Since my early teen years, I have been a lover of the HBO series True Blood. Its gore and sexual undertones, combined with the love story of a telepathic barmaid and a humanist vampire brought to the table a programme I had never seen the likes of before. Once in the market for a new read, I thought why not give the True Blood books a go? And, of course, they are not the True Blood books, but rather the Sookie Stackhouse novels (named after the protagonist). I have read the first book in the series, Dead Until Dark in three days, using any spare time I had and it is safe to say that I am a lover of Sookie whether she’s on the page or played by Anna Paquin. So here are some thoughts I had about Charlaine Harris’ Dead until Dark.
DISCLAIMER: Some of these points shall be in reference of the HBO the first series True Blood and may contain spoilers.
1. Sookie is the best friend you never had.
I’ve got to give it to Harris here. Sookie’s narrative is a joy to read. Her simple, colloquial voice means the reader doesn’t have to strain the mind to enjoy, but rather can engage easily with the character. Her development throughout the book, from the innocent southern belle, to the cursing, lustful empowered woman is paced beautifully, feeling like you have really gone through this journey with her. She is a breath of fresh air, providing colourful descriptions and very personal reflections.
2. Where on earth is Tara?
Tara Thornton is a loveable scamp in the TV series, one of my favourite characters, her relationship with Jason and Sookie dealing with issues of racism in Bon Temp. However, there is not one reference to Tara in the novel. Without Tara, Sookie is left slightly the loner in the novel, with only Bill, Arlene and Sam as ‘friends’. I fully understand why HBO included her character in the TV series, as I believe her involvement gives Sookie some companionship.
3. Jason, Jason, Jason.
I have mixed feelings about this character. Jason is a confusingly simple character. Lust crazed jock, confused for murderer. However, his cool nature towards Sookie and his lack of gratitude towards her leaves me feeling he has a mean streak. It seems at every step that Jason is messing up and that his entire plot could have been omitted if he had just kept it in his pants for a few weeks. But, that is the beauty of Jason, we all know a Jason: a man who can’t stop getting themselves into problematic situations.
4. Eric, Longshadow, Longshadow, Bill.
So this is a pretty glaring difference between the book and the television series. The whole reason we are introduced to the wonderful Jessica is because of Bill’s run in with Longshadow. However, this is not how it goes in the novel. Eric’s replacement of Bill in this situation leaves me wondering where Jessica will come into the equation, if she will at all.
5. Hello, Bubba!
Now here is a character I am sad was missed out on in the HBO series. Slow, simple and a fan of pets in the sickest of ways, Bubba is a lovable character. Harris is clever never to mention Bubba’s previous name, she never outright says who he was, but we know. I feel this use of a southern icon works wonders at showing the tragic side to vampirism, the side where it all goes wrong.
6. V, anyone?
One of the main storylines in the first series of the HBO series is the character’s involvement in V (vampire blood). However, the only mention we have of anyone on V is when Sookie has taken Bill’s blood. This means that the whirlwind that is Lafayette is reduced to a few simple mentions and Jason never has his full relationship with Amy. However, I don’t feel that this causes the storyline to lack. In fact, I feel it allows Harris to explore Sookie’s storyline in more depth.
7. I’ll take some more Eric, please.
I hope that in the books to come I shall see more of my favourite Viking Vampire. His presence in the final scene suggests that I shall. His moments in the novel are entertaining, I only wish that there was more of them. I find the dynamic between Eric and Sookie is just as electric in the book as it was on the screen. I only hope that I will have more of it to come.
8. No burning Bill.
This is a scene I do not miss. I always thought in the TV series that he’s walking out into the sun was very cliche and very Hollywood. Harris’ portrayal of the climactic scene is far more realistic. Sookie is on her own, left to fend for herself and fend she does. I feel Bill’s absence from this scene proves that Sookie can have her own narrative that does not involve Bill.
9. “Let me comb out your hair”
This scene is so beautifully portrayed that it saddens me that it was not done this way in the series. Bill is such a dreamboat when he wants to be and this scene is perfect evidence for this fact. Harris has done a wonderful job in both humanising Bill and alienating him from humans. It leaves the reader with the sense that he cares for Sookie, but we are left questioning if he is the right man, or creature for her.
10.Give the soundtrack a listen whilst reading.
I’m not one to listen to music whilst reading, but when I did listen to music this past week, I was listening to the True Blood Season 1 Soundtrack. The variety of tracks really does give you that deep, Louisiana vibes and I felt it gave me a richer experience when reading the book.
I adored this book, from Sookie to Bill and even to little pest Jason, Harris has managed to put a realistic spin on the world of vampires, she has done a brilliant job setting up the foundation for the stories that shall come in the following books. I already have my thumbs in Living Dead in Dallas and I shall be back in due course to share my thoughts on the second book in the Sookie Stackhouse series.