Why Twilight is a nominee for the death of good literature

*Written by Funn Lim

There are 4 books in the Twilight series: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. Any surprise what these books are about? The following is my opinion on the first book, Twilight, previously posted at point2e.com. Fans of Twilight best avoid this opinion.

Spoilers alert.
I admit, I have never heard about this book or the author until I stumbled across the Twilight movie promos after reading how Warner Bros chickened out of releasing the Harry Potter movie at the same time as Twilight movie and that was like weeks before the movie will be broadcast. I bought all 4 books, each more expensive than the other, where for Twilight I bought the movie tie in version. My advice is wait until the movie tie in version, if not, you will have to pay RM10-00 more for the 4th book. I know the basic story; it is a love story between a vampire guy and a human girl. That in itself could stretch to 4 books kinda stirred my interest. And I was happy I had new materials to read. Kinokuniya at KLCC is my favourite bookshop.

Anyway, read it in 3 days, mostly speed read which is not good news for me. The book is appealing understandably for the young ones because it is written in simple language. How many ways can you say I love you? In this book, 1 way; simply I LOVE YOU. So how complicated can that be? The names of the heroes and heroines even reminded me of the Judith McNaught type of romance books, with a twist. The girl is Isabella Swan or Bella and the guy who is a vampire who looks eternally 17 but is actually about 100 years old is Edward Cullen or well.. Edward. Both very sturdy not very often used name, especially Edward. No Eddie, no Ed but Edward. Very aristocratic. Other character names like Rosalie, Emmet, Jasper, Carlisle, Annie, Laurent, James, Victoria, etc ... very old timer names that explains old how the vampires are. Modern names like Jessica, Mark, etc. There's one Jacob Black, a simple enough name to stick in one's mind. Nothing complicated.

The story begins with Bella moving back to a really small town that rains more than shines with her Chief police father when her mother remarried as she felt she was intruding in her mother's life. She is a sullen 17 year old who hates attention and would rather keep to herself. At school where she is mostly alone, she was first struck by the curiosity of a group of 5 pale people who sit together but never eat and she was struck in awe by one of them, Edward's pale magnificence and also the way Edward looked at her; that is with pure hatred. Later into the story we will discover why he looked at her so; he is a vampire who kills animals only so basically a vegetarian vampire forever thirsty for some human blood. Problem with Bella is her blood is like fine wine to him. He thirsts for her blood, he wants to bite her but yet because he who can usually read other people's mind couldn't read hers, he was intrigued and slowly fell for her. Bella already lost her mind to love from the beginning.

The entire premise of the story is forbidden love in a sense; Bella will grow old, so her fear is she would die before him. She wants him to make her a vampire. Edward's fear is her losing her soul so he was reluctant. Very reluctant. Moreover there is a danger in this relationship; Bella is like a prey, a very delicious prey to Edward and at any time if he ever loses control he might just bite her. The story explains that to become a vampire, a person must be bitten (not to death) by a vampire and the venom in the vampire's teeth will travel and change the physical aspects of a human being and in 3 days a human is now a vampire, an immortal. Problem is it also includes 3 days of extreme pain as the venom travels through the bloodstream. Then there is the ethical issue of killing people to feed.

I didn't quite get Edward's reluctance to change Bella. The truth is there is no major consequence to the change. The whole myth about how sunlight can burn the vampire is apparently just a myth. So the vampires can walk around in the afternoon. The only catch is if under direct sunlight, a vampire will glow like crystals so obviously no human can do that. So for me there is no stigma to change and the whole soul thing with Edward seems rather forced. We don't know much about Edward's past, except he was dying from the influenza or something like that until his adopted vampire father, a young handsome blond Carlisle, a doctor immune to blood after years of practice changed him for companionship. He didn't blame the doctor but he struggles with the killings and the soul thing. When I said struggles, it wasn't very well written. The struggle was feeble. The entire soul argument didn't make sense. A vampire who believes in soul? Was he religious? Did Edward believe in the existence of a higher power? Because I didn't get that impression.

The rest of the book deals with Bella catching the deadly interest of another vampire named James who wanted to bite her and how Edward and gang raced to save her. And also her friendship with a young Jacob Black who himself shall have a big role in the next book.

In between we have many many passages of Bella and Edward, quiet moments where they talk about each other, increasingly becoming more passionate in words but not in actions because he can't kiss her too passionately for fear of accidental biting. So the book is pretty chaste, no sex, not even French kiss.

What it does have is an overdose of repetitive description. By the 2nd chapter and thereafter every other paragraph, I know Edward is mindbogglingly awesomely mega super duper Greek god hard chest, full lips, great hair total gorgeousness. Every vampire she met has the same awesome beauty and grace. Edward smells great too, talks sweet, walks gracefully and is basically just like the most ideal royal prince ever, except he is a bloodsucker who will not age and will not die. Tragic eh? And by the 2nd chapter I also know Bella is accident prone. She just tumbles, stumbles and falls like a total klutz. Except that if someone can be as clumsy as her, her eyesight must have some problem OR she must have some balance problem because no one can be THAT clumsy. She is also quite anti-social in my opinion since she hates parties, gatherings, proms, birthdays, etc. Why Edward loves her is because she is intriguing, he can't read her like an open book and because her blood is irresistible to him as much as her companionship. She is supposed to be plain or so she thinks. The problem with all these is the repetition. Bella always hyperventilate when she kisses Edward. I know he is a supreme gorgeousness but to repeat every time she hyperventilates is really a chore to read. To repeatedly read how gorgeous he is is also quite a chore. It's like at the end of that chapter I could have sworn she repeats herself every other paragraph. I kinda felt frustrated by the lack of good description. Not much is said about appearances except for the very basic. However there are some strange descriptions like Edward's chest is granite hard and cold and yet the same paragraph, Bella says as she lies on his chest that his chest is soft. The way he picked her up is as if she is a child. All those bed talks, literally are about how I feel, how you feel, how we feel. It is quite obvious a woman wrote this book because to me women authors place more emphasis on feelings when it comes to love story. The entire book is more about feelings and each discovering each other's feelings.

It doesn't mean it is a badly written book. But to say it rivals JK Rowling's expressive and expansive words is ridiculous. Stephenie Meyers' way of describing feelings is question upon questions and then to end it all with I will die for you, I rather die than live, I love you. Pretty standard and unimaginative and cringe worthy words as well as unromantic.

The better passages were mostly the action parts, how Bella confronted the sadistic James and escaped, barely. Now sadistic is the word used, often we also read how Edward said he could read the minds of those 4 men following Bella at some dark alley and he could read what they wanted to do, enough for him to want to hunt and kill them. And James torturing Bella. Exciting stuff but in the end inadequately written mainly probably because the author could not bring herself to describe them? In that part Anne Rice was more poetic and forthright and I see familiar elements between these 2 authors, especially in the 2nd book where she was describing the ancient vampires, which reminded me of the ancient ones in Interview With The Vampire. But I do enjoyed these passages and especially those that concentrates on Edward, the more fascinating character than every other in the book.

I don't get the friendship between Jacob and Bella and I feel it was too sudden. This book makes assumptions; Bella just likes Jacob. Edward just falls for her. No rhyme, no reason. But I have a theory about Edward and Bella. Bella sees Edward as total perfection and I suppose a vampire has this mesmerizing aura that makes people see perfection, beauty, etc when in actual fact maybe they aren't? I mean how then to explain all vampires are gorgeous. So when Bella becomes one she too is total perfection.

The one scene that was off putting is the scene where the Cullens decided to play baseball in the thunderstorm and Bella was there to watch and then they knew 3 dangerous vampires were in the vicinity and Bella was in danger. The entire baseball scene was supposed to be family gathering, fun time but I just don't feel the closeness between the Cullens. Even the baseball scene felt forced; I couldn't read even between the lines the affection between the Cullens or even Cullens and Bella except for example they just like her. They like her for the sake of liking her and that to me is not very well written.

In the end, I feel this book feels more like some teen vampire story than a proper adult mainstream book that the cover suggests. It feels and it is a first time published story, not as terrible as The Rule Of Four but not in the same breath, or even in the same parameter as Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone. What this book lacks is descriptive moments that plays out a scene, more choices and varied words other than I love yous and a better storyline. Bella seems to have a boring life. If Edward wasn't a vampire, his life would be totally boring too. They go to school, come back from school, sometimes chased by vampires but other than that the entire story is set in a rainy bleak foggy boring non happening town. The movie will suffer from the colour wouldn't it? Always bleak and bland. No one in this town seems to know how to use an umbrella since they always walk in the rain. No one has died of pneumonia yet and no one questioned how a 30 year old doctor could have a 17 year old adopted son.

And the best (or worst) of all? When Bella was told by Jacob about the legend that the Cullens were vampires, she believed it. No questions asked. She just believed it. Gullible? And when she asked Edward, not like are you a vampire but you know beating around the bush, he didn't deny and just launched into his vampire-hood. She wasn't shocked that mythical being is real. She didn't ask the all important question how he became one but rather why he hated her so. Only later she asked how he become one and the details are vague at best.

Put it this way; this book would probably make a better movie than it is as a book. The plot is there, it is pretty intriguing and Robert Pattison may not look awesomely gorgeous but he does have awesomely gorgeous hair with a very animalistic look to his face as in raw and passionate. The actress as Bella whose name I forgotten is pretty but not over awesomely gorgeous but both looked rather dead serious. Which made me realise what this book seriously lacks; humour, wit and more importantly, playful banter between these 2 main characters. They do banter, but in cringe worthy way. He teased her, she teased him but not in the way that is well written.

Overall I enjoyed the book but I am surprised at the accolades given to what I feel is a mediocre book. But then if a crap like The Rule Of Four can garner favourable reviews, anything is possible.

End Notes
My opinion is in no way comparable to the excellently written opinion by someone who put all my thoughts into great funny sentences complete with a parody that had me rolling on the floor laughing hysterically. Not even the author of this book could hope to write that well. Do have a read of the article "I want to beat Edward Cullen with a stick" by Otahyoni at http://otahyoni.livejournal.com/130432.html

Send Funn Lim a message
View all Opinions written by Funn Lim
Write an Opinion
Discuss this Opinion Column at the forum
Go back to Opinion Columns listing

Buy Now

A Hero Born (Legend of the Condor Heroes)Jin Yong English Translation Book 1

A Bond Undone (Legend of the Condor Heroes)Jin Yong English Translation Book 2

Buy Locca Boba Tea Kit

Love bubble tea?DIY Boba Tea Set