(2004) Charlaine Harris, Gollancz, £6.99, pbk, 326 pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08936-5
I write vampire fiction, so I read vampire fiction, and I read Dead Until Dark years ago when ACE brought it out as a 'fantasy' novel, and there have been nine books since then with Dead and Gone the latest. Back in the day, Dead Until Dark appeared with a slightly cartoonish cover, typical of the paranormal romance style and was marketed as a mixture of fun, fangs and, well, murder, thrown in. Oh, and it also had 12 chapters and 260 pages. The new (2009), glossy Gollancz edition also has 12 chapters but has been re-formatted to be 326 pages long. It has got a more serious look too: pale neck and lower face, red lips and tongue, neat petite sharp teeth, and some blood on the lips, and that sticker which says this book spawned the recent TV series known as True Blood because it has to live up to that image and that look and that feel, and whole way of telling a story, but we are talking about very different beasts here. I had read about six of the books before I saw the series. People I know who have read the books after seeing the series have been disappointed – why? Probably because the books are gentler, and they are told from Sookie’s viewpoint as first person novels.
Sookie is Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress and telepath who can read minds, in fact, she finds it difficult to stop reading minds, and shut off the telepathic background noise. So no wonder she is attracted to Bill Compton a veteran of the Civil War, who is now a vampire, because she can’t read their thoughts and vampires are becoming more and more common as they have decided to come out of….the coffin (Boom! Boom!) as a blood substitute means they don’t have to feed on humans any more. Soon, Sookie and Bill are in love and in danger as a series of murders puts the spotlight on Bill, and Sookie has to save her man by investigating them. This is a good introduction to a series which was fun and different at the same time, and if you know the TV show and read this book, and a few others in the series, you’ll have fun spotting the odd difference between the books and the show. Not a stand out vampire novel, but still a pretty good one.
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