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Dead Until Dark
Charlaine Harris
Ace, 292 pages

Dead Until Dark
Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is the author of a number of Sookie Stackhouse novels including Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, and Club Dead. She is also the author of two popular mystery novel series, the Aurora Tegarden series and the Lily Bard Shakespeare series.

Charlaine Harris Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: From Dead to Worse
SF Site Review: Dead as a Doornail
SF Site Review: Living Dead in Dallas
SF Site Review: Club Dead
SF Site Review: Dead Until Dark
SF Site Review: Dead to the World
SF Site Interview: Charlaine Harris
SF Site Review: Dead to the World

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

I hate to pick up a book with great anticipation only to be totally disappointed all the way through. To be fair and truthful, I admit that I have not seen a single episode of True Blood on HBO. Or perhaps the problem is that I was expecting something on the order of the Sonja Blue series by Nancy Collins. Sonja Blue is my favorite Vampire killer. Like Blade she is a day walker but she really kicks bottom ends (I really wanted to say butt). Sookie Stackhouse is in love with a Vampire and sort of bungles her way into catching a killer who isn't even a Vampire, just someone out to get women who love Vampires. To me the book could have been titled, "Blonde Bombshell Falls Over Killer And Detains Him With The Aid Of Her Double-D Cups."

Sookie is a waitress in a local bar and grill in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She's a fox by every definition of the word. Great build, blond hair, blue eyes, about 5'7", etc. Something about her blood is special too because every Vampire she meets want a bite.

Sookie has never had much of a social life including sex as she has a disability, as she puts it. Sookie can read minds and unless she is concentrating on blocking people out of her head, life is very confusing and draining. Anytime she has ever been in a romantic situation her mind fills with the other person's mental chatter (What bodacious boobs!), and she is distracted and can't enjoy the encounter. Then she meets Bill the Vampire and discovers she can't read his mind at all. This is such a relief that she falls for him very quickly. Whoever said "Silence is Golden" was correct. For the first time Sookie can let her guard down and be totally open and relaxed. I suppose it's nice to not know what he's going to do next.

Vampires are the latest minority or life-style alternative to come out of the closet (coffin). The Vampires have pasted together a story that covers the fact that they are really dead. Vampires suffer from a rare virus that makes them allergic to sunlight (thus they are only up and around after dark), need to drink blood to replace what the virus depletes, and look dead (pale). They don't explain why or how they have fangs that can be extended and retracted. Many people have accepted Vampires as just another "special" or "disabled" group of people and treat them in a matter of fact way. Other humans, known as "Fang Bangers" hang around Vampire bars and allow themselves to be fed upon. The Japanese have developed a synthetic blood that allows Vampires who want to mainstream (live with humans) to avoid live feedings.

As you would expect with Vampires on the loose, dead women begin to be discovered in Bon Temps. All waitresses, all who are or have dated Vampires, and all with bite marks. Sookie fits that description and figures she's next in line. Sookie has a lot of factors that will make her a good at surviving. She's smart, has great instincts, can run like hell, and is pretty strong for a girl her size. She has some supernatural help as well, not just her disability, that I'll let you discover when you read the book.

Charlaine Harris certainly understands the method of writing a novel. Dead Until Dark has all the elements of a good story and she wields them deftly even if somewhat uneven. The book is fun reading and kept me interested enough to keep going despite my misgivings. Although I admit to waiting for the book to take off. Sookie Stackhouse just wasn't the character I thought she should be and that may be due to all the hype about the HBO show True Blood.

On the other hand, there were points about book that bothered me. First, I found the characters to be stereotypical. Especially Sookie. She may not be a dumb blonde but she acts more like Goldie Hawn on the old television show Laugh-In than I would have liked. She's really an intelligent person but her persona makes her quick thinking look like luck. Second, I found the story to be too predictable. I think perhaps that's what kept me engaged in the book so deeply. I kept waiting for it to take off. Was Sookie going to become a Vampire? Was she learning from her experiences and headed towards being a kick-butt Vampire killer? I think I would have been happier if Sookie had gone down fighting for survival. I don't see her character strong enough to sustain another eight books or however many there are. Third, I was very disappointed in Bill the Vampire, Sookie's lover. He's essential to the story because without him Sookie would never have survived. Yet, he comes off as an even milder Clark Kent. I realize that he is trying to learn to live with humans but he just too darn polite for my likes. I want my Vampire good guy to do some muscle flexing and be a little intimidating. Bill stands his ground when he has to but he does it so quietly it makes me want to scream. John Wayne was soft spoken until he needed to move into action. Bill is soft spoken all the time. No one is that polite even if they are 150 years old. And, Ms. Harris adds a shapeshifter to boot. I'm sure she's setting things up for the coming books but his only value in this book was one night of protection for Sookie in the form of a Collie. Finally, the story is all so predictable. Rather than wonder what the next turn of a page held for me, I found myself constantly unexcited because I felt I knew where the story was going. I'll admit I wasn't always right but often enough though.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at (under construction).

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