Two Books in Two Seasons

While adapting a book into a movie almost always requires trimming of fat in the plot, turning a book into 12 one-hour episodes of a television series requires the opposite.

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HBO’s hit series True Blood is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries book series by Mississippi author Charlaine Harris. Both the novels and the TV series are fantastic fictional works, albeit there are significant differences. As the second season of the True Blood is wrapping up, I find it an appropriate time to break down and compare the first two books with the series.

If you do not wish to read spoilers, do not read on. Despite the fact that I’ve left out tons due to the already lengthy nature of this post, there are some spoilers in this piece. If you don’t care, read on ()

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Starting out broad, I can open up with the note that Season 1 and the book it is based upon, Dead Until Dark share much more than the second season does with its inspiration. In fact, the first season’s framework is almost directly lifted from the first in Harris’s series of Sookie Stackhouse novels.

Not only is the alternate universe the entire series is based in perfectly copied, but the structure of the crimes and mysteries in Season 1 are all lifted from Dead Until Dark. There are character divergences, some slight (Rene) and some severe (Tara), but the plot is basically in tact: Friends of vampires and fangbangers (men and women who have sex with the living dead for kicks) start showing up murdered in a quiet southern town. The town’s first vampire resident moves in around the same town. Intrigue and questions abound. Sookie Stackhouse, a barmaid in this little town’s primary bar, Merlotte’s, falls in love with the new town vampire. She is subsequently sucked into the world of the supernatural. Oh, and she’s a telepath. Sookie tries to crack the case to clear her man-whore brother’s name and eventually does when the killer comes after her. She gains many new acquaintances and loses some others, including her grandmother and caretaker, Adele Stackhouse.

This plot is the same in both the book and the show, but there are some big differences. Her best friend on the show, Tara, is not in the 1st novel (and when we do meet her in Living Dead in Dallas, she is nothing like her TV counterpart). Rene’s relationship with Arlene is different in the two media. Jason has a love affair and a stint as a V user in the show, while not in the book. Lafayette is an important character on TV, while he could basically not exist in the book. And many subplots arise in the HBO series that do not exist in the books at all.

I can, honestly, state that the TV series is one of few examples of an adaptation of a book being an improvement on the written word. While I love Harris’s books and am just finishing up the 5th installment, HBO has added a ton of interesting stuff in order to lengthen the story and spice up the plot. My only complaint is how the TV show could have overlooked introducing Bubba, the vampire version of the King of Rock. Elvis, as a vampire, is a fantastic character in Harris’s books, and he is quite entertaining in Dead Until Dark.

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While the plot of Book 1 and Season 1 share more than they differ on, the opposite can be said for Book 2 and Season 2.

Book (aka Living Dead in Dallas):

Lafayette is killed at the opening. There is a secret sex club. The maenad poisons Sookie, who is cured by blood drainings from Eric, Pam, Chow, and Bill with the help of Dr. Ludwig. Sookie and her vamp lover, Bill Compton, travel to Dallas to find their leader’s brother Farrell. She is betrayed by her hired help, Hugo, and captured. They save Farrell from The Fellowship of the Sun with help from crazy vampire murderer, Godric. Then Sookie goes to a sex party to find out why Lafayette was killed. She figures out who the murderers are, but the maenad shows back up and kills everyone by Sookie, Tara, and Tara’s fiance, Eggs. Eric glamours Tara and Eggs. The End.

Show:

The crazy voodo lady is found dead. The maenad poisons Sookie, Dr. Ludwig saves her. Sookie and Bill travel to Dallas to help them find their leader, Godric. Jason joins The Fellowship of the Sun. He becomes one of their head vamp hunters and bangs the boss’s wife. Sookie and her cohort, Hugo, try to save Godric, but Hugo betrays them and their captured. While in Dallas, the maenad moves into Sookie’s house with Tara and take hold of the entire town. After a debacle in Dallas, Bill and Sookie return to town to find that the place has gone to Hell and it’s the maenad’s fault. The maenad wants Sam Merlotte. There are mad orgies with blood and sex. Bill and Eric go to the Queen for help. The Queen is pretty lame, but plays Yahtzee, which is undeniably cool.

So, I guess some of the sotry is similar, but not too much. Jason is a major character in the show. Lafayette goes from dead to playing a vital role. The maenad goes from an interesting aside in regards to the sex party to the cause of the sex orgies. Etc. etc. etc.

Another season that has been more tantalizing and, overall, better than the book. While Harris’s frist two books would be about 7 out of 10 stars, in my opinion. The first two seasons of the shows are easily 8+. The show has had few disappointments, outside of Evan Rachel Wood’s weak performance as the Queen.

So, in conclusion. The Sookie Stackhouse novels are solid. Entertaining and well-written, in fact. The HBO series, True Blood, is better, albeit a bit more outrageous.

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Read the books and seen the show? Tell me what you think. One or the other? Leave feedback about your favorite and least favorite aspects of either the book or the show. Tired of my rambling? You can tell me that too.

In fact, everyone who comments earns a shot at a random drawing for 2 free CDs featured on the site.

~ by thepaintedman on September 4, 2009.

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