Thursday, 4 June 2009

Book Review - Twilight

Look, I know. This is for research purposes I swear. Normally I wouldn't read something like this. I prefer books about giant crabs or aging action stars. However, the phenomenon of Twilight is getting harder and harder to ignore, with friends and relatives of mine - women who are intelligent and responsible human beings - having read and loved this book. And for the straw that broke the camel's back, my wife saw a grown man reading this book on the train. Pubescent girls I can understand. I certainly had some dubious choices of reading material at that age. But grown adults? Surely this book must have some sort of Dracula-like hypnotic allure. Naturally I had to read it and find out for myself. Vampire/human star-crossed lovers, with blood-drinking as a none-too-subtle metaphor for teenage sex. Buffy pulled it off pretty well, maybe lightning can strike twice.

Bella is a teenage girl who is forced to move in with her dad in Forks, Washington (apparently the rainiest city in America) after her mother shacks up with another guy. Upon arrival at her new school, Bella finds herself the object of attention for several boys. This comes at a surprise to her and especially me, since Bella is one of the most vapid characters ever committed to the printed page. She is immediately transfixed by a group of aloof, beautiful teens, the Cullens. In the real world they'd probably be the most popular kids in school, but in the Twilight-verse, this makes them social outcasts. She is particularly attracted to Edward, the most non-threatening of the group, but she is coldly rebuffed. Eventually she discovers that Edward is actually incredibly attracted to her, but he's got a few internal struggles of his own (spoiler: he's a vampire). Then, over the next couple of hundred pages, we discover what happens when an dimwitted force meets an idiotic object (spoiler: nothing).

Edward's attraction to Bella is utterly mystifying. She is not particularly beautiful, with a sucking void where her personality should be. I think she's supposed to be mildly intelligent, since there are a few references to advanced classes though they make sure she hates math so as not to alienate her from her target audience. There's certainly nothing else in the book to indicate she's above average intelligence. Her singular trait is that she is outrageously clumsy and wanders obliviously into dangerous situations, like a lemming. This is trotted out again and again so Edward can swoop in and rescue her. Bella's hobbies, interests and life goals begin and end with Edward. Everything else in her life is a background murmur. Especially her friends, whom she drops like a hot potato whenever Edward is around.

As for Edward, well, he is such a fucking pussy he makes the foppish dandies of Anne Rice novels look like Blade. Sure, Dracula seduced countless maidens, but at least he had the courtesy to rip their fucking throats out once in a while. You've probably heard that these vampires sparkle in the sun instead of bursting into flames, and I think that gives you a good idea of how castrated these poor vampires are. I kept hoping that his infatuation with Bella was all an elaborate ruse, and any moment he was going to brutally murder her. But it never happened.

He's also a psycho stalker, something common in the romance genre but here taken to new extremes. He watches her while she sleeps and spies on her phone calls. He's jealous, possessive, manipulative and condescending. Worst of all, he likes 50s and 80s music and hates the music of the 60s and 70s. Really, Edward? Really? Okay, so maybe you associate the 70s with disco, but how could anyone hate the music of the 60s, one of the most vibrantly creative periods in music history? The Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan. Johnny Cash. The Who. Jimi Henrix. The motherfucking Beatles. Any of these ring a bell, you glittery closet-case?

You may be wondering what a vampire is doing attending high school. Well, it's his self-imposed purgatory, his penance for becoming a monster. It's a good punishment, I can't imagine anything worse than an eternity of high school. Also, apparently the family can blend in better if the "kids" attend four years of high school before they move on to another location. This doesn't make sense on any level, but it gives him an excuse to be preying on high school chicks, like a reverse Matt McConaughey in Dazed and Confused.

There's an inherent creepiness in a guy who is, for all intents and purposes, over 100 years old and attracted to teenage girls. Sure, the book makes repeated claims that she is more mature than most girls her age, but it runs contrary to everything she thinks or does. Edward finds her fascinating because her mind is particularly hard for him to read. This has something to do with her being more introverted than her peers, but by my estimation it's because there's nothing there to read. Needless to say, Edwards glaring faults are swallowed up by Bella's all-consuming starry-eyed infatuation. It's utterly pathetic. She makes it clear that she would rather die than stay away from him. In fact, she uses exactly those words. And this is before they've even kissed. This is a really sick and twisted relationship. Edward's 107 years old, he should know better.

Then there's the Cullen household itself, where an older man sucks the blood of beautiful teenagers - and lest we forget, blood-drinking is a metaphor for sex - and then lives with them as their surrogate father. Ew. The sex metaphor gets even more hilarious when you consider that in order to stave off their hunger, they drink the blood of wild animals. Edward's favourite is bears. No comment. Naturally they all live together in a huge mansion, because Edward couldn't be a perfect dreamboat if he wasn't filthy rich.

I don't know what else to say because I'm not kidding when I say that nothing happens in this book. It's like listening to teenage girls mindlessly babble on their cell phones. How anyone can get emotionally invested with these paper cut-outs is a mystery to me. I've seen finger puppets with more characterisation. If there was a plot of any description I might be swept along for the ride, but this like watching paint dry.

I never really got into Harry Potter, but I read the first book and I could recognise that it was nicely written and a well-constructed fantasy world. But this, this is something else entirely. This book is horribly written. It's like bad fan fiction. The prose is torturous and Meyer can't write a single noun about Edward (and there are a lot) without cramming it full of adjectives. There isn't a single page that doesn't make reference to his "beautiful, ochre eyes" or his "smooth, sensuous voice". Every. Single. Fucking. Page. Jesus! We get it! He's hot! Several times the book hilariously describes his hair "gelled to perfection". When I saw the poster for the movie I thought it was pretty funny that a vampire would use half a tub of hair product every day, but apparently it's just being faithful to the text. How does he do that without a reflection?

I went into this half-expecting to like it a little in spite of myself. If anything it's galvanised my dislike of it. It's turned a mild annoyance into a full-blown hatred. Even the clumsy "forbidden fruit" metaphor on the cover makes me grit my teeth. I hope Stephanie Meyer enjoys the mountain of blood-money she's received from loosing this literary abomination on the world, and may God have mercy on her soul. If you're ever tempted to experience this book/movie for yourself (no, I haven't seen the movie but I can't imagine it being any better) just go and read/watch Let the Right One In, a Swedish vampire movie that has more genuine emotion, characterisation, atmosphere and horror in any single scene than Twilight has is it's interminable 400 pages.

No comments: