Definitely Dead (book, 2008)

A review of one of the Sookie Stackhouse books, from Death Ray 11, published at a time just before vampire romance became as tediously ubiquitous as the zombie apocalypse. Having read this again, there’s a blogpost on the domestication of the vampire by female-oriented literature forming in my mind right now…


Charlaine Harris/GollanczRomance


Charming deep south vampire/ werewolf/ supernatural romance of a type becoming too familiar.

Women’s fiction is fascinating, giving we men a chance to peek inside your heads. A contrary sex, you ladies are. No doubt some of you might take issue with that, but nothing marks this out more than the desire to be seen as strong, independent souls and yet, at one and the same time, a yearning to be swept off your feet by dominant males of questionable virtue. Yeah, yeah, it’s a sweeping generalisation, but you’ve only got to go to a newsagent and move from the rack of women’s glossies to the shelf of romances (or the female-oriented paperback porn) to see it holds some water.

The heroines of supernatural romance, with their penchant for negotiating perilous situations, but needing the occasional rescue by their hunky (and deadly) boyfriends, epitomise this dichotomy.

Sookie Stackhouse is the most Mills and Boon of the lot. A telepathic waitress, she’s one of those chirpy people whose upbeat personality masks the pain inside. The kind of person whose constant patter sits on a razor’s edge between annoying and charming. And we all know one of those.

These books are about Sookie – her hopes, her dreams, her boyfriends, her problems, her new kitchen, her hair. The adventure, which feels interchangeable with the other books’, takes second place. It’s all very Laurell K Hamilton [note from 2013, before LKH went all porno], but at a more domestic level. Which, bizarrely, is what makes it a pleasant read. Sookie’s a great character. Just a normal(-ish) person trying to make her way in a weird world, she’s one of the most genuine creations in popular literature right now. But though I’d recommend reading at least one Sookie book, this one doesn’t deliver much new. Now Sookie’s discovered the supernatural and overcome her insecurities, there doesn’t seem anywhere for the story to go. There is a revelation about Sookie’s abilities which are intriguing, but on the other hand undermine her genuine humanity. Harris’ world is nothing original either, and if we’re honest it feels a mite too close to those of others. Sookie’s left to get by on charm alone, though there’s just enough left to power this book.


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