Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dead Until Dark (Charlaine Harris, 2001)

The Heroine: Sookie Stackhouse, a pretty young waitress in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Naive, sweet and inexperienced, Sookie's "disability" – the ability to read minds – has prevented her from succeeding in school, work or romance. Enter Bill Compton, a hundred year old vampire, recently liberated from hiding by the new laws established in the United States. Sookie is unable to read Bill's thoughts and soon her curiosity propels them into a whirlwind romance, despite the contempt of Bon Temps citizens. But disapproving murmuring are only the beginning of Sookie and Bill's problems: a vicious serial killer is preying on girls in town, and trouble comes for Sookie herself in the form of Eric, a sexy Viking vampire who lusts for her blood. Sookie must find a way to dodge death coming for her from every direction, and find happiness for the first time in her life.

The Highs: Dead Until Dark is the first book in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, which has since been transformed into the HBO television series True Blood. Though I have never seen much more than a few clips of the television show (which, warning, is extremely risque), I decided to pick up this book based on the recommendation of Dani from Pen to Paper. I'm very glad that I took her word to heart, because I enjoyed Dead Until Dark and I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series!

Sookie and Bill are an adult's answer to a grown-up, darker and much sexier Bella and Edward. Sookie is a Southern firecracker with a heart of gold, cast as a loony by her community, and yet she rises above this label, continuing to act with more grace and kindness than most would in her position. Bill, on the other hand, is a serious and sombre vampire, unapologetic driven by the occasional cruel and lustful impulses that grip him, though he hopes to live in peace with the humans in Bon Temps. Though they are complete opposites, Sookie's kindness and vulnerability humanizes and softens Bill, while his strength and protectiveness gives Sookie the confidence she needs to face down the obstacles between them. Dangerous, erotic and addictive, their romance blooms effortlessly and quickly keeps you rooting for them.

There are enough competing tensions within the plot to easily carry a series, including the continuing conflict between vampires and humans, the vengeful, deceitful and violent relationships between vampires themselves and the many suitors competing for Sookie's affections, willing to play dirty to get what they want. The plot is just dripping with suspense, hooking you immediately and refusing to let you go until the end. I'm very excited to see where the author takes Sookie in the next books in the series!

I'm a little in awe of Charlaine Harris's imagination and creations. The integration of her fictional vampires into a modern society is actually quite similar to what I imagine would happen in real life, if it were possible. Harris's vampires live on the margins of society, legally accepted but still socially ostracized by the majority of humans. The exceptions are fang-bangers, vampire groupies that frequent the vampire hang-outs such as the Fangtastic bar, hoping to catch the eye of a vampire for a night of sex, partying and blood-sucking fun. I adore the idea of realistic fiction with a twist of fantasy!

Additionally, credit is due to Chairlaine Harris for her fantastic talent. Told from the first-person point of view of her protagonist, Sookie, Harris has crafted a wonderfully original and unique voice that speaks of Sookie's personality and sets her apart.

The Lows: I really wish the book explained more about the origins of Sookie's strange ability to read minds. This is not a typical skill for anyone in Harris's fictional world. I'm really curious to know why and how Sookie has this skill. Perhaps this is explained in a further book that I haven't gotten to yet. We'll see!

I also should warn readers with more sensitive dispositions to be careful of this series – there is a lot of sexual and violent activity that is not skimmed over, which could be upsetting for some. I personally love a shocker, but just to be safe, keep that in mind when picking this one up!

Final Thoughts: I was considering watching True Blood, but now I think I'll stick with the books!

Rating: Dead Before Dark earns eight bite marks out of ten. 

The sequel, Living Dead in Dallas, as well as ten following books, are available wherever books are sold. 

To buy 'Dead Until Dark' on the Book Depository, click here
To connect with author Charlaine Harris, click here
Photo from here

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