I never thought I’d read the Southern Vampire Mysteries (or, as I call it, the Sookie Stackhouse series) by Charlaine Harris. I always suspected it was brain candy: junk reading with no real substance to it (coming from the girl who almost exclusively reads fantasy novels). Even after I got into True Blood on TV, I didn’t seek these books out.
But with one friend recommending the series for my 30 Before 30 reading list and another literally hand-delivering a box of the books to my house, I thought I’d better give them a shot.
And you know what? My instincts were dead on. These books are brain candy, and I’m totally cool with that.
First, a brief synopsis of Dead Until Dark, the first book in the series (no spoilers):
Vampires have been “out of the coffin” for a few years, living among humans and (for the most part) drinking synthetic blood. It was synthetic blood that drew vampire Bill to the bar where waitress Sookie Stackhouse was working one night, and immediately, Sookie knew there was something different about him. For one thing, she couldn’t read his mind – something that had never happened to her before. Sookie can’t help but become attracted to Bill.
And then the murders start happening. Sookie must learn to navigate her new relationship with a real live (or dead, as it were) vampire while using her telepathic powers to solve the mystery of her small town’s murders.
Sounds a bit silly, right? It probably is – but I couldn’t put Dead Until Dark down. I’m now on the third book on the series, and I show no signs of stopping.
Why? The writing is fine – Harris gives a good sense of the world her characters are living in. She seems to have put some thought into how our world would be different if, all of a sudden, vampires were real and living among us. And the persecution they face is a nice allegory to the persecution the LGBT community faces even today.
The characters are fine (though I think the TV show really brings them to life and fleshes them out a bit more.) As narrator, Sookie is mostly obnoxious, but Harris has given her a strong voice and personality, which can’t be said for the rest of the characters. It’s hard to say why Sookie falls for Bill and not her boss Sam (Team Sam!) or even Bill’s vamp boss Eric (Team Eric!) The characters are, for the most part, flat, with little glimmers of personality now and again.
The mystery is fine. I knew whodunit from the TV show (the first season aligns with the first book in the series), but I felt the book handled it a bit better by expanding on the motive behind the killings.
It was all just fine, as far as books go – so why did I devour Dead Until Dark (and the two books that followed it) like I did?
I think these books are addictive much in the same way fast food is: they’re quick, easy, and decent. Not good in the way a steak dinner is good, but more in the way a bag full of McDonald’s cheeseburgers is good.
You might hate yourself a little for loving them, but you’re going to enjoy every last morsel regardless.