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Charlaine Harris – Living Dead In Dallas

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Attempting to make those who live in darkness see the light.

Publisher: Gollancz (Orion Books)
Pages: 279
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-575-08938-9
First Published: 2002
Date Reviewed: 26th January 2012
Rating: 4/5

Considering she had agreed to work for Eric, it was unlikely that the vampires were going to leave her alone with her 19th Century boyfriend, living life as before. First Sookie discovers her co-worker’s dead body in Andy Bellefleur’s car, and then Eric calls her up about a mystery he’s signed her up for. Sookie’s telepathic power is the one needed in order to find out where the missing person is. It may also help her find out what happened to LaFayette.

If the first book in the series, Dead Until Dark, was a funny but gruesome and truly adult novel that was a good read, Living Dead In Dallas takes it up a level. There is perhaps more sexual content in this one, and more blood and guts, and it’s not always an attractive read, but Harris is now in the prime position to introduce her readers to what she really wants to say.

It’s rather interesting in fact that a comical book about vampires could have such a message, but it works, and Harris comes up trumps, able to not only deliver the message but to illustrate how seemingly contrasting lifestyles can be blended into one. This wouldn’t make sense in any other situation.

“Andy let a black queer sleep in his car?” This was Holly, who was the blunt straightforward one.

“What happened to him?” This was Danielle, who was the smarter of the two.

Harris portrays quite a lot of sexual orientation differences and gender bending, and in her world it is the norm because what has now taken over as the big taboo is the recognition of the undead being on earth. Instead of picking on sexuality, people have turned their distaste to vampires. This doesn’t mean of course that everything else has been defined as natural, but in this world, vampires are the brunt of prejudice. To use the simplest case of this change in society, one minor character tells how her parents would’ve preferred her to date an African American rather than a vampire.

But of course unlike groups generally prescribed discrimination, there is at least a true danger in the vampires. While they have been accepted into mainstream society, the vampires do not always behave well and this is a constant issue between the heroine and her boyfriend. While their relationship certainly pertains to Harris’s fantasy world, she does touch on things that relate to connections in the real world. And while Harris’s goal does seem to be to revel in her paranormal genre, and to provide black humour as well as lighter laughs, there is the sense that she wants to get her teeth into our actual world. Yes, that pun was definitely intended.

To be sure, as with Dead Until Dark and undoubtedly every other book in this series, Living Dead In Dallas may require a suspension of a lot of principles. These characters will have sex, a lot, and it’s not always vanilla.

Sookie is proving to be a very strong character. Whilst not fitting the mould of your standard strong heroine, she proves that one can be different and still be just as effective. And she remains strong through tough situations, when characters in other books would be given a sudden personality changes and made into weaklings.

Albeit at different speeds, the major characters are being developed. Sookie, as narrator, has already told the reader a lot about herself, so in most cases her development is in learning how to use her power. But her relationship with Bill, as discussed, provides times for new thoughts to enter her always-busy head. Bill himself is developed in drips and dabs (intended again) but it is given a lot of time when it happens. In regards to Sam’s ability, there are some revelations there too.

Living Dead In Dallas is proof that there can be balance found in the world of paranormal fiction, between books with flimsy females and books with out and out horror. And Harris demonstrates that if done right, there can be a place for humour too.

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