Friday, 10 July 2009

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

This is the first book in Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire Mysteries", which inspires the television show "True Blood". The book begins the tale of a fictional small Louisiana town called "Bon Temps", a town in a world where not only do vampires exist, they don't live in secret. Upon the Japanese developing a synthetic blood for medical purposes, the vampires "came out of the coffin" as they say, and began to integrate into mainstream society. Humans react in very different ways to the realization that a stronger, faster, and more attractive race of beings have shared their place at the "top of the food chain almost as long as humans have existed. One human who can't wait to meet a vampire is small town waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie is anything but average, and she understands a thing or two about being different from the "norm". Sookie is telepathic, that is, she can read the minds of others. While it sounds like an interesting and useful ability, the reality of the constant noise of the human mind is an exhausting reality for Sookie. This "talent" makes her first encounter with a vampire all the more alluring, for the first time she meets Vampire Bill, Sookie hears the one thing she's always wanted to hear from the minds of her companions, silence.
Romance, humor, suspense, and lots of Southern charm, if you like vampires and supernatural beings, I highly recommend "Dead Until Dark".

Spoilers ahead!
If you've not read this book, do not read the second part of this article!
The casual way Harris brings the reader in after all the "logistics" of the vampire realization makes the story move quickly and avoids the slow start many books have while the author gets the reader acquainted with the situation and characters.
The main character and narrator of this story, Sookie, is not the sharpest tool in the tray and she doesn't always make the right decisions or say the right things, but she's funny and charming therefore gets away with theses faults, plus it makes her seem more relatable.
The romance between Sookie and Vampire Bill is a big part of this story, and Harris tries hard to make the reader root for this love match. Vampire Bill is Sookie's first boyfriend, her first love, her first sexual relationship. She falls head over heals for him like a teenager. The problem is that there really doesn't seem to be anything interesting about Vampire Bill. Sure, he saves her from being killed by a drug dealing, vampire killing, couple (after she saves him, I might add). He makes her feel safe and protected, he devotes all his time and energy to her, much like "Twilight's" Edward. This would all seem far more intriguing and romantic if Harris could manage to make us care about Bill. The real saving grace is the world that Harris creates and the other characters that live there, from Sookie's shapeshifting boss Sam, to her dumb but beautiful older brother Jason, to the mysterious vampire sheriff and bar owner Eric.

Bottom line: This book is good and a good start to the series, but the best reason to read "Dead Until Dark" is to get to the later books!


Anonymous said...

Ahhh what an excellent idea! I love it! As you know I've spent the better part of my summer immersed in vamp fiction, so I have plenty to talk about!

I agree with your take on Dead Until Dark. Especially in the early novels in the series, it's really about the world that Charlaine Harris has created and some of the secondary characters. Luckily she realizes that and makes some of the secondary characters bigger parts of later books and that makes all the difference!

Like you, I find Bill bland and boring and uninteresting. I guess maybe he's a good way to bring Sookie into the supernatural world though, a safer choice than some of the others. I am not spoiling anything either.

Anyway, fabulous idea and I look forward to much more!

Hey Lady! said...

I don't think it can be considered a spoiler to say Bill is boring and uninteresting, it's obvious the first conversation Sookie has with him. He doesn't get more interesting. I guess the fact that he does seem devoted is the reason?

I really want someone who's a Vampire Bill fan to explain to me the allure...anyone?

rameau said...

Vampire Bill's appeal? Stephen Moyer in True Blood. Seriously, he's the only reason Bill is in any way, form or incarnation interesting.

But this is about the books. I wholeheartedly agree with you, the best if not the only reason to read this book is to read the rest of the series. I know I'm shallow that way.

Though I have to disagree about Sookie. Even though everything is filtered through her viewpoint I can't really root for her. I tolerate her but that's it.

Why is it so difficult to find or create a female character I like? There's a simple solution... don't make all the male's, human vampire and supe's alike, to fall for her. That helps immensely.

P.S. Do you have a suggestions section? Just in case I come up with anything worth recommending?

Hey Lady! said...

Rameau- I'll figure out how to make a suggestions section... Also, if you'd like to review anything you'd recommend email me at

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with you about book-vampire Bill being a total let-down.

The whole book is really saved by the background story of vampires being openly integrated into human society, and how people/vampires adapt to that change. Even with the TV series, I've always felt that the secondary characters' stories were so much more interesting than the Sookie/Bill lvoe story.

Hey Lady! said...

randomizeme- The show really plays up the Sookie/Bill love story, in the books it's only a big part of the first few books, past that it's not really a focus.

The first book is really the most like the show, from there the show and the books are almost completely different.