After School Special

Review of Dead Until Dark

Hello, my lovelies! I apologize for how long this has taken to get out. It’s just that…it’s just hard to get into Dead Until Dark. It is not my favourite book in the series by any stretch of the imagination.  Anways, as this will be part of my Series Reread, please bring forth any discussion into the Forums by clicking the link on the right side bar and going to the DUD section. I’ll provide links at the end under the ‘Discussion’ heading. This Series Reread is done under the intention to stimulate discussion and reinvigorate our forums.

Anway, to the review! I’m starting with what I dislike and ending with what I do like.

More after the cut!

Imagine Sookie as that sheltered, bookie good girl at the front of the class. You know, that girl raised by her grandmother who doesn’t get out much, who as a product of being an orphan was the outsider and thus didn’t have any friends. So she’s a total innocent, she doesn’t hang out with kids her age, doesn’t get the sex jokes and double entendres you make down the hall to mock her. She’s an absolute baby. Now imagine this totally sheltered girl who has never had a boyfriend before get asked out by the completely wrong person. And then it’s a bevy of peer pressure as the guy pressures the girl to accept worse and worse things about him, because it’s who he is! He’s a Jet! And now the boy is getting this girl into bad shit and the wrong crowd and they’re into things they really should not. Drugs are passing around. Pretty soon it’s sociopathic behavior and the boyfriend is doing things of illegality that is quickly escalating. Oh, and remember this illegal behavior that he does is FOR the girl, because he loves her. So that makes it okay. And of course, in this shit storm, the girl and guy have sex at absolutely the wrong time. And then the guy goes on to demonstrate abusive tendencies that the girl never calls him out on, because it’s just the ‘way he is’. Oh and people are after this girl simply because of her association to this guy.

Dead Until Dark is one big after school special. I mean, you can just picture the hoop skirts, the greasers and the black and white film that’s all grainy. Reading something when you have a purpose is very different than for leisure. And to be blunt, the thoughts I had after reading this book the first time still stands. See, I picked up Dead to the World first becaude DUD was unavailable in Chapters at the time. If I had read DUD first, I NEVER would have picked up the rest of the series.

Why, you ask?

The Problem of Sookie

Sookie does not have her strength. Sure, one thing I’ve always liked about her is that yes, her life is difficult, but she makes the best of it and doesn’t complain. She’s a trooper. However, she’s not very strong emotionally and cries at pretty much every little thing. I mean, yes, there’s a lot of emotional crap going on, but she cries at the onset of every bust up she has with Sam.  Not only that, she’s a victim, a victim of Bill, of Rene, her situation, Uncle Bartlett and even when she stops Rene, she doesn’t seem to rise up in spite of it. What really made her strong is Dallas, she gained her stripes there because she had to rely on her own strength of will to get her out of a sticky situation. That’s one of the reasons why TB Sookie is fucked. She’s never relied only on herself. That being said, upon rereading DUD, I see TB Sookie as DUD Sookie.

Sookie is incredibly immature, the best example, being so angry at Arlene for shunning her baby sitting skills with Bill around and digging holes…Like hell-lo! The guy that killed the Rattrays isn’t exactly child proof. Should I also bring up his delightful friends? Plus, with all this, it’s just impossibly hard to get a feel for her character. I don’t come out of here liking her. At all. She’s not a filled canvas or someone I could relate to. I didn’t like Sookie or the series until Living Dead in Dallas. That’s when I was hooked. That’s when I saw a character I could relate to.

That being said, Sookie’s strength and pragmatism are evident in the first book. Her sense of self-preservation is there.  Her sense of vengeance and brutality if she’s wronged…by the Rats is apparent, she doesn’t feel remorse for their death by Bill’s hands. Her privileging of her Gran’s values is also apparent, especially in her ideas of charity and gifts. They’re from her Gran, who raised her all by herself and without much financial support, hence, she will not accept charity. It’s not so much that Bill makes her feel like a kept woman, rather that Bill gives her undue charity. Her Gran didn’t want Sookie to have an apartment and then drop off groceries, because that’s charity, but if Sookie lives with her and buys them occasionally, that’s okay.

The Problem of the Bill and Sookie Relationship

Secondly, I do not get the Bill/Sookie relationship. At all. Charlaine details their first few meetings. There are some definite ups and downs. However, great love it is not. I never feel at any point that Sookie really actually loves Bill. Especially when I have to deal with the rushed, under developed relationship between the two of them. We get some realistic basis in the beginning with how they meet. There’s a slight interest, they talk, they like each other, they back off when things get weird. You know…deaths, the wrong crowd of vampy friends… And then BAM! They’re having sex and professing their love for each other. Exactly what happened to Step B? So right after Bill and Sookie have sex, I’m completely taken out of their relationship. I could forgive the first time, because Gran just died and she’s totally emotional, but then they just keep doing it…and doing it…and it’s like ‘huh?’ It’s just plain off. They hadn’t been taken to a point where it would be logical for sex to happen. They’d known each other maybe days, a few weeks? They’re in like?

I don’t see them get to really know each other or really bond, so their professions of love feel incredibly hallow as words. DUD creates a relationship I cannot invest in, in any way. Especially when I don’t see anything but superficialness on Sookie’s part. She’s with him because he’s a vampire, exotic and mostly because this guy’s mind is quiet. That’s not a lasting relationship. Sookie does a lot to sacrifice her good sense for companionship because she’s lonely and desperate. I see that about Bill too. Sookie is not only a means to an end, he’s with her because he’s lonely and Sookie’s innocence reminds him of when he was human. She makes him feel human and so as much as he’s using her for Sophie-Anne, he’s with her because he craves a human life. Sookie is using Bill too. They are mutually codependent. She’s with him for companionship and because he’s quiet, but also because he’s got the approval of her Gran, which is important to her. Plus, he arrived at the right time, she was totally traumatized by the loss of her Gran, so she clings to Bill because he reminds her of a time when her Gran was still alive. Gran was desperate for Sookie to have companionship too.

“Have you missed me?” he asked, his hands unbuttoning my shorts and peeling them down.

“Yes,” I said promptly because I knew that to be true.

He laughed, even as he knelt to untie my Nikes. “What did you miss most, Sookie?”

“I missed your silence,” I said without thinking at all.

At that moment I felt that no matter what this creature beside me had done, this peace was priceless after a lifetime of the yammering of other minds inside my own.

Thirdly, it’s one big after school special. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I want to tell Sookie ‘GET THE HELL OUTTA DODGE AND AWAY FROM THAT GUY!’ He makes my Bad Boyfriend Sensors go crazy. Not long after Sookie meets him, he kills the Rattrays. That in itself isn’t really the problem. It’s self-defence in many ways. The problem is how he does it and how he covers up the whole incident and Sookie becomes leery and uncomfortable at just what he is capable of. That’s a huge warning sign. Second warning sign? Bill’s whole ‘I’m a vampire, deal with it’ excuse. It REEKS of peer pressure. What he’s doing is not okay just because he’s a vampire. He chose to mainstream, he chose human values, laws and morals and yet, he seems to only want to play by the rules when it suits him. And let’s not forget is sociopathic behavior involving killing Uncle Bartlett, which once again unsettles Sookie. Another warning sign? Bill’s less than great friends. You are the company you keep. And taking that in mind with what Sookie had seen of Bill’s sociopathic behavior and violence, it’s like…What the hell are you doing with him?

You know…I didn’t really like Sookie getting all self-righteous on Arlene for not wanting to leave her kids with her when she had Bill around. Like hell-lo, this is the same guy that killed the Rattrays and your Uncle Bartlett when you said something…Maybe he wouldn’t harm children, but you don’t know for sure, and you’ve had evidence he’s not exactly child friendly…Yes, Arlene’s prejudice is at fault too. Not every vampire is cut from the same cloth. Stereotypes are bad. But, Sookie has clear indications that she simply should not put the kids in Bill’s way. And once again, after her exchange with Arlene, she tries to solve her issues with Arlene with sex. It’s starting to become the point of drug dependency or something…*sigh* Also the whole episode of her being pissed off at Arlene is really self-righteous and ignorant of Arlene’s role as a mother and her need to protect her children.

I question at every turn what Sookie is doing with Bill. Yes, he’s the first guy she’s ever been with, but she herself questions these aspects of Bill and just goes back to him. She truly sacrifices her good sense for companionship. She’s that lonely and that’s sad and rather unromantic on the whole. Sookie keeps on getting deeper and deeper into the vampire world and it feels like a descent into drugs rather than what you would associate with pure, deep love. Yes, Bill is set up to be Sookie’s first love, but Charlaine never develops them in a way where I buy that they are in love with each other. Why they are together is very shallow and surfacy. This is not a great romance or love. It’s settling because there’s nothing else. Their love is conditional. Sookie needs Bill to have a quiet mind, to be her white knight, to be a good guy. She has unrealistic expectations of him. Bill needs Sookie for the mark, but also because he needs her innocence. It’s something Sookie will outgrow quickly. She outgrows Bill. While Bill outwardly has adjusted to human life in the 2000s, he’s definitely a traditionalist, carrying his values from the 1800s and their Victorian sensibilities. You sense that Bill longs for the past.

The Problem of Bill

Bill is just very suspect when you read DUD with foresight. There are many times his behavior just makes you go ‘hmm?’ A big part of that is Bill’s lateness. When the Rattray’s beat her up, Bill is late, but his absense is never explained. It’s SO extremely strange. He never even apologizes for being late. It really draws a lot of suspicion onto Bill and given the fact that he was sent to seduce Sookie and give her to Sophie-Anne under any means, it makes sense. Especially when he kills them, instead of maybe getting the authorities on their case. I mean, for a vamp claiming to mainstream, offing people is very conspicuous. He kills them because dead men tell no tales. Sookie therefore won’t be able to find out they were glamoured into doing what they did. I mean, it’s developed that she can sense that in a brain in DUD, but no where else. I think it was done for a reason.

Bill is also late a second time. He’s too late to save Gran from Rene. Throughout the series, it’s established what great senses that vampires have, hearing, sight and smell. Given this, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that Bill could have heard Gran trying to fight off Rene. He could have used his speed to get to her and his strength to save her, but he knew that using that situation and having Gran killed through prejudice would only bind Sookie closer to him. Gran is Sookie’s rock, she values what Gran thinks and wishes of her the most. Gran’s last wish is for Sookie to have companionship. So is it any surprise that she clings to her relationship with Bill so much? It’s because he has the approval of her grandmother. Bill could have fought off Rene, but having her die was more advantageous and timely. If he fought off Rene, he might reveal something unseemly about vampires which could have turned Adele away from vampires and in turn, turn Sookie away from him. Bill popping back at the house was always just freaking strange and I get bad vibes when I read it. His excuse of changing shirts after dropping Gran off after the Descendents of the Glorious Dead meeting, while plausible, is kinda weird. I mean, if you like a girl, and you’re wearing your Sunday best, wouldn’t you keep wearing it to impress her?

Bill also makes me extremely leery of him given his association with Malcolm, Liam and Diane. You are the company you keep and the picture painted by his friends or ex-friends is very compelling. He was one of these guys. He was the guy that engaged in public sex acts, draining, terrorizing of communities as is implied by The Three Vampeteers’ dialogue and Bill’s own. Even if they are in Bill’s past, they demonstrate exactly what he is capable of and what he has done. If faced with a guy, a potential suitor who had ex-cons worthy of the SVU as friends and was one himself, would you really go out with him? Malcolm, Liam and Diane serve to show Bill’s dichotomy, what he’s capable of. They are a warning.

Of course, there’s also this little tidbit that puts everything in perspective:

“Oh, I took some night school courses in psychology,” said Bill Compton, vampire.

And, I couldn’t help thinking, hunters always study their prey.

Bill knows exactly what he needs to do to manipulate and seduce Sookie. All his actions were calculated and thought out to take advantage of her while she was at her weakest emotionally. Sookie was no where near ready to have sex with him, their relationship wasn’t ready for it, but she reached out to him in her grief. He used that grief against her. He knew that her Gran’s death would forge a close, emotional bond from her to him that would be difficult to be rid of. He knew that Gran’s approval meant much to Sookie and that just before she died, she gave their relationship the thumbs up. So that when Sookie was with him, she would be fulfilling one of her Gran’s last desires. Because without Gran, she has no support system, no one who could warn her against him, whose opinion she’d take into consideration. She’s ripe for the taking. Hell, if Sookie’s attacked, he could be twice the hero and the previous would still hold true. Bill uses Sookie’s inexperience and her naïveté against her. He knows that she has no real experience with romantic relationships or males in general. That despite her ability, she is still incredibly innocent. He uses that against her.

Perhaps the most disturbing point is when Bill kills Uncle Bartlett after Sookie tells Bill about him. How after school special is that? The guy takes it too far. Worse, she’s still with him? It goes back to that teen movie thing. Peer pressure. ‘I’m a vampire deal with it’ is exactly like when that guy tells you he’s had a hard life, this is him, deal with it. So he gets to be  a sociopath and suffer no repercussions. And then the girl telling him something offhand and him seeking revenge for it in a really bad way…Bartlett. Like, she might say, oh, I like that really expensive necklace which we can in no way afford unless we were millionaires and it all of a sudden being her gift.

Let’s not forget the graveyard sex. It was near rape. Sookie wasn’t really given a choice, she just decided not to fight him on it. It’s almost like if we get blinded by sex, somehow we’ll believe that they’re in wuv. It’s not happening. It’s disturbing. It shows Bill’s lack of impulse control, or any control period. So when coupled with this:

“What would I lose?” I asked, hearing the passion in my voice. “I’ve had the best time since I met you, the best time of my life!”

I want to scream. Yes…because someone is finally paying attention to you and giving you the affection you crave. Best time of your life? Suuuure. What? Your grandmother only died…but hey, girl’s an optimist. Sookie is blinded by her sexual inexperience. After they have sex, their relationship is totally forced.

“Why not?” he said, as if he’d offered me a drink of water when I was thirsty and I’d said no. I thought maybe I’d hurt his feelings.

Because it’s been established throughout the books…there’s just this weird abusive undertone when he says it. Kinda like ‘Why won’t you wear that dress for me!?’ or something like that…

Bill also withholds information from Sookie, especially pertaining to vampire blood. She doesn’t learn what it does until after Long Shadow is staked.  Sookie never finds out exactly what vamp blood does to her. Increased attractiveness…but is that all? She doesn’t know what it does until close to the end of the book. It definitely made her jump Sam…All I’m saying.

He’s not all that trustworthy even from the getgo. Isn’t it important to know what it does exactly? Bill claims that going to become an investigator is for them, so they will be safe from Eric…

“I wish I didn’t have to go, and it isn’t what I want to do, but what I have to do, for us.”

But is it really? I mean, it just ends up being a way for Bill to parade Sookie around and be like ‘She’s mine!’ and cockblock, albeit unsuccessfully, given that it gave his main rival, Eric, more and more contact with her and the more Sookie gets to know Eric, the more Bill is ultimately thwarted. It just seems like a big penis extension. Everyone ends up knowing that Sookie is Bill’s asset which really goes against protecting them. Eric fully acknowledges dual motivations for the blood bond and the marriage, but Bill sells his job as investigator as something purely for them, yet it ends up completely counter. Sookie ends up doing exactly what she would have anyway. Plus, my God that line makes it sound like SUCH a bad relationship.

Besides withholding information, he also likes to deflect, as seen in the hospital scene with Sookie and his whereabouts in New Orleans.

“Stop trying to deflect me.”

“Who’ll take you home?” he asked. He was standing by the bed again, and looking down at me with stern disapproval, like a teacher whose best pupil happens to be chronically tardy.

Even in the books, Bill is a paternal figure to Sookie, one she longs for since she lost one before her formative years. Not exactly great for a romantic relationship…He’s just socially awkward, like wanting to get a kiss from Sookie after she meets his motley crew of former friends and is in shock. Really, Bill?

This isn’t the last of Bill’s questionable behaviors in DUD. What is the wisdom for Bill dragging Desiree to the bar? Really all he had to do was send her back at his doorstep, why bring her to Merlotte’s at all? Did he do it because he was angry Sookie blocked him because of what happened at Fangtasia and wanted to punish her? Ha! Get jealous. That’s what you get for pushing me away after seeing the seriously freaky underworld of vamps. Oops! So after LS been staked over her and the freaking weird shit from V, what’s Sookie still doing with vamps? It’s a burning question that I never think Charlaine really answers for us because logically, yes, the vampires may accept you for who you are, but is it worth the bodily harm and the harm to those you love? THAT is never dealt with. Maybe not until DAG.

Bill also displays sociopathic behavior:

“Bubba told me part of it,” he said, and his face grew scary as he mentioned the half-witted vampire.

“Sam told me the rest, and I went to the police department and read the police reports.”

“Andy let you do that?” I scribbled.

“No one knew I was there,” he said carelessly.

I tried to imagine that, and it gave me the creeps. I gave him a disapproving look.

And there is just something incredibly creepy with the way Bill disregards authority. Just like that. It’s unsettling when you put that in place with the whole list of creepy behaviors. He further demonstrates sociphathic behavior here:

I gestured to Bill to draw close. He did, his face resting on the bed next to mine. “Don’t kill Rene,” I whispered. He looked cold, colder, coldest.

“I may have already done the job. He’s in intensive care. But even if he lives, there’s been enough murder. Let the law do it. I don’t want any more witchhunts coming after you. I want us to have peace.”

Amazing Bill doesn’t get that mainstreaming means abiding by human law…He does lip service to the fact he wants to mainstream, but he never actually ACTS like he’s mainstreaming. It’s all pretense. When push comes to shove, and he needs to do something, he will always resort to the vampire methodology instead of the human methodology he was supposed to use when he signed on to mainstream. Rather hypocritical.

And in spite of all of this, Sookie STILL doesn’t want to believe Bill is a full vampire at the end of the book. She never really accepts him. She blinds herself in a LOT of ways, she just jumps into the relationship blindly. There is no real relationship because she can’t fully acknowledge what Bill really is, which is why she was so hurt by his betrayal in Book 3 and finding out the extent of his betrayal in Book 6.

So when it comes down to it, it seems like TB picked up on a LOT of Bill’s more unsavoury aspects, they just amped them up and absolved him for a lot more of his misdeeds through the writing. I think in the books, we just lose the enchantment with Bill a LOT quicker and he’s a bit more balanced.

Bill and Sookie will ultimately fail

When taking that into consideration, I have to wonder if Charlaine ever intended for Bill to be the one for Sookie. I don’t think he ever was. The problem with Bill is that his issues compound, even in book one. He has accusations that he may have instigated the Rattrays attacks on Sookie, neglected to save Gran, kept scum as company, used his knowledge of psychology, Sookie’s emotional vulnerability and inexperience in order to seduce Sookie and give her to Sophie-Anne, pressures Sookie into accepting him akin to peer pressure and acts abusively towards her during sex etc… I have a really hard time picturing this as who Sookie will end up with regardless of how much he will or has changed over the course of the books. This is not Luke and Laura (Lil brought that one up…lol).

So when I’m already so unsettled by the situation surrounding Sookie and Bill and they having sex on top of it, the Bill/Sookie relationship really becomes completely tainted after they have sex. She has sex with Bill about five or six times in the book and at some point, it’s just like…we get it. And I’m just so over them. Therefore, when the relationship falls apart like it does over the course of the series, it’s logical and sound, because it was doomed to begin with. Even without knowing what Bill was sent to do, the moment Bill and Sookie have sex, the verisimilitude just disappears. It just feels off. Thus, the only way for the relationship to be right and logical is if it dissolves, because ultimately, it was never on strong standing. Bill and Sookie were never meant to have a lasting relationship and the impression Charlaine leaves us with in DUD assures that.

I mean think about it. You meet a guy, you’re attracted to him, you don’t even have a real date-date and your grandmother dies, and you have sex for the first time within two weeks? Something is missing between the development of feelings and sex. It’s not gonna last. Bill and Sookie were simply never developed in a way where I could root for them. One minute they’re attracted to each other,they don’t go on a date, and then they just have sex? And they don’t really feel anything for each other except for like! And what’s more, I don’t feel a connection to Bill or Sookie yet, so when they have sex…it’s just not satisfying. It’s just like ‘WHAT? They’re having sex already?’ Where is the build up? I understand the extenuating circumstances of her Gran’s death…but still, the whole thing just does not sit right.

And if you’re not sold on them having sex the first time, Charlaine keeps peppering the story with them having sex…so while the first time was hard enough the swallow, the second and third times are even more so…to the point you really are just like “I’ve had about enough of them and this really doesn’t make too much sense.” The first time they had sex was about Sookie’s grief…the second time, it was just weird. It’s like their relationship is very indirect. They have a lot of sex, but they don’t really know each other. They avoid communication for sex. The first time they have a date-date is after they’ve had sex. They go see an alien movie. See, the timing is just weird.

When Charlaine says they’re in love given all this, you just can’t buy into it. You cross your arms and go ‘Really? Really?’ And no amount of an author implying love with words is going to sell that to you if there’s not anything else backing it up. Before they have sex, there’s nothing about them that screams love. They’re in attraction mode, they like each other and without the dates, getting to know each other, really and truly, she jumps into love. It’s like one big, ‘WHAT?’ Their relationship really takes a sour turn after they have sex, because of the sex act itself which doesn’t necessarily have enough build up, but also because of them confessing their love…which does not have enough build up either.

Sookie is so desperate for love and companionship, what she doesn’t realize is that she doesn’t have either with Bill, not really. She’s confused because it’s her first relationship, she’s got no support system and because she’s totally inexperienced, but it doesn’t make that any less of the reality. Unfortunately, Sookie’s sexual abuse, her lack of good male role models due to her dead father and and poor brother in Jason, really makes her susceptible to Bill’s manipulations.

This is their love confession:

“Before I decide if the love is worth the misery.”

“Sookie, if you knew how different you taste, how much I want to protect you …”

And somehow Eric is always hounded on for his whole response to knowing that Sookie has fae blood…But seriously, it’s not exactly romantic. It demonstrates that Bill and Sookie are together out of practicality because of what they need from each other. Sookie needs to be with someone to not be alone and because she’s desperate for human companionship. Any human companionship. Bill longs to have his past and he’s also lonely. Being together achieves their utility of not being alone, but not much else, besides that and sexual satisfaction. You never sense a compatibility between them personality wise.

Plus, the nail in the coffin is that Bill and Sookie never really find a harmony with each other, they never fully ‘get’ each other, which is why you see the fights in LDID and in CD. They don’t really have a mutual understanding to begin with. Bill doesn’t lay off Sookie after they have sex and instead, forces her to talk about Uncle Bartlett. Sookie’s shutting down, not wanting to deal with her problems head on is from her childhood, her history of sexual abuse, but Bill forces the story out of her. And when Bill doesn’t get what Sookie is hinting at between the lines with Harlen in his presence at the bar, that the locals are about to go vigilante on the vamps, it’s more miscommunication between them, more misunderstanding. They never quite make that link to each other, where they just get each other. The relationship fails because Bill is clueless, he tries and attempts to mean well, but he just doesn’t get what Sookie needs and similarly, Bill is not what Sookie needs. She grows out of him. Bill never grows with her.

What I do like about DUD is small. This book never connects with me because I spend a lot of time unable to believe in it. Why? Sookie and Bill’s relationship are a big part. It develops into a big mess after they have sex because it loses all verisimilitude. Anyway…to the point!

Fangtasia

The world of the vampires has always been the most interesting and exciting aspect of Charlaine’s world. Taking Sookie out of the mundane world of Bon Temps into Fangtasia in Shreveport is the first time in the book I actually got interested. Fangtasia is otherworldly, interesting and fascinating. When Charlaine first ventures here, her world finally becomes limitless. You go in there, and you’re totally unfamiliar with that world, so you can’t help but take i all in and people watch. It’s this interesting social experiment. Fangtasia provides the best parts of the entire book.

Long Shadow provides the most interesting dialogue, and the most poignant.

“That one,” he said, poking a finger at Dawn’s picture, “she wanted to die.”

“How do you know?”

“Everyone who comes here does, to one extent or another,” he said so matter-of-factly I could tell he took that for granted. “That is what we are. Death.”

I always thought that was interesting that he said it to Sookie. And when you think about it…Sookie is so desperately lonely, so lonely she could die and that’s what leads her onto Bill’s path. No, she’s not going to commit suicide…but no one around her wants to really deal with her or acknowledge her existence in Bon Temps and without that, without socializing or people acknowledging you, you’re a non-issue. You might was well be dead. The interesting thing about the books is that Sookie finds life among the dead, ironic, but poignant.

An interesting thing about the scene where a whole bunch of Fangbangers propositioning Bill is that it really highlights that Bill and Sookie never end up on the same page, they don’t communicate and they don’t get each other enough to know how to tell the other person what each needs. Sookie needs reassurance that she’s there with Bill on a date and Bill doesn’t give it to her. Conversely, Sookie doesn’t send any indication to Bill that she’s there on a date date either. Bill doesn’t make HIS interest in Sookie clear, and neither does Sookie. Interestingly enough, it takes Eric’s overt interest in Sookie to make them both step it up.

Eric, Eric, Eric

It’s difficult to get into Bill right off the bat. He doesn’t jump out at you. Not only that, you don’t exactly warm up to Sookie right away either. I always got the sense Charlaine was tyring to find out who Sookie was in the first book, so it’s difficult to warm up to her too. That’s also a problem with the book, I don’t relate to the characters right off the bat. It’s completely different with Eric.

When we first meet him, he just jumps off the page. There’s such a marked difference in how Charlaine describes Sookie meeting Bill and Sookie meeting Eric. With Eric, there’s a clear attraction right off the bat from her description of him. He makes you laugh. Eric is a force, we ALWAYS knew what his personality was. He’s larger than life with a keen sense of humour and wit. He has charm, along with mystery and sexiness. He draws you in. We’re always wanting to know more about him.

The vampire he’d indicated was handsome, in fact, radiant; blond and blue-eyed, tall and broad shouldered. He was wearing boots, jeans, and a vest. Period. Kind of like the guys on the cover of romance books. He scared me to death.

With Bill, it’s more of Sookie’s interest in Bill being a vampire and Bill’s aura of mystery. He’s almost a prop at Merlotte’s, blending into the scene there. He doesn’t stand out. It makes sense as he needs to be stealthy, but he doesn’t seem to pack that extra punch. He doesn’t really make an impression outside of being a vampire. Before Bill saves Sookie, all their interactions seem snobby on Bill’s side. She doesn’t really help Bill out of the kindness of her own heart either…she was goaded into doing it by being brushed aside by Mack. He didn’t give her abilities credit and dismissed her, which made her angry enough to act.

When Sookie first sees Eric, you become aware why Bill wasn’t so hot on seeing her dressed like she was. He knew she would catch Eric’s eye, his interest and that’d be the end for him. He knows Sookie is different and in a world where humans have amounted to much the same, that means a lot. If you see this over 175 years, then that is truly amplified by over 1000 years, making Sookie THAT much more interesting to Eric. Making Eric laugh, showing her difference from all else of humanity is what causes Eric to answer her, to help her and even Pam is confused at first, but follows his lead. He humours her because of her difference. It’s what endears her to him. It’s the moment Bill loses Sookie to Eric, when you sense their connection.

“Hi, I’m Sookie Stackhouse,” I said politely.

“Aren’t you sweet,” Eric observed, and I hoped he was thinking of my character.

“Not especially,” I said.

Eric stared at me in surprise for a moment. Then he laughed, and the female did, too.

There is passion and chemistry between them from the very beginning and it comes off the page at you. Eric never presents a false side of himself. He’s a flirt. Since Sookie is finding her own sexuality and coming to grips with her sexual awareness, Eric’s overt sexuality scares her. He makes no qualms about masking it in any way. He is who he is. She’s also afraid of her attraction for him, because you know…he’s the bad boy.

She’s kind of like Kate from Lost in a lot of ways, except Kate is much more aware of herself sexually and has no qualms about using her sexuality against men. Kate desperately wishes that she wants the good guy, Jack. It all goes back to her childhood and her mother choosing Wayne, an abuser, over Sam, the good guy and her safety. It’s too bad that she’s got a huge attraction for Sawyer and ends up falling for him instead, the bad boy. Kate breaks down Sawyer and Jack into those two categories.

Eric’s always been something of a rogue, and the older he gets the more willful he gets.” Calling Eric willful seemed a huge understatement to me.

Sookie fears Eric and what he represents more than anything. Eric makes his own rules. I do believe he gets more willful though, because with greater age comes more power. So when Bill’s like, if I’m lucky, I might win, it’s like “Yes, Bill can win against Eric…who is 1000 years old to Bill’s 175. Uh huh. Eric who made an entire life out of war and battle. Eric, pretty much a professional soldier and landowner, farmer, horseman, sailor on the side…” Sookie doesn’t know what she really wants, hence her attractions and uber hormonal responses to Bill, Sam, Eric (though suppressed, she doesn’t like him, dammit!), JB and Alcide. In the last couple of books, she does a lot less looking around, for me, it talks of her commitment to Eric.

Anyways, while Eric can be manipulative and deceiving, I’ve always thought that he always wears his heart on his sleeve. He may hide the motivations behind what he’s doing or why he’s doing something, it’s why he’s a could vampire, it’s why he’s so cunning and devious, but his heart, he always wears his heart on his sleeve. You always knows what he feels, even though he may say something different.

Eric reaaaaally intimidates Bill. Hence why he went to become an investigator. It’s a big fat cockblock for Eric. Plus, he knows that Eric knows that Sookie isn’t really his. When they first went to Fangtasia, Sookie hadn’t consummated her relationship with Bill yet and Eric could smell that. So for all the allegations of mate poaching, Eric didn’t do it. Bill had no claim to Sookie then. They weren’t even on a real date. Plus, Eric knows to give it as good as he gets it. Still, Bill is insanely jealous of Eric, displaying a possessive streak.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, after a moment.

“Nothing,” I said, trying to keep my voice even, and I sat in the passenger’s seat and stared straight ahead of me. I told myself I might as well be mad at the cow who had given him his hamburger. But somehow the simile just didn’t work.

“You smell different,” I said after we’d been on the highway for a few minutes. We drove for a few minutes in silence.

“Now you know how I will feel if Eric touches you,” he told me. “But I think I’ll feel worse because Eric will enjoy touching you, and I didn’t much enjoy my feeding.”

Yeah…that really makes a girl feel better, Bill. Him getting the investigator job still doesn’t make sense to me. A lot of good that did. If anything, it exposed Sookie more to Eric and had the opposite effect of what Bill intended because they were constantly in contact of each other. I think Sookie eventually would have left of her own free will and there would be nothing Bill could do about it. Her attraction to Eric sort of begins to come out after Dallas in Book 2. At first, she just totally puts a damper on her attraction, she just doesn’t want to admit to it. At all. So she describes E almost clinically…but the orgy changed things.

And onto the issue of Eric’s thoughts…

“I’ll make a deal, Eric,” I said, not bothering to smile. Winsome did not count with Eric, and he was far from any desire to jump my bones. At the moment.

He smiled, indulgently. “What would that be, Sookie?”

“If you really do turn the guilty person over to the police, I’ll do this for you again, whenever you want.” Eric cocked an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I know I’d probably have to anyway. But isn’t it better if I come willing, if we have good faith with each other?” I broke into a sweat. I could not believe I was bargaining with a vampire.

Eric actually seemed to be thinking that over. And suddenly, I was in his thoughts. He was thinking he could make me do what he wanted, anywhere, anytime, just by threatening Bill or some human I loved. But he wanted to mainstream, to keep as legal as he could, to keep his relations with humans aboveboard, or at least as aboveboard as vampire-human dealings could be. He didn’t want to kill anyone if he didn’t have to.

Eric displays his sense of pragmatism. And unlike Bill, he is a guy who is mainstreaming and not going back on his word when it suits him. He sees that there is more advantage in him playing by the rules than there is with him isn’t. I’ve never thought that Sookie should be any more afraid of Eric than she is of Bill. Using the whole snakes thing against him is unfair when she went into a relationship with Bill fully knowing all his capabilities and having witnessed him kill two people and her Uncle Bartlett, plus hang around the Three Vampeteers. She sees the ‘snakes’ thing as a convenient excuse to belay her attraction…she can’t be with this guy! When in reality, Eric is no more violent than Bill and yet she doesn’t much use excuses not to be with him. It’s all Eric only wants me because of my blood. Stay away from Eric because he’s dangerous.

I really do think Pam and Eric orchestrated the whole thing to off Long Shadow. Eric is sneaky. He couldn’t just off Long Shadow without just cause. Here he gets it by way of Sookie and Long Shadow tried to kill Sookie first. I do think that he didn’t expect to kill Long Shadow right there and then and protect Sookie. However, if Eric and Pam were manipulative there…Sookie is certainly no slouch. The whole vampire in bloodlust sequence was just kinda…well…funny. Even when they barely know each other, Sookie knows how to work Eric. She’s realized he’s not all that into HER at the moment, rather he’s into the blood, so he deflects his attraction by calling Ginger.

Our Last Impressions

The last images in DUD are ones that foreshadow the entire series to come and they are very interesting.

The focus of the third floral tribute was a bizarre red flower I’d never seen before, surrounded by a host of other, more familiar blooms. I looked at this one doubtfully. The Sunshine Lady dutifully presented me with the card from the plastic prongs.

[…]The arrangement centered with the peculiar red blossom (I decided that somehow the flower looked almost obscene, like a lady’s private part) was definitely the most interesting of the three. I opened the card with some curiosity. It bore only a signature, “Eric.”

That was all I needed. How the hell had he heard I was in the hospital? Why hadn’t I heard from Bill?

Her not hearing from Bill foreshadowed their relationship. He’d never really be there for her when she needs it of him. The one time she doesn’t need him specifically, he’s there. Irony. Their relationship never finds its harmony or balance. It’s just not meant to be. The one that should send her flowers doesn’t. The one that takes the time to is the one she doesn’t want to have anything to do with. Isn’t it interesting that Eric has the forethought to send her flowers…the scene in the hospital was always very strange…our last image in the book is Eric. Even when the Bill/Sookie relationship was the centrepiece of the book, Eric was developed to be something more, even in the beginning. To quote Eric on TB, “This is the beginning.” That hospital scene really marked the beginning of the Eric/Sookie relationship.

There’s a slight shift when Eric sends the flowers and Bill doesn’t. It catches Sookie offguard and she has to reevaluate him a little. He’s weaved his way into her brain as this demonstrates:

“I was trying to think of ways to keep us safe from Eric.” Involuntarily, I looked at the red flower arrangement

The very last part of the book is a who’s who of the main suitors for Sookie’s affections, but it ultimately also signifies each man’s importance in her life.

A collie trotted down the corridor, looked in the open door, said, “Rowwf,” and trotted away.

Astonished, Bill turned to glance out into the corridor. Oh, yeah, it was the full moon, tonight—I could see it out of the window. I could see something else, too. A white face appeared out of the blackness and floated between me and the moon. It was a handsome face, framed by long golden hair. Eric the Vampire grinned at me and gradually disappeared from my view. He was flying.

“Soon we’ll be back to normal,” Bill said, laying me down gently so he could switch out the light in the bathroom. He glowed in the dark.

“Right,” I whispered. “Yeah. Back to normal.”

Sam is fleeting. He’s the guy that’s normal, but in Sookie’s life, he’s just sort of one of the normal background characters. He’ll never be the one with an impression. Eric is the one that stands out, that sticks in her mind and the readers’ minds.  He’s the thing that’s stressed. Eric is with the moon. The moon? It’s a symbol of constancy. It may go away, but it will always return. And fertility…*Ahem* He’s inserting himself as a presence in her life. It’s a beginning. What’s also interesting is that Sookie’s life will NEVER be normal. Even in the first book, it wasn’t possible for her. And the connotation is that things will never ‘go back to normal’ with Bill and Sookie now that Eric is in the picture. So when it comes down to it. Bill and Sookie were over in Book One. Bill is always fighting against the inevitable, that he’ll lose her. The rushed development and Eric’s presence killed his relationship with Sookie. That, and there’s also the whole after school special aspect of it…

Random Thoughts

Interestingly enough, draining, V addiction and humans using V are much more stressed on TB than in the books.

Was the dog Sam? You know, when Sookie is attacked by the Rats? This is never dealt with. A dog appears, but we never know if it’s Sam.

William Erasmus Compton. Has Bill’s middle name been used anywhere else in the books? Because I know it’s William Thomas Compton on the TV show. So…if it has been Thomas in the books, we’ve got another continuity issue on the likes of Claudette/Claudia and werefox/werelynx.

Conclusion

The bad really outweighs the good in Dead Until Dark. Yes, Bill is Sookie’s first love, but even without knowing what Bill is sent to do, it’s impossible for me to want to root for them as a couple, much less continue this series based on this book. They are just too problematic. Eric and Fangtasia are interesting, but the core of the book taking place in Bon Temps will be one of the issues with the series. Bon Temps just isn’t as cool as the rest of the places Sookie goes in her books. The best books are travel books. Let’s say… 5/10

Discussion

Please direct all discussion points onto the forum and this thread HERE. If you do not have an account, please sign up.

Once again, I’m sorry this took so long! I hope you enjoyed it. The pics started out as caps from Marishna on LJ.

~simba_317

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~ by simba317 on January 24, 2010.

12 Responses to “After School Special”

  1. Excellent review, Simba, it was worth the wait!

  2. I agree that the relationship between Bill & Sookie jumped to sex too quickly. But I see her isolation as a main force in this. After her Gran’s death, she really has no one. and there he is, with his silence. Plus, he’s good looking and has the charm and manners of the 19th century landowner, which seems to be at the basis of her Southern upbringing. Her Gran approved before she had full knowledge of Bill’s personality flaws. Lucky for Bill that she died before she got to know him better.

    For me, one of the biggest problems is all the Vampire blood Sookie drinks from Bill without being told of its properties. I’m not sure he glamored the rats, I don’t think they needed to be glamored to attack Sookie. But I can see him sitting in a tree watching until Sookie is almost dead, before he jumps down to rescue her.

    Apart from his directness, a big piece of Eric’s appeal is his humor. It’s used to take the edge off of Sookie’s stress throughout the books. Do you think that she’d ever realize that you can’t stay with a guy who not only lies to you, but never makes you laugh. Bill in pink lycra? Never! He takes himself and his image as a ‘Southern Gentleman’ too seriously, to put himself out there for her. Can you imagine his response if she asked him? “Sookie, you shouldn’t do this, it’s not safe. But if you insist, I will skulk around, not smile, and make everyone uncomfortable, so you will have to leave without getting the information you need, making your sortie to an orgy useless, except to damage your reputation further.”

  3. First of all I agree with a lot of your assessment Simba. But I also agree with everything Gaijin Vamp says. I was about to write what she did myself. I also don’t think Bill let Gran die. I think it was a necessary plot point that Gran die, so Charlaine killed her simple as that.

    Sookie is immature in this book, but if the books are Sookie’s journey, then she has to start from that place so that she can grow. Therefore, Sookie in DUD doesn’t bother me in the least.

    I think I like Bill a bit more than you. All of those bad qualities you mention: disregarding authority, killing those that hurt Sookie, his “accept what I am” attitude, all those things are vamp qualities, which I think Eric has as well. The difference between the two is Eric’s caginess, intellect and sense of humor. Uncle Bartlet’s death read rather romantically to me, seeing as Bill’s a vampire. And I do believe he ended up falling in love with her, but it was a too little too late thing.

    I mentioned the sex thing on the HBO boards last year and got flamed for it! It feels to me everytimetthey get together, he jumps her. I didn’t even remember the dates, until someone angrily corrected me. There was the movie and a couple of others that I have, of course, forgotten. She reminded me that Sookie and Eric have NEVER gone on a date, to which I responded, well they’re really not dating yet! Not even by book 9! But he sure does treat her like someone he cares for much more than Bill. Evidence the flowers.

    I agree Bill doesn’t seem to be set up to be Sookie’s mate, especially by the ending of the book: the floweres and Eric’s face in the window. That actually made me want to read the next book. I loved Eric from the first, but I love bad boys with a wicked sense of humor.

    • It’s strange…but my impressions of Bill when I read the series for leisure is different than when I read with a purpose…for a review. I started taking down notes of things I had issue with so I wouldn’t forget them…and when I did, it painted a completely different picture for me. I tend to enjoy the Bill of the books, but I do think the biggest issues I have with him are in Book One. Maybe it’s because he sorta gets put into the background a lot more in the rest of the series…but while he does have his issues, it starts becoming more clear that he’s well meaning, but all around clueless and a product of his times.

      In regards to somewhere, Sookie shows CLEAR growth lol. And I like the person she is now more than I like her in DUD. Eric has many of the qualities Bill has…but his qualities are shown in a completely different context so that when he does things, in his vampy ways, I can regard them in a different light. Bill just comes off differently from the text. When he kills for Sookie, there’s a sense of vengeance and cold blood, when done by Eric, you sense something of nobility from him, protection, a code, defence. There’s a bushido morality about him. Is that a double standard? Most definitely, but I think there’s a clear cut difference in context. Uncle Bartlett just has major creep factor for me. Like MAJOR creep factor. I do think they both came to love each other, but I don’t think it was a real, honest and deep love. I think it’s about loneliness, desperation, and obsession. But most definitely too little too late.

      Eric and Sookie have never entered a formal commitment, but what’s interesting is that they have all the precepts of a formal commitment and a fully committed relationship. Especially after ATD. In FDTW, you see them act like a couple, the kissing in front of Felipe, the touching, the little things that show intimacy. In DAG, they’re in a relationship, but without really being in a relationship.

      ~simba_317

      • I agree with you Simba, about the difference between Bill and Eric and the difference between the relationship between Bill and Sookie and Eric and Sooke. I’ve just finished the third round of all the books, so I’ve looked at Bill quite a lot recently and he really is a shit, and didn’t appreciate what he had when he had it, but IDK, I’m still fond of him. I definitely want Sookie with Eric, though I don’t know if Charlaine will do it. But I also don’t think she had deep dark ulterior motives for Bill with the Rattrays or Gran’s death. I think the Sophie-Anne deal along with the Lorena stuff was enough to portray him as untrustworthy. I’m not looking beyond or beneath what Charlaine tells us because if she found it important I think she would add it into a book.

        Agree with like 85%-90% of your review.

  4. Whoa. Made some very interesting points I had not thought of…must ponder this further before I post a real response.
    Thank you for all your work on this. Very fun to read!

  5. “I love bad boys with a wicked sense of humor.”

    Oh god, so do I! SO does CH, I bet! No matter what she says, or what AB produces, it does look like Eric and Sookie are meant to be together in the end of the books.

    I also agree with what Simba wrote. I see all the little negative comments that Sookie makes, under her breath, to and about Bill, and I wonder why she’s not listening to herself? Inside she knows the truth, but she’s in such strong denial, that she’s not trusting her gut.

    The question is, why isn’t she trusting herself? Sometimes she seems strong and capable, with valuable insights. Other times, she just goes along with what Bill tells her, even when her alarms are ringing. Just because “he’s a vamp, or he knows what’s best”.But she ALWAYS questions Eric.

    It’s like at a trial when a judge says to forget the evidence you just heard. Once it’s in your head, it’s hard to remove, and Bill got there first with his warning of Eric. No matter how often Bill is proved wrong, that echo remains.

    • Yeah, that’s the weird double standard in Sookie. But I also think that Eric came at a time when Sookie could no longer trust men. Not after Bartlett, Jason, not having a dad, Bill, Alcide and Quinn. And Bill has the distinction of being her first. She was naive and didn’t question him as much as she should and look at where she ended up. That’s why I think she’s much more critical of Eric. She wants him, but she’s afraid to give herself to him. She wants to trust him, but doesn’t at the same time, because of that ‘what if’ and what everyone else has done to her.

      ~simba_317

  6. On another note, could you guys please add the discussion to the thread http://bloodbondsblog.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=bookone&thread=120&page=1, there’s some nice thoughts going on there too. The whole point of me doing this is to bring up more discussion into the forums rather than leaving it on the blog, because it’s a much more difficult system to follow.

    I don’t want to have to lock this!

    ~simba_317

  7. Thanks for taking the time to do this; really enjoyed reading your perspective.

  8. I don’t know about the books as I haven’t read them, but on TB I am convinced Bill killed Gran–

    http://sunnynala.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf/

    –and he’s done a whole lot of other nasty things that will become apparent as the series goes on. Bill as “Saint” and ‘hero’ is pure propaganda, designed by Ball to suck people in and then turn on them.

  9. Hi!!! I read the 9 books. And Eric is much better than Bill. Bill is selfish, he didn’t love Sookie, he used her talent for his own benefit. And Eric really love Sookie, he is romantic, understanding, and is give her the best sex =)))
    You must read the 4th book, and you can see the real Eric =)))
    I can’t wait to read the 10th book.
    I don’t tell you anymore about the books in case you didn¿t read all of them yet =)
    XOXO

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