Dead until Dark
by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dead Until Dark / 9781101146316
I've seen the True Blood TV series based on this novel and really enjoyed it; I figured it was about time to read the book and see how well I like the source material. Final verdict: I really enjoyed this book, although there were a few additions to the TV series that I was sad to see weren't included here.
As far as differences between the book and the series, I was really distraught to see that Tara doesn't appear in this book, since she is one of my favorite characters in the series. For that matter, a lot of the flavorful supporting characters have less of a presence here -- Lafayette, Terry, and Arlene are all much more vivid and front-and-center in the show than they are in the book. I understand why that is, it's really a difference in the medium, but it was also a disappointment. Also, since the book is firmly from Sookie's POV only, we don't get as many side-escapades in terms of Jason's adventures or Bill's first-hand experience of events.
That aside, the book is very vivid and very well-written; it's impossible not to get snagged from the first page and carry on towards the end. I love the characters and how well-rounded they are, though if I had a complaint at all, it would be that Bill and Sookie's relationship seems very one-sided so far. She's shown giving up quite a bit and restructuring her life almost entirely, and outside of a quick on-again-off-again break where she is seen enjoying some sun and garlic, for the most part she seems okay with the fact that she's making a lot of sacrifices and he's not at all. It even gets to the point where Bill is feeding on her almost daily and she can't even take an iron supplement because he complains about the taste! Then, too, there's a disturbing scene where Sookie has to initiate and submit to extremely rough intercourse because the alternative is that Bill will lose his temper (for something that is not her fault) and harm or kill her.
On the one hand, these relationship dynamics disturbed me as a reader, but on the other hand, Harris seems to be walking a fine line -- the implication seems to be that Sookie is submitting to all this because of her inexperience and that later books will show her standing up for herself; if that's the case, I'll stick with the series because I do love the TV series and the vivid world-building. Although I would prefer NOT to see Vampire Elvis again because I rather think cameos like that in supernatural literary worlds are fairly silly.
Looking back over my review, I feel like I've said a lot of negative things, but I really do think that overall this is a solid, 4-star book. The world is fascinating and well-realized; Harris has put a lot of thought into how daily little things like the economy would be affected by vampires living among us -- even the little bar in Bon Temps is ordering blood-substitute to drink, and coffin-themed hotels are opening all over the country. The mystery story that underlies the book (and first season of the series) is well done and heart pounding, even if (like I did) you already know whodunit. The culture of the setting is fun and very visceral, and it feels like you're really in a very specific place instead of just Anywhere, USA like so many books.
If you've liked the True Blood TV series thus far, I definitely recommend checking out "Dead Until Dark". Much of what you love from the series is here, and there's obviously a lot of room for growth -- I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
~ Ana Mardoll
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