Let Me Put My Suggestions In You: The Southern Vampire Mysteries
Greetings evil book nerds, I know there are a lot of you out there following this site. While I whole-heartedly enjoy being immersed in a great TV show or movie, I am a true book nerd at heart. And so I was glad that I was given the first couple books in The Southern Vampire Mysteries to enjoy, by author Charlaine Harris, before being corrupted by its remake on True Blood. This series, which I like to call “The Sookie Stackhouse Series”, is a 13 novel series following the life and adventures of Ms. Sookie Stackhouse, telepath and barmaid extraordinaire. The stories follow Sookie as she finds herself enveloped in the supernatural world of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Over the last couple years I have read all the novels. Last week I closed the final book with a heavy-heart, as Sookie is a woman who I have really enjoyed spending an incredible amount of page-turning time with these last few years. Today I am going to bring you some highlights and an overview of the series, hoping that Anna Paquin hasn’t already ruined Sookie’s image for everyone. Disclaimer: minor spoilers to follow.
Our first novel of the series is titled Dead Until Dark and in it we are introduced to our main characters as Sookie narrates the story. Sookie is a 20-something year old working as a waitress in Bon Temps, LA where she lives in a cottage like home with her grandmother Adele. But there is something special about Sookie: she is a telepath. She has no idea why she has this gift, but she can hear almost anyone’s thoughts as clear as if they were talking. You would think this would give her certain advantages in life, but instead she sees it as more of a nuisance, seeing that it leads to awkward moments and a lack of a love life with her inability to tolerate hearing what her dates are thinking, whether it be naughty or nice.
All of this is a little boring until we meet our first supernatural character in the series: good old Bill Compton. Bill is a vampire. And vampires have just announced their existence to the entire world now that a synthetic blood product called “True Blood” has been invented, meaning they can come out of the shadow and survive without feeding on innocent humans. And what is so special about Bill, aside from the fact that he has an amazing southern accent? Bill, like all vampires Sookie will find out, is a non-transmitter. What that means is she cannot hear his thoughts, and she finds it blissful.
If you happen to be a True Blood fan, this follows the story pretty closely in the first season, as Bill and Sookie enter in a romantic relationship and a killer is stalking the streets of this small town in the south. We start meeting more supernaturals as the story develops: Pam and Eric from the local vampire bar Fangtasia, and even Sookie’s boss Sam, the owner of Merlotte’s Bar, turns out to be a shape shifter. However, by the end of season 1 and the end of book 1, True Blood and The Southern Vampire Mysteries completely diverge, sharing almost nothing in common aside from one or two episodes a season. My recommendation: stick with the books, the show is pretty awful at times, and Sookie is quite pathetic on the show.
Continuing on with the books, we find that the books establish a title theme using the word “dead”, with the next two books in order being Living Dead in Dallas and then Club Dead. In these books we sadly see Sookie at her worst (don’t worry, you should stick with her, she gets better) as she is in her first real relationship with anyone (Bill) and she gets a little spoiled. Luckily her grandmother Adele did teach her some important rules about proper etiquette, but she does get a little whiny about being dragged in to the drama of the supernatural’s worlds.
The fun part of these books are the supernaturals: we meet werewolves in book three, and by book four, Dead to the World, Sookie has broken up with Bill but ends up in a very strange and appealing relationship with Eric, who previously was a douche. Sadly he is only a more pleasable Eric because he was bewitched, so their relationship ends when he gets his memory back and returns to his selfish ways. In book 4 we also meet witches, werepanthers, and fairies. And book 4 is where Sookie finally starts to gain some strength, realizing she can’t just sit back but should use her power for good to help those supernaturals in need. After all, it is the first time she kills someone, and I think there was something liberating about it for her, cause from then on she gets kind of tough.
Before I continue on about the books, I will just comment about another part of these books that I love: the culture. I am a northeastern born and raised, and now I am living on the other liberal coast of our country in the Bay Area. While I am relatively well travelled, I have never lived in the south, and it seems very foreign to me. I am not sure if Harris is accurate in her descriptions, but she is from Arkansas so I think she is. And aside from the action scenes or supernaturals, I adore the way Harris describes the simple pleasures of southern life, the intricacies in their day to day shopping, eating, and working habits. It is not immensely different to what I have experienced, but their concept of winter is naturally quite apart from mine, and I found myself really loving the fine details of this way of life from a different part of the country.
Sorry about that aside, continuing on through the books… book 5 is Dead as a Doornail. This book is probably the least important of the series, but it has quite a bit of fun in it. It involves a serial killer stalking shifters, and Jason as a newly bitten and transformed werepanther. Book 6, Definitely Dead, finds Sookie almost in a relationship with a weretiger, and we meet Debbie Pelt’s little sister, who becomes hell-bent on plotting to murder Sookie throughout this and several novels to follow. In book 7, All Together Dead, Sookie finally uses her powers to help vampires at their world summit, and officially entertains entering a relationship with Eric. The side stories about vampire politics and cultures here at the world vampire summit are great. Next in book 8, Definitely Dead, we get a close up snap shot of fairies, and in particular Sookie’s living relatives who happen to be fairies. We start to learn how Sookie ended up with her telepathic powers, and why she is so attractive to supernaturals.
Book 9, Dead and Gone, deals with more vampire politics, religious fanatics, and fairy wars. It sounds a little chaotic, but the book is so much better written than True Blood’s attempt at entertaining some of these story lines. Dead in the Family is book 10, and has some of the best one-liners written. We meet Eric’s maker, not some gorgeous, self-sacrificing, penitent vampire like Godfreid in the TV show, but a sadistic pedophile hell-bent on getting anything he wants. And book 11, Dead Reckoning, is probably one of my favorites of the entire series. During this book Sookie has more attempts on her life made than one can think possible for a solitary human, and Pam and Sookie’s friendship really blossoms.
Book 12, Deadlocked, starts to get a little creepy and heavy, but knowing that the series is coming to an end that seems appropriate. And then we have it all in book 13, Dead Ever After, where everything comes to a closure. I will admit in book 13 I wish some things had gone differently, but it really was a good way to sum up the series. In particular, I loved that Charlaine Harris wrote a touching introduction about her relationship with Sookie, since I felt similarly when it all ended. And if you have any questions about what happened to all those characters you held dear to your heart? Don’t worry. Harris wrote a follow up: After Dead, which included a brief summary of what happened to each character after the end of the series.
Wow, that was a whirlwind summary if I ever saw one, and probably doesn’t help you much in showing you why the novels are so great. So now I will highlight the characters that I find so endearing and perfect about this series.
Bill’s character, oh how I love him. I have only made it through season 4 of True Blood but damn; they have massacred his character there. Yes, Sookie does discover that Bill originally came to Bon Temps on order of the Queen of Louisiana in an attempt to find out if the stories about Sookie’s telepathy were true, but we also learn throughout the stories that Bill really did fall in love with Sookie. Even though they break up, he never stops being a true friend to her, and is probably the most honest, straight-shooting vampire in the entire series. I think I deep down wished that Sookie and Bill would end up back together as Bill has so many redeemable qualities, but at least we know he is still living in his house across the way from Sookie, and he will always looks out for her as a friend.
There are some characters in the books that don’t exist in the TV show, and vice versus. For example, Jessica, Bill’s child in the TV show, does not exist in the books. And I wish they would replace her with a character that does: Bubba is a character in the books that happens to be in the service of the Queen of Louisiana and ends up assisting Sookie and her vamp-friends on a regular occasion. Like the name, Bubba is large, slow moving, oafish, and somewhat dim-witted. What else is Bubba? Elvis. That’s right. The story is quite cute and clever. Basically a vampire working in a morgue was brought Elvis’ deceased remains and could feel the tiniest amount of life still in him, so he turned him in the last minute. But sadly since he was so far gone Elvis came back as a bit mentally inappropriate, and got stressed whenever he was called by his proper name as well as with other situations. So he now goes by Bubba, and is the vampire world’s best kept secret. Bubba sadly has a fondness for animal blood, but aside from that he is quite an endearing character that makes several appearances throughout the books, and is always a good friend of Ms. Sookie and Mr. Bill.
I do admit to liking Pam’s character in True Blood the majority of the time, but Pam’s character in the books is so much more. She and Sookie also develop an odd relationship. Before Sookie, Pam pretty much hated all humans, but Sookie and her end up in several life-threatening situations together. When Sookie saves both Pam and Eric’s life enough times, Pam develops a newfound respect for the woman, and the two have quite a cute friendship that never develops in the TV show. Pam is also portrayed as quite the warrior in the books. When we learn in book 13 that Eric had planned to turn Sookie, we see why. He has only turned two other women before: both blonde, powerful, and protective. He was hoping Sookie would join that harem as another of his strong, Amazonian-like women warriors.
Jason Stackhouse does start out as an attractive ladies man in the books just like he is in the TV show, but the books show Jason growing in to a responsible adult that he never really becomes in the TV show. His dumb-ass comments lessen and he ends up in a stable, healthy, and committed relationship. As much as his idiotic comments in the first several books were good for a laugh, it was so much more fulfilling to see him mature into someone reliable and admirable.
The last thing I will comment on before wrapping this up is about Sookie’s friends. She accumulates quite a lot of them throughout the series, and when she gets thrown in jail in the last book (albeit temporarily) it really was nice to see those friends from all across the country rally behind her to ensure that she is released, and help her find the real killer that got her framed for murder. The way it all concludes is very touching and makes you realize that although she has her bitchy moments, Sookie really has done right most of the time. She has gone out of her way to help people, to do what is morally right, and to save lives on occasion. It’s nice to see that paid back to her. I was pretty convinced from the title that Sookie would die at the end of the series, and I already admitted that deep down I wanted her to end up with Bill. Neither of those happens. Instead she gets to live on her life, happily, in a stable relationship surrounded by supportive friends and family. I guess she deserved it.
Well hell, that was one long-ass post. Sorry folks, but trust me, The Southern Vampire Mystery Series is well worth sticking with and investing in. Don’t let True Blood convince you otherwise.
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Posted on February 27, 2014, in Books, Let Me Put My Suggestions In You and tagged Bon Temps, book review, Books, Charlaine Harris, let me put my suggestions in you, Sookie Stackhouse, supernatural, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, true blood, Vampire. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.