Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
So obviously, I'm a huge Buffy fan. It's basically my favorite television show ever, and I honestly even like the 6th season, which most people hate (I'm actually a little less fond of the 5th season because I just didn't like Glory that much). As a result, I'm rather intrigued by the idea of HBO's series True Blood, which I don't have access to, not having HBO and all, and living in Germany. Although, I admit, I think the vampire thing goes back further than Buffy. I remember when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, one of my favorite series of books was called Der Kleine Vampir, and I also used to buy collections of ghost and horror stories a lot, many of which had some vampire stories in them as well, some better than others. Right before I discovered Buffy, I went through an Anne Rice phase, although her books started getting really stupid after a while and my favorite was actually The Witching Hour (I think the one I finally just threw down in disgust was Blackwood Farm, even though Vittorio and Merrick had really pissed me off as well - I'm not sure if she got worse, or I just wised up).
Basically, I haven't really gone out of my way to do much with the vampire genre as of late because it's one of those things that can be very badly done. I've been hearing enough about this series lately, though, to give it a chance.
First off, what is with people always needing to add extra stuff to their vampire lore lately? Why can't it just be enough to have a vampire running around, at least for one or two novels before they start throwing in other supernatural beings? That stupid piece of crap Twilight did that (a friend suckered me into that one), and even Dead Until Dark throws a few things in. Not that it was badly done, but I guess there could have been more focus on the vampires before Harris started tossing in shapeshifters, or werewolf-like creatures. And I know Stephenie Meyer hasn't read any other vampire lore, but it almost seems like she got a few plot ideas from this novel, except then she removed all the sex, violence and anything interesting - in both, the protagonist suddenly has a vamp and a shapeshifter/werewolf fighting over her after being rather dateless most of her life.
However, unlike that annoying Bella, Sookie has intelligence and is resourceful. While she has her moments of "oh my god, my vampire boyfriend is so hot," she also sees the reality of their relationship and future problems they will doubtlessly encounter. She is wary enough to question whether or not it is even wise to be involved with him. She also actually gets a little mad at him when he keeps wanting to protect her, although she is also slightly flattered at some points. More importantly, while Bill and Sam both try to protect her and save her at different times, she also rescues Bill in the very beginning of the novel, and when it comes down to it, she saves herself (given that this is a series, I don't think it's exactly a spoiler when I say she doesn't die at the end). Okay, so maybe her strength is now slightly enhanced due to her vampire boyfriend, but she didn't wait around to be saved. Also, she was in real danger while Bella apparently can't even tie her shoes without being in mortal danger because she's so klutzy. I'm sorry, I'm getting a bit off track here, but that book still pisses me off.
I also rolled my eyes at the sex scenes a little bit - maybe I'm just overthinking things or being too critical, but really, who stops in the middle of making out, stands up, undresses in front of the other person, and then starts again? If you're already in the moment, don't you just kind of start tugging, pulling or pushing at anything that's in the way without making a big production out of it?
Of course, it isn't purely a vampire novel series; it's also a mystery series. The actual resolve to the mystery made sense, but it doesn't really seem like there were all these clues pointing to it. It just seems like murder mysteries nowadays are more about just guessing who is the most likely rather than the story laying out all these clues that turn it into a puzzle. I don't think I ever used to guess right when I read an Agatha Christie novel but the way she represented the ending, it seemed like the reader could have taken the clues to draw the proper conclusion. Of course, maybe between all the mystery novel writers out there, and the dozens of TV shows out there, it's just become too easy to guess and predict that kind of stuff without having to put any thought into it.
Basically, it was an entertaining read. It took me longer to read than it should have because I barely have time to read during the week anymore - it's depressing. I decided to take a chance and ordered the boxed set, so I will be reading the rest of the series in the next few weeks. This first novel was interesting but it wasn't incredibly deep or anything. I think the author has set up a few scenarios, though, that could lead to some interesting discussions about race, class and sexuality. Or they could just be passing references to make the books appear deeper than they are.