Thursday, June 21, 2007

All Together Dead

I have mentioned many times how much I am a fan of Charaline Harris and her Southern Vampire series. This May I was thrilled to see that there was another book in the series to be released and took my miserly self to the bookstore and shelled out the $25 + tax price on the All Together Dead I think I'm glad I got the book, but there is part of me that isn't sure. This is the 7th book in the series so I might just be hitting series burnout, but for the first time I actually have a few small complaints about my beloved Sookie Stackhouse saga. Charlaine Harris was the first author who enticed me to read the new genre of vampire fiction. I read Anne Rice years ago and kind of overloaded on the Gothic vampire story and didn't really get back into the genre until fairly recently. You could put Harris in the "chic lit" category I suppose, but I don't think of her that way. Her main character, Sookie Stackhouse, is a woman to be sure. But she doesn't talk like a valley girl or try to be too cute. Big points in her favor. What Sookie is is a Southern girl who happens to have a strange ability, or "disability" as she likes to call it; she can read minds. As great at that might sound on the surface to most of us, Sookie has found it to be a great burden. She can't turn off the ability or tune out unwanted thoughts from other people. Which can be Hell on a girl's social life as you can imagine. The first book in the series introduces us to Sookie and a cast of characters that become the mainstay of all the books. We learn that vampires are real and have "outed" themselves to the rest of the world upon the development of a synthetic blood that allows them to live without having to prey on human beings to survive. To Sookie's delight, she learns she cannot read the mind of vampires and soon she ends up in her first adult relationship with a man who's mind is a blank to her. Vampire Bill, as she calls him, is her first boyfriend and through this relationship she becomes aware of a whole spectrum of supernatural beings, from werewolves to fairies, that exist in our world. Thus you have the set up for the whole series. And for the most part I would highly recommend this series to anyone who finds the premise interesting. Harris packs a lot of action into fairly small books. Sookie is an extremely likable character who has wit and charm, but understands what it's like to feel like an outsider. I think Harris shows great skill in weaving together a supernatural story with believable characters. As we reach this, the seventh installment to the story, Sookie has been through a lot. An awful lot. And predictably Sookie is getting a little worn out. I think in this book we're seeing a Sookie who isn't sure about the path her life has taken. She defends it vehemently, but she seems a bit weary and a little less willing to be polite. She has been disappointed by people she loves and has had to face the violent reality of the vampires who have entered her world. And because she is a telepath she has been seen as something to be used by the supernatural beings in her life. Basically she's getting fed up. Like all the books before this one has a lot of action. I'm not sure how much detail I should go into because it could be very confusing to anyone who hasn't read the series. What I will say, for those who are familiar with the books, is that I kind of felt this story was a little rushed. I enjoyed it almost all of the way through but the ending kind of felt patched together. There was some plot elements that I didn't feel came together as neatly as they should have and for the first time I finished the book a little disappointed. The book also has a small romance element to it though, thank goodness, it doesn't overwhelm the story. But the romance also fell a little flat to me. This particular relationship is now two books long, but we really don't know where it stands or where it's going. Sookie doesn't even seem bothered by that fact and frankly, I don't know any woman who is that complacent in a relationship. But then, that could just be me. Ultimately, this book is for those who have read the first 6 books of the series. If you fit into that category I think I would still recommend the book if you liked the first 6. Sookie is still a great character and I don't think it's strange that perhaps the character, and the series, is going through some growing pains. It isn't often that I can read 7 books about the same person and still want to read more. The fact that I can be a little disappointed in this book but still be willing to buy the next one as soon as it comes out says a lot about the strength of Sookie as a character and Harris as a writer.


Stewart Sternberg said...

I have to say I'm a fan of Charlaine Harris. I know, I know..I cast aspersions her way awhile back. But that was before I realized she was the author of the town of Shakespeare mysteries. She showed me a quirky talent back then, and I recently purchased the first of this series. After my "discovery" of Laurell K. Hamilton, I am looking forward to other quality writers in this subgenre of urban fantasy.

SQT said...

Stewart, I never knew you had it in you. I think you'll like this series. Harris also has another new series that's totally different about a woman named Harper Connelly who can find dead people and tell you how they died. The first book is Grave Surprise I think. Very different from the Sookie Stackhouse books but just as likable.