Thursday, November 29, 2012

Twilight (Part I of the Twilight Review Series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Fantasy, or "Teen Paranormal Romance"
Original Pub. Date: 2005

When I was eleven, I decided cookbooks were for squares and mixed up two batches of bread entirely by guesswork. The first I dyed green, dubbed Christmas Bread, and forced upon my mom and stepdad while they were just waking up from a nap and too sleepy to resist. They still haven't forgiven me for this. The second, Oatmeal Delight, was the remains of the Christmas Bread batter with added oatmeal and sugar. We flung it out the back door into the snow. Come the spring thaw, it was still there; not even the starving forest animals would touch that nasty green lump of slime.

For anyone not following (Not you, Mom, you're the smartest!! My Christmas wish list is in the mail.) this very clear analogy to the Twilight series, allow me to elaborate. Twilight contains all the ingredients that ought to go into an exciting, romantic fantasy thriller. Lives are put at risk*, hearts are broken**, and extravagant promises are made***. Sadly, these ingredients appear to have been assembled by a drooling buck-toothed space monkey, the characters have all the depth and appeal of a spreading pool of vomit**** steaming fragrantly in the noonday sun, and the plot is so utterly without twists that the spoiler quote on the back of the book appears on page 195.

I doubt I have any readers who are blissfully unfamiliar with the basic story. And I do mean basic. A boring seventeen-year-old girl moves to a crappy little mold-stain of a town in Washington and falls in luuuuurve with a weird kid who turns out to be a 104-year-old vampire. He falls in luuuuuurve with her because her blood smells good (and let's just not go there, shall we?), and then he saves her life eight or nine times as she stumbles around getting almost eaten by another vampire and run over by classmates. Yup, that's about it.

Writing this review, I'm reminded of a segment (starts at about 6:50 in the first video) in Red Letter Media's review of The Phantom Menace in which people were asked to name salient qualities of the characters from Star Wars Episode IV versus Episode I, without referencing appearance. For Han Solo, they came up with descriptors like "roguish," "arrogant but charming," "a thief with a heart of gold,"  and so on. For Queen Amidala, "monotone" and "Natalie Portman" were the best they could do.

Twilight has left me in a similar position. Other than the fact that every character in the book is a retard, I can't think of a single characteristic for any of them that goes beyond the superficial. The heroine, Bella, is clumsy and calls her parents by their first names. She likes to cook. That's all, I guess, except for her delicious personal odor. We're told over and over again (mostly through the other characters' slavish praise -- I guess having yummy bodily fluids makes you "interesting" and a "diabolical" plotter in times of crisis?) how awesome and well-read and mature she is, and yet she never does or says anything above the intellectual level of window-licking. Typical Harlequin romance heroine syndrome, in short. We're told she's smart, and then she runs into traffic because the Greek billionaire knocked her up and her hair extensions fell out. That's Bella.

Her paramour Edward is strong and fast and has cold skin. He likes Bella because she apparently reeks of air freshener and iron supplements. He plays music well, and frankly, I'm less impressed that he plays the piano and more surprised he's only gotten good at one fricking thing in a hundred years. He also goes to high school over and over again in different places in order to blend into society, an idea that, in the hands of a competent writer, could be extremely amusing. Given that Edward begins dating an actual high school girl, though, it just comes off as a pedophile's supernatural fantasy rather than a teenage girl's, which is how Twilight is marketed. Edward and his equally young-looking vampire siblings' attitude toward life can be summed up in the immortal words of Matthew McConaughey:

To recap, then, we have one dumb teenager who trips over her own feet a lot, and one pedophiliac blood-sucker, who both fall in love at first sight based on B.O. and plot necessity.

Then we get to the really batshit insane stupidity that fills the other 5% of this book's 498 (!!!) pages. The only weakness of the vampires in this series, besides their tendency to lust after children and drink human blood? They glitter in the sunlight. Glitter. Like little shimmewing pwincesses covered in sequin fairy dust made from the sparkly tears of the unicorns that die horribly in a fire every time Stephenie Meyer rings a bell or touches her keyboard. Just to be clear, sparkly princesses are typically girls.

Yep, that guy's clearly straight.

I mean, who needs all those hideously unsparkly and unsexy vampires created and adapted by other writers and filmmakers:

Gag me with a spoon, right?
Closeted-gay Tom Cruise in a gay-club white ruffled shirt playing an actually gay vampire is still less gay than Edward Cullen. I probably could have just reviewed this book with that one sentence.

And yet, gentle readers, how could I deprive you of a few samples of the writing that's swept the hearts, minds, other [ahem] parts, and wallets of teenage girls and potentially sex-offending adults everywhere? While Meyer's writing style isn't quite as bad as her characterization, plotting, and continued existence, it's still no walk in the forest with a glittery shaved-chest dude who wants to borrow your nail polish and then suck your blood.*****

There's her powers of description:

My head spun around in answerless circles. (139)

As I crossed the threshold of the cafeteria, I felt the first true tingle of fear slither down my spine and settle in my stomach. (145)

I dressed quickly, something stronger than butterflies battering recklessly against the walls of my stomach, my argument with Mike already a distant memory. (221)

It's something, and it's stronger than butterflies . . . that really narrows it down. I've got it! Stegosauruses! No, how about tow trucks? My gag reflex? Obviously not Bella's digestion.

The house was timeless, graceful, and probably a hundred years old. (321)

The cabbie's question punctured my fantasy, letting all the colors run out of my lovely delusions. Fear, bleak and hard, was waiting to fill the empty space they left behind. (441)

There's also the emotion seeping from every page, an oozing, suppurating, repetitive emotion no penicillin could cure:

His anguish was plain; I yearned to comfort him, but I was at a loss to know how. My hand reached toward him involuntarily; quickly, though, I dropped it to the table, fearing that my touch would only make things worse. I realized slowly that his words should frighten me. I waited for that fear to come, but all I could seem to feel was an ache for his pain. (246)

He closed his eyes, lost in his agonized confession. I listened, more eager than rational. Common sense****** told me I should be terrified. Instead, I was relieved to finally understand. And I was filled with compassion for his suffering, even now, as he confessed his craving to take my life. (272)

Anything not worth writing is worth writing twice, I guess?

He was too perfect, I realized with a piercing stab of despair. There was no way this godlike creature could me meant for me. (256)

Lucky you: he's a pedophile!

He lifted his glorious, agonized eyes to mine. "You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever." (273)

And then there are the just plain old WTFs:

"You know Bella, Jacob?" Lauren asked -- in what I imagined was an insolent tone -- from across the fire. (121)


There was a basketball game on that he was excited about, though of course I had no idea what was special about it, so he wasn't even aware of anything unusual in my face or tone. (129)

Leaving aside the fact that I'm not sure what that sentence means, Bella's constant inexplicable knowledge of what other people are and are not aware of becomes pretty grating by the end of this book. So does continuing to live.

It was quiet except for the whirring of the machines, the beeping, the dripping, the ticking of the big clock on the wall. (477)

Similarly, Twilight was an awesome read except for the main characters, the secondary characters, the plot, the descriptions, the dialogue, and occasionally the punctuation. One and a half stars.

Stay tuned for further installments in the Twilight review series -- I'm reading the sequels now. FML.

* The readers'.

** The readers'.

*** "Oh God, I promise I'll quit smoking and drinking and repent for all my misdeeds and volunteer at a soup kitchen every weekend if you'll just please oh God make the book end now and let Stephenie Meyer break all her fingers and be unable to type ever ever again . . ."

**** I provided this after I finished the third chapter.

***** And while this doesn't sound all that great to me, apparently it's the hottest chick fantasy since the eighties' glorious explosion of fictional pirate-rape, so let's just roll with it.

****** Take note please; this is the only time this concept appears within Twilight.

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