Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Thirteenth, and Last, Sookie Stackhouse Novel

DEAD EVER AFTER (Sookie Stackhouse #13)
Ace Books
$27.95 hardcover, available now

Reviewed by Richard, 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Sookie Stackhouse finds it easy to turn down the request of former barmaid Arlene when she wants her job back at Merlotte’s. After all, Arlene tried to have Sookie killed. But her relationship with Eric Northman is not so clearcut. He and his vampires are keeping their distance…and a cold silence. And when Sookie learns the reason why, she is devastated.

Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime.

But the evidence against Sookie is weak, and she makes bail. Investigating the killing, she’ll learn that what passes for truth in Bon Temps is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough...

My Review: Parting is such sweet sorrow. Sookie is not to have another annual entry in the Sookieverse after this.

I got my first Sookieverse bite in 2001. I was dating Andy, who worked at the Half Price Books near my house. I stopped in after work one fine afternoon to make goo-goo eyes at him, and his boss complained. Andy handed me Dead Until Dark and told me to go wait in the bar down the strip mall.

I barely noticed when he came in. I was hooked.

Andy had some troubles, vanished, reappeared twice, then vanished for good. Sookie, on the other hand, has been with me, amusing me, sometimes making me mad, for twelve years. So thanks, Andy, for the longest relationship of my entire life! Even though it wasn't with you.

And now Miss Charlaine has snapped that branch. She's whacked me in the readerly kneecaps. She's stuck the shiv into my pageturnin' shoulder. And, after I get my copy of After Dead this coming October, the what's-next wrapup of everyone in the Sookieverse's life or undeath, it will be all True Blood all the time.

That's not a bad thing, I hasten to add, since there exists the possibility in each episode that either Alexander Skarsgard or Ryan Kwanten will get naked, but the series is real, real, real different from the books. And I loved the books first. And I will miss the books.

I'm past the point in life where re-reading stuff seems like a good use of my eyeblinks. I'm well and truly past middle age...not a lot of 106-year-old men around...and there are squillions of books I want to read. Lucky me, in a weird way, that I can't work anymore as that leaves time to read. Not much money, but time! None of which I want to use re-reading even the most wonderful books.

The events of this book are fast-paced. The people from Sookie's past are effectively deployed to move the plot along while also tying up the loose ends. The entire ending made me smile through tears. The last line? Well, sentimental old fustilugs that I am, that last line was a dam-breaker.

Yeah. I am FOR SURE gonna miss these books, all Sookie's Jesusiness aside, all the moments I've thought Harris had lost interest or lost the thread or just lost me, all the emotional rollercoaster-ride queasiness...all of it is over now.

Unlike every other relationship of my life, this one ends well. I'm smiling because it happened, if also sniveling a bit because it's over. It's been a terrific ride.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

God Save the Queen (of the Damned)

Anno Dracula

by Kim Newman

Published by Titan Books

2 Out of 5 Stars

In Victorian England, history has taken a peculiar turn: Queen Victoria has married Vlad Tepes, who has turned the Queen, restored her youth, and given her eternal life. With the Queen of England and her Prince Consort counted among the undead, it's not long before it becomes a fashionable choice, and even a political necessity, to embrace the Dark Kiss that brings immortality. High-born and low-born alike have renounced their "warm" lives in favor of the "red thirst." To accommodate the societal change, most business is conducted at night, silver is in restricted supply (hide grandma's tea service!), and humans increasingly find themselves in the minority. In the midst of this societal upheaval, a new threat has emerged as poor, eviscerated vampire prostitutes have been found in Whitechapel, "ripped" by a murderer with his own violent agenda. Welcome to A.D.--the year of our Dracula.

Anno Dracula is an inventive premise that eventually collapses under its own weight. Newman's novel builds upon a reimagining of events that occur in the wake of Bram Stoker's Dracula had it been history instead of fiction. In Newman's Victorian England, the hunt is on for the murderer known as "Silver Knife" until he is given a new moniker upon receipt of anonymous letters signed "Jack the Ripper." Turning the killing spree of Jack the Ripper into a hate crime against vampires is brilliant, but instead of being the axis of the book's action it serves only as a loose framework. We as readers know the identity of the killer within the first 20 pages, but this revelation never creates any real sense of dramatic irony. If anything, it lessens the suspense that could have been created by a tense manhunt through the streets of London. The characters purportedly brought in to track the murderer do little other than show up at the scene of the crime and discuss everything but Jack the Ripper. No one character seems truly invested in tracking the madman. In fact, it's possible to forget the Jack the Ripper angle for entire chapters as characters fall in love, fall out of love, and engage in all of the social duties expected of the upper class.

The two primary characters (and it's hard to narrow it down to just two because you need to fill out a dance card to keep up with who you're supposed to focus on in this large cast--a problem further complicated by a constantly shifting point of view between chapters) are Genevieve Dieudonne and Charles Beauregard. Genevieve is a vampire elder, older than Dracula by half a century. Mirroring European snobbery based upon pedigree, she is of the pure bloodline of Chandagnac and looks down upon those from the "polluted" bloodline of Dracula. An undead philanthropist, she works in a free clinic for newly turned vampires, shows up everywhere looking beautiful and refined, and, for reasons that are murky at best, is asked to begin looking into the Jack the Ripper case because of her unique insight (of which she basically has nil). Charles Beauregard is a member of the Diogenes Club, a secret organization of powerful men who pull the strings in London society. Charles rejects the idea of becoming a vampire, shows up everywhere looking handsome and refined, and, for reasons that are murky at best, is asked to begin looking into the Jack the Ripper case because of his unique skill set (of which he basically has a silver sword concealed in a cane). Given that these two have nothing to do at the crime scenes other than shake their heads sympathetically over the gruesome loss of life, it's inevitable that they will fall in love. In terms of characterization, we're wading in some shallow waters. Neither character seems anything more than a fictional construct simply acting and reacting in ways that move the plot forward in a serviceable, if not seamless, manner.

In regard to the large cast of characters, Newman has considerable fun weaving historical and fictional characters into the plot. Bram and Florence Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Beatrix Potter, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Mina Harker, and several Victorian societal and political luminaries either make appearances or are alluded to throughout. Even Lestat de Lioncourt makes a brief appearance as a foppish rebel against the Christians who denounce the rise of the undead. Now, initially this might sound like fun, but these characters make appearances so brief that they don't really add anything to the narrative. It's name-dropping in lieu of a clever conceit; basically, it's the literary equivalent of spotting Angelina Jolie in a crowded airport, snapping a photo as she whisks through the terminal, and then boring everyone for the rest of your life with a photo of the back of her head. And, in grandiose terms, you shall forever refer to this event as "the day I met Angelina Jolie."

The book is not entirely without its merits and I can certainly see where hardcore Dracula fans or Victorian Era Anglophiles would enjoy the hell out of this. As for me, it was a marvelously ingenious idea that ultimately felt as cold and stiff as a vampire sleeping it off in his crypt. The absence of Dracula until the last 20 pages also added to the disappointment and, while the scene in which Genevieve and Charles finally visit the vampire court is horrifically twisted, I was disappointed in the anticlimactic ending that was over with too quickly and easily.