Out Of This World
by JD Robb, Laurell K Hamilton, Susan Krinard, and Maggie Shayne; paranormal (2001)
Jove, $7.50, ISBN 0-515-13109-1


Warning: This review can get, er, a bit graphic at times. Anyone under the age of 18 or 21 or whatever's legal at your country, don't let Mommy and Daddy catch you repeating what I say here, okay?

I was hoping to save this book for an upcoming train trip to Malaysia, but I can't resist peeking at Laurell K Hamilton's novella. As a result, I ended up reading this whole anthology. Since I actually was mad enough to dish out $7.50 for the Laurell K Hamilton novella Magic Like Heat Across My Skin alone, I would start with that one, yes? Let me get my fork and knife out first.

Now, nice title, isn't it, Magic Like Heat Across My Skin? But a more apropos title will be You Whippin' Me Screamin' Across My Skin. Ms Hamilton has long crossed the line from borderline BDSM erotica to outright pornography with her Anita Blake series. In just 80 pages she has packed enough graphic allusions to and depictions of male rape, bondage, threesome boinkings, S&M, and crossdressing fun to shock ye genteel readers of Susan Krinard and Maggie Shayne and maybe even JD Robb, all presented in a knee-high slime of gore and violence. I'm not saying this is a bad thing - you think I'd keep reading if I find such kinky bloodthirsty fun objectionable? But what I do object to is the increasingly laborious, unnecessary, and clumsy prose and plotting.

I'm not saying much about the plot except that it involves Anita Blake and her camp followers the vampire Jean-Claude the rip-off Ziggy Stardust wannabe and the whiner he-bitch Richard the werewolf trying to bargain with crossdressing whip-and-buttplug lovin' werehyena Narcissus for the release of Anita's kinky, passive-submissive wereleopards. Confused? This novella is actually an excerpt from the author's upcoming novel Narcissus In Chains. If you have no idea who Anita Blake is, you either go pick up Guilty Pleasures, the first book in this series, or stay away. This series will either have you throwing up into the toilet bowl or growing fangs and howling at the moon.

I find MLHAMS tedious though. It feels like that brainless, senseless, ultraviolent, ultragory, ultrakinky, rip-your-intestines-out-while-I'm-having-an-orgasm sadistic Burnt Offerings revisited. (Did I tell you I love Burnt Offerings?) You know, stupid mind games, someone having to "submit" (spread those buttcheeks now, loser) to some pretentious, fake David-Bowie-on-crack werecreature boss, stupid wereleopards getting in trouble again, only this time Anita may or may not have threesome boinkings with Richard and Jean-Claude. I am looking forward to Richard getting a leg up over Jean-Claude and vice-versa. Frankly, that'll be the sole thing that will interest me. That, and the fact that a 69 fun between Richard and Jean-Claude will shut those two annoying blabbermouths up.

I mean, if Jean Claude ma petite one more time (five times in one page is definitely crossing the ugly-overkill line here) I will personally petite his ma. And Richard... well, he doesn't start whining about his life and Anita and whatever here, but I'm sure he will somewhere in Narcissus In Chains. I hope Anita buys a big buttplug for him. That or a very thick gag.

Am I looking forward to Narcissus In Chains? Judging from this novella, it sounds like Burnt Offerings recycled, only with more tepid threesome shaggings, clumsy beastie sex, more see-through mesh clothes, more gore, more violence, and more long-winded psychobabble from Anita. I don't know. Will I get to read about Richard's forced feminization and Jean-Claude getting fisted by a burly prison guard? Now that will guarantee me paying hardcover price for the book. Otherwise, I'll be content to wait for the paperback.

Next, JD Robb's Interlude In Death. I can't finish this author's first book - what is it, Erection In Death? - not because it's bad, but because once I put it down, I just don't feel compelled to pick it up again. Eve Dallas and her hubby Roarke are too much like stock my-childhood's-bad-so-I'm-tough characters, too romance-novelsy if you will. I'm a weird reader in that while I devour romance novels, I don't like my books of other genres conforming too much to romance novel standards when it comes to characters and plots. And JD Robb's In Death books are a bit too much romance-and-sci-fi-mystery-lite for me, neither here nor there.

I find Interlude In Death readable, but it doesn't make me want to continue reading that In Death book of mine. (What is the title? Hmm... Mortgage In Death?) It's about Eve Dallas reluctantly taking an interplanetary flight to some distant planet to give a seminar. She's scared. She'd rather brain-and-bullet tough thugs than to do this. But when her hubby - after an obligatory hubby-wife-sex quickie - gets framed for a murder, Eve gets a reprieve from her stage fright.

Yes, I'm one of the three people in the world who probably don't care whether Eve gets pregnant (or something) or not in the next book, Seduction In Death. Oh, and I finally remember the title of that In Death book - Naked In Death, that's right. Apologies to the legions of Nora Roberts/JD Robb fans who will no doubt start flaming me in droves. Although I do think Erection In Death will make a good title, don't you think?

I like Susan Krinard's Kinsman, and she, along with Maggie Shayne, writes a really true-to-romance (as in the feel and the formula) novella compared to Ms Hamilton. It's about a telepathic woman Kori and our kinsman fellow Jonas stuck in close quarters in a spacecraft as they try to figure out what happened to a missing ship, Eurydice. This one is spoiled by a tacked-on romance - kiss, sex, love, the end - but the careful setting and the vivid atmosphere are compelling. It makes me want to find out more about this world (how many author can boast of setting up a world this well in just a few dozen pages?), and it reminds me off all those cute Star-Wars-ish road-trip science fiction novels I used to read.

Maggie Shayne's nice spin on Puabi the Evil Witch's character in her novella Immortality is a feat worthy of the annals of Machiavellian politics. Talk about a wash-out. Puabi's redemption is not a redemption as much as it is a oh-she-is-so-misunderstood nonsense. Apparently, all Puabi needs is love. Oh yes, if only life is this simple, really.

Puabi, surviving death (you have to read the book Destiny for more information, I'm afraid, as this novella barely alludes to what is going on), gets rescued by a millionaire dude who finds her resembling his dead wife. They shag, typhoon and all sorts of natural disasters hit them, and in the glow of luminous sex-with-my-soulmate (or some crap of this ilk), she opens her eyes and discovers that she is a New Woman.

I have nothing against redemption of immoral characters. But I don't like cop-out Officer Krupke stories, and I don't like being insulted with the notion that evil can be exorcised by nothing more than a simple roll in the hay. Then again, this Matthew fellow is rich, rich, rich... okay, if the author wants to tell me that money can do anything, even change one's personality, now that I am buying. But I don't think the author is telling me that.

In short, Immortality insults me mortally.

I don't know if I would recommend this anthology to anybody. I mean, it's $7.50, and three out of four (the exception is Ms Krinard's story) don't really stand on their own. Their existance here, to be blunt, is nothing more than a lure to make newbies buy the author's backlist as well as the next book in the series (the publisher thoughtfully provides excerpts of upcoming books after each novella) or to make fans fork out the cost of a full-length novel just for a novella. This is perverse advertizing that charges the people it is targetted to. I paid $7.50, and I already feeling like the most gullible nitwit alive. I don't know about anybody else, really.

Rating: 65


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