The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Vampire Smackdown! Harris vs. Harrison

Does Sookie Stackhouse rule? Is it happening in The Hollows? How on earth did I end up reading all these vampire books, anyway?

Let’s answer that last question first, then we’ll get down to the business of comparing the two series. Back in the 1980s and 90s, I read the Anne Rice vampire books until Rice’s storytelling became awful. (Her first books were very good.) So when my now-defunct book group decided to read the first Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris, I agreed. And I read further into the series, having enjoyed that first book. Later, when I started my food blog, I Hate Tomatoes! , a friend suggested I read Kim Harrison’s series, The Hollows, in which tomatoes are the source of all evil, at least to the human characters. And so I did. And here we are.

And I thought I’d do a vampire smackdown, comparing the two series, since they are both fairly popular. Granted, the protagonist of The Hollows is a witch. But she’s surrounded by vampires, including her business partner, and the Sookie Stackhouse series has non-vampires, so it sort of evens out. Details, details.

Which is my favorite????

The Hollows.

Why? As it so often does with me, it becomes a matter of the characters.

I will say that this is by no means a slam on Harris and her dark little world. I find her to be an imaginative writer with an endearing heroine, and obviously many others agree because of her book sales and the fact that she’s got the HBO series. I also find her to be a more precise writer than Harrison (or she has a better editor).

But The Hollows has more depth, and I find Rachel Morgan to be a more active, more understandable protagonist. Sookie seems very reactive, whereas Rachel’s mind never stops working. I like that. She’s a clever witch whose life moves into increasing shades of grey, as do most people who grasp life’s complexities. She shares her business and her home with Ivy, a lesbian vampire who is her best friend, and Jenks, a pixy with a charming wife (Matalina) and their 54 children.

I stopped reading the Sookie Stackhouse books when I became weary of the frantic action, the violence, and Sookie’s ever-increasing number of enemies, most of whom seem to come from out of nowhere as secondary or even tertiary characters. Plus, Sookie wasn’t very interesting to me.

The Hollows has frantic action and violence, too, but the pacing is better overall, so it doesn’t seem to be a race from one source of chaos to another. Rachel Morgan is a dynamic protagonist who accumulates enemies, friends, and frenemies. And there’s no guessing as to who is going to try to trip her up next. Heroes may become villains and vice-versa, but they’ve all been thoroughly sketched out and presented for us.

So I think Harrison wins the smackdown based on storytelling and characters, but let’s look at the vampires, too.

As for the vampires, Harris has a cadre of erotic mischief-makers, while Harrison’s vampires make me think of the Mafia, Hollywood-style. Harris’s stories are rooted in the human community, while Harrison writes of humans as the inferior majority who are pitied for their inability to appreciate ketchup and their lack of … let’s call it perspective and skills.

I’ve left off both series with both heroines having pissed off a whole bunch of werewolves. I didn’t want to read any more about Sookie Stackhouse, and I ordered the next book in Harrison’s series. So … The Hollows wins the smackdown.

And soon, I will pit Harrison against a mystery author who also writes about the supernatural, including witches and vampires. But for now, she’s the champ!

As for animals, we’re talking about series here, and each book is going to be different. Harris, for example, can have one book that is completely fine for animal lovers followed by another that has a lot of woodland creatures that seem to have died painfully. And in her books, you never know if an animal is really an animal or a shapeshifter or what. A dog is not always a dog, etc.

Harrison has animal characters, on the other hand, and she’s kind to them. Four books in, and I’m still waiting for Mr. Fish to do something other than sit in his bowl on her kitchen windowsill. (I am convinced that Mr. Fish will have some significance, but I am probably wrong.) There’s the rat fight in the first book, but that has a twist. In the fourth book, a kitten comes into the picture.

I am not going to declare a level of safety on these two series. You have my descriptions, and that should tell you enough.

So, Harrison wins the smackdown. Yay, Kim Harrison!

But who does she take on in the next round? (Not that twirpy Twilight series, that’s for sure.)


March 7, 2011 - Posted by | beach book, Book Reviews, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

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