


message 21: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 38%: Anita is cuddling a man's ankle-length braid. Like, gathering it up as he sits beside her and hugging it to her chest.


message 22: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 42%: Great, a new superpower. Now Anita has somehow acquired a giant gladiator vampire. He bit her, and now he's bowing to her and calling her "Master".

You know what really works with books? Logic in worldbuilding. You cannot keep making shit up and expect the reader to trust you, because it throws into question every past instance of the action that caused the new circumstance, and also will make all future instances suspect. Usually, "bitten by a vampire" means "wounded, dead or made undead", sometimes "lover" thrown in there. Now we're dealing with "wounded, dead, food, lover, master" and god knows what else.

THERE ARE RULES.


message 23: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 47%: Anita has sex with two random vampires in the club, then develops a new superpower where she can zap people with massive flashback orgasms using only the power of her miiiiind.

There's no real plot here, by the way. So far we've been to a wedding and gone to work for the afternoon. This is a Day In The Life type book, it seems. We're almost halfway (a fact that horrifies me in the most boring of ways) and the dead lady from the first chapter remains unaddressed. But who cares about her? Anita's got one new servant, two new superpowers and has had sex with something like eight different people by this time! Sorry, dead lady, you don't make the cut.


message 24: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace 54%: Remember when Anita raised the dead to talk to lawyers? She does that again. But don't get too excited about a possible plotline, because when driving back to the club she has emergency sex to...

Look, there's no need for me to throw names around in here. All you need to know is that Anita Blake can now officially not only administer sexual healing/plastic surgery, she can do vampire CPR remotely using her crotch.

My favourite bit of this entire section is that at one point, there's a car pulled to the side of the road with a man kneeling by the open back door, leaning inside. I like to imagine an off-duty ambulance crew pulling up and thinking that maybe a woman's in labour, or someone's ill in the backseat. But no, joke's on you, hard-working EMTs! It is in fact Anita Blake, banging a vampire while a werewolf crouches at the door and watches. She is doing it to save another vampire, you see.

Makes perfect sense. Go with it.


message 25: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace Oh my god, I can't, I bail, uncle. She just had sex with Jean-Claude and then called him a bastard a lot, which she always does. I'm going to speed-read the rest, post a review, and then we shall never speak of this again. What a long, boring, plotless, horrible book.


message 26: by Judy (new) - rated it 1 star

Judy I love Edward! He has to be my favorite character in this whole mess of a series. Until of course Anita will probably fight him with the arduuuuur and then he will be a sniveling man servant like the rest of them.


message 27: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace Yeah, that's a huge, massive flaw in that relationship as written - Edward's her match in the arms race, but if we're now throwing in a whole glitterbomb of supernatural powers, then it's no longer a fair fight.

The thing is, I think Edward would instantly understand that and term her a monster and kill her efficiently. I know he likes killing in person, but she's cheating. Sniper rifle, Edward! Do it!


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) I would love to wear a tux to my OWN WEDDING. Or a samurai Kimono. I hate dresses.

But yes, I gave up on these books.


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) i rather like long haired blokes, but they don't have to be submissive. Just nice.


message 30: by Grace (last edited Aug 07, 2012 08:42AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace Hey, I'm totally cool with women in tuxes - it can look really good! What boggles me is the explicit mention that this is a man's tux. It's been cut for a man's body. Anita doesn't have an androgynous frame, so she's probably had to rent a tux that accommodates her at her widest points, which will result in a suit that's baggy as hell in the torso, shoulders and legs. It would be like a man trying to wear a woman's suit - by the time he's found something that will button up around his ribcage, the shoulders will have the dimensions of a stealth bomber. Also, he will have flappy fabric hips flaring out with nothing to fill them. And probably some awkward crotch issues.

As for the long hair, that's just a personal thing - some people like green eyes, others like blonde hair, others like tattoos... What gets me is that ALL of the men tick all three boxes: submissive, effeminate in some way (either in manner or in conduct), and longhaired. There's no flexibility and for me, no attraction when those three things are combined.

Richard doesn't count, though at first glance you might think he does - but he's (usually) longhaired and throws emotional tantrums and while he's not textbook submissive, he never seems to make strong choices. Everything he does is weak, unless Anita's behind it. None of the men in these books have initiative, except for Edward, who seems to have found a way to cut short Anita's agonizingly long conversations by pulling a gun on her. I approve of this move. Pull the trigger, Edward.


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) True. I don't know why the men have to be so SUBMISSIVE. Especially Micah, he's just like, "Yes, dear." There's nothing wrong with a man being able to speak up for himself, you know. Just because a woman is strong, doesn't mean the men all have to be weak and just obey her. Where is the fun in that? If the roles were reversed, people would complain forever too.


Mmmmm Long haired nice men with tattoos *sigh* and some with green eyes


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 1 star

Judy Grace, did you read "Flirt" yet? The afterword of that novel speaks volumes about LKH's "real life inspirations" of why all of the men have long hair. Ugh.


message 33: by Grace (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace No, and honestly I am DONE with the series and will never EVER read it, so please do tell me about the long hair thing!


message 34: by Judy (new) - rated it 1 star

Judy The first bit of "Flirt" is basically where Anita goes into some restaurant with Nathaniel and Micah and Jason. There is a waiter who comes and then becomes a blubbering idiot when he sees Nathaniel's ~*BEAUTIFUL FACE/EYES*~. The waiter then smiles at both Anita/Nathaniel because they are sitting next to each other.

When the waiter leaves, the boys are like OMG He was totally bisexual and totally into you, Anita! And Anita was like NOOO, he CAN'T be, my grandmother and other people in my childhood always told me I was sooo UGLY because I am not BLONDE and WASP-ish. The three men then tell Anita she is sooo beautiful and she should know it and to flirt with the waiter.

So Anita gives the waiter this smile that shows him that she SEES him for who he IS. And the waiter then proceeds to go GA-GA over Anita, etc. And the boys are all I TOLD YOU SO. It's supposed to be cute or whatever but even thinking about it right now is gag inducing.

At the end of the book, the afterword says one of the inspirations for this scene was her friend Daven: "...six foot three with long, thick hair down to his waist. It's brown, but it's that kind of brown that has natural gold highlights all through it. He has these great big hazel eyes that are truly brown and gray and a little green all at the same time, depending on his mood. He has a Vandyke beard and mustache that he grew so he'd look old enough to date his age group and stop getting hit on by so many men, when all he wanted was to date women." OH NO THE PLIGHT OF BEAUTIFUL MEN.

And then her husband: "My husband is his own share of pretty (shoulder length waves of strawberry blond hair), and he grew his own Vandyke beard and mustache that is true orange-red for much the same reason Daven grew his, because he looked twelve and wanted to date his own age group and was tired of fending off more offers from men than women. Cap it with almond-shaped blue eyes like an exotic Viking and his much cozier size for me (five-eight) and, well, any more description would be oversharing..."

What baffles me is how she is NOT oversharing already.

And then some rambling about LKH doing the same thing that Anita does in the book, which means the afterword is basically a recap of an entire chapter in the story.

What's worse is that there is a comic of this whole thing as well, so we are told the story THREE TIMES.

/end ramble. Wow now I am super annoyed at Flirt and will now go bump it down to one star.


message 35: by Grace (last edited Sep 06, 2012 09:19PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace ....ew.

You know, if you have waist-length hair and are constantly hit on by men, a Vandyke is not what I'd pick to counteract that impression. I generally don't go with "17th century Flemish painter" as a manly image.

Though it's pretty entertaining to read a female Chicago Chronicle columnist's reaction to the Vandyke style: indicative of a man "who was selfish, sinister, and pompous as a peacock."


Melissa I have to say I feel the same way at this point in the series. I mean, awesome you have all these guys chasing you...fantastic. But she sleeps with ALL of them. I'm over the sexist, dominant, whore and am ready for someone new. I wish LKH would have put her with Edward and not made her into a monster. The story would be so much better.


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