Ever read a book, roll your eyes about it, and then read the sequel? No? I did!
Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris is the second novel in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series, which are also known as Sookie Stackhouse novels or the books that True Blood is based on. I read the first one, Dead Until Dark, sometime last year after a few friends raved about it. It wasn’t entirely my cup of tea but I still came back for more. I’m actually going to reverse my usual review structure because it more aptly represents how I feel when I’m reading these books.
- This book is seriously stupid. It’s written in a dumb way with dumb words and dumb characters. You definitely know you’re reading fluff because it kills brain cells. Most books help expand your mind but I may be less intelligent for having read this.
- The protagonist, Sookie, is… did I already use the word dumb? Her character is poorly written to an irritating extreme. You’re supposed to believe totally contradictory things about her – that she’s really smart even when she’s acting like an idiot, that she’s beautiful and somehow still a plain southern girl, that she’s an outcast in her town though everyone seems to love her, that she’s courageous when she’s really just impulsive and, again, dumb. Sookie is impossible to wrap your mind around because she changes to serve the plot. In many ways, she’s a blank slate – I understand that this is the way some authors make it easier for the reader to project themselves on to the protagonist (like horoscopes, you gotta keep it general so it’ll apply to anyone), but I don’t do that so it just makes me roll my eyes.
- Sookie’s relationship with Bill, who is a vampire, is supposed to be incredibly romantic but I find it problematic and depressing. He’s really possessive and pushy, from forcing Sookie to do a job she doesn’t want to do down to telling her what to wear. More than once in this book, Bill pressured Sookie to wear something very attractive, then acted like a jealous douche when someone lusted after her – major red flag! I think Bill’s creepy and kind of a dick, not sexy or lovable. One thing the world does NOT need is another dysfunctional relationship where borderline abusiveness is sold as “true love.” Twilight and 50 Shades have that well covered, thanks.
- The other characters in the book are one-dimensional with no discernible character motivations at all.
- Rape, near-rape, and sexual violence are common occurrences. Yes, I get that vampires in general could be considered metaphors for the rape, victimization, and defilement of women. But let a metaphor be a metaphor! It doesn’t have to be so obscene, so obvious. Because the writing is poor, it just seems lazy. And as I said in my review of David Cross’s book, lazy reliance on rape is despicable.
- I’ll probably read the third book. Hell, I might end up reading all 13. I have NO IDEA why. While I’m reading, I’m constantly annoyed by the ridiculousness of it all. But after I’m done, I kind of want to read another one. Why is that?! Maybe it really is killing my brain cells. Not that it’s all bad…
- The (non-rape) sex scenes are actually sexy. Some talented, literary authors can’t even write a hot sex scene. Harris would be very good at writing erotica, I think.
- It was really quick to read. Simple words, simple themes, and a quick pace. They read like YA but with a lot more sex, violence, and swearing.
- There are some strokes of creative excellence in between the silliness. The way other types of supernatural beings (changelings and werewolves, for example) are incorporated into the series is actually very well done. Subtle, unlike the vampires. And the idea that vampire blood would become a drug is a stroke of genius. Oh, and the mysteries themselves are not totally terrible.
Would I Recommend It? Yes, if you really need to give your brain a break and are willing to accept Sookie as a totally ineffective and unbelievable hero.
What’s Next? Still slogging through 100 Years of Solitude. After that, I’m going to read two books written by a couple of my favorite bloggers – Life On Fire: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living Your Dreams by Kim Dinan from the blog So Many Places and Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche from Fearful Adventurer.