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Club Dead

Charlaine Harris

Ace Books / Penguin Putnam

US Mass Market Paperback

ISBN 0-441-01051-2

Publication Date: May 2003

Pages; Price: 258; $6.50

Date Reviewed: 24-05-03

Reviewed by: Katie Dean © 2003



Horror, Mystery

'Club Dead' (Charlaine Harris) is in no sense a serious piece of literature. It is a lighthearted view of a (presumably) future Deep South in which Vampires, Shapeshifters and Werewolves live side by side with humans. The story is told by a human, Sookie Stackhouse, who seems to spend most of her time in the company of Vampires. Unfortunately Harris' characters are not as well drawn as they might be and her plot lacks the impact it could have, but for all that, the book is great fun and a good 'light' read.

Sookie Stackhouse, the central character, seems to possess a gift for getting into trouble. She tells her own story in a familiar, colloquial style as if the reader is a friend. All her troubles hinge around a man, her Vampire boyfriend, Bill, who was planning to leave her for another Vampire until he mysteriously disappears. Sookie's confused emotions are a subtext to the book and one with which many women will identify. Being the third novel in a series, Sookie's relationship with the Vampire world is clearly established. As a telepath, Sookie is something of a misfit in the human world, but clearly very useful to the Vampires.

Harris has written a novel in which a basically human world is inhabited by three very different species. However, aside from the various physical habits of each species, the differences are unclear. This is less of an issue with the main characters, but can become confusing in the minor characters where it is not always clear which species Sookie is facing. The book draws on the familiar stereotypes; Vampires feed on blood, sleep during the day and are almost irresistibly sexy. Werewolves and Shapeshifters are influenced by the full moon, but have few other distinguishing features. In all other respects, these species appear remarkably human.

The plot of 'Club Dead' is also rather weak. Sookie Stackhouse is in danger from the very beginning of the novel. At first her enemies appear to be Bill's captors. However, she soon angers a group of Werewolves who may or may not be linked to Bill's kidnap. Such a large array of foes provides plenty of opportunity to create life-threatening situations for Sookie, but even by the end of the book it remains unclear whether there is any meaningful link, or whether Sookie has simply experienced a series of unfortunate incidents. Similarly, the great mystery surrounding the project that led to Bill's kidnap is rather forgotten along the way. Bill eventually explains his project, but by this time it is something of an anticlimax. In general, the plot appears to be building up to a great climax that never actually happens and 'Club Dead' ends as suddenly as it started, leaving too many questions hanging.

Despite these flaws, Sookie Stackhouse is a sufficiently interesting character to carry the reader quite happily through the pages of 'Club Dead'. It is not a novel that will stand up to deep scrutiny, but it is good fun.