It’s been ten years and eleven novels since a sweet, naïve, smalltown Louisiana telepath named Sookie Stackhouse served a bottle of blood to a vampire named Bill. Since then, the places and people of Bon Temps, Louisiana, have become household words for many of us — from Merlotte’s (in whose parking lot the bodies are usually dumped, crucified, or staked) to the creepy community of Hotshot to Viking vampire Eric Northman.
Now, with only two books left to go before Harris’ recently announced series end at book thirteen, we have the ultimate companion to All Things Sookie.
As is true with most companion books, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion is a mixed bag of glee-inducing behind-the-scenes stuff and a few bits of “running up the page count” material. (Note: mild spoilers from earlier novels follow.)
Let’s start with the good stuff. I was always a fan of John Quinn, the big, family-challenged weretiger Sookie met in Dead as a Doornail and finally hooked up with in Definitely Dead. Their relationship floundered badly, as Sookie forced Quinn to choose between her and his family, setting off an explosive argument and an unresolved ending. Before you knew it, Sook was back in Eric’s capable arms and Quinn was just… gone.
I always felt the Quinn situation hadn’t been resolved, so it was fun to see an all-new novella here, “Small-Town Wedding,” in which Sookie goes with Sam to Texas to attend his brother’s wedding. There’s lots of tension between the townspeople and Sam’s two-natured family (remember, his stepfather shot his mother after she “came out” as a shifter) — and who shows up but Quinn. I won’t go so spoilerific here as to say how Quinn’s status with Sookie was resolved. But it was resolved, and since we have only two more novels before the series ends, it needed to be.
As a longtime series reader, one of the most fun things in the Companion for me was the “Secret Dialogues of Bill and Eric.” There’s a long, fairly snooze-inducing synopsis of each novel, at the end of which we find these secret correspondences between the two vampires in Sookie’s life.
(Oh, and for you watchers of True Blood, Vampire Bill isn’t nearly as big a factor in Sookie’s life in the books as in the HBO series, where he inexplicably just keeps hanging ‘round, although were it not for actor Stephen Moyer’s characterization we wouldn’t have the modern version of Marlon Brando screaming “Stella!” at the end of A Streetcar Named Desire. I mean, can you say “Sookie” now without the growling inflection? Sooooo-kay. But I digress.)
My favorite secret correpondence exchange came after the synopsis of book four, Dead to the World, when Bill’s and Eric’s competition over Sookie is still at a peak, and Bill’s work for Queen Sophie-Anne has come to light. First, Eric sends Bill a letter that he has helped arrange some vampire meetings for Bill in South America, at the queen’s orders, then wishes Bill a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, archly expressing surprise Bill is not spending the holidays with Sookie.
Bill responds in a letter that since Eric’s never celebrated Christian holidays, he is surprised by the well-wishes.
Eric congratulates Bill on being a “bona fide computer whatever-you-are” (“good to see those night classes paid off”), and says he’ll have to stop in and make sure Sookie’s not spending the holidays alone.
Bill’s letter in response: “Dear Eric, f** off. Bill”
By the seventh or eighth book, Bill and Eric are emailing and texting although, not surprisingly, Eric dislikes texting immensely.
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion also contains a few other interesting sections. There’s a chronology of the short stories that have appeared in anthologies over the years, and how they fall with relation to the books. Two trivia sections — one for the average reader and one for the serious Sookiephile — proved challenging. Do you remember Rene Lenier’s sister’s first name? (Do you remember Rene?)
“What’s Cookin’ in Bon Temps” features a selection of recipes, which Charlaine Harris compiled by soliciting fans’ recipes and combining them with some of her own. So if you want Burgers Lafayette, Sookie’s Chicken Casserole, or Caroline Holliday Bellefleur’s Chocolate Cake — you got ‘em. As a Southerner myself, I can attest that these are real regional recipes and I have Portia Bellefleur’s Sweet Potato Pie on my Thanksgiving menu already.
Finally, there’s an interview with True Blood creator Alan Ball, answering questions sent in by fans and viewers (amid much gnashing of teeth at too little Eric/Alexander Skaarsgard romantic screentime). It’s interesting, but this volume is really book-centric, and anyone who’s read the books knows that other than names and general concepts, True Blood is a whole nother animal and only loosely tied to the books.
All in all, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion is a fun read, a satisfying Sookie fix, and a good resource. My only quibble: I thought the book synopses could have been livelier. Case in point: the infamous Sookie and Eric shower scene in Dead to the World, which readers remember vividly if message boards are any indication, is summed up as: “They begin an affair.” Sheesh. Really? I mean, at least mention soap. The books are full of sly humor, so it seemed odd to have such serious, dry synopses.
Just color me an Eric groupie, and consider The Sookie Stackhouse Companion a fun addition to your Sookie library.
Suzanne Johnson is an urban fantasy author whose New Orleans-based series kicks off in April 2012 with Royal Street, from Tor Books. When she isn’t writing or agonizing over SEC football, you can find her wasting time on Twitter.