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The Reading Jackalope

Seven Kinds of Hell

Seven Kinds of Hell - Dana Cameron 1.5 stars. I 'finished' this last night, and I put that in parenthesis because I skipped the middle completely, and after sleeping on it, I don't hate it quite as much but two stars is pretty generous. I have a couple of problems with the novel.

The first is that the novel needed a really good non-grammatical editor. There were so many inconsistencies in the book that someone who paid a bit of attention to the time flow of the book would have caught. Something would happen on one page and then a few paragraphs later it was contradicted, or re-explained in an entirely different manner. And it happened over and over, it got to the point where I started to wonder if the heroine (and narrator) was that obtuse, and re-writing her history, on purpose. I'm all for an unreliable narrator, but when the narrator is actively lying to herself about what happened 10 minutes ago, when she described it perfectly the first go round, it get's REALLY annoying.

Which brings me to my second complaint. The narrator. I get the feeling we're supposed to think she's awesome and great. Except her constant reaction to ANYTHING is to run away, which would be fine as something she needs to work through and overcome, but it's never identified as such. The only time she actually sits down and listens to anyone who scares her is when it's forced upon her by one of the characters. I decided I was done with the novel, and skipped ahead to the last two chapters just to complete the read, when another character told our heroine that she was the bravest person he knew. Yea.... no. That was just... you can't show me her running from everything and everyone all the time and then have someone tell me she's brave. It doesn't work like that.

My third issue is the mind control exercised in the novel. It's done by the 'vampires', and done frequently by both good and bad characters and never once is it called out as problematic as all get out. In fact, because the Fangborn are evil fighters by nature, this mind control is probably viewed as a good thing. This one of my pet peeves with vampire fiction. Mind control, compulsion, whatever is not ok. But far too often it's used as an un-examined plot device by authors for the sake of convenience. And I don't approve- use it if you want, but don't treat it like a casual thing.

My final issue might be seen as nit-picky by some, but it bugs me so much. Monsters have a definition or description that defines them, and you can veer in many different directions when creating your world and your version of them, but stray too far from that definition and what you have is something new and no longer that monster. Were-wolves change shape, zombies* are undead creatures who eat brains, ghosts are the incorporeal remains of the living, etc. The one I want to focus on is vampires. Vampires, in folklore across many cultures, are undead creatures who drink blood. You stray too far from that definition (and you can get really creative within it as evidenced by the many iterations of vampires) and what you have is no longer a vampire. Which is why I really hate that Cameron calls the snakey type Fangborn 'vampires' in this novel. They're born, not made, so that cancels the undead part. They don't drink blood, so there goes that. The only thing they have in common with our cultural understanding of vampires is that they have fangs, but these fangs are more like snake fangs. Their bite is used to deliver a mind-control substance into the body of their 'victims'. It would have been much better if she'd just called them what they were, which is were-snakes. Drove me crazy every time she called them vampires. And I don't buy the excuse mentioned in the novels that the myths were created in order to be misleading when the other myths Cameron uses in the novel, both were-wolves and Pandora's Box, hew very closely to the world she built. It was sloppy and it bugged me.

*interestingly, zombies can have two definitions. The most commonly known one is the undead, brain eating revenant. But they can also be the mind controlled victims of voodoo priests. In this case, popular culture has mostly obliterated the second definition. So, yes, the definitions can change, but it generally takes a huge pop culture movement to do so. The original Dawn of the Dead probably being the origin of our modern take on zombies. I don't think Cameron has enough cachet to so drastically alter the cultural definition of vampire. Even Stephanie Meyer was unable to do so with her 'sparkling' vampires - though note- she didn't actually stray that far from the definition of vampires in her novels.