13 June 2011

The Southern Vampire Mysteries aka True Blood books

I'm obsessed with True Blood the tv series (I get the DVDs from the library since I don't have cable) and so in 2009 I started to read the books the series is based on. And they're fantastic.

Note: the tv series is loosely based on the books. Some of the characters have the same names, but act completely differently, or survive on the tv show and are killed in the books, etc etc. This is not a loyal adaptation.

The books, written by Charlaine Harris, are not Serious Literature. They're quick, entertaining reads, about 300 pages each. It's an interesting premise Harris has built on: a telepathic waitress, Sookie, connects with vampires because she can't read their minds. Vampires have "come out" to all of humankind; there are other "supes" (supernatural beings) that are still "underground". Many parallels can be drawn to the vampires' "coming out" to the actual, real-life coming out of LGBT people in America, and to general xenophobia and the desire for isolationism from anything deemed Other.

I don't know if I'd actually classify the books as mysteries, but things go bump in the night, people die, and Sookie is usually at least partly involved in figuring everything out.

Sookie manages to get involved in everything: vampire politics, werewolf leader brawls, fairydom. To some extent, it's kind of ludicrous how she attracts the attention of everyone who's not a "normal human." It's along the lines of Bella in the Twilight books insisting she's not attractive, but all the boys in her high school (including a 100+ -year-old vampire, zomg) hit on her. Eyeroll.

What I enjoy most about Sookie, I think, is that she seems very realistic. Frequently, she has moments of confusion and conflict about how her life is progressing, and being changed, through her interactions with vampires and other "supes." Can she consider herself to be Christian if she's killed people? Should she use her power to read people's minds to help the vampires (who might use the information to punish a human)?

I recommend the series for anyone who enjoys supernatural quasi-mystery stories. I've now read ten of the novels in the series; the eleventh was just released. There are also miscellaneous short stories which I haven't read. Some of the short stories present details or plot points for the novels, and I got through about a third of the sixth book, thinking I had forgotten a major plot point of the previous book, before I looked it up and came across the existence of the short stories. But I got through the series fine without the short stories.

Ratings: 4 out of 5 (I really liked them)