Like most of us, I think, I watched the show that grew out of these novels. And while I very much enjoyed the first season of True Blood, the bad acting (especially from Anna Paquin) and tiresome storyline of subsequent seasons eventually lost me. I honestly don’t even know if the show is still on, and can’t really be bothered to check.
So why did I read the book upon which the show was based? To be honest…..I don’t really know the answer to that. It was there, I guess.
For what it’s worth, I think (for one season, at least) the show made the absolute best of the material it had, and created something fairly compelling. There’s a kernel of a good story, here. It’s just buried under a refuse heap. I hate to say this (because this always feels like a terrible thing to say about someone who put in a lot of effort) but Charlaine Harris simply isn’t a good writer. This novel feels like it was written by a teenager. And not in an, “oh, what a talented young woman she is” kind of a teenager. It sounds like the voice of a 15 year old. A 15 year old who hasn’t quite come to terms with her interest in men, and wants everyone to believe that she is definitely from the South. All she left out was the occasional “y’all” and a few mint juleps.
All that aside, the one thing I couldn’t get passed in this book was how little I liked anyone. Maybe my opinion was clouded by the show, but I found Sookie to be insufferable. Not only because of her lack of sophistication, naivete, and prudishness (and she’s a beautiful virgin? Is that where we’re at, here? I’m not sure why this elicited such eye rolling from me, but it did), but because she describes ALL THE THINGS.
There were so many passages that I just skipped over because they were irrelevant. I don’t need to read about Sookie brushing her hair or trying on clothes. And I’m not a skimmer, typically, I like to read every word.
Sookie is constantly referring to her ability to read minds as a “disability”, but it’s barely shown to be inhibitive, and is a great benefit throughout the novel. Albeit a benefit that can be exhausting and lead to some awkward social interactions. And whether or not she can control her ability seems dependent on what best serves the needs of the author.
This complaint is probably more evidence that romance isn’t my genre (so it’s probably unfair for me to park on it) but the needless sexualization of fairly innocuous interactions elicited scorn more than it did titillation.
Even under today’s circumstances, I could appreciate JB’s beauty. When your hormones have been held in check as long as mine, it doesn’t take much to set them off. I heaved a sigh at the sight of JB’s muscular arms and pectorals.
I literally opened to a random page (location 1217 in my kindle app, 27% in), and that’s what I found. Is it particularly egregious? No. This isn’t EL James bad, or Stephenie Meyer bad. But it isn’t good, either. JB is less than a minor character. He’s only mentioned a handful of times. But Sookie is as hyper-sexual as a 15 year old, so he is defined by her hormonal response to him.
Hell, Sookie even defines her brother by his sexiness, and how irresistible he is to women. That is, in fact, his only characteristic.
It’s not the sex that bothers me, it’s that I didn’t find anything particularly sexy. Or even interesting, for that matter. As a narrator, Sookie offers no insight into the world, or her actions. She falls in love with Bill because….she can’t read his mind. But she can’t read Sam’s, either.
Bill makes the first move, so there is that, but he is also possessive (literally. Sookie is “his”), violent (he actually tells Sookie at one point that he’ll “have her” whether she’s willing or not) and literally inhuman. She is unsettled by him, but unconflicted. Sookie doesn’t try to understand her feelings, or explore whether she’s doing the right thing. She is just with an undead being who unsettles her, because reasons, I guess.
Neither am I complaining that men are objectified here, though the only one who isn’t, really, is Lafayette (who was great on the show, but very much in the background here). I’m no men’s rights “activist”. I don’t care if men are objectified, just give me more than that.
For a story of this kind, I always pay attention to the lore that forms the context for the story. World building is more than just an interesting premise. Great world builders enshroud their story in rich and vibrant details that inform their characters. Those details don’t just motivate plot points, they provide the raison d’être for behaviour.
Here, I felt like the most interesting thing about the book – the creation of synthetic blood leading to vampires coming out of the closet – is barely touched on. Nightmares have come to life in this world, and the biggest issue seems to be that women can’t wait to take their clothes off.
This defies belief, for me. Like….theres so much more that this book could’ve been than a murder mystery and cheap romance. Not that those are bad genres or anything, but I really feel like this was a missed opportunity.
This isn’t a terrible book. It’s not really even a bad one. But I wasn’t a fan of Harris’s writing, and I either disliked or was indifferent to all the characters.
Watch the first season of the show if you’re interested. It follows the same plot, and is more entertaining.
Reviewed only 3 times in CBR history (well, since CBR4), and everyone has given it 3 stars (though, mine is probably more 2.5).