Sunday, November 23, 2008

print versus screen: true blood

in honor of today's finale of "true blood" i thought comparing the show to the original charlaine harris novels would make an excellent topic for my print versus screen feature. the sookie stackhouse/southern vampire series currently spans a total of eight full length novels and a handful of related novellas/short stories. i've read all the full length novels, and plan to catch up with the short stories at some point. a ninth book in the series is scheduled to be published in may 2009, which i personally cannot wait to read.

because the events in the first season of "true blood" correspond to the events that take place in the first sookie stackhouse novel, dead until dark, i've decided to limit my comparison to only that novel and to speak in generalities. i particularly don't want to spoil things for people who haven't read the novels, but are enjoying the show.

there are a couple of major differences between the books and the television series, but the most immediate comes down to the differences in medium, the books tell the story, the tv series shows us the story. sookie is the first-person narrator in the novels, so we see all the action from her perspective, the entire story takes place in her head as it were. on the screen, the story by necessity must unfold differently. sookie can't simply tell us how all the characters are related to each other and to her, the show allows us to infer these things seemingly naturally.

i started reading the sookie stackhouse books while on vacation in italy. i'd been watching the show for a while and couldn't help but be curious about the book series. as i got started it was kind of weird, because the pilot episode was close to word-for-word to the first chapter. but as the book progressed i reached a point where i went beyond what i had watched and i was hooked. i couldn't get enough, as soon as i finished reading one book, i would start the next one. i was very sad when i reached the end of book eight.

it was funny to get to know the characters through the book series, and then to see how someone else interprets them on the screen. there are differences between what i see in my mind and what is portrayed on the screen. and getting to know these characters in this overlapping manner, well what i read ended up being colored by what i had seen, and what i watch now is colored by what i have read.

but i really love both versions. and i think that i will love eric best in both versions. i love eric in the books. i love eric and sookie and their interactions, their relationship in the books. and i think the guy they cast as eric is insanely hot and is as awesome as eric is in the books. i can't wait to see how they develop his character.

i really like how the show has brought sam to life too. it's at once true to the books and more complicated than the books. i think we know sam a little better in the show than we do in the books. because we see things on the show from sam's perspective, a perspective we're not privy to in the books.

the biggest, most substantial difference, is the character of tara. she is way more prominent on the show than she is in the books. in fact, her storyline isn't big until book 4 or 5, and then it is a completely different story. but tara adds another element to the show. she's the voice of reason, she struggles with the supernatural, mystical things happening around her. she questions it all, in a way sookie does not. and that is something very important to have on the show. because unlike the books, where as reader you are being told the story by one specific character, the show does not have a narrator. you have to believe what you see, but it is fantastical, and it is necessary to have someone willing to question it all. or to say no way.

in any case, "true blood" and the southern vampire mysteries are both worth checking out. they are intrinsically tangled together, but they are both truly good.

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