Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reading Journal - The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris (1,2,3 and 4)

Back in June, I mentioned that I had watched HBO's TrueBlood. In some ways, it was a response to not having Thrones on air - in others, everyone I know, including people whose opinion I valued, (haha), were relatively insistent that I watch the series.

So I did. With relish. Something which I had intended to recount here was that by the end of Season 4 of TrueBlood, I had gone and watched Season 1, 2 and 3. Since I am quite the fan of sex and violence, I was hooked.

Going along with my theme of "I should post more often," I had intended to blog when I finished book 1 Dead Until Dark and then after book 2 Living Dead in Dallas. Failing that, I finished Club Dead (#3) over the weekend and finished (#4) Dead to the World this evening.

Good thing I stopped doing book reviews (more or less).

It's safe to say that I enjoyed the reads. Harris, quite simply, is fun. Turn to HBO for the multiple perspective, very intense, multi-layered drama.

In The Southern Vampire Mysteries, it's all from Sookie's point of view.

There are differences - notable ones - from the novel to the television screen. Thrones may be a relatively faithful adaptation - TrueBlood is not.

In the show, Sookie is a slut, and there's little explanation... in the books, however, it fits. There's several references to how her telepathic abilities make dating a nightmare... what if you always knew what YOUR significant other was thinking? Sounds fun for a day. ;-)

What's different in the book, and takes some getting used to, is that you don't know where all the other characters are, unless they're in the scene with Sookie. Having said that, Harris does a good job of filling in gaps without too much exposition. The novels are fast-paced, not overly complicated, and yet there's twists and turns and character development.

Perhaps not as much character growth as in other fantasy tales - on the other hand, these novels take place immediately following the events of the previous book. Further, the events in the book don't often last for more than a month, if that. How much character growth can you expect in a few months?

This is not exactly how it goes in the television series, so again, it's an interesting thing that HBO has done to make TrueBlood .. hmm.. more appealing to their audience and validating the other main roles in the storyline, by giving the other characters more screen time.

In case you're curious... I find that urban fantasy has the best female protagonists. There are subtleties in the novel, things that women consider or think about, that sometimes seem forced or inappropriate when written by a male author; for instance, Sookie checking herself in the mirror is presented for what it is by Harris - she's a woman in her late 20's discovering her self.

Also, moods and the effect of being tired, or scared or angry - so often this is written to sound like women are nags or moody or confusing, yes? When read from inside the mind of the protagonist, (especially one who reads minds), her motivations and impulses, even as a backwoods 20'something girl, make sense. They're valid. They're understandable. This makes Sookie, who is somewhat vain and certainly flawed, a far more sympathetic character than might be expected.

I don't always agree with what Sookie does, of course, but I get it. It doesn't seem false. Too often, television shows do things that seem ... well, a little flaky. Something to get ratings. (Yes, sexposition scenes in Thrones, I'm talking to you.)

I enjoy reading urban fiction because it seems these are the best versions of available female heroines. We know what we see as we see it, but it's nice to get inside Sookie's head and understand motivations.

(Note: This is why I was such a big fan of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart
- a well written female protagonist is immensely insightful.)

There are plenty of (what I assume are) strong reviews for The Southern Vampire Mysteries, and having plowed through the first 4 books like they were nothing, I certainly understand why HBO picked up the series.

TrueBlood is a different animal, though some of the markings are similar. There was no way they could tell the same story in television, so they did what they had to do, which was give all the other characters more robust storylines and events. Even the ones who live and die do not follow the novels, necessarily.

Certainly, if TB is too graphic or gritty for you - the novels are more fun, lighter, even more amusing. At the same time, if you want to understand some of the finer details about some of the events in the television series, the novels are a good choice.

Mostly, however, they stand alone as different takes on the same basic story, and are interesting and entertaining enough to be viewed as separate works of art. Charlaine Harris, as noted on the book covers, mixes romance, mystery and the paranormal genres without a hitch. She's done a great job in making a fun, fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek romp through the supernatural world, with characters that are enjoyable to read about, and an original and entertaining protagonist in Sookie Stackhouse.

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