Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Muse Review: _Dead Until Dark_

OK. I read the description for this series in a Science Fiction Book Club magazine -- Dead in Dixie a compilation of the first three books in the Sookie Stackhouse (a great character name)/Southern Vampire Mysteries, and what's not to love? A cocktail waitress that can read minds, who also happens to be the girlfriend of a vampire. Not a vampire with some Gothic Eastern European name, or something snooty and suggestive of French aristocracy, but the name of Bill. Not William, but plain ol’ ordinary Bill.

This mystery series has developed an entire culture surrounding the “outing” of vampires. They exist in our world and the world has developed ways to help accommodate them by developing synthetic blood, and protecting vampires from being staked or drained of their blood, which has healing properties, and is quite valuable on the black market. Vampires are generally considered to be suffering from a disease, not merely that they are supernaturally undead, and some of them even try to integrate themselves into the culture of the living and trying to live the life of a “normal” human.

Sookie is unique because she can read minds, and most of the locals consider her to be crazy for this reason. The way Harris handles this special ability is a textbook example of how to establish rules and limits to a character’s special ability, in this case mind reading. Sookie has to actively try to block out the thoughts of others because they are disturbing to her, and even when she does open herself up to read another’s mind, the thoughts are often jumbled and self-absorbed, rarely providing any useful information to her, and this requires considerable energy concentrate to do this. So Harris can successfully maintain the suspense of the mystery that she has established by using these limitations to a special ability which you would think would spoil any mystery or secret that any character might have.

The story is told though the first person point-of-view, Sookie’s, and she uses it successfully to provide a lot of background info about the vampire culture without overdoing it. There is even an appearance by the “King of Rock-n-Roll.” Ever wonder why there are so many Elvis sightings? Well, Dead Until Dark has a creative explanation for it. This is a fun summer beach read if you’d like to enjoy an offbeat, different type of mystery.

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