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Twilight, Part I

One nice thing about surgeries — they give you lots of time to read.  I finished up The Soldier King on Thursday and started in on Twilight, as promised.

I started by checking the front matter.  This book is in its 47th printing in paperback (19th in hardcover).  Dang.  And I thought I was doing well when Goblin Quest went back for a 4th printing….

I’m about 25% through Twilight, and so far, the book is surprisingly readable.  It’s not great, but I haven’t tried to gouge out my eyes with a spork yet either.

It reminds me of Harry Potter: it’s a quick, easy read; our young protagonist leaves one life and enters another, more magical one where they’re amazingly popular; it has lots and lots of pages…

Several people commented that Bella Swan is very much a Mary Sue, and I can see that.  She complains about how she’s so unpopular, and in the meantime she’s go no less than four–maybe five by now?–boys sniffing after her.  There’s a wish fulfillment feel to the story, which I imagine is a lot of the appeal–just like in Harry Potter.

We’re only beginning to get into the Edward revelations, but I can already see where the dynamics of Edward/Bella are troubling, to say the least.  So far, we’ve already seen some radical mood swings from Edward, as well as seriously controlling behavior (physically dragging Bella into his car being the most blatant so far).  Pulling her away from her friends to sit alone with him at lunch isn’t by itself a pattern of isolating behavior, but I’ll be curious how many more warning signs we’ll see from Edward.

Mostly, Twilight does what a lot of successful SF/F books seem to be doing these days: it makes the fantastic more accessible.  Like Harry Potter, it starts in our own world and grounds the reader before bringing in the fantastic elements.  It reaches beyond the hardcore SF/F readers, to whom the first 125 pages will be not only familiar but even a bit boring.  Yes, we get that he’s a vampire, and we’ve read this “discovery” process a hundred times before.  We’ve read it, but folks unfamiliar to the genre haven’t, which might explain why this is the book reaching a larger audience.

One final thought: this book looks like it was designed to be a quick read.  Larger typeface, big pages with larger margins, more spacing between the lines … physically, these pages were laid out in such a way that it makes you turn the pages faster.  I find that interesting.

375 pages to go.  More thoughts later I’m sure.  For now, have a Harry Potter pic, ’cause it amused me.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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( 52 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
jimhines
Sep. 5th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, good. I was worried I might not make my snarf quota this week ;-)
(no subject) - jtglover - Sep. 5th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
deborahblakehps
Sep. 5th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
HAR! I love the pic! (Like you would ever not make your snarf quota. Please.)

I read all the Twilight books, eventually. I thought the first one was okay--much the same reaction as you, with a smidge of "Why is everyone so darned excited?" thrown in. [Of course, as authors, we tend to say that A LOT, I think. But we read a little differently than other folks.] I was actually more impressed by the books that followed, however.

Although they're still no Harry Potter :-)

(Or Jim Hines, for that matter.)
jimhines
Sep. 5th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
So far, Harry Potter strikes me as the better series. I get the sense that Rowling put a lot more time, thought, and work into her worldbuilding and series planning. But it's still early for me to really make that sort of judgment.

And thanks ;-)
(no subject) - editormum - Sep. 6th, 2009 12:15 am (UTC) - Expand
snapes_angel
Sep. 5th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
That HP picture... win. I haven't read Twilight yet: as with Harry Potter, Terror wants me to read it. Or wanted, anyway, since she has not been so adamant as with the HP books. Cnosidering the romance element in it, I'm not sure I would enjoy it quite so much.

Ha. That picture should so be an icon.:p
pickledherring
Sep. 5th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
Yep, these are the same things I picked up on, too. I think it was designed to be accessible - amazingly accessible down to the physical layout. And it worked. O.o
jimhines
Sep. 5th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
Makes me wonder why more books aren't following suit. Or maybe they are, but just not the ones I usually read.
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(Anonymous)
Sep. 5th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
/houseboatonstyx here/

Those are good points. I wonder if the SF fans found something interesting in the lead-up and read on through it, or whether they only got the book later after the non-SFers had made it famous.
beth_bernobich
Sep. 5th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
I was on a panel at Boskone about books that send the wrong message, and Twilight was the first one mentioned.

One woman in the audience said she worked in a shelter for battered women, and what troubled her most about the Twilight series was that Edward fits *all* the markers for bullies and abusers.

jimhines
Sep. 5th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
I haven't read enough yet to try to guess how much awareness or self-consciousness there is in the portrayal of Edward. Because the controlling, abusive characterization actually makes a lot of sense for a vampire character, one who actually has that kind of power and perspective. The characterization could make sense; what worries me is how it's going to be handled, and whether anyone will ever acknowledge that there are problems here or if it's just "Oh so romantic," you know? I'm guessing the latter, but waiting to see how the book goes.
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jtglover
Sep. 5th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
Huh. Jim, today you are my Writing Derail. Thanks for this post. I read and thought about it, and then I thought about it, and then I thought about it some more, and then I posted about it and some related stuff.

We’ve read it, but folks unfamiliar to the genre haven’t, which might explain why this is the book reaching a larger audience.

Nodding here. This is a thought I often have in teaching and library work--trying to put myself in the place of students or patrons... Even if you've seen or done it a thousand times before, it's their first time.
marycatelli
Sep. 5th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Well, for some of them, it's the first time.
(no subject) - jtglover - Sep. 5th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
music_lover3
Sep. 5th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
LOL, I love the picture!

Yeah, I saw the same signs in Twilight you did. The first book was okay. Not great, but it was a fast and easy read. Same with the second. The series didn't start to get really interesting until the third one. I haven't read the fourth yet, but my mom loved it.
gerriwritinglog
Sep. 5th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
Both Twilight and Harry Potter share wish fulfillment, but I'd venture that the two don't share the same types. in Twilight, it's ahhh...girl gets stalker guy to take care of her for the rest of her life, and while he has troubling enemies, every man around her swoons at her feet because she's just that character. That would be personal wish-fulfillment. That's Mary Sue in a package.

Harry Potter is more world wish fulfillment. Who doesn't want to wave a wand and have the house clean? (Can you tell what I'm avoiding? :p ) Flying brooms, and Whomping Willows and crazy castles, oh my! But being Harry Potter? Oh, he's the talk of the town. Too bad the Potions teacher hates his guts, and he's fan-girled around the school (in the books, even!), and he can't connect with the one girl he wants because he's got A. Destiny. That. Cannot. Be. Denied. He gets to watch friends and enemies alike die around him, loses his most loved ones, and has to even die himself (sort of) at the hands of the biggest bad guy around. Definitely not personal wish fulfillment. Harry, while very likable and a character to connect to, IMO is not a Marty Stu. He's just got too many problems.
gelsey
Sep. 5th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
I'm a rather odd person. On one hand, I loved reading the Twilight books; on the other, I still make hopeless fun of them sometimes. One of my main problems, however, is what you've touched on already--several rather disturbing elements of Edward's behavior throughout the books. He's very egocentric and some of the things he does is just wrong, in my opinion.

And that picture? Hilarious.
marycatelli
Sep. 5th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
My reflections on the new reader getting into fantasy and the old reader reading stuff for the new reader -- are too long for a comment, and go off on a tangent, so I posted them here.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 5th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Love the pic! Harry and Ginny should take on more Vampires.

BTW, yesterday, got an ad from Amazon about the lasted Buffy book, in which the Slayers-in-Waiting are forced into hiding by a group called.... Twilight.
jjschwabach
Sep. 5th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
oops. that was me. Forgot I tossed my cookies last night.19
shanrina
Sep. 5th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
I read all four of the Twilight books and, tbh, I don't think the prose is all that bad. There were some grammar mistakes and such, and it certainly wasn't high art, but in terms of the actual prose I found it fairly readable.

The actual content, on the other hand, was another story. I actually gave up after book 3 and only read the fourth one because of some incredibly LOLworthy spoilers I found online (which turned out to be true, unfortunately), but Edward's behavior toward Bella and her responses to the things he does are two of the main reasons why I hate this book.

I think they could have been fascinating reads if they really delved into Bella's psyche (or rather, gave her a psyche...actually, no, better make that a brain) and gave her the chance to actually develop into a well-rounded human being. It was pretty clear to me that she had some issues. It's been awhile since I've read them (and I certainly won't be rereading them), but one of the things that struck me was the way she treats her human "friends" and the way she thinks that they feel about her, along with the way she feels about herself. Much as I hate to connect myself to someone like Bella in any way, there were similarities between her and the way I felt about myself when my depression was at its worst. I just had the common sense to not hook up with a sparkling emo vampire. ;)
jjschwabach
Sep. 5th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
My 12 year old niece read the first one. Gave it a two-word review.
"Bor ing."

Perhaps if the characterization had been better, she would have liked it...?
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rarelylynne
Sep. 5th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC)
I read the first Twilight novel.

Meh. Meyer nails teen girl angst with frightening accuracy. But otherwise? *yawn* I can't bring myself to care about anyone except maybe Jacob, a little. (I'm told he gets cooler in later books).

HP, at least, has more characters that I'd actually enjoy spending time with, and more roller derby. I'm reading the series to Caitlin now, and she really is enjoying it as well.

I doubt that I'd ever read her Twilight. Not when I have Stepsister Scheme in the house.


courtcat79
Sep. 6th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)
Hee! Pic FTW. However? Every time someone compares Twilight to Harry Potter, god kills a kitten.

(Which isn't to say I don't get where the comparisons come from, because I do. But . . . well. I love Harry Potter and while I could deal with the first Twilight book, the second made me want to throw things and I've been afraid to try the rest.)

Anyway! Carry on. I should be in bed rather than leaving rambling comments on LJ entries. =D
dulcinbradbury
Sep. 6th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)
Mostly, Twilight does what a lot of successful SF/F books seem to be doing these days: it makes the fantastic more accessible. Like Harry Potter, it starts in our own world and grounds the reader before bringing in the fantastic elements.

I think that's missing a piece of the appeal. I haven't read Twilight, but, the beauty of grounding something in the "real world" is often more about the daydream that what you're reading *could* be true. It's one of Stephen King's strengths actually.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 6th, 2009 09:03 am (UTC)
/houseboat/

This is a traditional technique. _The Wizard of Oz_ begins in Kansas, Narnia begins in England. It's the same technique, whether the story moves on to some other world or whether it happens in the same location, as in _ET_.

In classic fairy tales, in the Olden Days when they were told, the beginnings at a woodcutter's house or a poor miller's were very ordinary, 'grounded' places -- though they have become exotic to us.
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 6th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
socchan
Sep. 6th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
That outlines my expectations of the book quite nicely, actually. (See also: this review by Mrs. Giggles.) Not inherently horrible, but enough in there to turn me off from reading it in the first place. Although, one of these days I might just get bored enough to give it a shot anyway.

I'd also like to introduce you to Mary-Sue. She took roughly 200 pages of a library discard copy of Twilight to make, and earned the library in question $50 for its reconstructed book fundraiser.

Re: the picture: Run, Cedric! They're on to you!
sasseebioche
Sep. 7th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
Excuse the mini rant. This is the only book I've ever felt a strong negative reaction to. I'll try to tone it down and not give too much away.

I never got past the first book in this series. I wanted to throw it against the wall on Chapter 3 but kept reading because I needed a solid basis to form a "valid" opinion on it.

There were several things about it I didn't like. Keep in mind I'm a forgiving reader... her prose isn't great, but I would have forgiven that for a good story. Turns out the story sucks (wth, the story doesn't even START until page 400). And the ending pissed me right the hell off for multiple reasons that I won't go into until you're done reading. So, I could forgive okay prose and a so-so story, as long as the characters are interesting and worth the read. Were they? Not really.

I can't stand Bella (even her name irritates me... Bella Swan? Beautiful Swan? /hurl). I could tolerate her if the book was in another point of view or was in third person, but I CANNOT stand being in her head. She's in the throws of depression and low self esteem and has no grip on reality (which, again, could be fine if she actually gets over it. she doesn't). I dislike Edward because he is every bad relationship rolled into one. Having been through a mildly abusive relationship before, Edward raises the hair on the back of my neck. He isn't sexy. He's creepy. The thought of females of any age lusting after someone like this makes me ill. And he doesn't behave like someone who has lived amongst the humans for 100-plus years. He acts like the character he's pretending to be -- an emotionally confused high schooler. The only character I really liked in that whole book was James and that's because he wanted to kill everyone.

Twilight the only book I couldn't get into, not even for a little bit. I didn't relate to the characters. I couldn't find an actual plot for most of the book, and when I found it, it was over in the space of 20 minutes with a very dissatisfying conclusion. It felt a lot like Meyer pulled it all out of her toosh and immediately sent it along to an agent. I get that teens like it -- if I were a teen, I probably would have liked this book. Rebellion, pretending to know what's good for me, having someone else take care of my problems, etc. But I think that's also why I hate it so much. Rather than presenting the characters in a way that lets people know they're flawed, Meyer presents them in a way that makes their actions seem okay and even desirable. I understand the point of view of the people that liked the book, but at the same time I don't understand it.

I talked to one of my friends about the second book, and she said if I was that annoyed with the first one the second would be intolerable. I walked away and haven't looked back since. Kudos to you for taking on the challenge!
sasseebioche
Sep. 7th, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC)
woo, sorry about that. I didn't mean to write a small book in your comments section!

also, love the HP pic :)
crazywritergirl
Sep. 8th, 2009 03:24 am (UTC)
I read TWILIGHT. I don't begrudge Stephanie M. her success because who knows, maybe that will happen to one of us other authors. I do have a sincere desire to stake Edward repeatedly. Which is why I bought one of these tee shirts (http://www.jinx.com/men/shirts/geek/buffy_staked_edward.html?catid=1&cs=19&csd=buffy) It always gets nods of approval.
( 52 comments — Leave a comment )

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