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Underground Reading: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris


Yesterday I read Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark, the book that the HBO series True Blood is based on.  I liked it at first, but as it went on it turned into just another 'romantic thriller with a possessive vampire love interest' novel.  There seem to be quite a lot of those around these days.  

I got bored with it by the end and probably won't read any more in the series.  The fairly promising premise is that a telepathic waitress gets involved with a vampire because he's the only person who's mind she can't read, but the novel rapidly devolves into a routine - and mediocre - romantic thriller.

The heroine is a virgin, naturally; the majority of the men in town are interested in her; the vampire comes under suspicion for a series of brutal murders; the heroine doesn't know who to trust and needs time away from her (literally) addictive lover; tempers flare; passions rise; sex happens.

There are the shadows and hints of a really fun book hidden in Dead Until Dark.  The heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is a legitimately strong woman who doesn't take much in the way of shit from anyone, and the plot moves along briskly.  But there's little or no character development and Harris breaks the "show don't tell rule" often and well.  The worst offense in that respect is the romance between Sookie and Bill the vampire (yes, really), who declare their love for each other despite never having had a meaningful conversation about anything.  We, and Sookie, know next to nothing about Bill, and yet we're supposed to swallow the idea without qualm that their relationship is more than merely hormonal.  I wouldn't mind either scenario, or if Harris had written it such that the characters declare their love but it's clear that they're just really randy.  Unfortunately, however, such subtleties are not to be found in this novel.  What is found in this novel is a possessive vampire lover.

Honestly, how do people tolerate novels where romantic leads sulk around growling about how the heroines "belong" to them?  And why are they so damned popular?  I really struggle to understand how anyone could find the idea of being conceived of as someone else's possession sexy, but that "romantic" dynamic seems to be central to a lot of best-selling novels right now - Twilight and Dead Until Dark being two obvious examples.  It is, I might mention, also a common trope in mediocre romance novels of the more traditional sort - the 6 foot laird of Clan McShaggan with his rippling muscles insisting that his beautiful love-interest with her luxurious tresses belongs to him, being expressed as the very height of his romantic appeal, and so on and so forth.  Boo to them all, I say.  Mr. Darcy didn't go stomping around Pride & Prejudice fussing about whether or not Elizabeth Bennet belonged to him.