I've read lots of really good books this year, filled with challenging stories, beautiful prose and ideas that nourished my soul.
Any Given Doomsday, by Lori Handeland was definitely not one of those. And yet, I devoured it.
I requested this book from Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program because it looked intriguing and the publisher (St. Martin's Press) was giving away an unprecedented 1000 review copies. A couple of months passed between when I was notified that I was getting a copy and it's arrival, by which time I had started to hope it would never come. Most of the reviews for the book were scathing (I tried to avoid reading these but the words "piece of trash" did leap out at me) and the average rating on Library Thing is only two and a half stars.
The book is filled with examples of over the top, staggeringly cheesy writing:
"Everything about him was dark - his eyes, his clothes, his heart."
"He'd always had an unbelievable way of looking at things, and when he'd looked at me, I'd wanted to give him everything I had. Back then all I'd had was me."
"I hadn't noticed Jimmy moving closer as we spoke, but now he was too close, trapping me on the cot. If I stood, my entire body would slide against his. If I stayed where I was he'd continue to loom over me, his crotch level with my mouth. I licked suddenly dry lips.
'There's something I have to tell you.' he said, and his voice was rough, as if he'd been running several miles through ice and snow.
I lifted my gaze to his, the movement brushing my chin against the suddenly bulging zipper of his pants. 'Tell me.'"
There are also some inexcusable grammatical and language errors (especially egregious from a big publisher like this one):
"He didn't have to sound like he could care less."
"The less people who know about them, the less chance an un-people might kill them."
"He was thinner than normal, and pale too. I hadn't noticed until now because the usual shade of his skin was so much darker than most." (than most what? white people? human beings? super natural beings?)
The story is mostly good fun, in a gory, completely implausible sort of way. It's pages are filled with every kind of monster imaginable: dhampirs (half-vampire, half human), skinwalkers, berserkers, werewolves, demon killers and even fairies.
The book has a somewhat religious bent, in that heaven and hell are real places and the bad guys are the descendants of fallen angels who mated with humans. The main protagonist, Liz Phoenix is a psychic ex-cop, who, at the opening of the book has a vision that summons her to the side of her former foster mother. When she arrives, she finds that the woman has been brutally murdered. It turns out that Ruthie, the foster mom was a seer and a leader of a movement called "The Federation." Ruthie proceeds to groom Liz as her successor from beyond the grave (Liz hears Ruthie's voice at regular intervals and has entire conversations with her when her dreams take her to a white picket-fenced house in heaven, where Ruthie continues to take care of children). Liz sets out for Arizona and then New York City in pursuit of knowledge and demons. She also learns that she is an empath...the kind of empath who can take on the powers of others but (get this!) only if she has sex with them.
The sex scenes in the book are more than a little troubling, since the Liz is either drugged or coerced into participating (I would warn survivors of sexual assault to stay away). One review I skimmed suggested that the author wanted her character to be scene as "a good girl" and that, if she chose to have wild sex with skinwalkers and the like, she would be tarnished by that. I would have vastly preferred for her to find out that she could gain powers through sex and then set out to have a good time for the greater the good (I was also annoyed when she envied the powers of a female character but wouldn't even consider the idea of sex with her because, you know, she's just not into women).
If some books fill you up like a satisfying meal, then Any Given Doomsday is like a bag of Cheetos (or the no-name copy of Cheetos). Sometimes, I'm just really in the mood for the Cheetos (and sometimes eating the Cheetos makes you feel a little queasy. And, as my older son said, when I told him about this metaphor, you need to go wash up because you have Cheetos all over your fingers).
This book is meant to the be the first in a series. Will I read the next book when it comes out? Probably not. But I may go looking for some more trashy fun.