Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris


Vampires, check. Shapechanger, check. Female protagonist with psychic abilities and a tendency to get in over her head in exceedingly dangerous situations requiring the assistance of either the Incredibly Protective Possessive Vampire (or one of his buddies) or the Reserved but still Incredibly Protective Shapechanger. Check. No, not Twilight. It’s Dead Until Dark, the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series.

This is a widely read example of the paranormal vampire romance chick-lit genre, partway between Anne Rice’s novels and Twilight, with a few twists. Vampires are “out of the closet”, so to speak; while there’s deep prejudice against them among the majority of the living population, the vampires are able to openly move amongst society, at least in the United States, acknowledging their nature. (Other countries are not so accepting.) This change came about as a result of a synthetic ‘blood’ created in Japan, with worldwide distribution now, which allows the vampires to sustain themselves, although the vampires need not kill the humans in the process of, er, feeding: just a mouthful or two will do. Otherwise, the vampires follow many of the currently accepted modern tropes: unable to tolerate sunlight, lives prolonged to the point of immortality, faster and stronger than humans, and so on.

Our Heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is a waitress in Merlotte’s Bar and Grille in Bon Temps, Louisiana, a small town nothing like New Orleans. She’s telepathic, though has learned to shut her ‘reception’ off through concentration; telepathy plays havoc with her sex life as she doesn’t much care to hear what guys are really thinking as they hit on to her. One night a vampire shows up in the bar, and she’s instantly attracted to him as she cannot hear his thoughts. He is attracted to her, for a variety of reasons, and they form an intimate relationship. Through Bill, Sookie is drawn into the vampire community, even as her family and friends disapprove.

Dead Until Dark‘s second main subplot is that of a serial killer hunting women known to have had relations with vampires, ladies who might be described as “no better than they ought to be”: working class, and sexually active with a range of men. The police are investigating this series of crimes as Sookie herself realizes she is being stalked by someone, quite possibly the killer himself.

On the plus side, I’m glad to find a paranormal series with a reasonably mature protagonist who doesn’t scream or faint at every turn, not to mention the whole working class aspect to the majority of the characters. Surely some of the vampires have to work for a living? and how would one arrange for things like plumbers or electricians to come work on your house if you haven’t the ability to go out in daylight?

On the minus? There are several of the spelling and grammar errors (affect vs effect) I’ve come to expect from the majority of fiction these days. I’m left feeling that I’ve read the novelization of a Jersey Shore episode transmogrified to TrailerLand, Louisiana. Based on things Charlaine Harris has said about the series, it is intended to be at least partially humorous.

What to read next? Well, there are the remaining 12 books in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but when those are done, perhaps Twilight, although those haven’t the same adult relationships as Harris’ books. Perhaps Bloodsucking Fiends for readers who liked the humor, and delving into the practicalities of what vampires must manage. Meljean Brooks’ Iron Seas books might suit readers who liked the steamier aspects of Harris’ books.

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