Club Dead: A Review of Charlaine Harris’ Third Book in Her True Blood Series

The following originally appeared in my book review column in February 2010:

clubdeadIt is speculated that HBO’s True Blood creator, Alan Ball will follow some of what Harris created with Club Dead in the third season of True Blood that is set to begin airing this summer. This will be a great treat for many of the shows followers, especially those who are big fans of the Sookie Stackhouse/Eric Northman relationship.

Club Dead

In Club Dead, Harris sets up the tensions in Bill’s and Sookie’s relationship that will inevitably lead to what occurs in the following book, Dead to the World. Vampire Bill is acting strange when Harris begins Club Dead. He is transfixed with something that he is working on with his computer and he subsequently disappears on business in another state. Sookie is left with a mix of emotions, but turns to Eric Northman for help in the end.

The nordic vampire knows exactly where to find him and soon Sookie finds herself in Jackson, Mississipi deep in the realm of the underworld of vampires who lounge around a mansion compound doing whatever they please. When Sookie finally finds Bill, he is in the midst of a most precarious situation and Sookie isn’t sure if she should stake him or save him. It is here, that readers are introduced to Bill’s maker, Lorena, who HBO viewers have only had glimpses of up until this point of the series.

True Blood Season Two Finale

Alan Ball sets up for Harris’ plot-line of the season two finale last summer when viewers were left with a cliff hanger after Bill asks Sookie a very important question. When Sookie leaves the bathroom to answer him, she finds the room a mess and viewers are led to believe that Bill was in fact kidnapped and probably by Lorena as an altercation between her and Sookie occurred when they all were in Dallas in the beginning of the season.

Whichever version that fans are following, both Club Dead and the upcoming season of True Blood are setting fans up for Dead to the World, where Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse will finally have an outlet for the sexual tension that has been built between them ever since Vampire Bill introduced them.

Overall, Harris gives readers a lot to digest in the goings on of Club Dead. Most of the relationships that she had built up in the first two installments of the Sookie Stackhouse series, meet with drastic changes at this point of the series. These changes have a lot of ground work laid in the previous book, Living Dead in Dallas, but do not come to light until the conclusion of Club Dead.

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Penguin Books with ISBN 9780441010516.

Living Dead in Dallas: A Review of Charlaine Harris’ Second Book in Her True Blood Series

dallasIn Living Dead in DallasCharlaine Harris continues the bad luck streak that cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse seems to have been stuck in ever since Bon Temps received its very first vampire. Harris opens her novel much like HBO left off the first season, with the death of somebody in the back of a car in Merlotte’s parking lot. However, unlike HBO’s True Blood, the body in the car will turn out to be the body of one of Sookie Stackhouse’s coworkers, only no one really seems to care which bothers Sookie tremendously.

With the murder of her co-worker, Sookie is floored and hurt, but she soon will find herself in a whole new world of supernatural trouble. In Living Dead in Dallas, Sookie does take on the Maenad in the woods and nearly looses her life to her, but the vampires save her, sucking the poison from her veins. Since they save her, Sookie is now indebted to Eric, so when he requests that she go to Dallas to aid in the search of the missing vampire, Godric, she must comply.

Variations From True Blood

In HBO’s True Blood, Vampire Bill stacked Longshadow when he went to attack Sookie and thus, was forced to make a vampire out of a young girl named Jessica as his punishment. However, In Harris’ Dead Until Dark, it was not Vampire Bill who does the staking and therefore, there is no Vampire Jessica to interfere and complicate Sookie and Bill’s relationship at this point.

Moreover, Godric though meeting the same end in both the book and the series, is portrayed much more as a tortured man in Living Dead in Dallas as opposed to the series which paints him as a man with many regrets and a strong desire for redemption. He is also not Eric’s maker in the book, but is written as such in the True Blood series. The Fellowship of the Sun subplot with Jason Stackhouse is also an invention of the HBO series and not the book.

Main Points of Living Dead in Dallas

Moreover, what is key to this installment of the Sookie Stackhouse books is that Sookie gets attacked by the Maenad in the woods, inevitably goes to Dallas with Bill, uncovers Godric and gets stuck in the attack on the vampire nest where Eric Northman manipulates Sookie in such a way that she will be forever changed.

Overall, Harris delivers with Living Dead in Dallas. She expands greatly on many of the relationships that she introduced in Dead Until Darkand again, sets up the drama and events for what is to come in her following installment.

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Penguin Books with ISBN 9780441009237.

Dead Until Dark: A Review of Charlaine Harris’ First Book in Her True Blood Series

until darkCharlaine Harris introduces any of True Blood’s most admired characters in her first installment. Dead Until Dark, introduces Sookie Stackhouse, her sex-on-a-stick brother Jason, Vampire Bill, Eric Northman, Sam Merlotte, Detective Andy Bellefleur and many others.

Harris begins Dead Until Dark, her story of the fictional town of Bon Temps much like HBO begins the series with vampires finally “coming out of the coffin.” The vampires have officially announced their existence thanks to the Japanese who were able to create a synthetic blood substitute eliminating to the need for vampires to feed on humans, though it does not take away the vampire’s strong desire for human blood.

Vampire Bill

Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress at Sam Merlotte’s bar and supernatural in her own right, is excited that Merlotte’s has had its very own first vampire visitor, Vampire Bill. Sookie immediately befriends Bill, winning him over later in the story when she saves him from hated vampire drainers. Harris lays the foundation for the relationship that will later develop between the two.

Dead Until Dark and True Blood

The first season of HBO’s True Blood is based off of this book. As seen in the show, Vampire Bill and Sookie meet, Renee turns out to be more than what everyone thought he was, the Rattrays turn out to be a lot more than just drug dealers and what is most strikingly different from the series is that when Sookie runs into trouble with the Vampire Longshadow in Fangtasia, it is not Vampire Bill who does the staking.

Outside of plot-line with Renee that mostly ends in this book, much of what occurs in Dead Until Dark is setting up the story-line for the next installment in the series. Much of what has happened to Sookie will effect her choices and decisions in what Charlaine Harris delivers next and in what HBO delivers in season two of the True Blood series.

Commentary of Harris’ Creation

Overall, Harris does a great job of getting the reader to feel as though they are truly in Bon Temps, watching the beginning of all of this supernatural activity swirl around them. Her descriptions and plot twists make for a true page turner. Dead Until Dark, as action packed as Harris has written it, is still kept on the short side of a novel, but that does not mean the reader is left feeling jilted. Instead, readers are made ready and looking forward to what Harris creates next in Living Dead in Dallas.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Penguin Books with ISBN 9780441016990.

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris: Book Review

The following originally appeared on my former book review column in May, 2010:

dead in the famThe latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series gives Eric Northman fans a completely different view of the Nordic vampire.

On May 4, 2010 Ace Hardcover released the latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Dead in the Family. Charlaine Harris concluded her last book of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead and Gone in 2009, with a huge cliff-hanger that could change everything that readers have been accustom to up until now.

In the aftermath of the Fae War that dominated Dead and Gone, Sookie’s great grandfather informs her that he is sealing off the world of the fae from the humans. No fairies will pass into the world, including him. In leaving, her tells her to go easy on the vampire, that he is a good man and that he loves her. He is gone before she can ask which vampire he refers to. Both vampires had come to her aid in the attacks against her family, and Bill had pledged his undying love to her, but exchanges between Eric and Sookie suggest that there has been much left off the page that will be explained in the future.

Relationships in Dead in the Family

Charlaine Harris opens Dead in the Family shortly after the Fae War. Many characters, including Sookie are still recovering from the attacks and even torture that they underwent during the war. Sookie and Eric are together, and he often reminds her that she is married to him despite her arguing that it had been a trick and that it only held ground in the vampire world. There are several rather touching and telling scenes between the two within the opening of the book which begs the question, is Eric the vampire that Sookie’s great grandfather was talking about in last year’s book?

Harris is not giving anything away though, at least not in the opening passages. Bill Compton is still living across the graveyard and at Sam’s urging, Sookie does go to see him. He is still suffering from silver-poisoning and again, in a moment that only Harris can deliver, Bill opens up to Sookie and tells her everything he has been holding back. Vampire Bill fans will not be disappointed either, but again, Harris is going to keep this contest for Sookie’s heart on a tight, neck-and-neck race.

Difference From Earlier Books

What is most notably different about Dead in the Family in comparison to other books in the series is the overall tone of the book. Though the subject matter of Harris’ books are often dark, Dead in the Family lacks the sort of upbeat frivolity that moves the earlier installments along. Sookie is depressed and clearly lost after confronting her own mortality in Dead and Gone. It seems that her cheerful, sunny innocent disposition is gone and what readers get is a more realistic woman who is trying to figure everything out outside of the ideal.

It is this mind-set that sets the tone and keeps much of the action a bit slow-building, but once Harris reaches her peak, the reader is off into a rich world of the supernatural and all of the politics that go along with it. Other notable characters such as Sookie’s newly taken brother, Jason, Alcide the Were, Claude the Fae and even Dermot who has some pretty surprising secrets of his own.

Back Story in Dead in the Family

Lastly, what is rather interesting in Dead in the Family is a lot of the back story that comes out about many of the main characters that readers have fallen in love with over the course of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Readers will learn about how the mysterious Eric became who he is and just who made him, they will also learn a more in-depth version of just how Lorena found Bill and made him into a vampire and they will also get a first-hand glimpse into Sookie’s supernatural side of the family.

Overall, Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family could be seen as a turning point for the series. There are many more questions and facts that are raised that change what has come before. Both new readers and old fans of the series will not be disappointed with this latest installment.

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Ace Hardcover with ISBN 0441018645.