Saturday, April 3, 2010

All Together Dead

Readers: Spoiler Alert! If you don't want to hear what happens in this book of the series or the tv show True Blood, don't read this review!

All Together Dead
is the seventh book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Series on which the HBO show True Blood is based. I should probably state here, at the beginning, that I read several of the books before the tv show was announced, though I have seen and enjoyed the tv show. I should also state I’m Team Eric and a little Team Sam. I tend to enjoy these later books because we’ve already moved on from Bill, who becomes increasingly irritating, and because Sookie is a more intelligent and engaging character in the books than she is in the tv show, which seems to be better at highlighting its secondary characters.
The book follows psychic Sookie to a vampire conference outside of Chicago at a vampire-owned hotel. As usual, there are mysteries to solve and a few murders in between. The Queen of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne, Sookie's employer, has recently been accused of murdering her husband, and faces a tense trial. At the same time, Sookie is forced to get closer to Eric, another vampire under Sophie-Anne.
If you’re also a Team Eric member, you’ll be happy to hear that Eric is featured in the novel, and that he and Sookie become closer. The more time we spend with Eric, the more I like him. He genuinely loves Sookie and is compassionate towards her.
As a feminist, the Southern Vampire Series is problematic, just because Sookie is always getting beaten up and saved by male characters. Here, there is a slight change. In the climax, Sookie realizes that a bomb is about to go off, and goes immediately to Eric to save him. Eric is able to fly enough out to prevent them from complete annihilation. So, they save each other, even though the idea of someone sliding down a pyramid hotel in a coffin strikes me as unbelievable.
The tv show has highlighted the connection between vampires and non-heterosexuals, and in turn, the connection between the fictional anti-vampire groups and those evangelical Christian groups that are anti-LGBT. Having read the early books, I thought this wasn’t part of the book so much as a nice creation of Alan Ball’s for the tv show. This book actually changed my mind, since it featured a gay marriage between two vampire kings.
The book also finally asks a question that earlier book have hemmed at: when and how should Sookie use her psychic powers? Earlier novels have had her saving various characters using her psychic powers, including a young boy who they believe had been kidnapped. After the explosion, Sookie and her friend Barry work with rescue workers to find victims trapped under the rubble. Sookie decides that she doesn’t want to have to work for rescue teams on disasters. There’s something very pat about Sookie’s decision, which strikes me as selfish. I hope the subsequent books will explore this decision and make Sookie struggle with such a choice.
Overall, the novel is delightful. It's not as good as some of the previous books in this series, and not as tightly written, but it's still a fun romp through a fully developed world of vampires, weretigers, and psychics.

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