Written by: Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris fans are the worst.
Okay there are probably worse fans out there, but honestly, Harris fans drive me completely bonkers. Fan-culture and the internet are kind of ruining certain sects of literature (an impacting them all). Fans should never dictate the art in my opinion. For that matter, boycotts of art based on the creators personal views is especially ridiculous. Judging whether or not something is "good" based on feelings about the character of the author is kind of crazy to me and if historically famous works were held to that standard then we would lose many of the greats. An authors background can inform the text but should never be used against it when it comes to making a fair assessment of the writing quality. A plot should never be changed to suit the whims of readers. Characters and stories belong to the imagination of the author and it would be nothing but intellectually dishonest to not write them any other way.
Harris fans have been whining for years, mostly over the love interests and who should end up with Sookie. Now it seems that Harris can do nothing to please when it comes to Sookie. Maybe an argument could be made that her story/writing can't be considered successful because she was unable to round it out in a way that left most any reader saying "of course." But honestly, I just feel sorry for her. I think she's found herself at a point in her career where success is threatening her creativity.
I had mixed feelings about the last Sookie installment, but I still ordered After Dead. As a fan of the series, I think this was one of the nicest things Charlaine ever did for fans. She definitely didn't have to do it. It was a very short, quick read. Most could probably finish it in about 15-30 minutes easy. Personally, I liked it. It was nice to have one more Sookie addition to look forward to and I found myself smiling and laughing at many of the character notes. I also felt some closure in getting to take a peek into the future and see where everyone ended up. I genuinely enjoyed After Dead.
Alas, my positive review is apparently abnormal. After reading several pages of customer reviews I found that (naturally) Sookie fans were appalled by this book and basically feel that Harris is horrible human being for publishing it. Here is what I take to be the general fan consensus (at least on the site I was on): After Dead is a waste of money because it's so short. An 11 year old could have written it (this one seems mostly based on the fact that some characters only had a line or two). It included too many small characters we barely remember. It's overpriced.
After reading the negative reviews, I honestly just felt exasperated. I feel like the reviews were written by people who just didn't "get" what the book was suppose to be doing. In light of that I have a few responses.
Here is what I would suggest that fans keep in mind with this book:
- This is an index, not another novel or even a short story.
Complaints about there not being enough plot or descriptions being too short are laughable to me. THIS IS NOT ANOTHER SOOKIE NOVEL. This is the equivalent of a reference book. It's an alphabetical listing of almost all characters that appears in the Sookie novels (even if only briefly) for anyone who has any interest in that character and seeing what happened to them. To only put major characters or to write short stories rather than afterthoughts would change it into something else entirely. I feel it's completely unfair to criticize Harris's writing skills just because some characters only had a line or two. The characters with only a line or two are generally not major characters and their fates are fitting. They didn't deserve more than a line and quite frankly those were some of the most humorous moments of the book for me.
- If you didn't like the ending to the series, there is probably no chance you will be pleased since there are no big revelations that change the way things went.
I honestly think most fans were upset simply because they were hoping Harris would "change her mind" about how the series would end. She didn't. If that's what you're looking for, you will be disappointed.
- If you think it's too expensive, then don't buy it.
Yes, it's a quick read. If you feel $10 is too much, that's fine---there are libraries, audiobooks, and e-reader versions that are less expensive or free. You could probably sit in Barnes and Noble and read it start to finish on your lunch break. If you are a friend of mine, I'll let you borrow my copy. Or you could always wait for the inevitable paperback release. This was one of the silliest critiques to me because it had nothing to do with the content of the book. It seemed like people were offended and assumed Harris was just trying to make another buck off of Sookie. I don't buy that. If Harris just wanted to make money she could continue writing Sookie novels forever and rake in loads of cash. Publisher's set book prices, not authors. A publisher is going to sell a book at the highest price they know they can for it without hurting overall sales. It's selling so they obviously got it right. This is a hardcover book in a very popular series. I'd be shocked if it cost any less. I wanted to complete my collection with the first addition so this was a non-issue for me. If it it is for you: borrow it, rent it, or don't read it.
I realize that this is sort of a defensive post and it may be a little heavy handed. Harris is not my favorite author, but I have enjoyed her Sookie books and feel the need to rant just a little at the unfair (at times irrational) standard fans hold her too.