Review of “Dead Until Dark” by Charlaine Harris

My battered hand-me-down copy

Hi, everyone!

As I prefaced in my quotes post, I’m writing this review in preparation of this weekend’s season premiere of HBO’s True Blood. I’ve watched the show since it started in 2008, and while I do have some problems with the direction it’s heading, I am still a huge fan.

Strangely, I never gave much thought to reading the book series that started it all. My mom eventually started into it, in the middle of the second season. She assured me that the books were “fabulous” even though they were different from the show. Nevertheless, I never seemed to pick them up for myself.

It wasn’t until my friend gave me three big stacks of books, the first eight of the Sookie Stackhouse series among them, that I thought about reading them. I didn’t read much into why she was willing to give them up … much to my misfortune.

I know that original books are supposed to be much better than their adaptations. In most cases, that’s true. I know of only a couple of movies (“Martian Child” and “The Ultimate Gift“) that surpassed the written material. Unfortunately, I have to add “Dead Until Dark” to this very short list because of the unlikeable characters, unbelievable language and flaws in logic.

(Check out my plot summary here. Password is SPOILERS.)

I hated the book version of Sookie within the first few paragraphs. She is incredibly full of herself and rude about other people. She claims to have had a rough life, dealing with her telepathy, but it sure hasn’t dampened her self-image. She compliments herself for a whole paragraph before saying (I’m paraphrasing) “Oh, but none of that matters because I can hear people’s thoughts). She describes some other women as “Poor lumpy Maudette” or how Denise Rattray isn’t really pretty; she just acts like she is enough to distract dumb guys from how plain she is. Being so sheltered should have made her smarter, but it’s just made her childish and even brazen to the point of suicidal (going out to rescue Bill with only a chain having never been in a fight before).

I seemed to only like Sookie when she was acting like a normal lame girl. At one point, she says something about if she were a drinking woman, she would get drunk, or if she were a casual woman, she would sleep with JB Dubone. She isn’t either of those things, so she stays home and watches television. That is likable, that is realistic.

And then there’s the actual writing. The language Charlaine Harris uses takes some getting used to. Set in the deep South, I expected the southern sayings and twang. But, apparently that also means explaining insignificant details, such as what side of the bed she likes to sleep on and exactly what she’s wearing to bed. I would liken it to a country song, when the singer has to mention what truck he drives and what beer he drinks before he even gets to first chorus. Some things even stick out as completely unnatural, such as saying “he desired me” or “I didn’t think he was beddable.” Correct me if these are common in the south, but I don’t see anyone speaking or even thinking this way.

I want to criticize whoever edited this book, for letting that kind of language get published as well as some flaws in the logic of the story. Sookie mentions feeling anemic after only three nights with Bill. I know this is splitting hairs and there’s no way to know how much he actually drank from her those few times. But, really? Anemic already? Later on, she mentions some pet peeves of Bill’s but doesn’t account for when she would’ve learned them, like how he doesn’t like garlic or how he preferred she brush her teeth immediately after eating. She talks about him like she’s known him for months and gotten used to these quirks, not like she’s known him the few weeks she really has.

The only reason I’ll be continuing this series is because of the show. I still like the story, but I really hope I can actually start liking the main character.

-K

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