|Gulp: Skarsgård as Eric Northman|
However, when it comes to the Southern Vampire mystery series by Charlaine Harris -- the Sookie Stackhouse series or now as they're known as HBO's True Blood series -- I veer towards the TV series by just that much. I've quite enjoyed the books but I am really enjoying the televised version as well. Maybe it has to do with hottie Alexander Skarsgård who plays former-viking-now-vampire-sheriff Eric Northman. I love Skarsgård because he can play a devious vampire and still have the comic timing of Meekus in Zoolander.
I loved Eric Northman's character in the books as well. He is everything a vampire should be and everything bloody Edward Cullen is not. For those who possibly live under a rock and go Edward Cullen who? He's the rosy-lipped, emaciated, vegetarian, joke-of-a-glittering-bloody-vampire in Stephenie Meyer's ridiculous Twilight series. But this post isn't about Twilight, it's about Sookie Stackhouse and author Charlaine Harris's books -- first written in 2001-- that have made a comeback and how.
So far there are 11 books in the series, with the 11th installment -- Dead Reckoning -- released on May 3rd 2011. There have been three seasons of the TV show with the fourth one to air in June 2011. While the latest book has left me somewhat cold (hah), I am quite looking forward to the show.
What do I like about the (book) series? Heaps of things, like vampires. I enjoy vampire fiction. Correction: I enjoy smart vampire fiction since Twilight even though it is (ostensibly) about vampires is one of my most-hated books. In my opinion vampires have overtaken superheroes, anti-heroes and romantic heroes as viable protagonists. There are many reasons for it but since they make a potential thesis, it'll have to suffice to say that vampires make a sort of all-in-one package. They have superpowers (flying, super-speed, immense strength, telepathy, hypnotism etc), they could have moral dilemmas (to eat or not to eat the heroine usually or to instantly kill or slowly torture), they can be eternal lovers (undead anyone?) and they are allegedly bloodydarnedgood in bed. When it comes to the sex, I think I'd choose Eric Northman over Harry Potter* any day. And for any of you who've been reading this blog, you know that's a HUGE declaration for me. (* I am not a cougar!)
As for Charlaine Harris's writing, I've always been partial to smashing openings in books. Writers who don't dawdle and give me an instant hit. From JK Rowling, Kate Atkinson (Behind the Scenes At The Museum), Terry Pratchett, Sara Douglass (Battleaxe etc) and many other authors I enjoy, they have all hooked me from the first para or first chapter. CH also delivers the same punch and maintains it throughout most of her series. The Sookie Stackhouse series are meant to be a pacy read and they don't disappoint.
Much before Meyer came up with the stupid idea of glittering vampires, CH had come up synthetic blood, voluntary blood donations (from humans) and the idea that vampires are trying to merge into mainstream society and have rights (haha). As a premise I find it much more believable and intriguing than vegetarian vampirism. There's a fair bit of reference --perhaps even deference -- to Anne Rice's vampire series based in and around Louisiana (Interview With A Vampire, Vampire Lestat etc). For most part, CH remains true to (established) vampire lore. Vampires need human blood. Vampires cannot come out in the sun. Vampires have bloody fangs and not teeth like horses AND vampires cannot have babies. Dead things cannot produce sperm. Someone please tell Stephenie Meyer.
Unique, like-able, flawed characters and a killer pace have also kept my interest in the series. Human or supernatural, all major characters undergo some sort of a transformation through the series. CH might not be heralded as the next-big-thing in literature (fiction) but she writes well and (usually) knows how to tell a good story. However, I have noticed continuity errors and inconsistency as the series have progressed. Sometimes it feels CH is thinking of the TV series and writing the novels. That said, let me warn those only watching the TV series, the story line veers quite significantly from the books.
I also quite enjoy the amorality of the series. CH is not shy of some "fangbanging*" -- Eric Northman likes monkey sex (Dead Reckoning), ahem -- and makes her characters more real. Like Sookie declares she isn't "that kind of a girl" -- who ever does? -- but starting from being a virgin has managed to (fang)bang four men in a matter of a couple of years. While the initial books in the series make attempts at social statements -- veiled references to various intolerances ranging from religious to racial and homophobia -- the later books stick firmly with Sookie and the supernatural happenings around her. The books are not without their irritating quotient though. (*Fangbangers = those who bang those with fangs, i.e. humans sleeping with vampires)
For one, the number of times Sookie shaves her legs REALLY bothers me. At least thrice in the latest installment if I remember correctly. Hasn't the woman heard of waxing? The whole being-a-fairy plotline also grates. There is enough happening with the vampire politics, werewolf takeovers, possible government uses of Sookie's telepathic powers and the many love angles without the need for the whole grandma-slept-with-a-fairy thing. I am finding it quite tedious. Till book 6 at least (Definitely Dead) there was a main plot focus in each book while the continuing subplots played themselves out. From dealing with local intolerance to Sookie's growing involvement in vampire/werewolf politics, the books seemed to follow a well-plotted arc, till the bloody fairies stepped in. I found the story getting unnecessarily convoluted and even though I am reading about vampires I still had some WTF moments; and not good ones. Having said that and even though CH has refused to comment in exactly how many books there will be; I'll continue reading the series. I do want to know what happens.
Verdict: Definitely pick up the books if you are not watching the series, they make for a fun read. Pick up the books anyway if you're curious about what happens next. If you are not, sticking only with the TV series is not a bad option, it's a helluva show. Did I mention I also love the names of the books?
The books in correct reading order:
- Dead Until Dark (2001)
- Living Dead in Dallas (March 2002)
- Club Dead (May 2003)
- Dead to the World (May 2004)
- Dead as a Doornail (May 2005)
- Definitely Dead (May 2006)
- All Together Dead (May 2007)
- From Dead to Worse (May 2008)
- Dead and Gone (May 2009)
- Dead in the Family (May 2010)
- Dead Reckoning (May 2011)