For those of you who are wondering what a Midnight Sun might be and why I am bothering you with it: Midnight Sun is the unfinished, unpublished and utterly unholy fifth Twilight novel. It’s the story of Twilight, that is the first book only and not the entire series, told from the perspective of Edward Cullen.
In 2008 the partial draft was leaked online by some kind, far-seeing person and Stephenie has subsequently stopped working on the novel. I have been aware of the book for a while now, but the fact that Stephenie has since made the pdf available to the eager public had sort of slipped my attention. And I am bothering you with this now because Steph said in a 2008 interview that she will only resume working on the novel once she hasn’t heard anything on the internet about it for two years or more. So what I am actually doing is a great service to humanity as a whole, a philanthropic effort, a desperate attempt to save the world and life as we know it. Assuming that our two years of grace aren’t up yet, this review should keep us safe until June 2013… at least. (And who knows, maybe the world is going to end in 2012, that way our immortal souls will be saved for good.)
So… Midnight Sun: the story of Twilight as seen through the perfect diamond eyes of one Edward A. Cullen. Now, Edward is marginally less soppy than Bella, that’s a plus. On the minus side, he doesn’t just have an unfortunate affinity for turn-of-the-century romance novels… he was born in that time. So no relief there. Still, in the other Twilight books Edward is the only character who sometimes gets funny lines. And when I say funny I mean mildly amusing… when I say mildly amusing I mean raising a faint smile. When… it’s probably mostly the contrast with Bella that does it. In a sea of grey even the tiniest bit of colour will surely seem blindingly bright.
Anyway. I was curious about this one. The first Twilight novel has length issues. It may be the shortest of all of them in terms of pages, but like all its bigger siblings it seems to have too little plot to justify wasting such a huge amount of paper. If you think the camping scene from Harry Potter VII was long, I dare you to read even a single Twilight book, seriously. You don’t know what long means. But I’m getting sidetracked. Edward certainly seems like a better choice to narrate a story – if I had to pick a narrator for a future Twilight novel at gunpoint I would certainly pick him – but then again the question is also: why retell this story?
The obvious reason – which would be “monetary gain” – aside, I really can’t come up with anything. Bella does a depressingly good job of describing the minutiae of her everyday life when it’s her turn to narrate, so we don’t need Eddie to add anything to that. And he really doesn’t do much during Twilight besides being statuesque and endangering endangered species even further, does he now? Yeah… well. Not quite. Apparently Edward also spends quite a bit of his spare time being sorry for himself. He spends so much time doing that, actually, that he’s gotten very good at it. Then again, Edward is good at everything, so why am I surprised?
Midnight Sun in its present form is 264 pages. In terms of plot it’s about half of the book, I’d guess. It’s hard to tell. Bella’s viewpoint kind of speeds up at the end, when she gets hunted by James and things start spinning out of control, but I have the sneaking suspicion that if Stephenie had gotten to the end of that story with this draft, then Edward would have spent quite a bit of time telling us just how sorry and miserable he is right now, with Bells being kidnapped and all that. As I said: he’s very good at it.
What there is of Midnight Sun can roughly be divided in two parts: before the car accident and after. That merits some explaining, I think. There is a scene, in the first book, in which Bella almost gets hit by a car. The good outcome of the scene would have been for the car to hit and kill her, in which case the entire series would have ended at a soothing 48 pages. Enough to do some mental damage, but nothing too bad, just some light cerebral bleeding for those who read very attentively. As it is, Edward saves Bella by first pushing her out of harm’s way and then stopping the still-sliding car with his bare, perfect hands. That’s what happens in Twilight.
In Midnight Sun this scene takes place 59 pages in… and it opens up a whole new, kinky world for Edward. Where before his thoughts were centered mostly on how miserable, evil and ultimately doomed his entire existence is, with just a tiny sprinkling of “I am the big bad vampire” thrown in, it is now all about touching Bella. It’s like 100 years’ worth of 17-year-old boy hormones hit him when that car almost hits her. Bella’s waist. Bella’s skin. Bella’s cheek. How soft she is. How pretty she is. How perfectly she fits into his masculine, long, hard… arms. Yeah. I know. It doesn’t improve the book, really. A few dozen pages later we all heartily wish that he would go back to being whiney. Maybe Stephenie got a taste for this slightly more racy fare when she wrote the honeymoon scene in Breaking Dawn. I guess the next book will be called Naked Sunrise or maybe Pedophile Morning or possibly Arousing Aurora… great, now I feel sick.
The book ends in mid-narrative, which is okay, seeing that it is only a partial draft. For the same reason I am loath to nitpick at any individual sentences or dialogues. Partial draft. Partially daft too, but I shall assume in Stephenie’s favour that she might have ironed out some of the kinks in the editing process. So I’ll be good. No nitpicking. Honest. Well… okay. There might be one or two tiny little things that I would like to mention. Points of interest for the vampire enthusiasts among us, if you will.
Vampire biology is a fascinating subject, isn’t it? Breaking Dawn makes a big point about how female vampires can’t bear children and how male vampires can, in theory, mate with a human woman although it’s all a little tricky in practice. (Shudder.) And I wondered quite a bit about that. About… ehm… sperm, to be more specific. And about erectile dysfunction in the face of having… well… no blood circulation worth mentioning (having blood run down your esophagus doesn’t count, Steph).
Midnight Sun doesn’t answer any of these questions. If that’s a blessing or a curse is up to you to decide. There is, however, one speech, or rather internal monologue, of Edward’s that does shed some light on the matter. I mean, what am I to make of quotes like this one?
I gazed at her unconscious face, feeling this love for her settle into every portion of my stone body.
Or maybe this one?
My skin was stone and inhuman in shadow.
It seems to me that Stephenie is trying to suggest that Edward has basically had a full body erection for the last hundred years or so. Or not. I don’t know. The word “hard” is used 88 times in this manuscript, by the way.
The other vampire biology related thing that I always wondered about is the scene in which Edward gets a bit of pizza to show Bella that he theoretically could eat human food. As I was reading that the first time, from Bella’s viewpoint, I caught myself wondering… where does that go? Midnight Sun delivers the answer in all its unappetizing glory: he vomits it back up later, when Bella isn’t watching. Mhm… yummy. And I hear all the bulimic Twilight fans out there go: “See? Edward does it too. And he’s perfect.” (Disclaimer: I realise that bulimia isn’t something one should make fun of. And neither am I saying that anyone will actually become bulimic by reading this, seriously. But still… it’s kind of gross and kind of unhealthy, don’t you think?)
Short excursions into vampire mating habits and digestive processes aside, the book it what it is. It’s not worse than any of the other Twilight novels, neither is it better. What atrocious sentences there are shall be excused on the basis of this being a draft, not a finished novel. Whether Stephenie will ever finish Midnight Sun is doubtful; I for one can certainly understand her dismay at having the draft leaked onto the internet, and for now she seems to have found a new shiny in The Host and the subsequent novels of that series. So humanity can breathe more easily for now. If I remember to (and if the world doesn’t end next year), I’ll write another review of Midnight Sun in June 2013, just to be safe.
Oh… and in case you were getting worried: there’s one more installment of the Twilight Experiment to come. I got my hands on a copy of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Let’s see what that holds in store for us, shall we?