Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Hunt by Susan Sizemore

It pains me to say that I'm going to be unkind in this review. I heard Susan Sizemore on a panel at this year's DragonCon and was so impressed by her intelligence and wit that I picked up one of her books. I was not, alas, impressed by the book.

I chose The Hunt because it's the first in her Laws of the Blood series, which is more urban fantasy than paranormal romance. It was published in 1999, and one of my problems with the book is how dated it feels. All those pop culture references are about as current now as the faded Ziggy poster they still have up in my office at work.

I can get past dated pop culture references, although they're distracting. I found it a lot harder to get past that the book seems to be set in our world, even right down to the movies they were watching in 1999, but somehow the whole vampire fad seems to have passed them by--despite even having Buffy! At one point a movie producer tells one character that her screenplay with a vampire protagonist would never sell, because vampires are considered dangerous monsters and no one would find them sexy. Excuse me while I boggle in confusion. Why do Nicholas Cage and Shaq exist in this world but not Anne Rice or even Bram Stoker?

I spent most of the book boggling in confusion, actually. So many names are tossed around, so many subplots surface and disappear like breaching whales, that I found it difficult to figure out what precisely was going on most of the time. All the characters speak alike and Sizemore frequently doesn't tag lines of dialogue, which meant quite often I had to reread passages several times to figure out who was speaking. That most of the characters are psychic and communicating telepathically or having visions doesn't help matters.

I'll try and recap the plot, although I found it really hard to follow. Valentine is a screenwriter and a vampire reclusive of her own kind. She decides that what she really wants to write is a screenplay about vampires the way they really are. To do this, she listens in psychically to Selim the vampire's life. (None of this becomes clear until the book is half over or more, which meant that I kept wondering why Valentine was even in the story.) Selim is the Los Angeles Enforcer, a vampire who makes sure the local vampires don't step out of line. At the beginning of the book, he's arranging for them to have a Hunt; he's the one who orchestrates how many people they can kill and when and where. But Selim and his human-on-her-way-to-becoming-a-vampire-herself companion Siri are having relationship problems. That is, although Selim loves Siri dearly, he's stopped sleeping with her. It's been over a year and she's all hot for him and doesn't understand why he's doing this. (It was almost the end of the book before I understood that he was trying to prolong their companionship, since after she became a vampire they would have to stay apart because vampires aren't supposed to sleep together--although it was never explained why.) There's also an evil vampire named Kamaraju who seems to exist solely to give the book a bad guy--although he doesn't do much--and a baby vampire called a dhampir who becomes vitally important at some point to the plot even though he only gets a mention or two for the first half of the book, and there's an evil stalker who turns out to be a nice vampire, and an evil stalker who turns out to die--and lordy, was that scene confusing, because I hadn't figured out there were two stalkers showing up at once.

I don't know, it's impossible to recount the plot in any coherent form. It feels half-gelled, made up on the fly and not revised, messy and confusing. Worse, none of the characters are appealing. Sizemore seems to have great fondness for the characters, since she keeps referring to various of them with cuddly adjectives--if I never hear that Valentine is a "very small woman" again, I will not have to kill anyone--but none of them are pleasant to spend time with. Selim shows that he's a jerk over and over, but Siri just can't stay mad at him. Since she doesn't do anything herself except have visions, headaches, and arguments (when she's not being hunted or used as a catspaw), she's not my idea of a good main character either. Not that there's really a main character. The book starts out from Valentine's viewpoint in the short but unnecessary prologue, then goes to Selim's viewpoint in the first chapter, then ends up in Siri's viewpoint--and then it's anything goes, and we're headhopping all over the place.

I'd like to say there were parts of this book I liked, but I can't come up with anything. The action scenes are interesting, except that as soon as things finally get moving, Sizemore screeches to a halt and makes us read page after page of dialogue and exposition. It's frustrating. It's disappointing. I stayed up until 2am to finish this book and I want my sleep back.

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