In general, I am wont to make scathing deprecations of vampire books. Historically, I have preferred to think of myself as sticking to a program of self-improvement suggested to me so many years ago by Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. But in reality, sometimes one just wants to have fun.
Dead Until Dark is the first book of this mystery series that features Sookie Stackhouse, a saucy, telepathic blonde, blue-eyed, 25-year-old barmaid from northern Louisiana who falls for a vampire named Bill. Bill is tall, dead, and handsome; preternaturally strong and correspondingly unhumanly gentle; and filled with a longing for love that has been building for centuries.
The author of the Sookie Stackhouse books (adapted by HBO into the series “True Blood”) has a delightful sense of humor and an impish imagination. She portrays vampires as having a social status analogous to gays: vampires can now be “out of the coffin” (read: closet); there is controversy over how they got to be that way; there are politically correct ways to refer to them; there are hangers-on called “fang-bangers” (read: fag-hags); and there is some vicious prejudice against them and occasional hate crimes. Yet this sometimes serious approach is both tempered and augmented by the author’s sense of humor.
Sookie’s telepathy also adds to the fun, especially since vampires’ minds are closed to her – which is part of Bill’s appeal. As Sookie says:
“…sex, for me, is a disaster. Can you imagine knowing everything yor sex partner is thinking? Right. Along the order of ‘Gosh, look at that mole … her butt is a little big … wish she’d move to the right a little … why doesn’t she take the hint and …?’ You get the idea. It’s chilling to the emotions, believe me.”
By the way, yes, there are sex scenes, but they manage to be romantic and titillating [sic] without any off-putting language or anatomical detail. And yes: apparently having sex with a vampire is all that it’s cracked up to be!
The first time Sookie brings Bill home to meet her grandmother (with whom she has lived ever since her parents died when she was almost seven), she tells Bill: “Gran says to please eat before you come.”
Evaluation: A bodice ripper with blood, and loads of fun.
Published by Ace Books, 2001