Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) - Charlaine Harris

I'll admit it. After the watching the first season of True Blood a year ago, I picked up this book with some expectations: that it has (1) a lot of sex, (2) a lot of gore, (3) a lot of wild personalities and (4) never-ending hilarities à la Jason's experience with V in the first season.

[All illustrations of #4 removed for overt sexuality and dangerously addicting laughing spells for those inclined toward stupid humor, like I am]

What did I get?

A naive southern waitress with very stilted sense of the world around her, and bland supporting characters with personalities like tepid tap water sparsely flavored with Kool-aid.

What a misdirect.

This is one of those rare books whose TV adaption is leagues better than the original book. To be fair, the show is exceptionally good--or at least, the first season is. It does a fantastic job establishing the sticky sensuality of the trashy side of Louisiana: the muggy heat, the beautiful half naked people living in trailers, trashy promiscuity tempered (okay, more like enhanced) by old fashioned quasi-Southern, quasi-Christian prudeness.



Even the vampires do it!

In the book, I didn't really see any of that. Partially, it's because the entire story is driven by Sookie's perspective. But mostly, the writing itself was, eh, lukewarm. I wasn't very convinced by Sookie and Bill's romance. The relationship between Sookie and the grandmother who raised her was mild, at best. There is very little descriptive writing to speak of, which is a shame since the setting of the book is so unique.

One aspect of the book that I did enjoy, though, was being in Sookie's naive mind. She doesn't pretend to be perfect. She's prone to gossip and judging, and she has a fairly strong reason for not being with men. Despite some weird choices in fashion (still can't decide if it's a reflection of Charlaine Harris's own tastes or whether Sookie is a girl with a sickeningly sweet tendencies towards clothes suited for little girls) and her odd inclinations to be so focused on only Bill, Sookie is an interesting protagonist. Her mind reading disability wasn't quite so unbelievable, and despite the unusual talent, Sookie didn't come off as a Mary Sue.

Also, props to Charlaine Harris for having the guts to apply the stereotype of the trashy, overly sexual, uneducated person on virtually every single character in the book, and still making it amusing and accessible to a very large readership.

Overall, 2.5 to 3 stars for the effort and a few hours of amusement. Despite my criticism, the story as fun, sometimes annoying, and I didn't hate it. Recommended for people who want something mindless but fun.