The Sookie Stackhouse Books by Charlaine Harris

"I raised my head from his neck, and a wave of dark delight carried me out to sea. This was pretty exotic stuff for a telepathic barmaid from northern Louisiana."

Vampires. Mysterious murders in a small town. A beautiful young woman in danger. Sounds like a great big cliche. But as with everything in life, it's all about how it's done. Dead until Dark is the first in a best-selling series of fantasy mysteries that successfully introduced a whole new supernatural world where vampires have "come out of the coffin," are (mostly) living on synthetic blood developed by the Japanese, and are trying to integrate into human society, with somewhat problematic results.

If I had to put the Southern Vampire series into one specific slot... well, I couldn't. This opening book is a carefully plotted whodunit, but not all of them are. The "Dead" books aren't comic novels, although they're often quite funny. They're not deeply dramatic or tragic, even though terrible and heavy things happen with alarming frequency. They're not romances, even though Sookie Stackhouse's quest for love in the face of her mind-reading "disability" can be quite romantic. And the supernatural elements include more than just vampires. So -- pretty much, all of the above.

I tend to prefer science fiction to fantasy. Give me a novel with maps of imaginary places and a list of vocabulary words, and I'll put it back on the shelf unread. I need my stories to have some sort of grounding in reality. That's probably why most vampire novels don't work for me. (Don't make me try to explain my obsession with Buffy; Buffy is in a class by itself. Plus it's more of a horror allegory than vampire fantasy.)

I think one reason this series clicked with me is that, even though it's fantasy, it's strangely grounded in reality. Bon Temps, the small town where Sookie lives, and Merlotte's, the bar where Sookie works, feel real to me. Sookie has to pay her bills and live in the real world, like we all do. She shops at Walmart. She has friends who don't understand her, as well as friends who do. She has a selfish, self-centered jerk of a brother whom she loves, even though she sees him for what he is. Sookie's "disability" makes many fear her and avoid her, and it hurts her over and over again. Sookie is believable. You believe her.

If I have a complaint about the "Dead" series, it's that I don't care much for Bill the vampire. He seems... okay, I'll say it... a bit boring. For me, the most interesting vampire in the series is Eric, the ancient, scary Viking vamp who runs the Fangtasia bar in Shreveport. (I love that there are fangbangers. I really, really do.) If I can make a simplistic and not entirely accurate comparison, Bill is Louis, and Eric is Lestat. Bill is Angel, and Eric is Spike. Not a surprise that I prefer Eric.

This series is a blast to read. Exciting, fast-moving, hard to put down, and I have yet to guess whodunit. (Not that that is ever my strong point, but still.) In fact, I like all of Charlaine Harris' books. The Sookie Stackhouse novels are my favorite, but she's also written a couple of mystery series with no supernatural elements (Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard), and a third mystery series that is slightly supernatural (Harper Connelly).
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

Dr. Alice said...

Hi Billie,

I'm reading the series right now and haven't seen a single episode of True Blood. Since Alan Ball is at the helm (LOVED Six Feet Under), I'm very interested in the series but am wondering when I should start watching. What do you think? Should I finish the books before watching the show? Or is the TV show different enough that it doesn't really matter?

Thanks!
-A

P.S. Love your reviews - have been reading since the days of Buffy and that other site (TV.com? It's been so long, I don't remember! haha) :)

Billie Doux said...

Hi, Dr. Alice:

I was a big fan of the books and had read them all when I started watching the series. And I still enjoyed it. They're different enough that they feel like different experiences.

Thank you so much for sticking with me for so long. It was TVTome, the site that was bought out and replaced by TV.com. Which is when I left them. Seems like so long ago. :)

Billie

Stephen said...

I have watched all 4 seasons of True Blood, and am just staring on the 4th book. If i read the 5th book do you think it will spoil the series for me?

A lot of people have said that the two are so different after the 2nd book that you can easily read without spoiling TOO much, but I like to watch shows completely spoiler-free and like to have absolutely no clue what's coming next

Any help would be great :)

Billie Doux said...

Hi, Stephen: This is a hard question to answer, because I don't know at this point what they're going to do with season five. If it helps any, I've read all of the books, and the series still manages to surprise me.

Stephen said...

Thanks. I'll try and wait as long as I can to start the fifth book, but I'm starting to get really addicted to them! The books so far only seem to cover Sookie's story, not the side characters, so there still should be plenty to keep me intrigued when i watch the show!