|In Short:||Sookie Stackhouse has sex with lots of vampires and gets beat up quite a bit in defense of myriad supernatural politics.|
| “I’ll bet
you are a treat, naked,” Eric said, just to
boost my spirits.
“You know it. I’m just as tasty as a big éclair,” I said, and carefully settled into a chair. “Though at the moment, I feel more like boudain.””
|-- Sookie, Living Dead in Dallas (2002)|
I picked up the Sookie Stackhouse novels last summer on a whim. I had just watched a couple of episodes of True Blood, and was really interested in the series as sort of a more adult Buffy. Truthfully, after seven years of Buffy fandom, I was a little sick of being associated as someone who is into vampires in the media. Since my philosophy is that the book is always better than the movie (really, is there anyone who thinks differently? I think sometime in the ‘90s someone may have said that The Godfather was better as a movie, but that might have been an hallucination), I decided to get the first couple of novels. And then I just gave in and bought all of them.
The books are told from the viewpoint of one telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse, who lives in the town of Bon Temps, in northern Louisiana. Sookie’s telepathy bogs down her life, until vampires “come out of the coffin” after the invention of synthetic blood. Suddenly, she finds herself with a vampire boyfriend in a community of supernatural beings way weirder than she is. Luckily for Sookie, she can’t read the minds of vampires (for the most part), and has a hard time hearing the other formerly mythical beings -- werewolves, shapeshifters and fairies -- that populate the supernatural community.
The books start out as a romance between Sookie the telepath and Vampire Bill, who comes to Bon Temps in search of a home. Sookie likes Bill because she can’t hear his thoughts, which is a relief after reading the boring minds of everyone else. They fall in love and go on a few adventures in Louisiana and Texas. Bill breaks her heart, and gets kidnapped. Sookie rescues him, but their relationship is over. Suddenly she is much more interested in Eric, the Vampire Sheriff, Alcide the werewolf, Quinn the were-tiger and occasionally even her shapeshifter boss, Sam. Eventually, after drinking gallons of his blood, she ended up with Eric (so far).
But these books aren’t just about the romance! In these books, there are usually multiple plot points and side adventures that get resolved by the end of the novel, making them simply action-packed. For example, in the second novel, Living Dead in Dallas, Sookie must uncover the culprit in a local murder. But then she goes off to Dallas to search for a missing vampire. It isn’t until she comes home to Bon Temps that the local plotline resumes and gets wrapped up at the end.
In the series, Sookie and her allies must uncover missing vampires, save the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, foil human-led terrorist attacks, fight werewolf witches, and participate in wars between bloodthirsty fairies. And those aren’t even the side plots, like: what to do with an amnesiac vampire, solving random attacks and murders and finding out that the people living outside of town aren’t completely “people” after all.
One running theme that I really enjoy about the Sookie Stackhouse novels is that there is always a consequence for actions, bad or good. And sometimes a character can have the best intentions and it all still goes wrong for them anyway. It’s like life. When Bill leaves Sookie, it makes her free to date whoever she wants and she falls in love with other characters. The gallons of Eric’s blood she drinks create an inescapable bond that both comforts her and freaks her out. His manipulations cause Sookie to mistrust her feelings for him, despite her love for him. It works for the other characters too. And that is what makes this series just so likeable: these characters seem real despite all the unreal circumstances.
The only thing that I actively dislike about the series is that some of the action takes place in short stories populated in anthologies. It becomes confusing in a few of the books when Sookie discusses things that happened outside the regular timeline in the series. For example, Sookie explains her cousin Hadley’s death like we should have known what happened, when none of the action occurred within the series. At that point, I closed the novel and began scanning the novel order of the series and even previous books to see how I could have missed such a large plot point. It wasn’t until I looked on message boards (and I hate message boards, so I was pretty desperate for an answer!) that I saw this was a common theme in these novels. Ms. Harris does this about three times, so it’s best to just pretend like it’s not happening. (Which has become my theory about so many things lately, so I’m very good at it by now.)
Charlaine Harris is not the best writer I’ve ever read, or the most consistent, but what she is good at is making addictive books. I think the reason why I keep reading and anticipating more about the Sookie Stackhouse series is that there is this whole world and mythology already planned out for them. In book after book, we simply get deeper into the mythology, as Ms. Harris provides tidbits here and there about supernatural “people” and how they live. It’s clear that she really had ideas planned out for Sookie, and knows how it’s all going to end. (Unlike say, other writers who just let the plot go on and on with no end in sight.) (Like Robert Jordan, who had to go and die rather than fix his plot holes! Yes, I am bitter. And even more disrespectful. I can’t help but think of all the wasted time, and then I Go There.) Furthermore, her world is so colorful that I can almost hear the accents and see how everything fits together, which is great.
In ten novels, we go from telepathic Sookie being the biggest freak in town to her practically being mundane compared to the other creatures surrounding the hapless townsfolk. And that’s pretty cool. Sometimes, we all feel like we are the outsider looking in, like the freak. But really, we aren’t even close to the weirder things out there.
-- Sara Paige