Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

[This review contains mondo, mondo spoilers.]

"I was missing Bill in a most elemental and unexpected way. My first clue had been the tug-below-the-waist I'd felt when I'd watched my tape of The Last of the Mohicans the week before and I'd fixated on Daniel Day-Lewis bounding through the forest. If I could appear from behind a tree before he saw Madeleine Stowe..."

Synopsis

While working on a secret project for the Queen of Louisiana, Bill is kidnapped by Russell Edgington, the King of Mississippi. Eric asks Sookie to go on a Bill-finding mind-reading mission to Jackson with Eric's associate, werewolf Alcide Herveaux. Experiencing a genuine attraction to each other, Sookie and Alcide go undercover as a fake couple at a supernatural bar called Club Dead, where Sookie meets Russell Edgington as well as Alcide's nasty ex, shifter Debbie Pelt.

During their second night out at Club Dead, all hell breaks loose. Steve Newlin of the Fellowship of the Sun plunges a stake into Sookie's side (it was intended for a vampire), and all of the shifters, including Alcide, shift and run off. Eric, who is also at the club undercover, talks Russell into taking Sookie to Russell's mansion for some discreet medical attention. Eric heals her with his blood, there is a romantic interlude, and they hatch a plan for Sookie to rescue Bill during the day when all the vamps are sleeping. Which she does, and in the process, she kills Bill's captor, torturer, and former lover, Lorena.

After quite a bit of mayhem and way too many attempts by Russell Edgington's werewolves to kill her, Sookie decides she has had enough with all things supernatural, and shows Bill, Eric and Alcide the door.

Review

It's interesting that Sookie spends most of the book romantically torn between a vampire and a shapeshifter. And the vampire is Eric, not Bill. And the shapeshifter is Alcide, not Sam.

Sookie spends a lot of time in this book realizing that she might have a supernatural romantic option other than vampires, and Alcide is definitely her type of down home pickup truck type of guy. The two of them are immediately in tune and strongly attracted. I don't ship Sookie and Alcide at all, but I love their connection in this book, especially while pretending to be a couple at Club Dead, and the way they efficiently dispose of an unexpected body together.

But of course, for me, it's all about Eric. This installment shows a real contrast between Bill and Eric, and Bill gets the worst of it. Although Bill never reveals Sookie's name under torture at the mansion, he leaves Sookie for Lorena without a word. He rapes Sookie when Debbie locks the two of them in the trunk of a car. Yes, Bill was in dire straits, I get that, but rape is rape. Bill never even thinks of the consequences of creating a vampire name database, much less endangering Sookie by leaving it with her. And Bill gives money anonymously to the Bellefleurs while failing to notice that Sookie is too broke to have her long driveway re-graveled.

The scene in the beginning of the novel where Eric, Pam and Chow meet with Sookie at her house is so interesting and ambiguous, particularly in regard to Eric's motives and feelings. He threatens to torture her if she doesn't reveal what Bill was doing for the Queen, but later reveals that he was acting this way only because Chow was in the room. Eric sends Bubba to protect Sookie the moment he realizes she's in danger. And after that exceptionally sexy blood exchange slash make-out session in Russell's mansion, Eric doesn't seem to be fighting his feelings for Sookie any more.

It's so touching that in the end, Eric has Sookie's driveway re-graveled. This is such a practical, thoughtful sort of gift, such a contrast to his vampire coldness. It makes me want to shake Sookie and say, if you're going to go supernatural, why not Eric? He's powerful, mysterious, smart, funny, considerate, protective and obsessed with you. Not to mention six-five and gorgeous. Okay, so he's occasionally arrogant and overbearing, but there's so much more to Eric. We know that by now.

And unlike Bill and Alcide, Eric isn't obsessed with an evil, homicidal bitch. Bill's Lorena and Alcide's Debbie are pretty much parallel characters. Debbie even asks Alcide to kill Sookie. Alcide promises to dump Debbie, but I don't believe him.

Just a couple more things I wanted to bring up, pretty much in the way of story boo-boos. The first is that vampires have invitation rules, and Bubba was never invited into Alcide's apartment in Jackson -- a critical plot point in the story. The second is Alcide's description of werewolf reproduction. He tells Sookie that only two purebred werewolves can produce werewolf offspring, and only the firstborn is a werewolf. This makes no sense mathematically, because the species would have died out by now.

Bits and pieces:

-- Only months have passed since the action in the first book, Dead Until Dark. Sookie is 26 years old.

-- Eric gives Sookie a lot of blood. It heals her after being stabbed, makes her feel superhuman, and makes her strong enough to carry Bill. This is the second time Sookie has taken Eric's blood.

-- We learn in this episode that Bill works for the Queen of Louisiana.

-- Sookie and Alcide run into Tara at Club Dead. She's dating a vampire named Franklin Mott.

-- The burrito. :)

-- I really enjoy the continuing joke of the Word-a-Day calendar. It just keeps being funny.

Television series notes

Russell Edgington is king of Mississippi, has a mansion and a human boyfriend named Talbot, and werewolf employees, but there is nothing in the book about him being very old and powerful, and nothing about werewolves addicted to human blood. Lorena is Bill's old flame but it is never said that she is his maker, and we meet her for possibly five horrible minutes.

There is a real difference in the Sookie/Eric relationship, too. The best Sookie/Eric scenes from the book either don't happen in the television series or are minimized. There is no extended make-out session at the mansion. And Bill is shown in a much more positive light -- he doesn't leave Sookie for Lorena, and doesn't rape Sookie in the trunk of the car. The ire of the book fans at this treatment of Eric as a character got pretty intense, and I get that.

In closing...

This was my favorite book in the series so far. Partly because a lot of it heavily featured Eric Northman the Viking vamp, one of my favorite characters. And partly because it was just laugh out loud funny.

Four out of four stakes. My next review, Dead to the World, will be posted at the end of December.

Important notice! After eleven books and four seasons of the series, I have no idea what kind of spoiler limitations to put on the comments section under these circumstances -- so I'm not going to put any. It's a spoiler free for all! If you're new to the books and haven't seen all of the television series True Blood, reading the comments may, and probably will, spoil you. Read on at your own risk!
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

3 comments:

Patryk said...

"Russell Edgington is king of Louisiana" but the 1st paragraph says Mississipi.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks, Patryk. I fixed it. I think I need a writing break. :)

Juliette said...

I don't know how I feel about this book... The first thing I ever knew about this series was that Bill, the initial love interest, rapes Sookie, and although they break up, this is not usually what she complains about. I'm kind of not OK with that. (I also don't want to read detailed rape scenes - how I got through Girl With the Dragon Tattoo I don't know). I read it last of all because I'd been putting it off and skipped that bit. I think the TV series definitely made the right call there.

Although I'm a huge Eric/Sookie shipper I'm also not sure how I feel about Eric and Sookie's love scene in Russell's mansion (which is only not sex in the sense that President Clinton didn't have sex with Monica Lewinski). It's not looking good for her and Bill and that point but they haven't actually broken up either, so I find it... weird. And Eric is just a bit too pushy for my taste here. I think the TV series made the right call here too - kissing Eric briefly, as Sookie does in season 3, isn't too bad, but this level of intimacy does come across too much as simply cheating on Bill (even if he is cheating on her!)

I agree that I like Sookie and Alcide's relationship here though. Alcide gets strange in later books (especially the most recent) but I like him here. And the book was better than I feared but still... not my favourite. To be honest, I can't really get over the fact that a) the main (at this stage) romantic interest rapes the heroine and b) he doesn't get staked for it.

I am surprised the TV series haven't done Sookie getting staked though, you'd think they'd love that...