Reading Dead Until Dark again was an experience. I think I was 19 or so when I first read the series – after giving up on the show when the plot got lost under all that vampire sex – and now, at 33, I wanted to re-visit it again.
Dead Until Dark is the first in the Sookie Stackhouse or Southern Vampires series by Charlaine Harris. It’s a droll, tongue-in-cheek look at what it would be like if vampires and other creatures that go bump in the night were real. There’s a steady sense of humor about the whole thing throughout the series, and there’s a sort of nod of agreement to not take it too seriously – or at least, that’s how I read it.
I definitely can’t take it seriously, and one of the charms of the series is that I can laugh and laugh, because it is funny.
I will say that it does have some realistic representation of what it would look like if vampires were real. Everything from vampire specific products and resorts and hotels being made, to the sub-cultures that rose up when they “came out of the coffin”, a common phrase to refer to them revealing themselves to the world.
That being said, I still have some memory of True Blood, the HBO show, to compare the book characters to.
Book Bill Compton is an hilariously wooden personality compared to TV Bill Compton. The majority of his descriptions have him either in the middle of some blood lust (in which he seems almost animalistic to the point you wonder why Sookie can stand him) or a marble statue.
His response to Sookie seems to be entirely based on how she smells and his taste for her blood. It’s so obvious that he cares more about that than he cares for Sookie that it almost makes their relationship a farce. This isn’t a criticism. Weirdly, this added to the hilarity for me. Bill spent most of the first book sniffing and trying to bite Sookie, and Sookie spent it counting not hearing Bill’s thoughts as a big enough plus to withstand Bill constantly wanting to go at her neck.
It’s not romantic in the slightest. At least to me. It’s so not romantic, it’s funny.
Then, there’s the fact that she almost couldn’t wait to throw herself into his life. The first few pages of the book detail about how she has been waiting for a vampire to appear in her small town. A weird sort of desire, considering she’s never met one before, and it’s not like the whole world doesn’t realize their dangerous.
As a charcter, I felt, especially this time as an adult, that Harris was so concerned with presenting Sookie as both pure and uncultured that she went too far and instead made her seem dumb at times. Maybe even too dumb to live. Anna Paquin, Sookie in True Blood, definitely brought more street smarts to the character, even though both iterations seemed to view the creatures of the night as a sort of male candy shop.
Then there’s the final scene of the book, where Sookie is in a hospital bed with Bill holding her and Eric is just floating in the sky stalking her and staring through the window. The image in my head was just so ridiculous.
Another trend in the books I noted, is that while Sookie seemed to have all types of men buzzing around her – from her brother Jason, to Eric Northmen, to old high school crush JB Dupone, her relationship with other women seemed to not exist, or at the very least, be tense.
Sookie and her grandmother got along well, but she was killed off in the first half, and after that, almost every relationship with another female seemed either nonexistent, almost combative, or merely an acquintance. I suppose I noticed it this time around because I’ve been thinking about how that dynamic seems to play out in a lot of paranormal suspense/romance series’ where women are the main protagonist.
Even my favorite series, the Mercy Thompson series, has echoes of that same trend, although Patricia Briggs goes farther by acknowledging it through her character, and slowly changing things through character growth.
But the chimera of reader and writer in me still wonders why that is such a trend in this particular genre. Or perhaps, when a female is the main protagonist. She could have a variety of relationships with men, the father, the brother, the crush, the lover, the frenemy, but her relationships with other women are stagnate or openly hostile. Or just simply not there.
Now, I don’t remember if Sookie develops a relationship with another woman. Tara is in the books, but if I recall correctly, almost sparcely compared to her presence in the TV show. Maybe something changes later on – I can’t remember. But the lack of female friendships, while sexually tense relationships with men are prevalent, is something that has always been not quite my favorite in the paranormal suspense/romance/mystery genre.
I’m definitely going to discuss this in more detail in another post. It’s something I’ve always noticed, and wondered about, and wanted to talk about.
For those who stayed until the end of this ramble, this is a new category of book discussion on this blog, where I plan on casually discussing my thoughts about certain books, book trends/tropes, and basically anything that comes to mind about books. It’s more personal than my Casual Disquisitions posts, and maybe even more fun, or simply, for fun.
I’m gonna call it Bookish Rambles. Look for more posts forthcoming.
In case you got the impression that I was conflicted about Dead Until Dark, you are entirely correct, lol. I am definitely conflicted. But I did genuinely laugh out loud sometimes, and it’s an easy, breezy read – certainly an amusing way to pass the time.