Given that it’s almost True Blood season, I found myself moderately excited—moderately—for the newest Sookie Stackhouse book, Deadlocked, which came out earlier this month. I say moderately because I am of the humble opinion that Harris has been phoning it in for a few years now, and/or ran out of supernatural creatures to cast in her increasingly redundant series.
Phoning it in can be a death knell for any author—to be discussed further when I review the latest Augusten Burroughs book, whose lack of substance is depressing me greatly. But Harris—as much as I love the fact that she’s inadvertently generated one of the most ridiculously fun shows on television—didn’t have much room to fall. The Sookie Stackhouse books are like Anne Rice for dimwits, and rival Twilight for the title of worst-written vampire series of all time (editor’s note: I have read about three vampires series and thus am wildly unqualified to make this claim.)
In a nutshell, this is how a Sookie Stackhouse novel goes:
1. Sookie spends 10 pages describing to you the details of her life (an increasingly ridiculous waste of real estate, since no one one Earth would be bothering with Book 11 or 254 or whatever this one is, had they not read the preceding 10 titles.) Those details include her place of employment, her proclivity for tanning and ponytails, and the fact that she’s telepathic. (The fact that she’s fucking annoying isn’t included in this roundup, but for newbies to the series, let me tell you: she is.)
2. Somewhere around page 30, something traumatic happens to Sookie or one of her friends. Traumatic events can include someone going missing, someone trying to kill Sookie, someone dying in Sookie’s immediate vicinity, or some sort of overwrought vampire political conundrum affecting Sookie.
3. Sookie gets dragged into said traumatic happening, either because she’s dating a vampire (which she usually is) or because of her telepathic ability.
4. Pause in traumatic happenings for some exploration of Sookie’s current relationship status. Sookie is dating someone about 90% of the time, and when she’s not dating someone (frankly, even when she is) has somehow corralled the interest of between 1 and 3 additional “people” (werewolves, vampires and fairies included.) Cue sex scene where Sookie refers to her “lady parts” or something equally absurd.
5. Resumption of mystery-solving. Sookie and her friends develop some sort of crazy scheme to get themselves out of trouble, or to wreak vengeance on whoever is responsible for the traumatic happening outlined in #2.
6. Execution of crazy scheme. People and supernatural creatures die; Sookie somehow prevails despite being human and annoying.
7. Sookie resumes consideration of her current relationship status, and book ends on a vaguely optimistic note, where things “go back to normal” but Sookie’s imminent breakup or switching of boyfriends is implied.
Deadlocked is no exception to the rule. The traumatic event du jour is a dead human found outside of a party being hosted by Eric (Sookie’s current vampire boyfriend, who is a “sheriff,” which in vampire politics means sort of like policeman meets mogul meets consigliare). Why is this person dead? Who killed them? What was their motivation? Is Sookie involved (obvi.) These are the questions that must be answered.
I finished Deadlocked in about 30 hours (of non-consecutive reading) because I read at more than an eighth-grade level. And truth be told, it felt more like a chapter of a larger novel than a book unto itself. Harris recently confirmed that the next and final Stackhouse book will be droppin’ next May, and after reading this one I can see why she’s calling it quits. We’re running out of people to kill, conflicts to resolve, relationships to question and vampires to date. It’s become more clear to me than ever that True Blood—the HBO show based on these novels—needed to go in its own direction (which it does, about 40% of the time.) Harris has kind of painted herself into a corner, and it felt like she spent most of this novel making sure to mention all 900 characters she’s created in the series so far, even if only 15% of the mentions were relevant to the plot at hand.
If you’ve read the other Stackhouse novels, add this one to the pile. Why not? You’ve made it this far already, and wouldn’t it feel nice to stick it out to the end? But if you haven’t …..eh? Maybe just stick to the show. There are better books out there (like all of them), and probably better vampire books at that.
AUTHOR: Charlaine Harris
PAGES: 327 (in hardcover)
ALSO WROTE: All those other Sookie Stackhouse books
SORTA LIKE: All those other Sookie Stackhouse books
FIRST LINE: “It was hot as the six shades of Hell even this late in the evening, and I’d had a busy day at work.”