Saturday, May 23, 2009

#78 - "Club Dead" by Charlaine Harris

I'm ready to give up on Sookie Stackhouse after reading (actually, listening to the book-on-cd) Club Dead (2003), the third book in the series by Charlaine Harris. Sure, I'm kind of curious to see what happens, but not enough to get through seven (?) more books. I guess it didn't help that I just watched the first couple episodes of "True Blood." I didn't dislike the show, but besides wondering who's going to sleep with whom and some eye candy, there's not much to it.

And that's how I feel about the books, too. The first book drew me into Sookie's world. I liked exploring the ramifications of dating as a mindreader and the unique world of the vampires that Harris created. I also liked the infiltration of the anti-vampire church in the second book, and Sookie can kick ass sometimes and is fun to read about. But I've consistently been weirded out by the sex in these novels. And it's not that I don't like reading about sex, but the way Harris throws all kinds of disturbing sexual violence into a cotton candy story and then has Sookie hypocritically disdaining all those "slutty vampire hangers-on" when she's hooking up with every supernatural creature she runs into, rubs me the wrong way.

In Club Dead, Sookie's boyfriend Vampire Bill goes missing with his old vampire girlfriend in Mississippi, and Vampire Eric (who also has the hots for Sookie) sets Sookie up to go find him with the help of Alcide. Alcide is a werewolf who owes Eric a favor. Needless to say, Alcide quickly falls for Sookie as well. While her cheating boyfriend is being tortured, Sookie does what she does best, which is getting hit on at vampire bars while trying to read people's minds. One of my problems with these books is that there's not much to any of these mysteries. Bill disappears and Sookie reads one person's mind to find out that he's being tortured while Eric singlehandedly searches the entire city of Jackson and figures out the only place Bill could be kept confined. There's not much to it. And (SPOILER!) once Bill is freed, he quickly makes a deal with whoever initially wanted his information, which makes you wonder why they ever captured and tortured him in the first place.

When Sookie was in high school, she and a friend of hers did a dance for the talent show. They were "so innocent" in high school that they didn't understand that all the promiscuous and suggestive dance moves they picked up from MTV could be inappropriate. When Sookie arrives at the vampire bar in Jackson, Mississippi, she runs into her old high school friend and they do their high school talent show dance for the bar(?). I was ready to forgive this, but it epitomizes all of my problems with this book. If Sookie wants to go to a bar and dance for everyone a la Paris Hilton, then she should own up to her own sexuality and do it. Instead it's always, "I was so innocent. My friend pulled me on to the dance floor. I had no idea what I was doing." And why is her high school friend in Jackson, Mississippi? And why would Sookie want to attract attention to herself when someone's already tried to kill her and she's trying to find her missing boyfriend?

And later in the book, boyfriend Vampire Bill almost kills Sookie and then he rapes her. Sure, the explanation is that he's a vampire and he'd been tortured and starved for a week, but how is this okay? I was uncomfortable in the first book when Sookie goes to find Bill after his friends have been killed. Sookie says that Bill was so mad she was afraid he was going to kill her so she distracted him with sex, but the scene in Club Dead was much more unequivocal. In addition, most of the people who are killed in Harris's books are sexual deviants. The first book has a man killing women who have sex with vampires and the second book has some mythological creature (acting almost like a vengeful god) who goes to an orgy and kills all the lustful drunks. I thought these books were easy to read and sometimes fun and entertaining, but the combination of fake innocence, sexual violence, and judgments about sex have turned me off of the series.


Jen K said...

After this book, I was also about ready to give up on the series, but I think this was definitely the worst one. As far as all the supernatural beings liking her, that continues, but the books still seemed to get more entertaining. I got annoyed by the same things, though: "oh, Pam's underwear are so embarassingly lacy and small" becomes "I bought lingerie for my boyfriend to enjoy."

shade_of_red said...

I completly agree with you on this, I really did enjoy the first two books (although I had to admit they were sort of trash but fun reads) but the scene where she is raped by Bill really put me off. The fact that the author could put such a horrific event as rape in so casually made me feel pretty uncomfortable. And also the fact that sookie, who is supposedly so 'plucky' and not the type to put up with things she doesnt like, to not even let it affect her relationship with him felt a bit unbelieavle.
Overall a scene I wish charlaine harris had just left out