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Lacking a Night Life
on 7 June 2009
I call it the Anita Blake Effect -- a supposedly tough and powerful heroine who just ends up being dumb, bratty, whiny, selfish and violent.
Unfortunately that effect is in full force in Caitlin Kittredge's debut "Night Life," a cheesy little urban fantasy that manages to be convoluted and simplistic at the same time. The biggest problem is the protagonist Luna, a truly repulsive character in a cast of nasty rotten people -- she's one of those charming supernatural "heroines" you would chew your own leg off to escape, since she's only interested in her own woes, sex, and bitterness.
Luna (cheesy) is both a cop and a werewolf in the bleak Nocturne City (cheeeeesy) is called in to investigate a brutally murdered hooker... who is also a Redback werewolf. Her investigation takes her to the Redback alpha/pimp Dmitri, but she finds that she just doesn't believe that the best suspect is actually the guilty party... yeah, she basically lets him go because he's hot. And when another hooker is found brutally murdered, they have a suspect: Stephen Duncan, a poor little rich boy who was having sex with both women.
But of course, Luna just KNOWS that Stephen isn't the bad guy. In defiance of her superiors -- and Stephen's megarich father -- she and Dmitri start investigating who really murdered the women. Unfortunately they have a new supernatural enemy, a mysterious witch that left a strange mark on Luna. All these factors tie in with a strange, ancient demon named Meggoth... who might be about to make a reappearance. Cue spooky music.
Taken by itself, "Night Life" is a mediocre urban fantasy -- serial killings, cop friction, really bad detective work, a miserable and seedy city with werewolves and witches running around. There's nothing particularly special about it, and Caitlin Kitteridge's little touches make it worse -- unintentional cheesiness with the names (Sunflower? A werewolf named Luna? NOCTURNE CITY?), fantasy Wicca, and some random plot twists that are never explained (what exactly is a "watchman"?).
And that bland little plot manages to be both too simple and too complex -- there's too much going on, and too little of it has to do with the actual plot (such as the oh-so-kinky trip to the "flesh-sculpting diva). At the same time, it's glaringly obvious who the bad guy is from early on -- and the climax rapidly spirals into an unintentionally silly showdown that clangs to a stop like a dungeon door. (Really, an ancient and dangerous demon who turns out to Just Wanna Be Wuvved? Cue laugh track).
But the worst part of the book is Luna, whose dark and angsty personality is expressed by a black bedroom and (if the cover chick is an indicator) Hot Topic gothwear. She's also a Mary Sue of the highest caliber -- an unjustly-loathed outcast who is still dominant enough to make werewolves quake, uber-sexy, the best cop ever, and so strong and tough and unique that everyone (including Moggath) is impressed by her.
And the Anita Blake Effect means that she never misses a chance to unleash bitter vitriol or fly into a rage, violent, self-absorbed (apparently being forced into bottom-rung prostitution isn't as bad as having a MEAN OL' GRANNY) and so breathtakingly dense that she bumbles through the case on luck. It doesn't help that the cover chick is a dead ringer for Kittredge.
And the rest of the cast is similarly repulsive, mainly so Luna will seem like a Tuff Strong Woman. All the women are jealous, evil or dead, and all the cops are brain-dead misogynist pigs who constantly say things like "if you did you'd be home with your man wearin' nothing but a cute little apron" without getting in trouble. Oh yes, and Luna is the only female cop in an ENTIRE CITY. Yeah, that's likely.
"Night Life" is a devastatingly stupid, offensively snotty little urban fantasy whose tepid plot can't even begin to cover up the wretched Mary Sue heroine. Give this one a miss... in fact, don't even touch it.