The gulf between what we want and what we get is some kind of measure
of our happiness. The measurement presumes that we know what we want
and what have actually got. 'All Together Dead', the seventh Sookie
Stackhouse southern vampire novel, finds Sookie uncertain on all
counts. She certainly seems to have Quinn but there's the whole were-tiger
issue. And that's not even the biggest issue. Surprisingly, the aftermath
of hurricane Katrina is center stage as the novel opens. It's eerie
enough to read about Harris' entertaining menagerie of supernatural
beings as they immerse themselves in sordid affairs and inter-critter
relationships. The aftermath of Katrina adds yet another layer of
reality and unreality to the proceedings. Sookie gets called to use
telepathic skills to serve the vampire queen of New Orleans, and
it's an offer she can't refuse. They'll all be attending a convention
in the fancy-schmancy, vampire friendly Pyramid of Gizah hotel. Prepare
to have your perceptions and preconceptions tweaked.
As a romantic comedy, 'All Together Dead' is well-written and imaginative – but
not too much so. Sookie and her beau will most assuredly enjoy one another's
company, but not in an embarrassing manner. Actually, her current relationship
seems pretty stable, but everyone else around her is in flux, and the
changes are affecting Sookie. Her old boyfriend, Bill, is hanging out
on the sidelines while Andre is giving her some pointed attention. Then
there's always Eric. Harris has a ball complicating relationships with
supernatural powers and the limitations of those powers as well.
The real-world impact of Katrina is a pretty interesting way to complicate
the vampire politics that drive this novel. It's only one of a number
of rather interesting ways in which Harris creates a very weird sort
of dissonance that keep the Sookie Stackhouse books interesting. The
vampire queen of New Orleans has had her holdings trashed by the storm.
It's cramping the particular style of backstabbing and murder by virtue
of which she holds her place of power. All this is to get sorted out
at the vampire convention, with Sookie reading those minds she can to
ensure that those hoping to serve the queen are actually planning on
doing so. Of course there will be a murder.
More interestingly, there will be a terrorist threat, though it's never
posed as such. The Fellowship of the Sun, a batch of folks who think
vampires are best left dead, have threatened to strike at the conference.
As one peels away the layers of mystery, reality and unreality in the
novel, we experience remarkably mixed feelings of delight. Goofy romantic
comedy and slapstick humor are usually not paired with events analogous
to 9/11. But Harris mixes the deadly serious with the seriously funny.
The results are weirdly and enjoyably dissonant, and give this often-frothy
novel a depth that makes for a more satisfying reading experience.
The satire in Harris' novel is one of the major appeals here. She's very
funny and given the convention setting, she has lots of time and opportunity
to poke at her targets. She's not fond of the intolerant, and they get
richly skewered in her vampire-laden reality. Sometimes literally so.
Harris uses the undercurrents of violence and overt violence to accent
her jokes. She has lots of fun when she takes on relationships between
humans and sort-of humans, satirizing soap-opera romance with supernatural
Harris is an effective writer of dialogue, intrigue and plot. 'All Together
Dead' is, however, definitely a series book, and if you've not read the
titles that preceded it, then you'll want to do so before you start this
entry. Her attempts to clean up some dangling series plot lines, alas,
sometimes seem obvious and a bit rushed. But she never loses sight of
the core appeal of her books; goofy romantic comedies leavened with blood
and a sense of the dissonantly surreal. Religious terrorists, stone-fox
telepaths and squabbling vampire clans do manage to put a smile on your
face. Even if you wonder how long it can last.