By C. Michael Forsyth
I put off reading the Twilight books for a long time. That “young adult” label wasn’t a big plus for me, sounding just a notch above “tween.” But if I’m going to bill myself as a horror expert, I figured I need to familiarize myself with what’s popular, so I picked up a paperback copy of Twilight: Eclipse.
I wasn’t expecting The Naked and the Dead, but I’m pretty disappointed — and, frankly, bewildered as to why this series is so phenomenally successful. At 629 pages it’s the slowest moving novel I’ve read in any genre, and I’m including Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. My God, reading it is like watching paint dry. At 95 pages in, essentially nothing has happened. At that point, we’re treated to a page-long description of the main character rearranging her refrigerator magnets. A sample:
“The last two magnets — round, black utilitarian pieces that were my favorite because they could hold ten sheets of paper to the fridge without breaking a sweat — did not want to cooperate with my fixation. Their polarities were reversed; every time I tried to line the last one up, the other jumped out of place.
“For some reason — impending mania, perhaps — that really irritated me. Why couldn’t they just play nice? Stupid with stubbornness, I kept shoving them together as if I was expecting them to suddenly give up. I could have flipped one over, but that felt like losing. Finally, exasperated at myself, more than the magnets, I pulled them from the fridge and held them together with two hands. It took a little effort — they were strong enough to put up a fight, but I forced them to coexist side-by-side…”
The magnet dissertation drags on for four more paragraphs. One more word and I would have put a stake in my OWN chest!
What ever happened to young people today having short attention spans? I’m no spring chicken. I don’t want to date myself, but let’s just put it this way: When I was born, “Howdy Doody” was the hottest show on TV, Ike was President, Uncle Sam was hailing a young, charismatic Fidel Castro as the liberator of Cuba, the U.S. was welcoming Alaska as the 48th state, and NASA was introducing Americans to a new type of hero called an “astronaut.”
And this book was too slow for ME!
The heart of the problem could be the protagonist, Bella. She’s one of the dullest literary characters I’ve ever encountered — as colorless a narrator as Sookie Stackhouse of the “True Blood” books is colorful. Since the story is told in first person, we spend the entire book in her head, and it’s like being inside a vacuum. In fact, she’s so vacuous that when she’s faced with the prospect of marrying a vampire and spending the rest of eternity with him, her only concern is that her friends might think she’s marrying too young, in a trailer-trash kind of way.
On top of the elephantine pacing, there’s a lack of drama. Potential conflict is set up, then quickly defused. Bella must choose whether or not to become a vampire herself and sacrifice her humanity — but she has no inner debate whatsoever. Her vampire beau Edward and hunky werewolf Jacob are both in love with her — but she‘s not torn between them. A large band of enemy vampires is mounting a surprise attack on the stronghold of Edward’s coven — but he and his clan learn this way ahead of time, and have a chance not only to plan an ambush, but to hold multiple training sessions before the bad guys arrive!
I suppose Bella’s appeal is intended to lie precisely in the fact that she is an ordinary teen, with whom female high schoolers can identify. But that was done so much more effectively in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” When the Edward and his family learn that the massive vampire army is coming to kill Bella, they swing into action — planning her graduation party. This is not intentionally funny. Contrast that to the wicked irony of “Buffy.” (I’ll never forget a scene in which Buffy’s mentor quizzes her on SAT words as they wait in a cemetery for the undead to rise from their graves.) Hey, the last dance step I mastered was the Lambada, but the Twilight Saga just isn’t hip enough for me.
Even stiff, priggish Edward is surprisingly lackluster as bloodsuckers go. If you interviewed this vampire, you’d probably fall asleep halfway through! I guess that the idea of a having a vampire boyfriend must sound oh-so-romantic to some inexperienced young women. But it’s not exactly a fresh concept — again, Buffy got there first (way back in 1997). And unlike Bella and Edward, she and Angel actually have sex.
Yeah, yeah, we preach to teenage girls today that “abstinence is sexy” (and I sure plan to tell my two daughters that) but let’s be real. It’s kind of boring.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the book; there are some good parts. I actually found the writer’s setting of the werewolf origin mythology within the context of Native American culture quite creative and believable. It’s just that reading it was rather frustrating — as if somewhere in this lumbering 629 page book there was a really great 325 page book trying to get out.
Obviously, author Stephanie Meyer has legions of fans, so she must be doing something right. I invite any of them out there to tell me what’s so special about these books.
Copyright, C. Michael Forsyth
To check out Hour of the Beast, click HERE.