Fiction: “Club Dead” by Charlaine Harris

It’s been over a year since I read the last Sookie Stackhouse mystery. Coincidentally, I have the first two discs of the third season of True Blood hanging around my living room somewhere.

The third novel (and, supposedly, the third season) concerns Sookie and her relationships with men. There’s her previously-ever-present boyfriend, Vampire Bill; Bill’s boss, Eric Northman, the vampire sheriff of Area 5, which covers at least Bon Temps, Louisiana (if not all of Louisiana); Sookie’s boss at Merlotte’s bar, Sam, a shapeshifter; and now Alcide Herveaux, who owes Eric something so he agrees to help Eric and Sookie out when Bill goes missing.

Because yes, Bill goes missing. He’s working on some secret project or whatever and won’t tell Sookie about it, and when he goes to do more research or whatever, he ends up kidnapped in Mississippi. Eric wants Bill back, because now Bill’s on the turf of the Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington. (Louisiana has a Queen, if you’re keeping track.) Eric doesn’t want to send Sookie by herself, because even though she’s a telepath, she’s also merely human. So he calls on Alcide to stand by her. Oh, and Alcide’s a Werewolf.

So Sookie leaves Bon Temps behind and heads to Jackson, MI, with Alcide as her bodyguard. Except the more they get to know each other, the more Sookie and Alcide start liking each other. But both parties know they can’t get involved with the other; Sookie’s on a rescue mission for her boyfriend, after all, and Alcide is still getting over being dumped by his ex, Debbie.

Their first stop is Club Dead, a bar where supernatural beings congregate and regular humans can’t enter (unless accompanied by a supernatural being). Sookie’s goal is to listen in on humans and see if any of them are thinking about Bill. On the first night, Sookie nearly gets into a bar fight over some Weres flirting heavily over her. Russell Edgington happens to come to her rescue, and then practically demands that she and Alcide return the next night. Which they do, and Sookie interrupts an assassination attempt on one of the second-in-commands of Russell. Sadly, Sookie ends up with a stake in her side for her efforts. Russell (and Eric, who’s there in disguise, keeping an eye on Sookie) takes her back to his mansion so she can recuperate. After having a vampire blood transfusion, she’s ready and raring to go, because Eric’s spy vampire, “Bubba,” has found Bill.

To speed up on my plot recap: Bill, Eric, and Sookie all get back to Bon Temps safely. Sookie breaks up with Bill, because while he was missing, he hooked up repeatedly with his sire, Lorena. And it is revealed that Bill was going to leave Sookie for Lorena. Understandably pissed, Sookie rescinds Bill’s invitation to her house. Recognizing that there is also sexual tension between herself and Eric, she rescinds his invitation, too. She and Alcide agree to remain friends — for now.

Before I get into the awesomeness that is Sookie, let me recount why I enjoy these vampires so much. A of all, they don’t sparkle. (Hey, one of the books on my to-read list is Breaking Dawn. I’m not done with sparkling vampires yet.) B of all, they can stay awake during the day, if they have to, but really, they should be in a coffin when the sun comes up. Vampires are able to be tortured through the use of silver. They do feed on humans, though TrueBlood has made it easier for vampires to get sustenance without having to hunt. And they are most definitely evil. Now, I could digress here and discuss how The Vampire Diaries‘s vampires have the tendency to be more violent, but I’m not going to, because a, it’s a digression, and b, we all know it would end up being an aria praising Damon as the King of Awesome, and this is neither the time nor the place.

Now, Sookie. Sookie is, for the most part, human. Sure, she can hear the thoughts of other people, but in terms of immortality or changing her genetic structure when the moon is nigh, she is human. This sets her apart from Buffy (super-powered vampire slayer), Caroline Forbes (normal-girl-turned-vampire), and even Elena Gilbert (*gasp* the Doppleganger!). [The last two are from The Vampire Diaries.] Anita Blake, of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series is a necromancer, with an innate talent towards raising the dead. So I think that leaves Sookie’s only human contemporary to be … Bella Swan. So let’s turn to one of my favorite segments: Ways in Which Bella Swan Sucks.

… Basically, Bella wants to end her life in order to be with her boyfriend forever. Even when said boyfriend can be somewhat abusive and controlling (I will remind you about the WATCHING HER IN HER SLEEP). Also, she’s a whiny bitch and makes everything All About Her.

Sookie, meanwhile, doesn’t define herself by her man. When she finds out Bill has been cheating on her, she is very tempted to cheat her-ownself with Alcide. But she doesn’t, because she was raised right by her Gram. Instead, she breaks up with Bill. And even though she isn’t truly supernatural, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t believe herself strong enough to hold her own against other supernatural beings:

If Alcide expected or wanted me to ask for smelling salts, or to beg him to save me from the big bad wolf, he had the wrong woman. [130-131]

She also remains her own person:

“They found the corpse in the closet of Alcide’s apartment, and they hatched a plan to hide his remains.” Eric sounded like that had been kind of cute for us.

“My Sookie hid a corpse?”

“I don’t think you can be too sure about that possessive pronoun.”

“Where did you learn that term, Northman?”

“I took ‘English as a Second Language’ at a community college in the seventies.”

Bill said, “She is mine.”

I wondered if my hands would move. They would. I raised both of them, making an unmistakeable one-fingered gesture.

Eric laughed, and Bill said “Sookie!” in shocked astonishment.

“I think that Sookie is telling us she belongs to herself,” Eric said softly. [269]

Hands-down, I prefer Sookie Stackhouse over Bella Swan. She’s sarcastic, she swears, she can hold her own, and she doesn’t want to subvert her own identity in order to keep a man. How’s that for a female role-model?

I continue to enjoy both the Sookie Stackhouse mystery series as well as True Blood, though the TV series is remarkably different from the novels. Someday, I’ll write that essay on their differences, but tonight is not that night — tomorrow ain’t looking that good, either.

Grade for Club Dead: 3 stars

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