Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"Vampires, Aliens and Hunks "
Kris Jensen, Healer from DAW Books, October '93
P. N. Elrod, Red Death from Ace Fantasy, November '93
Anita Blake, Guilty Pleasures, from Ace Fantasy.
Sharon Green, Silver Princess, Golden Knight and The Hidden Realms, both from AvoNova Fantasy, March '93 and September '93 respectively. Forthcoming: Dark Moon/Dark Dreams, 1994.
Jane Toombs, What Waits Below Silhouette Shadows, September '93.
I'm sure there are a lot of men who read this column, and those of you who are not vampires or aliens are probably hunks. A "hunk", I will define as a man who is first noticed by strangers for his appearance, his physical attributes. That physical impression often overwhelms and outlasts the second impression that comes from what you say or how you think.
Most men who are practiced in the arts of magick fall into this category even when they are not physically large or body-building contest winners. It takes a fairly high level of advancement to learn to control the effect and be noticed and remembered for what you choose to be noticed and remembered for.
Once you get to the point where you are struggling with this art, it may occur to you to wonder why it's so hard to get it to work with women.
Some of your answers to that question may come to you when you access the part of the astral plane where women trade commentary on this subject. The books I'm going to discuss here may provide that access. They are about what women notice about a man and what differentiates husband material from someone who is just pretty to look at.
Healer by Kris Jensen is the third book set on the world of Ardel where the natives experience ESP as a genetic attribute that emerges with the stage of maturity beyond sexuality. I have previously recommended the earlier books in this series, Freemaster and Mentor, also from DAW. Mentor and Healer are about the same characters, so we have an ongoing story line that picks up a few weeks after the end of Mentor. You could, however, read these books in any order.
Healer shows us both sides of a well-constructed marriage under the kind of stress that might tear the couple apart. Both members of this partnership are heros, and their young child takes after both of them.
The husband is a human doctor who has to deal with a killer plague among the natives. The human woman he is married to is an engineer who will not quit before she wins. But when he will not quit in the face of this plague, and does something that will force them to choose between career and marriage, she can't see herself in him. And what she does see of herself in him, she dislikes so much she represses the awareness of the similarity. This of course blocks her own access to her own ESP.
At the end of the book we have a wonderful hook into the next in the series -- the family of humans has a chance to live and work among the ESP experts of the aliens and to learn their mental techniques. The human woman with a son to raise has a problem with this idea.
These particular aliens have no sex appeal for a human and so, with that complication set aside, the book is able to explore the real nature of interpersonal bonding. It is a perfect book to kick off a reading program on the subject of spouse-hunting.
Red Death by P. N. Elrod is a somewhat unique vampire novel. It is connected to her series which I have raved about endlessly in this column -- The Vampire Files: Bloodlist, Lifeblood, Bloodcircle, Art in the Blood, Fire in the Blood, Blood on the Water. All 6 of those titles are also from Ace Fantasy. But the only two characters in Red Death who are also in the other series are the elder vampire Jonathan Barrett and the vampire who made Jack Flemming, the hero of The Vampire Files into a vampire.
In Red Death we have the story of how Jonathan Barrett was made into a vampire, which is the story that Flemming wanted and didn't quite get the whole of. Flemming was trying to find the vampire who made him, a woman who slept with him and then just disappeared. He believes he found her dead, or so Barrett convinces him. Barrett was also made and dismissed, so he has a problem with how he was treated, too.
The publishing industry believes that vampire novels belong in the horror genre even when they're not horror. Red Death is an example of a vampire novel which is not horror, and Ace, bless them, published it as a Fantasy. It really is a historical fantasy, set on Long Island (New York) during the Revolutionary War.
That's charming enough, but what I feel distinguishes this novel from others of its type is that here is a vampire who takes up his old place in his family and in his community, and he is still there, a pillar of the community, in the twentieth century.
Here is a Hunk whose family is a trial and a tribulation, but whose family-feeling overrides all else when he discovers what his lover has done to him.
Perhaps the most interesting scene in the book is when this young hunk loses his virginity -- to an experienced vampire. And he never wants anyone else after that.
P. N. Elrod, the author of Red Death is quoted on the cover of Guilty Pleasures as saying, "You'll want to read it in one sitting -- I did!"
I've known Elrod long enough to take her advice seriously. I did. And I did read it in one sitting. Guilty Pleasures has to be at least the second book by Laurel K. Hamilton I've seen -- but I can't find any others in my files so I can't give you the titles.
The story takes place in the modern USA, but in an alternative universe where vampires have been legally recognized. Anita Blake, the main protagonist, tells the story in first person. She says, "My name is Anita Blake. Vampires call me The Executioner. What I call them isn't repeatable." And she also says, "I don't date vampires. I kill them."
Of course, her problem is that she's got a vampire hunk who is in love with her, and she's not immune to being loved. Any man who has had a problem getting through to a woman he's stuck on should read this book. What this vampire hunk sees of her is not what is really going on inside her head. Because it's told in first person, we really know what's going on in her head and her heart. It could be very instructive to bewildered hunks.
Guilty Pleasures (which is the name of a posh vampire night club not the theme of the book) has enough gory action scenes for a Hitchcock Thriller, but it, too, isn't really horror. Ace, bless them, published it as a fantasy. Something good is happening in the world of publishing.
Which brings us directly to Sharon Green's Avon Nova series that started with Silver Princess, Golden Knight, and now has The Hidden Realms and the forthcoming Dark Moon/Dark Dreams.
Only if you read these books in quick succession will you be likely to spot the fact that they occur in the same universe. They involve two completely separate pairs of heros facing different challenges for different reasons. But the trap that they each fall into is the same. Both pairs end up going from one sub-alternate-reality to another, getting trounced, bashed, and ignominiously humiliated. All the action adds up to lessons the individuals really need to learn, but in the end they discover who is giving the lesson.
None of the four heros in these two books are the type to take kindly to unsolicited lessons and tests.
Each of the two men is a true hunk with just that touch of vanity that a spectacular body tends to foster. Each has a bit of a macho culture behind him and is focused on a woman who doesn't see herself as a heroine. Each is convinced that the woman he has chosen has rejected him, mostly because she sees herself as a hero.
We, however, see what goes on in that woman's mind.
These two books are very, very similar to each other, and you might feel that one is a retread of the other. But no. Sharon told me on the phone that these four people will come together in the next adventure, and compare notes. That will certainly change their universe, but -- when sexual crosscurrents tangle up the relationships, these four may spend more energy battling each other than fixing up the universe -- which really needs some fixing.
A man who has a problem figuring out the modern, liberated woman ought to read some Sharon Green titles just to see what goes on inside such a woman's head even (or especially) when she is sexually attracted to someone. Sexual attraction isn't enough to make a marriage. Sharon Green can show you what is enough.
What Waits Below is another one of those deceptively simple novels by Jane Toombs. She's written it for Silhouette Shadows, and so it has the very ho-hum predictable formula that line demands. However the test of a true Artist, for me, is the ability to work in a box of this kind -- a box built by someone else for purposes other than your own. And Romance line formulas are very small boxes.
The interesting thing about this book is that in the end, it is not "revealed" that all the supernatural occurrences had ordinary scientific explanations. There is a horrible monster who dies a horrible monster's death which is followed instantly by a prophesied cataclysm, as if the magic that made the monster was also holding a building together -- and a family!
You are left with the distinct impression that the hero and heroine (these books can't have female heros, unfortunately -- at least not yet, though Jane's come as close as possible) survive the cataclysm only because the hero -- an ethnic Amerind from the same geographic area as the mansion and monster -- had the good common sense to greet the dawn with proper ceremony and invoke the attendant spirits correctly. His war paint protects his woman, too, and you believe every word -- at least until you close the book.
Jane Toombs is a writer who has long since outgrown the little romance genre boxes. Her science fiction shape-changer novels (also with a real hunk for hero -- a hunk who is a werewolf) which I have raved about in these pages will, I hope, take her career in a new direction.
But she is a woman of many directions already.
Honorable Mention this week goes to Ellen Jamison, another byline Jane Toombs writes under.
This novel is titled Stone Dead. It's a Zebra Horror, published in August of '93. But this one really is genre horror. It has, I think, a limited audience appeal. I personally just don't like this particular motif, even when it's done splendidly. The book's main device is a doll -- a doll with a mysterious past -- a doll not to be toyed with.
As a little girl, I loved my dolls. I never had nightmares about them turning against me, or against the world of goodness and mercy. I don't find books using that horror motif horrifying. But I don't find them amusing, either.
If you do, try a Jane Toombs under another byline. You won't regret it.
Second Honorable Mention this month goes to Witch World: The Turning Book 2 Flight of Vengeance. It's a Tor hc, December of '92, so watch for the paperback about now.
I've been meaning to do an entire column featuring this book, Andre Norton, and the Witch World. Even if you've never read any of her Witch World novels (which you must, must, must!), you can read this one with full enjoyment.
The Turning Book 2 Flight of Vengeance is written with P. M. Griffin and Mary Schaub. It sounds like an odd collaboration, but a lot of the best of sf's writers are lending their talents to developing the Witch World universe so it's become a very special corner of the astral plane.
This novel continues a fabulous love affair between a true female hero and a hunk of incredible mystique and physique. This hunk is a magician of sorts, bound to a hunting bird by a telepathic bond, and vows and tradition forbid his taking the female hero as consort.
Their love changes the face of the land where they live.
It sounds old, worn and corny, but I tell you, these are real people just like you and me fighting real battles. Oh, I've never had to climb a cliff in the midst of a hurricane, but I've done things just as hard. Take it from me, ESP can be helpful, but it can also make things a lot harder.
BOOKS FOR REVIEW IN THIS COLUMN SHOULD BE SENT TO POB 290, MONSEY, NEW YORK 10952.
Find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert the title (in quotes) in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to. To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below.
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg