26 Jul 2013

Sookie Stackhouse Series Reviewed

We all have our guilty pleasure reads, those books that we pick up and fly through at speed between weightier tomes. The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris certainly belong in this category. While reading them my brain was picking out flaws, predictable characters, and plot holes in every chapter, yet I kept going back for more.

A lot of you may have heard of this series because on the HBO adaptation True Blood, a show that ramped up the sex appeal and made it even sweatier and raunchier; no mean feat for what is effectively a vampire erotica series of books. The last of the 13 book series was published this year in May, and I just finished reading them a couple of weeks ago. 

We have a brand new set of the books 1-8 for €25(or €20 if you mention this blog post at the stall)

The story follows waitress Sookie Stackhouse in the small town on Bon Temps Louisianna, whose has telepathic abilities mar her life with a case of 'too much information' from all who surround her. Vampires have just been outed to the general public, and it follows the integration of supernaturals into society after years of hiding in the coffin. As the series progresses we are introduced to witches, werewolves and fairies, just to broaden the magical spectrum. As a whole the idea of outing vampires is a great one, initially it makes for really interesting reading. There are lots of parallels to homophobia, racism, drug culture, and xenophobia, that really add dept to what could have been a very two dimensional series. 

I have lots of problems with this series, mostly it's Harris's writing style, it's painfully simplistic to read. Aside from a few notable exceptions such as Pam and Eric Northman many of her characters are completely predictable and lacking any depth. One of the biggest downfalls is the unlikable main character Sookie Stackhouse, whose ditsiness seems near endless. Sookie is constantly referred to as intelligent and quite the catch for the successful vampires and weres that she hooks up with, but her actions show her as a vapid two dimensional heroine. The whole way through the series I was irritated by the protagonists voice and actions;obviously something that really hindered my reading pleasure. The main character refers to her own hobby of reading and expanding her vocabulary on many occasions, but most of her examples of 'intellectual' words are near remedial in their simplicity. I know it's only a small thing, but it was something that repeatedly rankled with me. 

The series would have worked much better if it was limited to a trilogy, half way through things were really starting to wither and grow stodgy around the edges. It felt like Harris was creating more bizarre and completely farcical dramas for Sookie to get embroiled in just to drag out the series of books. It passed the point of credibility to believe that anyone would continue to be so stupid about endangering their life on a near weekly basis just for a bit of fun between the sheets. The books peaked on the first novel, which successfully merged vampire erotica with a mystery in the deep south, after that they just floundered from one constructed drama to the next. 

I'm not sure why I kept reading after the first few books, maybe it was just because I had the whole set on audio book and they were an easy listen while doing some drawing. Part of it was the cheap tricks of 'what happens next' appeal, but the merits of a book cannot stand on that alone. On the whole I would say they are good if you want to turn off your brain and enjoy some sexy, sweaty, fluff that is not going to challenge you in any way. Or maybe just watch the tv series instead, it's cuts out a lot of the rubbish and you actually get to look at the rippling muscles and gyrating bodies and not just imagine them. I think the HBO series is the rare case of the adaptation being better than the books, they seemed to capture the narrative potential of the books and use them as a spring board rather than sticking to the books meandering plot.

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