DEAD UNTIL DARK BY CHARLAINE HARRIS or “So, this vampire walks into a bar…”
With the first season of True Blood being released on DVD, and HBO putting out previews of Season 2, I thought this would be a good place to start these periodic, and highly subjective book reviews.
DEAD UNTIL DARK is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a cocktail waitress in a roadside bar in rural Louisianna. Sookie is an outsider becuase she’s a powerful psychic who has to struggle to keep other people’s thoughts outside her head. In Sookie’s world, vampires are out of the coffin and have legal rights. They even have an artificial blood substitute they can drink. One night, a vampire walks into the bar where Sookie works, and Sookie discovers several things: 1) she can’t hear vampire thoughts and the silence is wonderful, 2) vampires can be quite attractive and 3) she can kick some serious butt when required to save the vampire from a couple of small-time hoods who want to drain his blood (yes, they want to drain him. Vampire blood has great health benefits).
This is just the opening, however, and it all happens before the murders start.
I am not a great vamp-lit fan. Mostly I find the stories dull and the fantasy of the immortal blood-sucking lover…well, it just palls after awhile.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I enjoyed hanging out with Sookie. Her voice is solid, the writing flows well, and the story is entertaining. I liked Sookie’s relationships, with her brother, her friends and her vampire. I loved it when the vampire (who was a local boy way back in the day. Waaaaay back in the day) was asked to speak by the local Confederate descendents society. There is the obligatory vampire bar. The owners are the obligatory spooky vampiric sorts, but this also was a point on which Harris succeeded quite well. I was spooked, and menaced in the bargain.
There’s a cameo of a famous rock star in the book that I found funnier than I probably should have. Harris’s light touch and solid voice as Sookie made it work.
Less successful is the bunch of bad vampires who don’t want other vampires to integrate with human society. They do bad, shocking things to make existence tough for the hero vamp; like have bad public sex, and this I found unnecessary. Okay, getting a casual hand-job in front of an audience in your living room is poor manners. Got that. We can move on now. Thank you.
Much more interesting and chilling is the description of a lynch mob forming. This may be the strongest moment in the book.
The main mystery is pretty basic, and I think Harris cheated just a little on the ending, in that there may not have been quite enough clues for the reader to work it out for themselves. But it has good twists to it, and the suspense is deftly handled.
Overall, a good light read, highly suited to the airport or beach.