Monday, June 27, 2011

Hidden Depths

(spoiler alert for the most recent Sookie Stackhouse book)

So, stuff happens in Dead Reckoning, which is the most recent Sookie Stackhouse book. Not like big important plot advancing stuff...which I guess is kind of disappointing...but little moments that I think help hint at where Charlaine Harris is trying to go with this series, and that I actually think support the idea that there's a more to her writing than just cliched trashy vampire fantasy. Not that I'm trying to elevate it into being great literature or anything like that, but the books are fun and enjoyable and extremely why not analyze what exactly is in them a little?

I think there are a couple meaningful developments in this last book. The first is that they do a lot to clarify what supposedly makes Sookie special. Admittedly, this hasn't been the most tightly written plot point ever. At one point, it was obvious that Sookie's telepathy made her special...but how many thoughts does Sookie even really read this time around? Most of her interactions are with people who for one supernatural reason or another can't be read, which is I guess the logical place for her to end up based on the premise of the story, but there's been a definite shift away from exploring how real telepathy might affect a person's life. Then Sookie became (or turned out always to have been) part fairy, and that made her special because vampires loved her and fairies loved her and there she was getting all mixed up with both of them and complicating her life. But part fairy took a backseat this book too, and it turns out what REALLY makes Sookie special is the "essential spark," which might be somewhat supernatural in that some magical beings know it when they see it, but it can also exist in a completely mortal human being like Sookie's grandmother, and it's outward manifestations include crazily magical attributes like being nice to people who are different than you and being curious about the world.

The second is that they focus on what's really going to come between Eric & Sookie. This actually kind of follows a similar arc to the question of why Sookie is so special. The original reasons why it's problematic to date a vampire are dramatic and high impact. People will try to kill you, a lot. The vampire you're dating may even try to kill you in a weak moment. Danger is everywhere. But by Book 11, the danger has faded into background noise. It may not have gone away, but you don't really notice it anymore. Now the real problem is the emotional disconnect. Even a vampire who is not a rampaging murderer,* is still kind of offputtingly cold. For that matter, so are fairies. So is the whole supernatural world.

Which brings us back to the essential spark, a very human and regular world type of magic that is fascinating even to the supernatural. Remember that Sookie thought Eric would be angry to find out that he had become so vulnerable and weak when he lost his memory...but instead he was amazed that he had been able to be open to so much feeling? Or that at one point Bill mentions that Sookie & Eric share a certain vitalness, and that's what brings them together. I have no idea where Charlaine Harris intends to take the plot at this point...presumably Sookie ends up figuring out who her true love is, or maybe there will be a independent woman cookie dough kind of ending where she doesn't need to end up with any of them, but I think many there are many possibly endings that could flow organically from this point (and there could always be a completely stupid, Veronica Mars style end too). I'm pretty sure in one way or another it will end up being about the essential spark though. Which is really kind of cool.

*and in the Sookie Stackhouse universe...remarkably few of them are. Eric & Pam don't reminisce about past massacres the way Spike & Angel did. You get the feeling that life as a vampire, even before the great reveal, was always a bit more like being in the mob than being the living embodiment of evil. Interestingly, this seems to be an area where the True Blood tv show has decided to diverge from the books.

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