Review of Dead Until Dark By Charlaine Harris

SFFaudio Review

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisDead Until Dark
By Charlaine Harris; Read by Christine Marshall & William Dufris
1 MP3-CD – 10 Hours 31 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390018
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Mystery / Romance / Vampires / Telepathy /

Roadhouse waitress Sookie Stackhouse has a problem: she can read minds. And who wants to go on a date with a guy when you can’t get near him without seeing the images of yourself flitting through his head. It was just easier to stay home and watch TV. Until the night she got a bottle of beer for a new customer and found one man whose mind was a blank wall to her. What difference did it make that he was a vampire?

Dead Until Dark is the first book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mystery series.

Told in the first person through our viewpoint character Sookie Stackhouse, we get a slice of life story small town southern USA. The only difference is that’s part horror, part fantasy and part mystery. The horror element comes in with the vampires.

Sookie, our southern belle viewpoint character, lives in a pretty normal world with her grandmother in an old house. She waitresses at the local bar. There are just a few things that make Sookie different from thousands of real life women like her. She’s “disabled” with telepathy and has been since childhood. Oh and vampires not only exist but are quite common. You see, vampires, in this otherwise normal world have ‘come out of the coffin’ as it were, and thanks to new federal legislation are to be treated as regular human people with rights and responsibilities under the law. It’s now illegal to kill vampires, either by staking them or draining them for their healing blood. And of course they’re not allowed to attack humans and this is all possible thanks to the new artificial blood products designed to keep them alive. But not everything is in equilibrium in this world, a few human “fangbangers” slavishly worship the vampires and some vampires want to keep their old status and be outlaws. So when “Bill,” a civil war veteran, returns to his home town and wanders in to Sookie’s bar the community isn’t exactly ecstatic – but they figure if he’s willing to “mainstream” they’ll let him be, for now. But soon old family feuds and carpetbagger Vampires stir up trouble for Bill and Sookie both. And when poor young women all over town end up murdered all eyes turn to the vampires and those who sleep with them.

I really enjoyed this novel; Charlaine Harris made a brilliant decision to tell this story first person through Sookie’s eyes. Sookie is a bright, fun character who loves the life she leads – even if she is a little lonely. Every other character in the book stands up too. The mystery elements start slowly and the plot creeps up on you. What I liked best is the originality, vampires and telepaths are nothing new, but the way Harris puts it all together is fresh and fun. I don’t know if I’d continue enjoying the characters in their further adventures, but I enjoyed the heck out of them in this one. I should also mention there is one historical celebrity, never mentioned by name, who turns up in a minor role, that performance alone made the novel worthwhile. It’s hilarious. One heck of a lot of the enjoyment came from the masterful performances by lead reader Christine Marshall. Her southern belle voice is so just much fun, she truly inhabits the role like no other reader I could imagine. But she didn’t do it all alone; she’s assisted by veteran reader, the always enjoyable William Dufris. Dufris shows an even broader range than I’ve ever heard from him before. You’d swear there were half a dozen male actors reading his lines. Sound quality is as good as anything I’ve heard on mp3, this is high bit-rate easy access fun listening in a slick package. Recording levels are high and Paperback Digital has their own introductory music. Track spacing is also good. Together they do an absolutely marvelous job in performing Harris’s sparkling prose. I’d venture to say this is the best novel yet from newly minted audiobook publisher Paperback Digital.

Paperback Digital hired artist Jason B. Parker to do the cover art for each of their novel releases. When I first saw them I wasn’t too impressed with Parker’s covers, but the more I see the more I like them. Either he’s getting better or my tastes are changing! I’ve here reviewed the mp3-cd version this is audiobook, it is also available via download from both Fictionwise.com and the Paperback Digital website. Hardcopies (mp3-cds) come in DVD style cases with insert paper covers, CD-Roms come with disc art. Downloads are slightly less expensive but nearly as easy to load onto an mp3 player. A must listen for any fantasy fan who’s happy to have a little romance thrown in.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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