Friday, November 20, 2009

27. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

My friend The Grammarphile recommended this book to me and, since vampires are so hot right now, I put it near the top of my list. I had never heard of it before people started buzzing about the show True Blood, which is based on this book series. I don't have HBO so I had never seen the show, but I have heard bits and pieces about it on the internets and I was intrigued.

Dead Until Dark is the first in a series of books about Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who lives in Bon Temps, Louisiana. In Sookie's world, the Japanese have developed a synthetic blood that can replace human blood as nourishment for vampires. The vampire community has decided to come out of the closet, so to speak, and are living openly among humans. There has never been a vampire in Bon Temps -- until the night that Bill Compton walks into the bar where Sookie works and tries to order a bottle of True Blood. Sookie is immediately intrigued by Bill, in part because she can't hear his thoughts. A lifetime of ridicule and and people thinking she's either slow or crazy attracts Sookie to the relief of someone whose mind is silent to her. Bill is likewise intrigued by Sookie; he instinctively knows there is something different about her. They fall in love and face the (fairly justified) prejudices of most of the community. People are suspicious of Bill because a few young women in the town, known "fangbangers," have been murdered recently. Sookie's brother Jason is also a suspect, and Sookie is compelled to try to figure out who the murderer is so she can clear both their names.

I really wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did. I was completely drawn into the story and the characters, and didn't want to leave their world when I was done. I'm not typically interested in stories set in the deep South, I think in part because I don't like humidity. But seriously, it's not a setting that I usually want to read about and it takes something really good to make me want to go to there. I think the twist of the practical implications of vampires living in the open did it for me. I don't think I've read or watched anything else that took on that particular idea. It's cool to think about what would happen in our world if vampires came out to play.

Not only was I interested to see what was going to happen to Sookie and Bill, I really liked them as characters. I enjoyed reading about Sookie's telepathy and what it meant for her. Constantly being bombarded with people's innermost thoughts and feelings takes a toll that really affects her quality of life. People think she's crazy and mock her, or people think she's stupid and talk down to her. Imagine having to concentrate with all your might just to walk through a bar and deliver drinks without being distracted by what everyone is thinking. It sounds exhausting. I also liked reading about Bill's attempts to "mainstream" (live with humans). He has moved into his family home, which has been in disrepair since his last living relative passed away, and wants to fix it up. Can you imagine trying to deal with contractors only at night? And not only does he have to observe the rules of human society, but those of the vampire society as well. Whenever he and Sookie meet another vampire, he has to immediately declare that Sookie is his human so that no one else will bite her. And even that's not a guarantee when dealing with a vampire that's older than Bill. There's a strict hierarchy that Bill has to respect, and try to work around in order to be with Sookie.

I liked the book so much that I rented the first disc in the True Blood season one DVD set. And, um... it's not for me. I can't mince words here, I watched one episode and it was so f@*#'d up that I'm not going to try another. It's just funny because the book wasn't really that out there. For example, you knew that there were "fangbangers" who would have sex with vampires and let them bite them. But you didn't read graphic scenes about it. In the show, you actually see rough sex with a vamp and it was just... out there. That's just my opinion, though. I don't want to offend anyone who likes the show. I can see why people would like it, it's just not for me. Possibly in small part due to the fact that I don't think Stephen Moyer is hot. (Sorry. Team Edward and all.)

I'm interested to read more books in this series, even though I'm sure that I'm going to start mixing up all of the vampire mythologies in current pop culture. There's Buffy the Vampire Slayer (of course), Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and now Sookie Stackhouse. How am I going to keep up?


Jody said...

I've been a huge fan of the Sookie books long before there was even mention of True Blood. Some of them aren't quite as great as others, but that's to be expected with almost any long-running series. Overall I love the series.

I totally agree that the show doesn't compare to the books, but I still watched it Season 1 just because I couldn't resist seeing all these characters I've loved for so long come to life.

Magnolia said...

I was really excited to see the show for the same reason. But I think I'll just stick with the books. Although I've been told they can get pretty dark, so I'm not sure how much I'll like all of them.