Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Page Count: 292 pages
Genre: urban fantasy
50 words or less: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a vampire walks into a bar and a telepathic waitress is there to meet him...
My relationship with Sookie Stackhouse started while I was waiting for the midnight release of Breaking Dawn. I was at Barnes and Noble, and I got there crazy early because I hadn't preordered a copy. So while I'm waiting a) for midnight and b) for the preorder folks to get their books and leave, I sat down in the science fiction aisle and started flipping through a book that I freely admit I grabbed because it had a vampire on the cover. That book was Dead Until Dark, and my addiction to paranormal romance and urban fantasy has been in full swing ever since.
The overall story that develops through this series is so twisty and turny at this point that discussing the plot of book one as if it were a stand alone book isn't really productive- Sookie is in such a different place at this point than she was at the beginning it's almost hard to fathom. Instead, I'll focus on some of my favorite elements of the story that emerged here in the first book.
One of the first things I remember noticing about this story was the conflict that centered around the effort vampires were making to integrate into existing society (well, the effort that most of them were making anyway.) I was intrigued by how the author created a social conflict by using existing attitudes about change and about people who are different and remixing them to reflect an imaginary segment of society. Sookie is remarkably tolerant in her viewpoints, which probably stems from her unusual ability. Being a telepath seems so incidental at first in the story, but as time goes on it's clear just how integral that ability will be, not only to who Sookie is as a character, but to many events that unfold throughout the series.
This is a tough book to review! The world is complex and detailed, Sookie as a narrator is fresh and funny, and the supporting cast of characters is really, really well done. The ground work for one of those timeless conflicts, Bill vs. Eric, is also laid here, and that's all I'll say about that.
If by chance you haven't gotten around to starting this series yet, I highly recommend you start. While I confess that I'm not current and am kind of out of the loop (I'm two books behind I think) I can definitely say that the earlier books in the series are among my favorite urban fantasy stories. As we get ready to leave 2010 behind and sally forth into a new year, I can recommend this series as one to work on if you're a newcomer.
Overall Grade: A
BWB Rating: 4/4