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Dead Until Dark: A Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mystery - Charlaine Harris
Member Name: burtybookworm
Dead Until Dark: A Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mystery - Charlaine Harris
Date: 16/02/10, updated on 16/02/10 (73 review reads)
Advantages: enjoyable to a point, it inspired the tv series
Disadvantages: not as exciting as the tv series
I apologise firstly for those of you who really are sick and tired of seeing these vampire-esque book reviews of late, I have contributed my two pennies worth to this genre and I'm afraid I'm just not done yet. It is definitely something that still piques my interest and although not as "fresh" and new as it once was a couple of years ago, it still is a popular genre with plenty of authors jumping on the band wagon - some good, and some bad which I've already discovered!
=*= Charlaine Harris and "The Southern Vampire Mysteries" =*=
In 2001, author Charlaine Harris created this book, "Dead Until Dark" the first in a series following a telepathic waitress called Sookie Stackhouse who encounters vampires (as well as many other supernatural beings!). So rather than "jumping on the band wagon" as I've put it previously, Harris has been doing these sort of things for years and is no copy-cat.
I'm not sure what came first; the phenomenon that was "Twilight" or the fact that this book was picked up by "Six Feet Under" creator and made into its own television series for HBO which has now become successful world wide. In my case, I'd seen these books in bookstores probably as a result of the US success and riding on the wave of Twilight but was not aware of the series itself. Coming across a review of the television series led me to record all of the first series of "True Blood" (the name of the television series of the book) and become completely and utterly hooked! Once I'd finished the TV series it was inevitable that I would then go on to read the books...
=*= Quick Peek of the Book contents =*=
Sookie Stackhouse, as I have briefly mentioned, is a telepathic waitress living in a Bon Temps, a town in the deep south of America. Her special skill (or disability as she refers to it in the book!) is enough to create an interesting character, but added to that is the fact that Vampires have just become "legal" and have "outed" themselves in modern society due to the creation by the Japanese of a synthetic blood - meaning that Vampires no longer need to feed/kill/change humans to get their fix.
Sookie herself is very keen to meet one of these vampires and one day Bill walks into her bar. Dangerous but excited, Sookie kind of senses a kindred spirit - but is she safer with Bill or is she in danger? As people around her are being killed, most of the town blame the vampires who are, after all, inherently evil. Sookie needs to make up her mind which side she is on...
=*= Television Series vs. the books =*=
It is very unlike me to read the books AFTER I'd watched the television series, I'd specifically Sky + all the series so that I could watch it after I'd read the books but I found I couldn't resist. I think it would be impossible to do this review without comparing the two and I have found that the television series really influenced my reading of this book in a way I have never experienced before.
If anyone has read a book after watching a series or film, you will already know how difficult it is to conjure up your own image of the characters portrayed in the book. From the outset, I pictured Sookie as she is portrayed by the actress Ann Paquin, blonde, attractive, quirky and very southern. Likewise, Sookie's brother Jason, Sookie's friend and colleague Arlene, and chef Lafayette Reynolds are easy to picture as their TV portrayals - I found that their television portrayals lived true to the characters created in the book.
The struggles that I had at first was the characters of Bill Compton, the vampire, and Sookie's boss and admirer, Sam. I had them pictured in my mind, but their descriptions didn't match what I'd thought they would be; and I couldn't help but be disappointed. Bills character in the show seems older and much more worldly wise whereas in the book he is depicted as a man who only lived to the age of 30 in human years and to me, that was harder to take in. (in fact, Stephen Moyer who portrays Bill in the tv series is 40 years old, so I am sure you can appreciate my confusion and disbelief!)
=*= Writing Style... =*=
Enough of the comparisons, back to the book itself! From the sophisticated and almost saucy turn that the series takes, I was half expecting the same amount of sauciness, or at least adult sophistication in the book, and I felt that this fell a bit short of my expectations.
The writing to me at times fell on the side of teen fiction in much the same way as "Twilight" did. Sookie is rather sweet and innocent, and I her sweet southern persona at times tends to "dumb" down the writing - sophisticated writing it is not! However, that doesn't mean to say it was enjoyable. There does at times seem to be a surprising mix in this book of almost teen properness and saucy moments - the series shows some extremely explicit moments, and the book (perhaps to show that it IS in fact an adult book!) also describes some fairly raunchy moments.
I have to say these more sensual and grown up moments I the book lend it a sense of realism that the Twilight series didn't have - vampires throughout history although supposedly scary, are also supposed to be highly sensual and sexual creatures - if you have read Twilight you will realise that Edward is FAR from sexual! Good looking, caring and a teen heart throb maybe but that is as far as it goes! Bill and co. however definitely live up to the sexy side of darkness which makes it a much more interesting read and definitely stamps this book out as an adult book.
=*= Back to the comparisons I'm afraid....=*=
As much as I'm trying to veer away from the TV series, I'm finding that they really are entwined in my opinions, and I'll say right now that, in my opinion, the TV series is the stand out of the two. Whether I would have thought that if I had read the books first is another matter, but something tells me I would have. As much as the TV series does follow the basic story set out in the books, there Is just so much more substance to the TV series than there is in the books. There are other characters in the TV series which I find just as interesting as Sookie and Bill but who do not appear as frequently or at all in the books. For instance, Jason Stackhouse (Sookie's womanising brother) has a bigger role in the TV series and has his own story which entwines nicely with the main story, whereas in the books he barely appears at all. Another character I adore in the series, Sookies childhood friend Tara Thornton doesn't even exist in the books which was a huge disappointment to me!
Overall, I did enjoy reading this, only to refresh my memory of certain parts of the series which finished weeks ago! As the books go, it isn't the best books I've seen in this genre, but I can imagine when first released it was quite an exciting book to read. As it stands now, I can only compare to the television series, where there were some exciting, scary moments in the book, they were overshadowed by even more exciting moments in the TV series. Where there were some romantic and sexy moments that made the book more special, these were far out done in the TV series. This is a very strange experience for me, I am the type of girl that feels that characters, places etc come alive in books and create the best atmosphere that far outreaches anything that TV or even films can do. However, this time I the opposite is true, the series is just amazing...but I am on the verge of giving you a review of the series so I'll stop there!
I already have the next book in the series which I received before I'd even started this. I think if I had read this before, I would never have bought the second in the series. As it stands, I'm going to wait to watch the show before I read the book as for once, bizarrely enough, I don't want the book to reveal anything that would spoil the show! Now there is something different!
Summary: I'd watch the series, but I'd skip the books!