Monday, May 30, 2011

Vampires, and Werewolves, and Faeries! Oh My!

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris.

Reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.

In the unputdownable eleventh Sookie Stackhouse novel, Sookie is minding her own business, waitressing at Merlotte's, providing room and board for two of her faerie relatives, and just being the girlfriend of the vampire sheriff of Louisiana when a Molotov cocktail is thrown through the window of the bar while she's at work. Luckily, she's not seriously hurt, nor is the building. Sookie and Sam at first assume that it's the work of militant weres, angry because Sam has forced the two-natured to "come out".

Meanwhile, Sookie is troubled by the bond between herself and Eric Northman (her husband, by vampire standards), which allows them to sense strong emotions in each other. She knows that Eric is deeply troubled by something, the details of which he won't share with her. And everything they do is monitored closely by the new vampire King.

The popularity of this series has grown since it was made into the television series True Blood in 2008, and with the help of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series (both books and films), the subject of vampires has become an international craze.

Yet vampires have actually been part of popular culture since before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, based on a folk legend, in 1897. Stoker might also have looked to John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819) and Carmilla (1872) by Sheridan Le Fanu. Then there was Annie Rice's Interview with a Vampire series in the 1970s and 80s, and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series in the 1990s and early 2000s.

It has been theorized that in the 19th Century, vampires symbolized the male as a predator versus the innocence of the female in a "paternalist world in which women were constantly threatened by seducers, and the consequences of pregnancy outside of marriage really were life and death"*.

And today? Grady Hendrix on Slate says "Many male vampires are portrayed in popular media as sensitive, literate and emotionally available, the ideal for a lot of women."

Though Eric Northman may be literate and is very sensitive to Sookie due to their special bond, he is definitely not emotionally available. This is especially evident in Dead Reckoning as he refuses to tell Sookie what is disturbing him until she finally guesses. Of course, Sookie doesn't open up to Eric much, either, but it can be argued that she's just a woman trying to cope with an unusual amount of stress.

What do you think?

*Peter Logan, Professor of English at Temple University, Philadelphia.


  1. I read Interview with a Vampire when it first came out and thought it was a great story. I haven't read any vampire books since, but I think a huge part of the cultural fascination with the genre is the concept of immortality. It's also a rather seductive (nonlethal) form of cannibalism.

  2. I hadn't thought of the cannibalism aspect before, L.J.!

  3. I videotaped the movie long ago, and never got around to watching it, and then we moved and ditched all our old tapes. Can't say the vampire craze has done anything for me. But then, I didn't read the Harry Potter series, either. And, dare I confess, I haven't read Jane Austen either.

  4. I remember Interview with a Vampire. As for the others, let's just say I haven't been bitten. I think I watched a little bit of BLADE though. Wasn't that vampire hunters?

    The vampires of my youth were horrible looking. If that's what the cost of immortality was, you could keep it. But it looks like there's been a major makeover . . .


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.