Review: Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

I would almost – almost – rate any Given Doomsday as the sci-fi equivalent of a beach read. There’s some action, some mystery, some sex. It’s a quick read and hits all the standard sci-fi cliches, if you like that sort of thing. There are vampires, shape-shifters, seers and assorted other demons and paranormal creatures, people with unusual powers, people who can cast spells, etc., etc. But what really sets this book apart for me – and not in a good way – is the sex.

Now, I am by no means a prude. Folks who read here regularly should know that by now. Anyone who has had a peek at the Erotica section of my LibraryThing library whould be pretty clear on that as well. But there is a theme running through this book that really irritated my inner feminist, and that takes a lot of doing. In order to explain myself, I need to explain a bit about the book, so consider yourself warned: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Elizabeth Phoenix has always known she had special powers – she gets flashes of insight touching a person or an object. Of course, as these stories typically go, she tried to reject her powers and didn’t learn their full extent until the person who could have really helped her – in this case, foster mother Ruthie – is gone. In the battle between good and evil that starts in this first book, Elizabeth must first learn to use her powers and then begin to gain other powers if she is to defeat the demons. And the way she does this? Sex.

Now, I am all in favor of hot sex with a buff tattooed shape-shifter. There’s not enough of that sort of thing in my usual reading. But when Elizabeth is put in the position where she has to have sex with Sawyer in order to “open herself up” to her powers, and then that sex takes place with only the barest thread of consent on her part (she is drugged and believes she’s dreaming), that really raises some red flags. As the story progresses, we find that Elizabeth is a sort of empath – an empath who takes on the strengths of anyone she has sex with. She has sex with an old lover who has taken her captive (again, consent issues) in order to gain a specific advantage over an enemy, a scenario that will apparently repeat itself in future books. She once refers to Sawyer as a “whore for the federation,” but the book puts Elizabeth in the same position and I found it extremely distasteful. It’s an easy plot device – more sex, more power, more angst for the poor heroine – but I don’t like it.

One other thing that really annoyed me: I hate books that are obviously written to launch a series. Intellectually, I know that a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books are written in series, but I want to start out with one good story. If readers are drawn in by a great story and want the story to continue, that’s great, but there is something arrogant about starting out basically publishing your first chapter and assuming the readers will tag along for the next installment. This reader certainly won’t be.

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