Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Dead Until Dark Dead Until Dark
by Charlaine Harris

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Alex Lindsay

This is an example of a sub-genre called “urban fantasy”. That can be summarised as modern-day vampire stories. Many of the authors in the field emphasise the sexual aspects of the characters, leading to its less-salubrious, but very accurate, name of “bite and bonk.”

Despite its modern setting, and the presence of a lot of leaping hearts and heaving bosoms, this book doesn’t match either description: it is set in a small town in rural northern Lousiana and the main thrust (sorry) of the book is the plot and character development, rather than the squeaking of bed-springs.

The heroine has the unfortunate name of Sookie Stackhouse, and she works as a waitress in a bar in a small town. Her talent for reading minds has seriously messed with her life up to now, and the discovery that she can have privacy with a vampire is welcomed by her. She tries to start a relationship but has to compete against the vampire groupies, whom the author amusingly dubs “fang-bangers.”

A serial killer is also in the mix, and Sookie’s brother is in the frame. She is involved in the usual alarums and excursions, and all comes right in the end.

The universe in which the novel is set is very well built. I’m a big fan of the universe which Kim Harrison wrote for her urban fantasy, and this is as coherent. Sookie’s first visit to Club Fangtasia is very well thought out: if there were real vampire bars in this world, then there would assuredly be rubbernecking tourists looking for the frisson of a quick (alcoholic) drink in them.

The non-humans are as real, and as varied as the human characters, and there are solid, plausible back-stories which make them all believable. A very famous human, about whose continuing existence there is considerable debate, makes a beautifully written cameo appearance and is entirely justified in terms of the plot. Than-you-ver-mush.

This is really a romance cum serial-slasher detective novel with a fantasy setting, but it is a very enjoyable read. There are a number of later books in the series should this volume prove engaging, and I’m told that there is also an adaptation in the form of a television series, for any readers who own suitable receiving apparatus and who wish to rot their brains by using it.

SFFANZ is a non-profit organisation and registered charity
designed to bring together fans of the fantastic in New Zealand

Contact us by email at: