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Charlaine Harris – Dead Until Dark

Book Cover

Elvis isn’t dead, but unlike the band Scouting For Girls who say that it’s because they heard him on the radio, Harris has seen him in person.

Publisher: Gollancz (Orion Books)
Pages: 326
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-575-08936-5
First Published: 2001
Date Reviewed: 4th May 2011
Rating: 3.5/5

Sookie Stackhouse can read minds and is met with caution by most people. She could date, heck there are enough guys about who would like to take her out, but the idea of knowing what they want to do in the bedroom beforehand makes desire an endangered species. When Bill walks into the bar Sookie hears nothing, and that makes him a possibility. Except that Bill’s a vampire – except that doesn’t matter. Vampires are an accepted minority now, after all, and her grandmother certainly approves. But then women start being murdered and Sookie isn’t sure of anything.

This was pretty exotic stuff for a telepathic barmaid from northern Louisiana.

Dead Until Dark is nothing like the cover suggests. Well, ok, there is some blood, obviously, but it’s actually a pretty quirky book and at times hilariously funny. Harris has created a world where vampires are slowly being accepted into mainstream society, and the name of the hero himself, Bill, should give you a good idea of the angle she takes on the whole fantasy element.

The style of writing is rather different and although it fits the book I found it difficult to get used to. Sookie is the narrator and her voice is very unique. In due course you discover that the style is something Harris has constructed specifically to aid the comedy and strength of the book itself. The emphasis is on short sentences and natural reactions. However the writing is still rather bad and a lot of times I had to re-read a sentence to check if I really ought to have felt so shocked by it – and it turned out that yes, I should have.

He was unconscious or dead. With a vampire it was hard to tell the difference.

Because of the style of writing you get a real sense of how Sookie feels, in fact if I were to meet her and tell her that she’d probably say “well you don’t say” – in other words she’s very casual, very open, and more personal than if she were writing a diary; however she is also very na├»ve about some things to the point of it being silly. Bill is good to read about mostly because of Sookie’s descriptions, but also because of his efforts to be as human as possible.

Vampires aren’t the only paranormal creatures in this book. I’ll just say that if someone told me Stephenie Meyer studied this series before she wrote hers I wouldn’t be surprised. But unlike Meyer, Harris is compelled by humour and because of the age of the characters, and the situation, it’s a lot more fun to read. There’s a reality, almost, that Meyer didn’t reach.

One of the themes is romance but the other major theme, mystery, and the genre of comedy, mean that the narrative never slows down. The mystery is well planned and the importance given to it stays the same throughout.

Make no mistakes, this is more horrific than most paranormal books released in our current era, as, might I say, most pre-Meyers are, but the light-heartedness makes it an ok choice for most adults – be aware that this is very much an adult book and some of the subplots and the sex are not for younger readers.

Dead Until Dark has its flaws and is maybe a little too easy a read at times but if you are up for the challenge of story surpassing, by far, the writing, then I’d give it a go. Just make sure you read it where the idea of someone reading a book with a bloodthirsty cover while laughing their head off would be acceptable.

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