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Customer Review

726 of 744 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 9, 2009 9:36:59 PM PDT
ari180 says:
This was a very good review, especially for people like me (and I suspect I'm not the only one), coming to the books by way of the [heavily-promoted] teevee series. Definitely helped confirm the decision I'd already pretty much made, which is to buy the whole set at once, and not pick up just the first book to try it on for size (which would then be redundant if I did decide to go whole hog).
But I humbly beg the reviewer in the future to please consider segregating the commentary containing spoilers from the parts of the review that don't, and tagging the former material as such? We all want to be able to come to the books, and the future seasons of the show, w/as much of whatever surprise elements can survive such heavy promotion intact...

Posted on Oct 14, 2009 6:49:46 AM PDT
Reviewer Aus says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2009 4:25:44 PM PDT
Robert Moore says:
The people that I've talked to who read the books first all seem to grasp that Tara is white. Those who go to the books after having seen the show first seem to think she is black. I find it fascinating the way that one medium can frame one's reception in another. But given how the books are pretty clear that she is white you'd think people who watched the TV show would get that. But it is amazing how those passages don't seem to register. Not that it really matters. But it is interesting.

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 8:58:59 PM PDT
Kelly Girl says:
I love your review! I too share your passion for the books, and started reading post-Twilight, before I even had HBO to see the show. (Which, for the record, I ordered for the sole purpose of watching True Blood. Money well spent if you ask me; eye candy GALORE!) I wish I could put the books down and focus on others...such as the new Dan Brown. Or I don't know...the school work I'm ignoring to keep reading. But they're terribly addicting!

In all honesty, I found the first book a tad hard to get into. Initially, that is. I think it's because I'm a mid-westerner from Chicago, and the whole southern vantage point of the books was so foreign to me. However, that quickly changed, and now I have an entirely new appreciation for the well as fictional towns like Bon Temps!

If you're on the fence, order them. You *WILL NOT* be disappointed! =)

Posted on Dec 3, 2009 3:05:17 PM PST
AmazonMom says:
Great review, but I observe that you haven't mentioned Anne Rice once. Also, I just concluded reading the second novel, where Tara is introduced, and there is a phrase towards the end of Sookie and Tara clinging together like "two great white waterlilies" in a pond. That sealed it for me, if Harris' description of Tara earlier in the book hadn't yet done so. I do like the books, thus far, but I enjoy how the show has fleshed out the more peripheral characters. Lafayette and Tara (in the show) are right up there in my top 3 favorites.

Posted on Dec 15, 2009 12:34:45 PM PST
Julie Leigh says:
Just wanted to let you know that the 9th book is out (Dead and Gone) and the 10th book (Dead in the Family) will be released in May of 2010. Get reading!

Posted on May 12, 2010 9:47:30 PM PDT
I have read all of the books. Yes even the newest one, I love them all even though the most recent while good compared to some of the other stuff out there it is seriously lacking compared to the others I honestly cant wait for another and really dont care if Tara is white or black found it very surprising that Lafayette is still alive on the show though (Yes, I LOVE the show and keep HBO for it lol). Great Post

Posted on Jun 7, 2010 1:56:14 PM PDT
E. F. Harris says:
When I began reading the series (last week), I was surprised and amazed that I enjoyed the books so much more than the TV series. Hence, this review mirrored my feelings and was welcome reading. Thanks! I feared I might be the only one. I will continue the watch the show, of course, but am so glad I decided to read the books.

Posted on Jun 22, 2010 7:58:21 PM PDT
Terrific review!

Posted on Jul 25, 2010 4:39:43 PM PDT
An informative and wonderful review indeed!
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