Author: Charlaine Harris
First Published: 2001
Page Count: 292
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Note: Book 1 of The Southern Vampire Mysteries
What could have been another frilly, silly romance story between a human and a vampire evolves into an engaging tale of murder mystery and the supernatural.
*Clever integration of vampires into modern society *Doesn’t feel cliché *Unique story
*Comparably not the best vampire book out there
“I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.” Vampires are equal members of society in our modern world, or so the government would have you believe. Even though they can walk among humans without fear, and entire industries have been created to help integrate them into human society (such as the synthetic blood company that makes the special True Blood drink to satiate a vampires hunger safely), vampires are still treated as second class citizens out of fear for what they are. Nevertheless, Sookie Stackhouse is one of the few residents of her small town of Bon Temps who is thrilled when a vampire finally graces his presence in the bar she works in. A messy romance blossoms between the waitress, who has her own supernatural secret, and old world vampire Bill Compton a midst the first series of grisly murders to ever hit Bon Temps. Sookie uses everything she’s got to try to solve this murder mystery while unwittingly discovering a few secrets about the other residents of Bon Temps.
Books one through eight of this series have been sitting in my closet in their enticing box set packaging for a good three years at least. I figured with the next season of True Blood (the HBO TV series based on these books) premiering this month I might as well start the series. While I’ve finally decided I won’t be watching the TV series anymore, I was a big fan of it when it first came out. I haven’t liked where the writers have taken the show as far as the stories go, but I was glad to have chosen to pick this book up because of that. If you’ve watched the show, Dead Until Dark is essentially season one of the TV series. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched it but I think it is practically identical to the TV show plot. Sometimes that can ruin the reading experience because you know what’s coming, but not with this book. It is unlike any other vampire book out there because of the clever way Harris has integrated vampires into human society and her very southern, small town Louisiana setting is such a juxtaposition to the classy, medieval vampire worlds I’m used to in literature or film. And for this very reason, this book is able to stand out from all the cliché vampire drivel that is being peddled to lovers of fantasy and that special brand of supernatural storytelling involving fangs. It also reminded me why I loved the TV series so much in the beginning. There are funny, interesting characters, a mysterious setting, and a great mystery all wrapped up in one little paperback book.
However, while I really enjoyed this book and it’s take on vampires, it couldn’t quite reach a perfect review score because in the grand scheme of vampire literature it doesn’t rank up there with the best. I applaud the author for finding a new way to go about exploring vampires, but compared to great books like the original Dracula or Interview with a Vampire, Dead Until Dark just feels a notch below these classics. Basically if I ever wanted to read a vampire book that really makes me feel immersed in that mythology, this wouldn’t be at the top of my list. It doesn’t have the spellbinding x-factor that makes classic vampires like Dracula so appealing and frightening at the same time.
Either way, this is a great little book to pick up if you’re craving a new vampire story to sink your teeth into but are intimidated by the vast number of choices out there and your chances of actually picking a quality book. There’s humor, romance, a murder mystery, and other supernatural elements that spice up the story. You can’t go wrong with this book, and even if you’re familiar with the TV show, don’t be afraid to pick up this book. You’re more than likely to fall in love with the story all over again.
*TV Adaptations: (True Blood Starring Anna Paquin 2008-2014)