Charlaine Harris, 2006, 2007
Books 6 and 7 in a series of 10
Genre: I have seen these books filed under science fiction in bookstores, but they are definitely more a mixture of romance and mystery. And more romance than anything. In terms of romance subgenres—maybe contemporary paranormal romance is best. The major plot elements center around whichever macho hunk Sookie is dating or fantasizing about, whether it is vampire Bill, vampire Eric, werewolf Alcide, or weretiger Quinn. Sexual chemistry blossoms, traditional dating rituals begin (dinner, dancing), passionate kissing ensues, and one traditional sex scene is the eventual reward. In the meantime, Sookie becomes more enmeshed in the culture and politics of the supernatural world and generally her spunk and telepathic insights save the day for humans and supes alike.
Historical events: These two books were written pre-Katrina and post-Katrina, respectively, and the hurricane figures its way into both, since Sophie Ann, the teen vamp queen of Louisiana, has her headquarters in New Orleans. I like to see what writers choose to do when a historical event occurs while their series is in full swing. Here, Harris simply folds it into her plot—an evacuee witch lives with Sookie for a while, Sophie Ann gets a lot of sympathy for the damage to her mansion, and Alabama’s vampires are all but decimated by the storm.
Text to TV: I keep thinking about the decisions Alan Ball had to make when adapting this series for television. For an HBO show with an ensemble cast, he had to beef up a bunch of the characters that are flat in the books and give them backstories and pieces of the plot. Though Sookie’s brother Jason, the local cops, Sophie-Ann, and Russell stay pretty much the same from page to screen, Sam, Tara, and Lafayette are fully developed. On the supernatural side, Lorena and Jessica hold our attention and gain our sympathy. Even Arlene and Terry feel fully formed, whereas they are just blips in the books. I love that these folks get more play on TV; I am often tuning in just to see what’s happening with Lafayette (my favorite), Sam, and the Jessica/Hoyt love story. And I adore Terry’s vulnerability as a shell shocked Vietnam vet. A strong ensemble of characters makes the show feel more like a community coming to terms with its supernatural citizens, which I much prefer to the Sookie-centeredness of the books.
I can’t believe it, but: this series is growing on me. I keep going back to the library for more, and I even read these two in Large Print because it was the only format available. The books are entertaining, and I am even beginning to like Sookie’s mainstream, working class flavor. In the books, this comes out more clearly than on television–she buys her clothes and lingerie at Walmart, religiously uses a Word-A-Day calendar, and goes on a date to see The Producers. Her lack of sophistication is actually kind of endearing, though I tend to prefer the sleek, hard-assed Sookie of the HBO show. (Pam, vampire Eric’s “child,” also prefers pastel twin sets in the series). I also appreciate that there are lots of LGBT (well, LGB) minor characters in the book, since vampires aren’t so picky about the gender of their sexual partners. Harris has created an appealing southern supernatural world.