What We're Reading: Southern Vampire Mysteries

Posted at 9:32 AM Dec 29, 2008

By Andrea Grimes

clubdead.jpgSaturday night, I happily munched on a lovely homemade pizza while piled up with a couple of cats in my lap, ready for my occasional crazy catladyhood to descend upon me in the form of a weekend night reading a vampire mystery novel. Yes, I could have been at a show, cocktailing or getting some, but this is how I know I am destined for lifetime feline companionship: I preferred the book.

Or, I preferred the book until I realized it was horribly offensive. Club Dead, the third book in the "Southern Vampire Mysteries" by Charlaine Harris came highly recommended, not only as fluff reading but as the inspiration for the supposedly excellent HBO hit show True Blood. My local bookstore didn't have the first or second books in the series, so I started as early as I could with the third. Now, after reading my own bound paperback copy of pure crap, I'm seriously reconsidering the sanity of the friend who recommended the Southern Vampire series.

I felt bad reading the weak-girl warbling of Bella in Twilight, and gagged at her worshipful love of Edward Cullen. But still, I enjoyed the stories, which were engaging and sexy, even if it seemed pretty clear that Stephenie Meyer has, consciously or not, ripped off a lot of the Southern Vampire conventions and, amazingly, made them enjoyable. Sadly, Sookie Stackhouse, the Southern Vampire heroine, lives not in a world of sexy vampire sexiness, but among a bunch of redneck bloodsuckers and shape-shifters entangled in a transparent plot line that seriously calls the books' "mystery" label into question. To top it off, the characters are subject to some of the worst writing I have ever, ever read. I know elementary schoolers who could give Charlaine Harris some tips.

But if a bad plot and crappy writing were all that was wrong with this Sookie Stackhouse book, I might be able to let it pass. The thing runs so thick with gender-stereotypical, anti-feminist blood, it's nigh undrinkable. Sookie constantly moons at "real" men who do "real" men things, like build stuff. Real men love building stuff! But the best part is when she gets raped by her boyfriend and then feels bad about how she might have hurt him.

That's right! Bill, one of Sookie's "real" men, rapes her in the trunk of a car. Afterward, Sookie wonders if having feelings for another man might have been wrong. I put the book down after that. Feel free to spoil the ending for me.

Can anyone out there recommend a good vampire novel that isn't patently offensive to women?

Comments

Quinn said:

The Historian has some very strong female characters. Unfortunately, it also bored me to tears. 600 pages of Eastern European travelogue and maybe 10 pages featuring actual vampires. But apparently other people actually enjoyed it, so it might be worth a shot.

Elle Cee said:

While not primarily a Vampire series, I really enjoy Patricia Briggs' Mercy books. The female character is strong, the stories are created and they are pretty sexy.

Kari said:

I'm so relieved to see that someone else thinks those books are lousy! Since they were popular enough to spawn a TV series, I read the first one (and had to force myself to finish) and I am totally mystified as to why people think this is good writing. I don't know if there are any vampire novels that aren't at least a little offensive to women. I think it goes with the territory; damsel in distress seems to be a common theme. Even when the woman is the vampire.

John said:

Kim Harrison's 'The Hollows' series. Starts with Dead Witch Walking. And I'll second Elle Cee's recommendation.

Jeni said:

How about the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. After book 5 they get a little tedious, but the first few are good. Anita is actually a vampire slayer who gets caught up with the head of the vamps in St. Louis.

Elle Cee said:

Er.. the stories are *creative* not created.

Thanks, John - I've been looking at the Hollows series, actually. I'll check it out for sure, now.

Michele said:

Dark Hunters series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, hot hot hot romance, strong heroines, and sexy badass vamps.

LaRue said:

I Am Legend.


F'reals.

Jonathan said:

I second Kim Harrison and third Patricia Briggs, both are solid series with enjoyable and well rounded characters. Some others that haven't been mentioned but I thoroughly enjoy are:

Rachel Vincent's werecat series starting with "Stray"
Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire (YA) and Weather Warden series.
Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series
Jim Butcher's excellent "Dresden Files" series

...and I'll cash in my geek cred and state if you're looking for a laugh and a truly new way to look at the world, you have to read some of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

We miss you in Dallas, Grimes. The Douchebags are taking over without you around.

Teagan Blackthorne said:

I would go with Kim Harrison and Patricia Briggs as well.

Kim Harrison also takes the time to answer reader questions on her website( http://www.kimharrison.net/ ) daily in her drama box area. Not many authors out there are willing to do that. We usually go through the previously asked questions first to see if ours has come up before.

Enigma2060 said:

I for one am rather tired of attempting to "fit" vampires into mainstream. The Twilight series and the Southern Vampire Mysteries are examples of this mentality.

Vampires are predators. bottom line. not love interests. not super hero types.

Vampires dont look to humans for companionship or understanding. They look to humans as a food source. They are monsters.

30 Days of Night is a good representation of classic vampires in action. They aren't trying to fit in. they are grazing, covering their trails and moving on.

As if all that weren't bad enough.. The series, Southern Vampire Mysteries, were hollow, not well done and just.. bad. I literally could not finish the first book.
At least with the Twilight Series it was mindless fluff that after you burn through 4 books you think back and ask yourself.. What did I just read and why do I care.?

just one persons rant. i dont know.

Joy said:

Andrea, you amuse me. You haven't changed at all. Give Charlaine Harris a break, the story line reads true to the area it is written about. We still live in a man's world, or at least we let them think this is a mans world. I enjoyed the fluff and am now going to read Patricia Brigg's Mercy books. You will always be the catlady to me. Cat hair and all dear. Just remember your roots. :)

Deb said:

Try J.R. Ward. She has a series out about the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Very good and very hot! She has the alpha-male speak down pat. The women are strong and she even has some gay romance in the book. It's definately not 'Harlequin Romance' material.

Cecilia said:

As I just said:
I'm sorry... But if anyone were to bring Sookie to life I would have to kill her, so please don't try.
That annoying female is stupid beyond belief and I really hate her. She's an ego-maniac and her taste is so bad she makes me cringe and flinch in pain. I hate that I started listening to the books because now I'm in love with Eric and Pam and all the others and I can't stand the main character. What a whole I am in...
Twilight was a thousand times better and yet they should neither be mentioned in same converstaion as ... "the author of Interview with a Vampire". (Well I can't say her name in this conversation, can I!!)

Anonymous said:

Twilight sucks...really how much can someone "grimace"? A lack of vocabulary and imagination is what is held in that sereies...

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