Wednesday, January 28, 2009

#40 - "Dead Until Dark" by Charlaine Harris

I have a feeling I'll be reading a lot of vampire books this year. Not my usual genre, but I just can't seem to get away from them, and they all seem to be part of some large series. Dead Until Dark (2001) by Charlaine Harris looks like it's book one of eight. And then I guess I should just admit I have Twilight on hold at the libary. I couldn't help myself anymore; it was everywhere. It's probably sad that the Denver Public library has more copies of Twilight and a longer wait for them than I've seen for any other book, but I am trying to withhold any opinion until I read it for myself.

Anyway, I was initially interested in Trueblood, the new HBO show created by Alan Ball. I really liked Six Feet Under and figured this new show had to be good as well. I was all ready to put it on my Netflix queue. Then I heard other Cannonballers discussing and generally recommending the books that created the basis for the show and that's how I found Dead Until Dark.

Sookie Stackhouse is a young waitress in a small town in Louisiana, near New Orleans. Her parents are dead and she lives with her grandmother a couple miles away from the bar where she works. Sookie struggles with what she calls her "disability." She can read minds, a fascinating talent to be sure, but one that is incredibly distracting and difficult for her. Sookie Stackhouse's world includes vampires, a recently legally recognized but still often stigmatized group of society. But vampires had never ventured into Bon Temps before, preferring to stay in New Orleans. Until Bill the vampire comes into the bar. And then women start turning up dead. Generally these women are are young, uneducated, with menial jobs, and some kind of connection to vampires. Women exactly like Sookie.

This book was a fast read: light, entertaining, funny, and often thrilling. I enjoyed reading it and am now, for better or for worse, on the hook for reading the rest of them. Sookie is a likeable character, independent and funny. She is someone who has avoided and put her guard up around men because of her telepathy, but as soon as the book starts every man and vampire in the vicinity is lusting after her. There is also the never-gets-old struggle between whether Sookie should choose the bad boy or the loving, dependable boy. I almost felt like I was back watching My So-Called Life with Jordan Catalano (sigh) and Brian.

But let's talk for a minute about the main theme of the book: vampire sex. And what I mean is human women having sex with vampires. At first it sounds pretty thrilling. Vampires have some kind of mysterious powers, so the sex is apparently really good. And vampires are incredibly strong and powerful and at least Harris's vampires most often just take a little blood at climax, rather than killing everyone they're with. That all sounds kind of fun, and even the biting your neck sounds kind of hot. But then I started thinking about the reality of having bite wounds all over your neck. Or would the vampire keep biting in the same place if you were with him more than once? Once I imagined the pain of teeth sinking into a newly healed wound, ugh, that doesn't sound so hot anymore. And vampires apparently often feel cool to the touch. I wouldn't want to lay next to something that felt like a dead fish. Not so sexy anymore. But as long as you don't think about it too hard, it's still kind of hot.

And I guess that brings me to one little thing about Sookie's character that occasionally bothered me. Considering the entire book is full of sex, often weird and disturbing kinds of sex, Sookie can be kind of judgy. She's innocent and often "tries to look modest," and in one scene she's reading the minds of people at a bar and says with disgust, "These people are boring. All they're thinking about is sex." Considering the entire book is about sex, and that's all that's on her mind as well, I found that a little harsh and hypocritical. I think if you're going to write a titillating book full of sex, you should just own up to it rather than try to have it both ways by knowingly including the sex and then denouncing it. It's like that holier-than-thou attitude of Dateline when they do that show about catching child molesters on the internet. Most of the show is spent simply recounting every sordid thing the molester said and proposed to the pretend child in as much detail as is legally allowed. It just exploits the disturbing idea of sex with children more than it helps protect children.

No comments: