Stalking Tender Prey is Storm Constantine's attempt, as far as I can tell as a reader, to bring all sorts of new-age woo together into one novel, including ideas drawn from sources as diverse, and ridiculous, as Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods? and other such places, alongside epics like Paradise Lost (thematically, if nothing else).  The problem is that the novel ends up incorporating the ridiculousness of Däniken, and the themes but not the epic scope or the characterisation of  Milton...

The plot of Stalking Tender Prey is rather messy, and perhaps even impossible to explain; we follow various characters, mostly Grigori (not fallen angels, but it's never remotely clear who they actually are, other than part-human with special powers), in a sort of mystical quest that's slow, messily told, and to no small extent seems to be an excuse to write sex scenes of all sorts (although the attitude to homosexuality leaves a lot to be desired, I have to say - it's treated very oddly!).  It's building, perhaps, on Paradise Lost - the idea of the fall and possibility of redemption, but it's also got all sorts of strange things to say about human nature; especially the whole idea of sex-vampirism...  What really doesn't help is the slowness of the plot; there does seem to be a huge extent to which Constantine draws all the events of the novel out beyond all real use or need, leading to fluff like repetitious interactions between characters, pointless introspection leading nowhere and adding nothing, and even extended scenes which just go nowhere and fail to add anything, even tension, to the novel.

The characters aren't much better; in part because Constantine uses them as props to advance her ideas, but also because a lot of them are so deeply inconsistent.  Every character, even including the one who is supposed to stand above it all unaffected (Peverel Othman), changes across the course of the novel, but not naturally; instead they change jerkily and strangely, in such a way that they stop being recognisable, and become different, worse characters.  Often enough, Stalking Tender Prey gets around problems in the plot with character-changes which are induced by mind-control; or alternatively, by the idea that love is infatuation, and infatuation is instant and complete and thoughtless - a deus ex machina way to allow the plot to advance that really does strip the humanity, likeability and empathy away from characters.

All in all, Stalking Tender Prey feels like a book in need of an editor: at about half the length and with consistent characters, it might have worked as an interesting story, but as it is, it's more like a mess of words...


Squeaking of the GrimSqueaker....

February 2012

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