Book Review: Dead Until Dark By Charlaine Harris
Since I watched the first season of True Blood and loved it, I decided to read the book the first season is based on. This was an interesting reversal for me, since usually I’ve read a book then seen the tv show/movie that is made from it. Anyway, this review naturally contains comparisons between the two, so be warned there are spoilers for both Dead Until Dark and the first season of True Blood.
Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress in a bar in a small town in Louisiana, has been wanting to meet a vampire ever since they came out of the coffin a few years ago. She gets her chance when Bill Compton, a vampire who was made right after the Civil War, moves to her town of Bon Temps. Bill is in turn intrigued by Sookie, because she is different from other humans–she can read minds. They start dating, but it’s not always easy to date a vampire–especially when local women known to hook-up with them are being murdered by an unknown killer.
Charlaine Harris’s strength as a romance novelist is definitely witty conversations between our heroine and the various male characters in the books. They are witty and come across remarkably real considering the paranormalness of the plot. She also sets scenes well. I’ve never been to Louisiana, but I could just feel the humidity in the air as Sookie partook in various night adventures.
Something that bothered me when watching True Blood was I just couldn’t understand what Sookie found appealing in Bill. I find him dull, boring, and ugly. In the book, though, it is abundantly clear that what is so appealing about Bill is that Sookie can relax around him since she can’t read his mind. The amount she relaxes in scenes with just him is palpable. I therefore understand why she chooses to overlook his various faults.
The book is written in first-person, and I think this was an unfortunate choice. It limits our ability to see everything that is going on in Sookie’s world. Most notably missing is Jason’s storyline. In True Blood vampire blood is sold as a drug, V, and Jason becomes addicted to it. Thus, his odd behavior with Sookie is understandable. In the book though we only hear hints of V being used by anyone and certainly not by Jason. Jason is just a douchebag. This limits the levels of story in the book, and I missed the multiple storylines.
The end of Dead Until Dark almost makes up for this though. In True Blood the murderer comes for Sookie, and she is saved by Bill and her boss, Sam. In the book though Sookie is left entirely on her own and saves herself. She finds the faces the murderer alone and defeats him. She finds her inner strength and just keeps fighting back. The murderer even says that the Stackhouse women were the only ones to fight back (he also killed her grandmother). They didn’t just lay back and let it happen. That’s what makes Sookie such a great romance heroine–she is strong and independent. She doesn’t need her relationship with Bill, but she does want it. This makes their romance much more fun.
Finally, if you’re a romance novel reader, you might be wondering about the quality of the sex scenes. Well, they do exist, and they are not corny. However, they also just aren’t that exciting. Harris keeps them short and to the point. No witty, fun double entendres are used, either, which is one of my personal favorite aspects of romance novels. This book isn’t one to read for the sex scenes; it’s one to read for the storyline.
If you could mash up the best parts of Dead Until Dark with the best parts of True Blood, you would have a truly amazing story. Unfortunately, both versions have flaws that hold them back from excellence. Dead Until Dark is worth reading if you enjoy paranormal romance. If you just want to read the books because you like True Blood for anything but the main Sookie storyline, though, don’t bother reading the books.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Sources: I bought Dead Until Dark and Netflixed True Blood.