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Dead Until Dark

October 9, 2009

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
published by Ace Trade, July 7, 2009

The thriving romance-with-the-undead genre is funny to me. The classic literary versions of the old vampire myths, like Dracula by Bram Stoker, definitely have a sensual component. But the sexuality is subliminal — it seems that the Victorians found it easier to see a young virgin ravaged by a blood-sucker than to actually talk about people having, heaven forbid, sex. But it was that subliminal sexuality that gave vampires their charm and made the stories so compelling. In this enlightened age, on the other hand, we have no use for subliminal sex. We put it right out there. And vampire novels like Dead Until Dark are about, well, Doing It with a vampire, with a little blood-drinking thrown in to add sexual spice.

On that note, the thing I liked best about Dead Until Dark, the first novel in Charlaine Harris’s popular Southern Vampire series, was the humor. I loved the premise. Vampires do exist, and they’ve come out of the closet. Now they’re a recognized minority group, with the same rights and privileges as any other. And while there are occasional “unfortunate incidents,” as the vampire community dubs the brutal killing of humans, the Japanese have invented synthetic blood which can be purchased in any bar, and this keeps most undead creatures on the straight and narrow.

Vampires have their own bars and even their own hotel in New Orleans, which is sort of a mecca for their kind (y’know, the whole Anne Rice thing). Curious tourists flock to these places. And some humans can’t resist these creatures, even becoming sex-crazed groupies — they’re called “Fangbangers.” Seriously, Fangbangers? Looking around at our contemporary culture, y’know — I can kind of see it.

Our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is a cocktail waitress in a small town in Louisiana. While she’s 25 and very pretty, her dating experience is almost nil. This is because of her “disability” — she can read minds. The effort involved in shutting out the torrent of a person’s thoughts makes relationships too difficult. When Bill the Vampire enters her bar she finds, to her great relief, that she can’t hear his thoughts. He’s also extremely sexy and, having lived through the Civil War, has a wealth of experiences to share.

Sookie is hopelessly attracted to Bill, and she is definitely ready for romance. But when a string of killing, including several women known to be “Fangbangers,” strikes the town, Bill appears to be a likely suspect.

Not as complex or as dark as Let the Right One In, this was a change of pace for me and a fun read. I didn’t fall in love with the relationship between Sookie and Bill. While Bill the Vampire didn’t annoy me as much as Edward (count me as a Twilight hater), that whole dark, twisted, bad-boy romance thing just doesn’t do it for me.

It was a sexy book though, and a decent mystery, and Charlaine Harris drew me in with her vibrant writing and sense of humor. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Rating:

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