So sometimes you just want a good read. A book that will keep you interested regardless of how fun your vacation will be once your airplane lands. A book that you read until your eyes burn and you can no longer keep them open. A book that is unpredictable. When that’s what you want, pick up Charlaine Harris’ Vampire mystery series that HBO made into True Blood.
I have written before that I never considered reading Harris’ books because the covers were so off-putting. A vampire on a flying coffin? No thank you. Also, they seemed to become popular around the same time that Twilight was taking over bookstores. And I mistakenly lumped True Blood into the current pop culture obsession with vampires. I thought she was just cashing in on something that was already popular. I was completely wrong. The books have strong characters and the narrative efficient. She describes the Southern town of Bon Temps with such precision that you are immediately immersed and never want to leave. You want to eat the greasy food at Merlotte’s, have a piece of Sookie’s grandmother’s pie, and read on Bill Compton’s porch. I can’t help myself, I just want more of these characters.
With the advent of a synthetic blood, vampires reveal their presence to humans and attempt to integrate themselves into society. They have their own vampire government with representatives that lobby for vampire rights. Waitress Sookie Stackhouse is an outsider because can read people’s minds. The first time she meets a vampire she is relieved because she doesn’t hear anything. While there is a bit of romance, it is minor and Harris uses Sookie’s relationships to place her in different mysteries. They are not the point of the books, they are factors that create a larger story. And Sookie constantly admits that she is only in situations as a result of these new relationships. And yes, they are scary, and yes, she gets scared, but she doesn’t wait silently. She takes charge. She may get beaten up at times but she continues to fight. She is a feminist. She refuses to be kept by a man or a vampire’s money. Sookie doesn’t make a lot of money and this is an recurring issue in the books. She is a working woman without much education trying to survive.
Not all the characters are the same as the HBO series. The series films 12 episodes from one tiny book. And you could fit 30 True Blood books into one Game of Thrones book. Some of the major characters are completely reinvented and one of them never dies as he does at the end of book one.
The important thing to remember about these books is that they are fun. They allow you to escape without getting frustrated that some ditzy blonde is waiting for a man to save her. I wouldn’t call them literature but I would recommend them. They are the equivalent of a piece of chocolate cake. You certainly don’t need it, your life doesn’t improve having it, but you enjoy it in the moment. Maybe there’s a bit of guilt that you didn’t read Harold Bloom, but isn’t reading supposed to be fun?