I guess you can say I doubled down on the HBO series True Blood by picking up the first book of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead Until Dark. I suppose by saying that, I'm trying to use the generally acknowledged awesomeness of the TV series to cover for the fact that I just read a trashy romance novel about supernatural beings (and supernatural sex). Next up on my reading queue is Twilight.
No, I'm just kidding. Twilight is absolutely insufferable, in any version, and I will never read it. But Charlaine Harris is actually pretty great—the genius of the television series is not all on Alan Ball's side.
One thing that True Blood does not dig into (that I remember) that the book treats in quite interesting ways is Sookie's attempt to understand her telepathy as a "disability." Her ability to read minds—or to be more precise, her inability to keep the thoughts of others out of her mind—does make her seem "slow," and her fellow denizens of Bon Temps, Louisiana treat her as if she is "simple" or "crazy." There's a dissertation to be written, maybe, comparing her to Benjy Compson. ("Bill smelled like trees…"?)
Additionally, there is an explanation of vampirism that the book provides—and then discards—that I don't remember factoring into True Blood: vampires have supposedly been infected with a virus that causes them to appear to be dead for a couple of days, and then afflicts them with severe allergies to sunlight, silver, and garlic ever after. (And, of course, there's the necessity of consuming blood and the immortality—some side effects!) The fact that Harris toys with using vampires as an allegory for gays ("coming out of the coffin") makes this virus theory more than a little unseemly—it raises the specter of the idea that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus might be in some sense as fundamental to gay identity. I don't think that Harris actually intends this comparison (in fact, her vampires are susceptible to a specific strain of AIDS which can be carried by humans), but it does kind of sit out there more than a little awkwardly.
And I guess that awkwardness—and the awkwardness of having Sookie and others treat her telepathy like a "disability"—is strangely enriching. This awkwardness and these issues defamiliarize the vampire legends in the sense that they refresh the essential strangeness of the idea of a vampire. The routinized imagination of what a vampire is, accreted over many iterations of film and pulp novels, becomes more difficult to access—the Bela Lugosi or Anne Rice images and tropes effectively stop working for you as you read Harris's books.
Oh, and the book's loads of fun.