726 of 744 people found the following review helpful
A truly superb series of novels
, October 4, 2009
This review is from: Sookie Stackhouse 8-copy Boxed Set (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire) (Mass Market Paperback)
About a year ago I began a reading project of the major vampire novels and stories, from John Polidori's THE VAMPYRE to Bram Stoker's DRACULA to Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND to Theodore Sturgeon's SOME OF YOUR BLOOD to more recent works. I had previously read various novels, including the Anita Blake series, which started promisingly but not only never lived up to its initial promise but regressed to embarrassingly awful pornography. Last year I decided to read Charlaine Harris's vampire series, which was originally known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries but eventually became better known as the Sookie Stackhouse Novels.
Now, this is where the story gets odd. Completely independently of my reading project I had heard about and planned on watching Alan Ball's new series TRUE BLOOD. I was a huge fan of SIX FEET UNDER and was anxious to see how he would handle a series dealing with vampires. A few days after I had ordered the first four Sookie Stackhouse novels I learn to my great shock that Ball's new series was based on the very same novels. It is the most serendipitous coincidence in my life as a reader.
Because so many people have become aware of these books as a result of the TV series, a word about the differences between the two is in order. There are both definite similarities and some sharp differences between the two. The books focus much more on Sookie and less on the lives of the supporting characters, not surprising given that Sookie is the narrator in the novels. Sookie's narrative voice is for me one of the joys of the books and I miss that very personal perspective when I watch the TV series. The books are also far less sexual than the series, though there are several sex scenes (though it never descends to the pure porn found in the Anita Blake books). The series differs sharply from the books when it deals with characters other than Sookie. For instance, Tara in the books is a minor (and white--some debate this, but she is explicitly described as having olive skin, something that is virtually always said of Caucasians, and there is not a single word to suggest that she is African-American) character. Jason plays a far smaller role. Just about everything touching Tara and Jason cannot be found in the novels. Sam and Tara are not involved. Lafayette cannot be regarded as an important character in the books, though his fate in the books sets up a surprising twist in the TV series. On the other hand, Eric is as important as the other three main characters in the books, Sookie, Bill, and Sam. Still, overall the larger story arc of the first two novels very roughly adheres to the novels. If this persists into Season Three of the TV series, then it will take place to some degree in Jackson, Mississippi and will see the introduction of the werewolf community to the story.
The one huge advantage of the novels over the series is that there is just so much more that happens. Season One of the series corresponds to the first novel in the sequence. I expected that the TV show would begin to diverge from the novels in the second season and to a degree it did. The TV series introduced Sophie, the Queen of Louisiana much, much earlier than in the novels, so I think that some of the stories are going to be accelerated. So I see no reason for anyone who enjoys the show not to plunge in and enjoy a whole string of new adventures in the life of Sookie Stackhouse, barmaid and telepath. What has delighted me is how consistently superb the novels are. I felt the second novel in the series, DEAD AND LIVING IN DALLAS, was a bit less entertaining than the second book, but all the rest in the sequence were increasingly excellent. And they all mesh to tell a unified story. One novel ends and the next picks up the story perhaps as little as two or three weeks later.
The novels also introduce new and more interesting supernatural characters. The Anita Blake novels did this as well, but I felt that that series was increasingly less successful. Both series introduce weres (were wolves, were tigers, were panthers, and others), witches, vampires from other locales, and fairies. But throughout it all Sookie remains both an innocent and an explorer.
All in all, this is one of the most enjoyable long series of novels that I know. My only real disappointment is that a date has not yet been announced for the next and ninth novel in the series. Charlaine Harris (who lives in the southern part of my native state of Arkansas) has a couple of other series and 2009 apparently is devoted to those. My hope is that perhaps the success of the TV show will cause Ms. Harris to revise her plans and bring out another Sookie Stackhouse sooner rather than later.
I will add that on some boards many fans of the books don't like Anna Paquin as Sookie. I do. She isn't quite the way the books describe Sookie, being slender and not at all voluptuous, whereas in the books Sookie is constantly described as curvy and very chesty. But I think Anna Paquin gets a lot of the spirit of Sookie. She feels in her performance very much like someone who has been traumatized by hearing the thoughts of others.
If you are a fan of TRUE BLOOD, you should definitely read these. I actually prefer the books to the TV show, though I like the show as well. But if you haven't watched the show, but enjoy well written book on supernatural themes, you should read these anyway. In the recent tradition of revisionist accounts of vampires, this is one of the best.
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