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The Written Equivalent to a Little Old Lady's House: So Much Clutter
on May 13, 2009
Set approximately three months after the tumultuous events of the previous entry in her Sookie Stackhouse series (2008's From Dead to Worse), author Charlaine Harris' latest release, Dead and Gone, takes off full-speed ahead and never once slows down. Therein lies a very big problem with this book, though...
Unfortunately for the fans of Ms. Harris' usually-compelling series, the result of all her labor last year is just a crazy quilt of frenetic events, as heroine Sookie races from trying to put out one metaphorical fire here to saving someone else's skin (or, heaven help her, her own skin, AGAIN) from another harrowing situation there. The poor girl never gets a chance to stop and catch her breath or regain her equilibrium, and as a result, the entire story shows her behaving in very un-Sookie-like ways (almost as if she's taken way too much cold medicine and is trying desperately--but failing-- to act "normal"). Her interactions with her current boyfriend (Eric the vampire) are notably odd. Her responses to the many deaths that occur are strangely remote. She is disconnected. She isn't amused, nor (sadly) is she amusing. Actually, Sookie isn't even particularly likable here (for the first time in the series!). In short, Sookie is off-kilter in this book, and the reader is left that way, as well.
As difficult as it is to keep up with the hyper pace, Ms. Harris does manage to keep the reader engaged, albeit unsettled. Definitely the most grim and gruesome entry in the series to date, DAG offers up numerous, gratuitously-graphic deaths and horrific surprises (shocks), while also attempting to address long-standing relationship issues. Many fans will be gratified that Ms. Harris continues to show parallels between her fictionalized world and the real one, by spotlighting the harmful effects of prejudice toward persons of different races and sexual orientations. (The fact that she makes her points with a sword rather than a paring knife, figuratively speaking, is rather disturbing, however. Like so many other aspects of this book, such scenes are just uncomfortably over-the-top.)
Yet another problem is Ms. Harris' decision to go out of her way to include several auxiliary characters, no doubt to appease readers who have expressed sadness over certain characters' absence in recent books. Most of these characters are relegated to mere cameo appearances, though, so fans will likely be left rather unsatisfied in that regard; the book, meanwhile, is left with quite a lot of clutter.
Despite Ms. Harris' attempts, there is just WAY too much going on in DAG for one normal-length book, and the reader is left feeling nearly as spent and exhausted upon completing it as poor Sookie is. Hopefully after this aberration (at least, what I can only HOPE is an aberration, and not a harbinger of her future books), Ms. Harris will sit herself down in a nice comfy easy chair, with a big glass of sweet tea by her side, to peacefully contemplate an easier, more pleasant adventure for her heroine's next appearance on the bookshelves. Sookie and company--as well as the readers--deserve it.