Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
This book amazed me for so many different reasons, I don’t even know where to begin.
- How did this get published?
- What was Alan Ball smoking when he read this book? How much of it did he have to smoke before he said, “Wow, this would make a great TV show”? And where can I get some?
- How can a TV show that follows the book so closely be so much better?
- How did I make it to the end without attempting suicide?
Okay, the basic idea – which I’m sure is what sold publishers – is interesting. The invention of a synthetic blood substitution for vampires has allowed them to “come out of the coffin” and live openly with humans. I love the irony in the main character being a waitress who can read minds (as it seems many customers pretty much expect a server to be capable of anyway). I love that the author chooses a rural town in the South to depict what kind of strain is caused on society by these supernatural changes.
Problem is, everything that’s interesting about the story takes a backseat. While something like Sino-AIDS is mentioned in passing, the next three pages go on about how Sookie washed the curtains, scrubbed the floors, cleaned the cat bowl, fed the cat, pet the cat, had sex with Bill, cleaned the counters, cleaned the floor again, did her hair, put on white slacks, put on a red shirt, had sex again, cleaned the floors again, went to work and served Johnny Nobody a beer, got off work and had sex again… and on… and on…
And really, all that in about three pages. In just a tiny more detail than I described here.
My favorite was a scene in the end of the book, when she realizes that the serial killer who’s been stalking her is outside her house. Instead of trying to read his mind, or think of a more sensible plan than running out the back door into the forest, Sookie… ties her shoes. And puts her hair up. Casually wanders around the home to obtain a flashlight she never ends up using, a box cutter, and stops in the upstairs closet to wonder where the family rifle went to.
How is this bitch not dead yet?
I confess, I do not understand or identify with Sookie at all. Even after growing up in a conservative, small-town community, I cannot accept that a woman in her early twenties uses phrases like “lickety-split.” Let alone one that works at a bar. Nor am I about to accept that your natural reaction to the death of a family member should be to immediately have sex with a vampire in said family member’s old bed. Sookie’s emotions flare from one extreme to the other with no motivation or reason that I can decipher. She loves Bill, she’s having tons of sex with Bill, then suddenly she’s pissed at him and wants nothing to do with Vampires. And then she’s pissed that he hasn’t called. I just. I just.
To add to this trainwreck of undeveloped characters, the writing is sloppy, amatuerish and spotty. At best, it reads like a YA novel, at worst it reads like fan fiction. All the way down to the ending, where everyone gathers to talk about what happened and break down the whole mystery for readers. I could almost hear the antagonist in the background, shouting, “I would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for that meddling girl!”
And that’s why Dead Until Dark just didn’t work for me. The writing and character development isn’t enough to challenge or even interest mature readers, but there’s too much sex for it to be suitable for a younger crowd.
Had I not already seen the TV show, and were I not dying for the next episode of True Blood, I would not have finished this book. Should I decide to begin the second book, it will be due to similar True Blood withdrawals.
Skip the books. You’re missing out on nothing. Alan Ball manages to breathe life into these paper thin characters and creates some real suspense in the TV show. I suspect the massive potential for improvement is the reason behind his decision to adapt it, and he has delivered. In the mean time, there are far better vampire novels available if that’s really what you want to read. Dead Until Dark may serve you well as some light – VERY light – reading, but there’s really nothing to “sink your teeth into” here.