I’ve been promising myself and some others that I’d write this post for a long time.
Let me preface everything by saying, if you like Twilight, then that’s your thing. Just as I wouldn’t expect someone to judge me for loving Star Wars and Football, I don’t judge you. Everyone is their own person in terms of likes and dislikes. New Kids on the Block did sell millions of albums after all.
I want it to be clear that I’m not writing this to be simply contrarian. When something gets ridiculously popular as Twilight has, it’s easy to start proclaiming loudly how inherently valueless it is. If it doesn’t match the genome of things we enjoy then we default to criticizing it.
I admit freely that I started out this way with Twilight. I saw a teen-angst thing and defaulted to what I typically think of things like that. Even moreso, since I love the vampire genre so much, I wanted to make it clear “they” didn’t belong in my sandbox.
However, that was baseless and lacking substance. Only through knowing the material could I demean it in the most meaningful way.
So if you’re wondering who to thank for arming myself with an intimate knowledge of the series so that I can criticize it so much more brutally and substantively, thank Stacey. She said I should read it so that I could speak from a place of knowledge. Twilight fans I engage with will realize her critical mistake at their expense.
And since I wasted so much of my life reading all four books, I am going to tear into them one blog at a time.
Beyond the easy criticisms that I’ll get to in just a few moments, the worst thing I could ever say about any book is that it’s ultimately forgettable. Like a blackout, it leaves a dark void in your memory that lets you know there was time lost to it with no distinct memory of why. You have flashes of things like a twenty-first birthday party; a snippet here and an emotional response to stimuli there. In this case, I was left with something about wuss vampires and an idiot girl.
Perhaps the first rule of a good book is that the protagonist should be compelling and the reader can relate somehow to them. A strong antagonist is a great thing to have as well. This book is a massive fail on both of those fronts.
The main character of this book is about one step shy of living on disability. She’s soul-numbingly unaware of the world outside herself and so self-absorbed that it made my toes curl. Then the author has the nerve to make her seem “brainy” by using the stalwart approach that she likes to read Olde Tyme Literature.
Honestly, the faux-erudite literary reference is the most pedantic and trite tool in the modern writer’s repertoire. It’s supposed to give the character some sort of intellectual credibility. Like the fake physics pseudo-tech-talk they use on Star Trek: Anything But the Original Series episodes, it really just exposes the fact that the author was too lazy to try to give some real depth to something.
Spoiler Alert: Wherein I Go Into Great Detail About the Book’s Failings
The rest is just fluff. I can’t even muster sufficient roiling dislike for this book because it lacks anything of substance to dislike. It simply exists, like a TV show you watched when you were home sick one day.
In fact, that’s a big problem with a lot of books that come out these days. (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown.) They’re movie and TV scripts parading as literature. Lean on description and heavy on “witty” banter (and again, Mr. Brown, pretending that they know history), they offer little more than a preview of what’s coming to the mutliplex.
Did I Say I Couldn’t Muster Dislike?
Oh wait, there is something to hold in utter disdain. The vampires themselves.
I can live with making a vampire clan who refuses to feed on humans because they don’t want to take human life. That’s an approach others have used to great success. It’s hard to sympathize with heroes who make a habit of ending the earthly existence of the innocent.
However, these vampires are indestructible. Even if cut up, they can put themselves back together. And if they go in sunlight, the only thing that happens is…they sparkle. That’s not a typo. They sparkle.
Look, if the only thing that stood between indestructible creatures and the complete apocalypse they could unleash was a case of body glitter, humanity would be screwed. It wouldn’t matter if “we” saw them sparkle. WTF can we do about it? At least in the past with the “selfless vampire” approach there was also the “burst into flame in sunlight” aspect or some other bit of balance that allowed the human and vampire worlds to exist in a parallel but separate fashion.
Remember, these “peaceful” vampires are atypical in the first place. So what’s stopping the “regular” vampires from unleashing Hell on Earth?
The way that it’s constructed in this book, it would take nothing short of an atom bomb to end one of them. That’s no fun at all.
Then There’s the Crappy Pseudo–Science
The attempt to place the vampires within the natural order of the world is just insulting after a certain point. They’re supernatural creatures, let’s just be happy with it.
I’d beat on Twilight for any of a number of things in this realm, from the lack of blood flowing through the vampires themselves (so why would they need to consume blood if they never expend it?) to the fact that they don’t breathe (not that they conserve oxygen or anything reasonable like that, but that they never take oxygen in), but I won’t. All I will say is, if you’re going to drag science into it, at least be ready to come up with self-consistent bologna explanations like Star Trek does.
To have characters who are hard as stone, cannot be cut, do not need oxygen to contract their muscles and consume blood for a chemical energy they do not need, just exhibits a lack of commitment. Their choices become more noble if, like us, their sacrifices mean something.
A Complete Lack of Metaphor
All I’ll say about this is that good books need some sort of message or a metaphor for something happening in the world today. Even trashy Star Wars books deal with the ambiguities of good and evil as well as the difficult choices inherent in facing an enemy who wishes to destroy for no other reason than the joy of destruction. Some of the better ones even focus on the clones and, as a result, questions of what it means to be human and the responsibilities that go along with that.
But I digress.
I thought Twilight at least had a nice metaphor because Edward refused to give Bella what her passions told her she wanted, thus communicating the important morals of restraint in the context of free will. I mentioned that to Stacey and she said no such parallel existed nor was intended.
So that’s another swing and a miss for the literary powerhouse.
There’s some other stuff about how vampires have super powers and Bella gets kidnapped only to be inevitably rescued but I’ll instead spend the last part of the blog harping on things no female has managed to adequately explain or defend to me.
- I don’t care if he looks 17. He’s more than 100. He falls in love (?) with a teenager. All I can say is, if my daughter at 16 starts dating someone in their 20s, I hope they’re a vampire, otherwise there’s no sport in it for me.
- Is this Edward really how you think men should behave? You do realize he acts like a woman, right? What does that say about you?
So yes, in the end I’m the bigger sucker* because I did read the book even though I knew I was likely to dislike it. But I’m scientifically curious and I was dying to figure out why this series is so popular.
Since I couldn’t figure it out after this book, my researches continued. More on that next time.