Sunday, 13 March 2011

100 Books in 2011 review: Dead as a Doornail

Dead as a Doornail is the fifth in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series. In honour of the fact that there's a review for each one on this blog I've created a new category just for these. (Having just done that, it appears I missed one. There's no review for Dead to the World, which I'm sure I read, but I don't keep books so can't go back to it. Annoying.)

Anyway, moving on. When I started reading the Sookie Stackhouse series it was because I was really enjoying True Blood and I was curious to see how the TV series would be different to the book. With season 2, True Blood diverged quite a bit so it was not really possible to compare it with Living Dead in Dallas. There is one point that is still worth picking up.

That point is about character. Almost all of the supporting characters have greater depth in True Blood. I said that I thought this was a combination of first person POV in the books and the greater space for character development in the TV series. By book five, I'm beginning to wonder if that's really what's going on. The characters that have been in the books from the beginning are still quite thin, with the exception of Eric who is more real. It was notable in this book that the characters that are here for just this story are a name, a brief physical description and a tic or two. While the writing is noticeably more competent than it was in the first book, characterisation isn't much better. Having read lots of first person POV books in the last couple of years (and having been paying attention to the writing) I don't think that this POV necessarily leads to poor characterisation. Some writers manage to do it well.

What really rankled was the poverty of female characters. There was a lot about Sookie that made her a great female character to start with and I felt that some of this is becoming lost. Tara is Sookie's best friend but she has barely any impact on the story. In this novel, it felt like she was only there as a plot device. The best friend relationship is never established except for Sookie telling us this. The two of them don't seem to spend time together and Tara is not who Sookie goes to for emotional support. She is certainly not the intriguing, complex character that she is in True Blood. The same is true for Arlene. In Dead as a Doornail, Sookie is surrounded by various supernatural men who are desperate to get with her. They are literally lining up. Which basically makes this a book about a hot chick who has all the dudes after her and no meaningful relationships with anyone. Disappointing. And much less feminist than it was because it reduces Sookie to an object to be possessed.

Sookie's feminist credentials also slip in terms of the plot of Dead as a Doornail. In Dead until Dark, Sookie investigates, takes action, and eventually saves herself and I loved that. In Dead as a Doornail, stuff is done to Sookie, she's manipulated into participating into things, and other people save her. The plot is that someone is shooting shifters and her brother is implicated. Or at least, it says he is on the back of the book but I didn't feel that came across particularly well. In fact, the culprit is a minor character who appears to have the red shirt role. At the end, I felt a bit cheated by the resolution of the plot.

In spite of these major problems, I did still enjoy Dead as a Doornail. It's an easy read and not very long. It's fun and undemanding.

2 comments:

Rambling Scribbler said...

I love the TV show, and cannot wait for the new season. And like you I enjoyed the series so much that I thought to try out the first book. I'm sorry to say I could not get past the first half. Although Sookie is protagonist, she is one of my least favorite characters in the tv series and, honestly, the book being from her narrative did not make that any better.
I feel that the show also portrays the male characters much better than the female ones. Most of the people I talk to about this show say the same thing, that the male characters are more interesting than the female ones, so I'm not that surprised that the same holds true for the books as well.
I don't like to put down books I haven't read, but your review enforced my belief that it's okay that I didn't try harder to read the series.

Victoria Snelling said...

It's absolutely ok! I have persevered because at the moment I commute for three hours a day on the train, and so I have a lot of reading time. That means I can treat reading as a 'writer's improvement programme'! But if I didn't have that commute, I might not have read beyond the first one.

Love True Blood. I think all the characters are better than the books. The men might be more interesting - but that's a criticism that can be levelled at a lot of TV.

I'm pleased that my review was helpful. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!