Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris

I admit I love vampire stories. Ever since I saw Christopher Lee as Dracula in a number of those unforgettable Hammer Horror movies, I have loved vampire and horror stories. So, I bought the first book of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead Until Dark in order to get my vampire fix. In fact, I have not read a vampire story in quite some time, and this one happened to be on the top of my very very big unread pile of books.

Vampires are out in the open. Their thirst for blood can be quenched by a synthetic blood product, named True Blood. Of course not everyone plays by the rules, but that's a tale for another day. Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in Bon Temps, a small city in the Southern States of the US. Sookie has what she calls a "disability": she can read minds. Enter Bill Compton, whose mind Sookie cannot read. Why? Because Bill has a "disability" of his own: he is a vampire. Add murder into the picture, and you have an urban fantasy mystery novel.

Dead Until Dark is not a horror book; vampire books nowadays can rarely be put among the horror novels. As a book, it did not disappoint me; I was pleasantly surprised by some of the writer's ideas. I liked the idea about the vampire blood being used as a drug or what we learn about Sam. I am certain that Sookie's world has more to offer, and that this was just an introduction to the wonderful world of the night.

I loved the fact that the writer, Charlaine Harris, does not delve into unnecessary detail; Harris always gets to the point, giving the amount of detail that is needed for the story. I did feel that some characters were either underused or not well developed, like Sam for example. I am certain that Sam has a great backstory to his character. I certainly hope he has!. Also, I think that the trio of vampires were also underused, and might have given a bit of more spark to the story, if their relationship to Bill was disclosed or something similar. Another character I thought may need additional characterization, and might also be a more central character is the detective Andy Bellefleur. But it might be that those stories are going to be left for another one of the books.

All in all, I regard this to be an introduction to Sookie's world. And I expect more from the next books in the series. I have not watched the HBO TV series that the books have spawned; I probably will after I have read more of the books, and can compare it to the series.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan

This is the second book in the Percy Jackson series. Another well-written book; there is a huge flaw in this one, to which we will come later. First a few words about the book's story.

During the school year, Percy finds a new friend: Tyson. But Tyson is not any mortal child; Tyson is also a son of gods, but of the monstruous persuasion. Tyson is a Cyclops, and half-brother to Percy. But enough, about Tyson; back to our story. Percy arrives to Camp Half-Blood and finds Thalia's tree has been poisoned, and Chiron sacked because all suspicions fell on him. Camp Half-Blood is in danger; with the poisoning of the tree and the land, its magical protections are failing, and monsters attack the camp all the time.

The only thing that can save the tree, and restore the land, is the Golden Fleece. But where is it located? And what does the Golden Fleece have to do with Grover? Percy is going on another adventure, to find the Golden Fleece, rescue Grover, restore Camp Half-Blood and find out who poisoned Thalia's tree. This adventure will take him right in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, or as the half-bloods and gods and assorted monsters call it, the Sea of Monsters. A number of mythological monsters will parade from the pages of the book; we will follow Percy into an ancient Greek adventure, set into modern times.

Now, however, as someone who has been raised in Greece, and always loved the Ancient Greek mythology, I must point out one particular flaw in this children's book: when Annabeth explains about the Golden Fleece, she says that the Golden Ram had carried Cadmus and his sister Europa, who fell while carried. But this is wrong, as the ram carried the brother and sister Phrixus and Helle; it was the girl Helle that fell in the sea from the ram, and the part of the sea where Helle fell and drowned in the strait, named Hellespont in her honour, according to mythology. Cadmus in fact, was the brother of Europa and father of Ino. Ino was the jealous stepmother of Phrixus and Helle, and why the two children had to flee carried by the Golden Ram. Europa is the woman abducted by Zeus in bull form, and the woman from which Europe got its name.

The rest of the book, as far as I could tell, did not have any more mistakes, as far as Greek mythology goes. Of course, I am not an expert, and there might be something that escaped me.

Generally, however, the book is enjoyable, and can be read by children and adults alike. What I like in this particular series of books, is the fact that the books may spark interest in Greek mythology, and gently guide children to read more about, not just mythology, but ancient civilizations as well. From the shores of the Nile to Mount Olympus and beyond, there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to be found and cherished.