The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris
Published by Gollancz, September 2011.
ISBN: 978 0 575 09714 8
Review by Mark Yon
The phenomenon of the Sookie Stackhouse books (eleven to date and counting) in recent years has been a real success story for those readers wanting a more adult version of vampires. Though the books are not as explicit as the HBO TV series based on it, True Blood, it is clear that the achievement of both has been mutually beneficial.
And usually with success comes the spin-offs, the merchandising, the additions for those who want to explore more.
This book is one of those. As a Companion, it fills in those little details that obsessive fans just want to know.
Such details can be quite diverse. There’s the usual expected elements here – a miscellany of characters, places and key events, a detailed time line and summary of the books up to Dead Reckoning, comments by the author on how the books came about and what she was trying to achieve with them, and a detailed map of town of Bon Temps.
What makes this more interesting are the other elements. So, for example, within the summary of the books up to Dead Reckoning we also have some intriguing ‘secret’ telephone conversations transcribed between vampires Bill and Eric, which no doubt fans will enjoy. We also have Sookie’s family tree, a short story, an interview with Charlaine based around website questions (from clearly quite dedicated fans), Sookie Stackhouse Trivia Quizzes (thankfully with answers) and, believe it or not, cookbook recipes. So if you want to know how to make and serve Perdita’s Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce (page 275) or Classic Southern Sweet Tea (page 278), obviously to be eaten and drunk whilst reading the books, then here’s your chance!
Overall then, it’s a lot of fun. Often these books are produced with little thought or perhaps at best ephemeral usefulness, but as these sort of books go, this is one of the better ones. Obviously being written in part by the author helps, but there’s enough of the new and the unusual to make it a book that fans with knowledge will keep dipping into, but also might tempt those who have heard of the books/TV programme and have yet to take the next step.
On the negative side, not that there’s much, it is a novel-sized book rather than a coffee-table illustrated guide and as it is based on the books rather than the TV series (though the series does get mentioned and there’s a nice interview with TV’s producer Alan Ball) so those expecting glossy pages and pictures to illustrate are going to be disappointed. I suspect a companion TV series guide, not to mention a Second Companion book (that Charlaine is sure ‘is on the shelves’) may do the job there.
For fans only, perhaps: but worthy of their attention.
Mark Yon, September 2011