Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Afterlight by Elle Jasper



I wasn't sure if I wanted to write this reaction, particularly since I don't enjoying shitting on people and messing with someone's livelihood. But on the other hand, I've always been about informing consumers, thus helping them choose how to spend their money wiser. Which leads me to this ├╝ber-negative reaction to my read of Afterlight by Elle Jasper, first book in the The Dark Ink Chronicles series. This is not something you'll see frequently from me, so enjoy it while it lasts. It'll contain a bit of spoilers, nothing big, but I don't think you guys will care. And I'll apologize right now by how crappy this "review" actually is, but not worth the trouble to do better I think. Before you go further, consider that this is a review aimed for strictly Urban Fantasy readers, if you read and like PNR, this will not be of much help to you I think.

Afterlight, to me, is representative of everything that I dislike in Urban Fantasy. Might even say, to some extent, representative of what's wrong with the genre. Some won't agree with this assertion, but I really feel like I was conned by the person who decided to market this book as member of Urban Fantasy; unless having 90%  erotica, romance, and graphic sex scenes is representative of such a genre. Add to that an investigative plot which ends up being dumbfounding and pretty much pointless, and it has become the first and only book that I've really regretted buying and reading. It's situations like this one which hold backs many readers from trying more Urban Fantasy books because they don't care to stumble into books like this one. Which is a shame for both the mindset and the books that allow it to fester.

When I finished reading the book it was quite apparent that this could be considered the porn version of Twilight. To add to that insinuation, going around reading the different reaction of those that have read Afterlight have noticed similarities between the this book and the Twilight series, some even quoting passages. But I don't care about that. One could say then that Afterlight might just be someone's Twilight wet dream come true. Even the titles are somewhat similar.

Before I'm misunderstood, let me just say that I don't like abundance of erotica, romance, and graphic sex scenes in my Urban Fantasy reading, and trust me I've tried. That's not to say that I don't understand it's place in it, or that I automatically dismiss books that contain such elements, else I wouldn't have bothered reading this book to its entirety, but I believe there has to be a balance and a relevance to it, particularly when a book is littered with it. I can handle it when the book is worth it, and I don't judge a book simply because it contains them. I've read plenty of books in Urban Fantasy that are heavy on those aspects and have thoroughly enjoyed the books, so just know it is not a deciding factor, but won't lie, it is a factor that it influences.

Those issues aside, I just didn't see anything worthwhile here. If you're not one of those readers who closes one's eyes and day dreams about the pulchritudinous alpha male with his banana hammock in full splendor jogging on the beach, then this is not a book for you. Else, you might actually like the book, and maybe even like it a lot. If you go to some review sites, you'll see an abundance of positive reviews. But I very much doubt any of those are from  people who are strictly Urban Fantasy readers, who read the genre because of great characters, mystery, suspense, plot, and action (where applicable).

Speaking of plot, what the heck just happen with it in Afterlight? Plot consists of main female character talking about how bad-ass she is, how awful her life has been up to this point, all the awful shit she did to herself when she was young, how moist she would get on the thought of getting high on drugs. Then someone close to her gets infected with Vampirism, she meets the hot alpha male, she has recurring sexual dreams, she gets horny, notices the dude going from supple to full on erection, same room masturbation time,  fucks the dude a couple of times, she has some more sexual dreams, fucks the dude a couple of more times.

Between all of this, the investigation consisted of she doing tattoos to her customers by day because it wasn't urgent enough to find the infected loved one, then by night going to some underground clubs she used to go to, filled with skulduggery, talk once more about how awesome she is while describing how she had underage sex with a sick mofo and was raped pretty much just so she could get her fix, talks about how many people are grabbing her ass in the club, then someone attempts to rape her. We learn nothing worthwhile; she has some more sex with alpha dude. Rinse and repeat the same investigation tactic one more night, and get her ass kicked by some of the infected kiddies. Then by the end of it, nothing of the investigation mattered because the location just presents itself (not that the investigation was any good in the first place). We have about 15 pages left, we do a summary of a crappy training, in which it becomes quite obvious that the protagonist is pretty much all talk and not as tough as she think she is, final battle comes along, 3 pages or so into it she gets knocked out. Then she wakes up and all is good and pretty much as resolved as it could be. Awesome. Actually, quite awesome indeed since it might just be the best part of the book.

If you're a strictly Urban Fantasy reader, then heed my words and stay away from Afterlight. If you are a reader that enjoys paranormal romance and those kinds of elements, then best move on to someone else's review because this won't be of any help to you. I say once more, got no problem with paranormal romance or it's readers, but I just hate getting conned into reading these types of books because people don't bother to differentiate between the two. It's becoming harder and harder to find what you actually want when reactions to books in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are mirroring each other.

If the argument is that this doesn't fit the Paranormal Romance mold, then we better find another sub-genre for these types of books because marketing them as Urban Fantasy is not doing anyone any favors.

For Twilight fans, well mixed reactions all around. So 50/50 chances of you liking this book.

And say what you want about the book cover, I actually liked it. Viva tramp stamps (though she actually has an awesome dragon tattoo in the back, and she let us know about 10 times in the story) and Truffula Trees!

17 comments:

  1. I see you have used the word chosen by me in this review as well as concocted its use along with the other "words" in the same sentence.

    Bravo dude :)

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  2. I am one of the PNR lovers, so I am one of the people who really enjoyed this book, however you do make some good points. The twilight feel comes in w/ the whole vegetarian vampire family idea and the brother loves a human...ok, yep sounds familiar. However, this was darker for sure. Yes, the heroine does go to great depths to describe her destructive youth, yada yada...I will give you that as well. All in all, this book wasn't for you, but you do have a few valid points. I would suggest Hard Spell, it's a cop drama urban fantasy, it's pretty good, and no romance at all. Book Savvy Babe

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  3. I've been very interested in Hard Spell, but Mihir fooled me into not trying it for the time being. But I think I'm going to give it another go and find the book.

    As for "no romance", you know, though it's a good selling point for me, I don't like it being it. Because I do enjoy a bit of romance aspect to what I read, I like love interests. But since I'm very picky with the romance, if it's handled in a way I don't like, it throws me off, particularly if the love interest is not someone I like or I just don't like the pairing. So it just ends up risky.

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  4. I haven't read this book.

    I've seen some people complain about 'fantasy' that they say is faux historical fiction with a light dusting of magic, as if making it fantasy was an afterthough. That seems off to me since I feel historical fiction sells better, so it would be madness to make a book fantasy if it doesn't have to be.

    Vampires, however, sell. And I get the feeling that a lot of 'beautiful-people-sex-romance' is getting getting an injection of vampire. Vampires hold the potential to be interesting, but vampirism as a fashion accessory / sex toy ... nah. I don't read 'em.

    It's entirely possible that your review will let the target readership know that this is the book for them. You don't say that the writing was bad.

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  5. Well, I rarely feel qualified to judge someone's writing skills, and I read this book some months ago and don't remember, honesty, the technicality portions.

    I'll leave that to other people.

    It's always my intention to not really judge a book on how bad/good it is (though do a bit of it), but try to find out who would dislike it and who would like it. Seems like that's a more worthwhile practice as I realize not everyone reads the books the same way, or for the same purpose, or with the pet peeves, or the same tastes.

    Figuring out the intrinsic value of a book seems like a waste of time to me at times, particularly in Urban Fantasy which is usually to me light reading material that the first goal is to be entertained and connect with a narrative voice.

    In all, I like the facts and objective aspects of the book outweigh my opinion and try to pinpoint which aspects of the book reflect on my opinion.

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  6. There is a new rapidly growing sub-sub-genre called Urban Fantasy Romance (UFR). At least if a book is labeled UFR then 'you have been warned.' I don't mind romantic elements or sex in UF as long as it makes sense within the framework of the story. However, if the romance is the raison d'etre for the story, it's PNR no matter how it's labeled or marketed. I haven't read Afterlight so will not comment. I can wholeheartedly recommend Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis.

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  7. I have honestly never heard of UFR, but seems to me like just about anything can fall into that category or told since most UF has a romantic component to it all told, so where do you draw the line, right?

    Would Mercy Thompson be UFR? I would say no, yet it features a good portion of love drama, though low in erotic.

    The difficulty in all of this is that most discussions and reviews seem to revolve on the love drama aspects regardless of the amount of content or focus the romance and the erotic had in a book. It just becomes hard to tell just from reviews if those aspects would end up being problematic to you, so as far as it goes for me, I just have to risk it on instinct.

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  8. It's always hard to write negative reviews of books. I struggle with it, because, like you said, this is someone's livelihood you're talking about. However, I appreciate honesty, and I always respect reviewers who are willing to write negative reviews more than the ones that only post the positive reviews. I tend to trust those reviewers more. And, as an author, it should be expected. Not everyone will like every book...

    Anyway, I have to say that this line: "pulchritudinous alpha male with his banana hammock in full splendor jogging on the beach," has to be one of my favorite lines I've ever had the honor to read in a review.

    I don't like PNR, and I keep running into UF books with aspects like this in them. I honestly think that's probably why I am having such a hard time getting into UF. I don't mind sex in books, but I don't like the porn plot lines that fill so many UF books. Plus, it seems like so many of them are exactly the same. There seems to be a niche cut out in UF for the strong, tattooed heroine who is jaded by some previous love-gone-bad and runs into some shadowy but mysterious hunky vampire/werewolf/shifter/whatever else. It seems like so many UF books are the same storys with different names thrown in and it bugs me. I really think there is a lot in the genre I could love, but it's all so buried beneath books like this one that I can't find the ones I'd enjoy half the time so I just give up.

    I could rant for a while longer, but I will say that this review kind of details why I struggle with UF, and I always appreciate honesty, even if it is hard to write.

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  9. I have to say I think you passed on your feel for the book, as readers, bloggers, and reviews for friends that is what we do. And the big catch here for you was the sex with the story. I get that. I have a hard time with it if it doesn't blend with the story for me. But there are books like this in the Urban Fantasy realm now. Like Qwill mentioned.

    But have to say nicely done. I don't think you blamed the author or anyone else. Just stated why you didn't care for the book. Nicely done.

    And sounds like a great chat going here with the views too. :) That is always the best part.

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  10. Great, honest review Bastard, and nice use of the 'special' words from your earlier post. Keep up the good work.

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  11. Thank you for the review. I have posted a similar discussion on Goodreads regarding sex in Urban Fantasy. I would never read this book, partly due to your review of it, but also due to the cover. The cover set off every warning bell I have.
    I do appreciate the fact that you reviewed it as an Urban Fantasy book and not a Paranomal Romance or Paranormal Porn or whatever. People who like that genre can ignore this and the author's target audience will still get the book.

    All around a good review.

    -Nemo

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  12. @Sarah
    Thanks for the rant, always appreciated. It really is a shame the mindset one has of not wanting to read UF because of the PNR aspects one might stumble into, but I think it's even worse when one does try and then stumbles into that which they fear and re-enforces their preconceptions.

    @Mel
    You know, it's not all about the sex. Wish it was, I just didn't find anything more than that in here. It's about focus, it's about abundance. Hate to always go to my go to series, but Kara Gillian also has an abundance of graphic sex and love drama in it, but she does so much more with her books keeping the focus on the UF aspects and the mystery, and in my opinion, the execution of the storyline that it makes those scenes a bit of an after-thought.

    @Ryan, yours was a crap to handle.

    @Nemo
    Sup, thanks for stopping by. I just can't go by the covers, they're so commonly like that in UF regardless of content that I just ignore it. And I kinda like those type of covers for some reason, so even with warning signs I'd still be attracted to it.

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  13. That....was....awesome.

    Sorry I'm late to the party. Was enjoying Labor Day weekend without internet.

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  14. See, if you're going to come here to brag about your awesome weekend while I was working, come back later...

    Anyways, people keep quoting me about some lines they loved about the review, all of them included words you guys suggested.

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  15. Hahahaha, that's just a beautiful thing. It was a nice weekend, but baby was up all night every night...I'll take sleep anytime.

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  16. Got two freaking dogs that are worse than babies. Don't let me have a good night sleep.

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  17. Hmm, was going to post this on Amazon, looks like I need to do a shitload of editing, will leave it until I become a little bit less lazy.

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