Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reviewing the Twilight Books: Twilight

Hoo boy.

First off, to my regular readers, I'd like to apologize for this taking to so long. I can normally read through 50 to 100 pages in a sitting, but I couldn't read more than a few paragraphs of this without drifting off to do something else (which is rather indicative of it's quality, that I found reading old XKCD comics more interesting than this). Also, more than a few of these jokes and/or observations may be repeats of jokes or observations made elsewhere, but I know I'm late to this party so sorry in advance.

I feel no real need to rehash the plot, except for formalities sake. For those lucky few of you who don't know, Twilight is concerned with a girl named Bella Swan (no, not as in Bela Lugosi, as in Isabella Swan. As in beautiful swan. Yeah) who moves to a small town called Forks in Washington, only to fall hard for a model gorgeous guy named Edward Cullenwho turns out to be a vampire. Good for her, he's a vegetarian vampire, IE he along with his entire family of Cullen's, doesn't eat people. Better for her, vampires in this world don't burst into flame in the sun, they just sparkle like they're wearing body glitter. Best for her, he's in love (See: Stalking) with her too.

The book then meanders around for 150 pages of shitty dialogue until the plot shows up randomly, in the form of a one note villain who decides, out of the blue, that he wants to hunt Bella till the end of the Earth. 50 pages of avoiding anything happening later, he's dead, with no assistance from the 'heroine'. And then the end. Yeesh.

Anywho, I have now finished Twilight and am already regretting this decision to try and dig deeper into the inexplicable phenomena. One nagging complaint that started in the first chapter and held on throughout the entire damned thing was the rather incongruous fact that Stephanie Meyer has repeatedly stated she has no familiarity with her genre. This is easily forgivable; Hell it should make the thing more original. But that gets overpowered by her utilizing of some of the oldest cliches in the book. By way of an example, Edward's 'Arc' (I use the term loosely) from the first book is a nearly beat-for-beat rehash of Angel's arc from the first season of Buffy, but with the good writing and humanity sucked out.

Incongruous is, by the by, the term of the day. Bella continues to refer to herself as plain or unattractive but EVERY guy in the book tries to sleep with her. Edward continually says that he wouldn't wish his 'condition' on anyone, but there doesn't seem to be any downsides to being a vampire. Everyone in school notices that the Cullen family doesn't eat, drink or come to school when it's sunny out, but no one puts the pieces together or think it's worth investigating. Hell, when the 'villain' shows up, Edward and Bella have been dating for about a week and the rest of the family has just met her earlier that day but they're still tripping all over themselves to protect her.

The book is all horribly written, consisting primarily of drippy dialogue between it's two leads. This is compounded by the fact that of the characters, at least the supernatural ones, that they are the least interesting of the bunch. Not that the others are much better, all of them are massive piles of one dimensional cliches (role call: Pixie one, silent one, big lug, angry chick, overly-motherly one, father figure) but some of them have interesting backstories. The pixie one (technically named Alice, who resembled nothing so much as a pale third generation Drusilla) doesn't actually remember her human life and turns out to have spent it in an insane asylum and can't remember due to electroshock therapy. There's probably an interesting story in there, but it's run through in a sentence. Silent one (named Jasper or, as the guys on Rifftrax dubbed him, Evil Harpo, yes as in Harpo Marx) fought in the Civil War. Father figure tried to kill himself when he became a vampire. THOSE could be interesting, but the book doesn't consider them so, instead dwelling on the 'banter' between it's leads.

A much larger problem, stemming from borrowing so much from better works, is that Stephanie Meyer seems to have NO idea what made the originals great. Drusilla WORKED as a character because while she was whimsical and ethereal, she was also opportunistic, cruel and more than slightly crazy. Stripping away those last 3 leaves her boring. Angel was tormented because when he was soulless he was the worst of the worst, a downright psychopath and when he got his soul back he was constantly tormented by memories of what he did. Edward seems to act tormented, but there doesn't seem to be any damned reason for it. There's no dark past, he didn't even feed on humans in the past; he got raised on animals.


Brief sidenote: While it's not even approaching the creepiest romantic bullshit going on in the series, or even the book, the vibe I get from the 'paired off' adopted siblings in the vampire family is extraordinarily creepy. Though given that female vampire romance writers include Ann Rice, I suppose I should count myself lucky that it's just a vibe.

All the additions the series makes to vampire mythos are either idiotic or wasted. Aside from the obvious glittering problem, the method to kill vampires is ludicrously overcomplicated, there is no reference to stakes, crosses or the oft-forgotten needing to be invited in. Giving them all Superman level powers makes the whole thing a joke, as does the implication that being a vampire automatically makes you model gorgeous. The only action in the entire book, not counting the Vampire Baseball Sequence (No Really) takes place off screen while the lead is unconscious, though given that in the movie, all the fight sequences look like their about to break out into a West Side Story Dance Fight, maybe that's for the best.

Finally, while Stephanie Meyer understands that good characterization means flaws in principle, she sucks at putting it into practice. The lead characters assertion that's she's unattractive is laughable as is the concept that her flaw is that she's clumsy (securing her place as the biggest Mary Sue in modern fiction) and all the vampires are repeatedly described as perfect.

Oh, and while technically this review HAS to focus on a by-the-number assessment of quality, I would like to reiterate that the subtext, which amounts to the biggest anti-feminist work to come out of a woman since The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right can fuck right off.

I'm honestly not certain if I want to do New Moon. Reading this ranged from boring to painful and I'm not certain if I can bring myself to struggle through more of this, especially when I'm so busy. I'll give it a shot, and if I give it up I'll let you know.

Now to go watch G.I. Jane to counteract the subtext.

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