The Twilight Experiment: Day 11

Once more with feeling. Once more I shall be brave and take a trip deep, deep down into Stephenie Meyer’s dark mind. (Okay, dim might be a better word.) At the bottom, underneath layers of sparkly skin and perfect golden eyes, lies another horror. Do not go there, dear reader, for few return with their sanity intact. What lurks there may be short, only 178 pages, but it is far more horrible than anything you’ve encountered before. You thought Jake’s narration in Breaking Dawn was bad? Think again. Think again and see… The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner.

As some of you may already have guessed, I wasn’t very pleased with this one. The term “companion novella” should have made me cautious. Then again, were I the cautious type I probably wouldn’t have started this sorry experiment in the first place. What I am trying to say is that I believe I have, over the course of the last year, become inured to the level of writing contained within the pages of a Stephenie Meyer book – and yet it wasn’t quite enough to prepare me for what TSSLOBT had in store for me. (Also: mistrust any book where reading the title takes longer than reading the actual book.)

I don’t know if the problem was that the deadline was too tight, or that Stephenie is done writing Twilight; maybe she thought “this one’s just for fun,” or maybe it was oxygen deprivation at birth, but this book is seriously bad. Bad as in this opens up a whole new category of bad. Super-Bad, so to speak. Bad². Essence de Bad… oh, you get my drift. TSSLOBT feels unfinished, and in combination with Stephenie’s overall writing talent and style, this doesn’t make for a very good result.

The story: Bree Tanner is a three-month-old vampire, formerly a fifteen-year-old human. She’s part of Victoria’s newborn army from Eclipse (as in: the army that gets systematically dismantled and charcoaled by the Cullens at the end of the novel), so there is little doubt as to why her second life will be very short. The newborn army is currently hiding out in Seattle under the supervision of a vampire called Riley, because Victoria wants to keep her sparkly fingers clean for now. We meet Bree while she is out hunting with three other vampires, one of whom is named Diego. While the other two try to decide which comic book hero is cooler, Spider-Man or the Hulk, because Stephenie feels the need to show us that they both are really really really immature, Bree and Diego go off to hunt on their own. When they later return to the army’s hideout, they find the house burned down and abandoned. This is cause for concern, since Bree and Diego seem to believe that the whole sunlight-turns-vampires-to-crisps deal applies to their breed as well. Ditto goes for stakes and garlic. They hide in a cave and get to know each other. If you thought that sentence smelled of innuendo, you were right.

Sigh… so yes, nothing actually happens, but after two hours in a cave with Diego, Bree certainly hopes that something would happen. In the Stephenieverse girls take an average of 3.2 seconds to fall in love. In the brief moments in which they are not busy gazing dreamily at each other, our heroes also figure out that the whole sunlight/garlic/stake thing is a load of horse dung. Bravo, Diego, only took you eleven months to figure that out. That’s how old he is, by the way, in vampire terms. And before that he was a human for about eighteen years. Which would make bonking Bree illegal in a number of places. Diego’s luck holds, though, because he dies before he can do anything unlawful other than killing loads of people.

Sorry, I’ve jumped ahead a little. After Bree and Diego discover that they can go outside during the day without turning into sparkly lumps of coal, they go in search of the rest of the army. They find them and discuss whether or not they should tell anyone about their amazing discovery. Yes, is their conclusion, but we’ll only tell Riley for now. Maybe it’s an honest misunderstanding. Hell, the poor man might not even know. Bree is not so certain that Riley is such a good guy, but Diego insists and continues to insist on that even after he and Bree overhear a conversation between Riley and Victoria in which they blatantly describe the army as a collection of idiots designated to be cannon fodder very soon. (That conversation gives me a headache when I try to think about the logic of it all… but more later).

They hear and they ponder and think, but hey, he’s the good guy, right? So Diego tells Riley about the sunlight, alone, and as a result suffers a slight case of death. Bree, for reasons known only to Stephenie herself, doesn’t think much of it when Diego doesn’t return, and happily goes along with her orders. The army gets trained a little, they kill enough humans to depopulate as small country, and off they go to get slaughtered by the Cullens, Bree among them. She survives, or rather surrenders to our favourite veggie-vamps, only to get killed by the Volturi a few pages later. But that’s okay, really, because Diego is dead too and now they can be together… in hell.

So, now for the fun part. The three principal characters in this book are Bree, Diego and a vampire named Freaky Fred.

Diego is easy. He’s your typical Adonis look-alike vampire. Not too bright, except where his sparkly skin is concerned, but who’s counting brain cells when a pretty face is involved? My favourite Diego scene is the one in which he tests out his theory about stakes not being quite as lethal as they are made out to be by ramming one into his chest. I applaud his application of the scientific method… but his survival instinct seems to be on holiday throughout the book.

Then there’s Bree, our narrator. One thing that I forgot to stress when I was writing my review of Jacob’s narration in Breaking Dawn is that Stephenie seems to be intent on making a character’s age apparent through his inner voice. Jake is a kid to her and so is Bree, and I get the idea that she thinks teenagers cannot or shouldn’t be clever or eloquent. This doesn’t make the book any easier to read.

Bree is also really thick. I guess that is why she falls for Diego in the first place: perfect match and all that. This way their singular brain cells will be less lonely (they just need to hold their heads really close together). Bree has several good hunches about just how nice Riley really is and just how true all the things are that he is telling them about the Cullens and their place in the world. And what does she do about it? Diddly-squat, that’s what. The whole thing finds its culmination when Diego doesn’t return from his heart-to-heart with Riley. She, already suspecting Riley of being a bad bad vampire, ask him what happened to Diego. Diego? says Riley. Ah… yes. Diego. He’s… over there somewhere. Scouting… yes, that’s it. He’s scouting. He’ll be back, honest. And he’s fine, not dead at all. And Bree is happy and content and marches off to meet the Cullens. Cause there’s nothing suspicious going on here at all, right?

Then there’s Freaky Fred. I haven’t mentioned him so far because he doesn’t really play much of a part in the novel. He’s one of them special vampires, the ones that can do fancy magic and stuff. His magic is to make people feel sick when they look at him. He’s got a weak spot for Bree, so he makes people feel sick looking at her once or twice too when she needs it. He’s also the only one of the sorry lot that gets away in the end. As Bree notes in one instance, Fred is a real clever one, must have been to university or somethin’ like that. So he sees right through Riley’s clever subterfuge and in the end slips away before the big slaughterfest. He also, apparently, thinks about telling Bree about his theories. Bree, who is already suspecting things, only to always discard her worries as silly suspicions. One would think that some extra input from someone educated might be of help. The only trouble is that Fred is apparently content to look at her as if he wanted to tell her something important and then never opens his bloody educated gob. I didn’t notice at first, but that’s really what happens. He just looks like he’s got oral constipation and then never says anything. This happens at least a dozen times in the book. That’s once every fourteen pages. Stephenie’s version of “being subtle,” I assume.

Victoria, the uber-evil uber-villain of Twilight, sadly appears in only one scene. I say sadly, because this scene alone has enough laughs to keep a good stand-up comedian busy for years. First there’s the whole shtick about the newborn army being basically the Twilight equivalent of your average Star Trek redshirt. A discussion which Bree and Diego listen to without any real consternation. Maybe fear isn’t a vampire thing, like thinking.

The Volturi, as I never get tired of reminding people, are this super ancient vampire clan from Italy. They’re from Volterra, which makes me wonder a) why they’re not called Volturri and b) if Steph maybe didn’t just pick the name because it sounds a tiny-winey little bit like vulture. Also they’re some sort of vampire aristocracy/world police/super badass coven all wrapped up in one, and they are out to get the Cullens. Because everyone is always after the good guys. In TSSLOBT they visit Victoria to make sure that she’s really out to kill Eddie and Bells and the rest of the clan and not just trying to achieve world dominion through outstanding idiocy. And they wonder… if Alice can see the future, how come she hasn’t seen the newborn army come for her family yet?

Stephenie Meyer has already tried to answer that question with some limited success in Eclipse. There Alice’s explanation sounded a lot like it’s because she hasn’t decided yet and if she’s not decided then I can’t see and… look, a unicorn! Victoria gives much the same answer, only in the face of 22 vampires that are camped a stone’s throw away, the answer seems even less convincing. I haven’t decided what I will do with them, she says. So in other words she has created 22 vampires all on her own, appointed someone to herd them and gets regular updates on how they are doing and she hasn’t thought “and then they’ll kill the Cullens for me” even once. Really? I mean… really?!? That’s as if a man was heating up a large glob of glass on a hollow stick without ever thinking “I’ll make a vase”. Try not to think of an elephant, I dare you.

Almost done.

I was very amused by the scene in which Bree and Diego discover exactly what their skin does when it comes into contact with sunlight. We all know the answer… it sparkles. Bree is a little surprised, kind of pleased, but also a little amused. I look like a disco ball, she thinks. And once again I can sort of see Stephenie shuffling her feet in the far distance. She twiddles her thumbs, smiles a little sheepishly and says: Okay, I get it, it is silly. If I admit it is silly will you please stop making fun of me? No, we won’t, Steph. Sorry. But it is nice that you admitted it. Now go look at something shiny.

And then there’s my favourite item. It’s about math again. Vampire feeding math. 22 still alive, Victoria says at one point. She means the newborn army and seems to imply that there were more than 22 at some point. Okay. Eleven months, Diego says when asked when he was created. Also noted. I’ll be hungry again in a few hours and in three days I’ll have to hunt again, Bree thinks to herself (after just having snacked on two hookers and a pimp). A lot of pretty, sparkly numbers. If you add them up they worry me a little.

Say Diego was the first vampire created by Victoria. We don’t know that, but to be fair that’s what we shall assume. Let’s also say that there might have been more than 22 newborns at some point, but if you take into account that Victoria needed some time to bring her army to full strength the eleven-month average is probably lower than 22. Say… fifteen?

Fifteen vampires need to feed once every three days over an eleven-month period consuming between two and three humans with each feeding. Eleven months have 336 days. That’s 112 feedings. 122 x 2.5 = 280. 280 x 15 = 4200. That’s me going with reasonable, low numbers. And I’m not counting Riley or Victoria here. Seattle has 617,334 people living in it according to a 2009 census. So, roughly speaking, Bree and her friends eat 1 in 125 people in the Emerald City. That’s a lot. The sudden increase in missing persons and unsolved homicides is mentioned in Eclipse, sure, but this… ? Shouldn’t Obama be sending in the National Guard or something?

And thus, in the wake of this amusing little mathematical conundrum, I leave you and Twilight be. It’s been a fun ride. OK, who am I kidding? Actually it hasn’t been. I’m very tolerant when it comes to reading trash. Bring it on, baby. But with these books it got harder and harder to forge on with each page that I turned. And yes, it is easy reading. The sentences seemed to fly beneath my eyes. Maybe they wanted to get out of the book really badly. But no matter how fast I was reading, the sheer stupidity of the characters… Bella’s submissiveness… Edward’s suffering masculinity…. Jacob’s biceps… it all got a little too much to bear after almost 3000 pages of incessant, self-absorbed blathering.

But I’ve also learned things. I’ve finally understood why people are so fascinated with Twilight. I have learned to look deeply into the twists and turns of Stephenie Meyer’s mind (or Steph, as I call her), and it is a scary place. I’ve learned about grizzly bears and mountain lions, about Seattle, about the Olympic Peninsula and about domestic violence. It has been an experience. It was gruelling, but it has also made me stronger.

Do not follow me, if you are faint of heart.

Seriously. Don’t.

The Twilight Experiment: Day 10

Turns out that a partial draft of Midnight Sun is available on Stephenie Meyer’s website. So yay for me and yay for the Twilight Experiment, because now there will be another installment of it.

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?

The Twilight Experiment: Day 9

The first thing I notice with a slight wince is that the third part of Breaking Dawn opens up with a quote by Orson Scott Card. Not only is it a very misanthropic quote that can be summed up as “if you’re in trouble, friends and family are just ballast,” it is also a quote by the only author who manages to be more right-wing than Terry Goodkind. (Ayn Rand is dead, she doesn’t count.) He’s also a homophobe.

Moving on. Bella starts off her stunning tale with her favourite literary device: the preface.

The preface is a shy creature, often seen in pre-World War II literature and the works of Stephenie Meyer. In recent years the living conditions of prefaces have changed rapidly, mainly due to the deforestation of the South American rainforest, and as a result today’s prefaces look and behave much more like an introduction by the author. The rare subspecies prefaceicus s. meyerensis hasn’t noticed that yet. This subspecies also features really atrocious writing. Although similar in intent, prefaceicus s. meyerensis is not to be confused with the prologue, which more commonly looks like an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details.

This particular preface is of the s. meyerensis type and once again demonstrates just how talented Stephenie is.

I was desperate for the precious one I guarded, but even to think of that was a lapse in attention I could not afford.

I’m trying to decide what I like best about that sentence. I think it’s “the precious one.” These words, just three of them, create an amazing amount of revulsion in me. I’m not quite sure what exactly it is that makes me want to hurl. Is it the atrocious attempt at imitating the flowery style of Brontë and Austen? Is it Stephenie’s feeble foray into making us believe that it might not be a baby that Bella is guarding? Or is she just dangerously desperate to hide the baby’s sex for a few more paragraphs? Is it maybe a cunning combination of all three? Whatever it is, I hereby motion that all pharmaceutical companies that produce emetics go forth and sue Stephenie Meyer for industrial espionage or whatever else will stick to her pale Mormon hide. It would be for the common good, trust me.

As I take a deep breath and try to dispel the preface from my mind, it occurs to me that a summary might be in order. Then I can get on with telling you what a crack-up Steph is.

What has happened to far in Breaking Dawn is that Bella has gotten married, honeymooned, domestically violated, impregnated and delivered of a healthy baby demon in just under a month. Now, with the baby-vamp born, Bella is on her way to becoming a sparkly, beautiful vampire. Yay for her. The third part of the novel starts off with Bella living through the torment of the transformation. She does that for quite a while, by the way, feel free to skip the first twenty pages or so. You can also feel free to skip the first 361 pages, that will save you a lot of pain and you’ll get all the important stuff from this nifty summary, anyway.

After Bella is transformed and now, apparently, the most beautiful creature on God’s earth, her amazing, carefree, immortal, blood-thirsting forever-afterlife can begin in earnest. There’s only one little problem. Jacob Black, werewolf of her treacherous heart and general steroid-enhanced nuisance, has imprinted on her kid. In case any of you were wondering, Bella hasn’t got a secret teenage daughter stashed away somewhere… I am talking about the newborn baby. Please raise your hand now if you think this is gross. And yes, it is a daughter. And she’s called Renesmee. Gesundheit. She should be grateful, really, because the alternative would have been EJ. Edward Jacob. Not only do I detest people who give their kids only initials as first names, I also think that calling your kid after your two lovers deserves some sort of insanity award. So yes… the weremutt loves the baby-demon. How cute. Also Bella is actually, all things considered, quite cool about it all and thus the happy, shag-filled afterlife can commence.

Three months into their fuckathon Bella and Edward get an ungentle wake-up call. Through a series of misunderstandings, accidents and characters generally being most uncommunicative, the Volturi (royalty-like super vamps that are out to get Bells) have gotten wind of Renesmee. They think she’s an immortal child and… well… mhm… this is getting rather complicated. Immortal child = bad. Okay? Bells, Eddie, Pedo-Jake and the rest of the Cullen clan worry, misunderstand and despair for the next 300-odd pages. Alice seems to vanish from the face of the earth, causing everyone to call her a coward to her rapidly receding backside, but the reader cannot help but have this sneaking suspicion that she might have a plan after all. Bella meanwhile has plans of her own and seeks out J. Jenks, a lawyer from Seattle specialised in obtaining fake documents (for a price). Money is not an issue, but the page count is. In the end everyone gets what they want. J. Jenks gets sixty thousand dollars, Bella gets some mileage on her odometer and Stephenie gets a nice fifty-page subplot that leads nowhere.

Charlie – that’s Bella’s dad for those lucky innocents that haven’t read the books – gets introduced to the whole vampire/werewolf shtick and spectacularly fails to draw the right conclusions. We also get introduced to Stephenie’s collection of racial stereotypes (don’t worry, I’ll get back to that in a bit).

In the end the Volturi arrive, all set on ridding the world of the menace that is Bella Cullen, but sadly they fail due to the power of super-Bella.

And then everyone lives happily ever after. Forever.

Now. If that doesn’t sound horrible enough to you, you might be interested in what other issues I have with the novel. Let’s see… they are manifold and varied. Where to start?

There is a lot wrong with this last part of Breaking Dawn. I wonder if Stephenie ran out of strength at the end. I say this with less sarcasm than I would like to. Being a writer myself, I can certainly sympathise. Fact is that the last part of this gargantuan novel is far more flawed, more peppered with little inconsistencies, than the rest of the series. But enough of being all nice and understanding.

In the previous part of the Twilight Experiment I complained about Stephenie’s attitude towards the militant anti-abortion vamp Rosalie. I’m still complaining. The whole thing is beyond ridiculous and the character is so transparent that Mrs. Meyer might as well have called the book Abortion Is Bad with Especially If It Saves The Mother’s Life as a subtitle. Now, somewhere around page 440, we hear Bella speak of her new-found camaraderie with her procreation-obsessed sister. It’s not a character inconsistency per se, I realize that, but one would think that even someone as mentally challenged as Bella might have realized that it was all about the sweet, darling babe and that Rosalie wouldn’t have given the monetary equivalent of a wet fart if Bella had died giving birth. It’s slightly disturbing, really.

Speaking of the babe. Renesmee “Monster-spawn” Cullen matures at an unnatural pace. Two inches a day. Because having a pooing, slobbering infant around the house isn’t fun. Also, because infants in general are messy, Renesmee is aware. I am uncomfortably reminded of fan-fiction-esque things that I thought about when I was maybe eleven or twelve. Always the perfect couple – mommy, daddy and the sweet babe –  but something would always happen to make the slobbering nuisance go away or grow up fast or something. And that’s just what happens here. Not only will the demon-spawn be a grown-up in just four years, she is also aware. She can talk at the age of a week, walk not much later and is, from day one, able to keep up semi-telepathic conversations with mommy and daddy. Oh… and the son-in-law question is also already sorted, thanks to the magic of werewolf imprinting. Neat, eh? It’s like Stephenie thinks that a perfect family has to have a perfect baby, but she’s also aware that baby means a lot of work and not so much sex.

Speaking of sex… they have a lot of it. Really. And with it comes a nice opportunity to nitpick. Page 446 gives us this beautiful sentence:

Our time on the island had been the epitome of my human life.

Bella refers to their “first time” during their honeymoon. Now… I stumbled across that. Thought “mhm, that sounds awkward.” So I look up “epitome”. I have this neat little program on my computer, Steph, I really recommend it. It’s called WordWeb. It tells me interesting things, such as what words mean. I need that, because I’m really a champion at mixing stuff up. Like jacuzzi and yakuza. Now, WordWeb tells me that an epitome is either “a standard or typical example” or “a brief abstract (as of an article or book).” So your honeymoon was average, Bells. That what you’re trying to say? Maybe not. To be fair I also check Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. Here I get the first two meanings plus “a person or thing that is the embodiment or a perfect example.” Now that’s closer, but (as my dad would say) still no flowerpot. It also sounds really wonky. Steph, if you wanted to go for a fancy word, you should have tried pinnacle or culmination (or cullenmination, I suppose). And use a bloody dictionary, please.

Moving on. A bit faster now, because if I stop to complain about every single wonky sentence we will still be here when the world comes to an end. And I don’t mean 2012.

Here’s a nice one. Breaking Dawn introduces us to a whole slew of new vampires. Vampires from Ireland, England, Egypt, Brazil, Romania and of course plenty from the good ol’ U.S. of A., the blood-sucking capital of the world. Not only does Stephenie dazzle us with an astonishing cornucopia of racial stereotypes, they also all come with fancy talents. So many beautiful things to complain about. Where to start… decisions, decisions… where to pounce first? Ahh… okay, racism it is.

Benjamin is from Egypt. So is Tia, his mate. Amun and Ebi are from Egypt too. Not only do I have to notice that they were favoured by Steph with nice, exotic names (not like poor Benji, who has to be content with sounding vaguely biblical), Amun is also a steadfast macho who doesn’t allow his wife an opinion of her own and who tries to subjugate poor Benji with his evil middle-eastern schemes of world domination, while Ebi never speaks a word and seems to mostly be interested in the dirt next to her feet. He also, and I am more or less quoting the book here “tries to form Benjamin into a secret weapon”. I can hear the words of mass destruction echo in the author’s mind.  The Irish are inevitably red-haired and the Brit is a reserved, stuck-up asshole. The Amazonians are wild and have a vague homoerotic flavour to them that makes Bella uncomfortable. Finally, my favourites, are the Romanians. Not only is one of them called Vladimir (nudge, nudge) they also both insist on talking about their own, inevitably evil, schemes in hearing distance of everyone else, thus rendering them about as believable as panto villains. But what else can you expect from them shifty eastern types? They’re not like those nice American vampires, who are all well-behaved and don’t have any weird habits at all.

Racism: check. What about the fancy magic then? At one point in the novel… I forget the page but it’s when the first friendly (American) vamps arrive to take a look at the supposed immortal child Renesmee, we get introduced to the idea that Eddy and his sister Alice aren’t the only vampires with talents. Edward can hear other people’s thoughts. Alice can see the future. So far so good. Then we learn that there’s also Elezar, who can recognize other vampires’ talents. And Kate, who can electro-shock by touching someone (eyebrows start going up). And Renata, who can project a shield. And Alec, who can make people blind. And Chelsea… at which point the narrative comes to a screeching halt, because I can’t even wait to hear what fancy thing Chelsea will pull out of her hat (she can break up personal relationships, it would seem), I slam the book closed to see if I accidentally picked up a novelization of Jersey Shore. I mean… Chelsea… seriously? Carlisle and Esme and Jasper and Aro, Caius, Marcus, Dimitri, Vladimir, Elezar and… wait for it… Chelsea. I see. And she can mind-fuck with who you like and whom you hate. Someone you knew in high school, Stephenie? Or… wait a sec… this isn’t Jersey Shore after all. It’s the magical land of Xanth, where everyone has his very own, unique magical talent. Next up is the vampire that can change the color of his pee. It’s a miracle that Piers Anthony hasn’t sued yet.

And of course Bella turns out to have the most magical, sparkly talent of all that will make the über-evil Volturi piss their pants (colourfully) and ultimately she (and only she) will save the whole fracking day. Because she is Super Bells, she who can project the Super Shield of Awesomeness to ward off all Evil and who will master this talent in mere days where others strive for centuries to get even the tiniest bit of control over their own gifts. Yes, indeed, that’s the way we roll, baby. And it’s not fan fiction at all, honest. (Did I mention that there’s also a vampire who can make wishes come true and one that can control the four elements? All true and all solid copyright lawsuits for Piers Anthony, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender and a whole bunch of other people.)

Time to take a deep breath. No, wait! There’s more to get exasperated about. Wildlife conservation issues. The vegetarian vampires of Forks don’t eat humans, which is rather nice of them I think, what with me being human and all that. Instead they drink animal blood. Only, apparently, carnivores are more tasty. More like human blood than, say, deer. And the bigger the carnivore the tastier the blood.

However, if it’s a matter of diet (and I don’t mean vampire diet but rather what the animal eats) then shouldn’t an omnivore be the most human-like in taste? After all we sort of are omnivores. What about pigs then, Eddie? It’s so close to human blood that it can even be used for transfusions. Sounds really yummy. What? Come again… carnivores are much cooler? Ah, I see. You should have said so in the first place. So it’s all about big-burly-hunter-machismo-feelings. Okay. Forget I said anything.

Edward likes mountain lion. So does Bella. Okay. Mountain lion, sounds scrumptious. Let’s do some math. When they go hunt deer in one scene, Bella eats three until she is sated. Now, although deer come in many varieties and flavours, I find that most deer species native to North America weigh a lot more than a mountain lion, and thus should have a lot more liquid in them.  What about Emmett then? He likes male grizzly. He goes hunting at pretty much the same frequency as the other vampires. For comparison: the average weight of a male mountain lion is 62 kilos, that of a grown male grizzly is around 300 kilos. Maybe Emmett is like Jessica Biel and always leaves his plate half-full?

Also (scary music cue) both the grizzly and mountain lion populations are currently in decline… maybe it’s all more than just a story!

There is one last issue that I have with this book. On page 567 Stephenie takes a bloody sledgehammer to the glass filigree of our suspension of disbelief and smashes it to a gazillion tiny bits and pieces. Jacob, always a wellspring of joy anyway, asks rhetorically for a list of names of all the strange, foreign bloodsuckers that have invaded the house. And then there’s one of them tiny, little asterisk thingummys behind that. And I wonder… funny that, that almost looks like there’s going to be a footnote th… wait a minute. And I look down to see, lo and behold: a footnote. The first in over 2000 pages of Twilight. And no, it doesn’t point out that Jacob is an idiot, a true if somewhat superfluous observation to make at this point, no… it kindly reminds us that an index of names will be awaiting our convenience at the end of this novel. (And then Stephenie walks up to the tiny glass fragments and grinds them into a powder with the heel of her steel-capped army boots.)

And thus it ends. Bella and Edward and their little Renesmeh will live happily ever after. For a very long time, for as it turns out neither Jake nor Renesmee will age as soon as the demon-child reaches physical maturity. We, the readers, are all left with vague thoughts of garlic, stakes and UV lamps and a strong desire to wash our eyes with lye. And our brains too, while we’re at it… now where did I put that bone saw? Stephenie has moved on to greener pastures, pastures involving body-snatching aliens and dragon planets and fire worlds. (I can already hear Anne McCaffrey and Jack Finney sharpening their copyright infringement stakes.) And if all that doesn’t work out, after all Stephenie’s got three kids that all want to go to college, she can always pick up Twilight again. She has, after all, left the backdoor wiiiiiiiiiiide open when she wrote that the Volturi are beaten… for now. And so we shiver, not in anticipation, but in fear.

The Twilight Experiment: Day 5

It’s been a good long time since I read Eclipse. Well, okay, it’s been maybe three months since I read it, but thankfully the quality of the novel is such that the psychological scarring quickly fades. Literary junk-food, much like its culinary namesake, passes through the system rather quickly, if unpleasantly. On the other hand, maybe I shouldn’t be so happy about Eclipse’s perishable nature, because as I sit down to write this, the fifth part of the Twilight Experiment, I find that I’ll have to re-read most of the book if this review is to make any kind of sense. Urgh!

First page: Another one of Stephenie’s beloved Prefaces. (Which is a curious word to use, since it originally meant author’s foreword, even if the distinction between preface and prologue seems to have become a little blurred in recent years.) Anyway, the preface, in all its horrendous glory.

Black eyes, wild with their fierce craving for my death, watched for the moment when my protector’s attention would be diverted.

A real beauty, that one. Even if we ignore Stephenie’s feeble attempt to make us wonder if it’s really Edward of the Sparkle that’s defending Bella here. Even if we suspend disbelief and stop wondering why anyone would ever put his sparkly skin on the line to protect Bella Swan of all the people in the world. Even then we have to marvel at wild with their fierce craving. It’s almost as good as his intense concentration betrayed no hint of doubt just a little further up on the same page. Because concentration usually is, like, relaxed. Right?

First chapter: In a sense we are blessed, for the two real bummers in the first half of Eclipse are served to us on a platter right on the first two pages. After we have struggled out of the pit of filth that is the prolo preface, barely clinging on to life, sanity and literary taste buds, we are assailed by the first chapter. Assailed by Jacob’s letter, to be more precise.

Now, to be fair, I know the boy is dense. Granted: brighter cookies have been sighted in the Quileute jar of crumbly, chunky, chocolate-filled werewolves. (Yuck!)  But would you, or anyone of slightly higher intelligence than a dead hamster, write a note to a friend/lover/strange thing, re-think what you want to write seven times and then send your entire creative effort, including the still quite legible crossed-out bits? Really? Or are we supposed to believe that the Quileute reservation is undergoing some sort of tragic, cataclysmic paper shortage? Or maybe, just maybe, Stephenie liked them all and couldn’t quite decide which one to keep in the book. And the decision is hard, really. One could go for tacky: it just makes it worse when I think about you. Or maybe a more stern tone is called for with: you made a choice here, okay? Or, finally, there’s the timeless let’s-steal-a-line-that-I-heard-somewhere-approach: which part of “mortal enemies” did you not understand? Real classy Stephenie. That jokey, throwaway line in there somehow manages to rob the entire note of what little credibility it might have held before. Assuming we believed the Quileute paper shortage excuse in the first place, that is.

Moving on, quicker now, for the first half of the book proceeds to slowly drown in a slimy quagmire of stalling, needless jealousy and literary name dropping. Yes, Mrs. Meyer, we’re very proud that you have managed to read Wuthering Heights, all 260 pages of it, please stop mentioning it all the time.

I (re)read, skimming the pages in parts – if you cut straight to the dialogue the pain lessens, I find. The middle bits are anyway bound to be either about Jacob’s biceps or about Edward’s, well, sparkly bits. Then, just eight pages in, my skimming grinds to a halt. I’m nitpicking and I know it, but I remember this bit from my first go at Ecplise. (And besides, without nitpicking, would there be joy in this world?) Bella speaks of Charlie’s surly attitude. Now, you remember Charlie, don’t you? He’s one of Stephenie’s charming one-personality-trait side characters. In his case that trait is non-verbose, which he has leveled up to an impressive +17. Now, I know Stephenie loves her adjectives, so maybe she just needed one in that sentence and this one was the first that came to mind. If that is the case, we’re lucky: it could also have been broccoliesque. If she actually meant surly, as in “inclined to anger or bad feelings with overtones of menace”, one has to wonder why it is placed in front of the most wordy conversation Bella has with her dad in the entirety of the four books. A conversation in which he laughs, lifts her house arrest and says that Edward might (might, mind you) not be the Antichrist. Well… just thinking out loud.

Fourteen pages in. Edward comes by to visit. I now notice what’s been wrong with the book so far. Why it didn’t really feel like a Twilight novel. No page-long descriptions of male anatomy. Yep, that’s it. But trust Bella to set right what was amiss.

I saved the eyes for last, knowing that when I looked into them I was likely to lose my train of thought.

I see. Might I point out that a) that is probably a good thing and that b) instead of train, a more fitting term might be draisine. Yes. Anyway.

Back to the quagmire. I had a conversation with a friend recently. Said friend, someone whose literary judgement and taste I trust to a certain degree, had just confessed to seeing the third Twilight movie. I took this in my stride – he has also read the books, he knew what he was in for. So, I ask him, how was it?

And he says, quite simply: short. Not in minutes, but in plot. I’ll be seeing same-said movie next Tuesday, then I’ll be able to confirm what he said, but for now I’m taking him by his word. The third book, Eclipse, is a good fifty pages longer than the previous one, New Moon. “So what?” I hear you say. Sequels tend to get longer in a lot of cases, just look at Harry Potter. Yes, I say in response, partly that may be because getting a 100.000+ words novel published is a nightmare (as I am currently discovering). So beginner novels may tend to be shorter because of that. Or because the plot thickens, broadens and thus requires more pages to be told. All possible reasons for books’ tendency to get longer as a series progresses.

But, and here’s the catch, most series actually have more story. Not so with Eclipse. I am not joking when I say that the actual plot of the book could easily and without any loss of quality (hah) be compressed into, say, 10 chapters. Eclipse has 27 chapters, 28 if you count the epilogue. (Shouldn’t that be epiface or something, btw?)

Bella gets ungrounded. Vampires want to kill her (again). Edward asks her to marry him. She refuses. He asks again. She says yes, but will you fuck me first? He says no. She says okay, but after, yes? Vampires come to kill her. Instead the Cullens and the werecuddles kill them. The End.

There, ten sentences, ten chapters. Easy as pie and far less dreary. So what’s the filler? It’s an endless, incredibly boring tug-of-war between Jacob and Edward. Bella’s the rope, just in case you’re wondering. And again I wish I was kidding. A good two-thirds of the book get eaten by this. Bella sneaks away to La Push and the Cullens stop her. Bella sneaks away to La Push and the Cullens don’t stop her, but she gets an earful from Edward later. Bella punches Jacob because he kissed her and breaks her hand, making us all wish that she had tried to headbutt him instead. Bella pleads with Edward to let her see the mutt and he says no, taking a page from the Big Book of Chauvinist Dominance and Oppression. And on it goes. It’s painful. The Long, Hurt Look count in this book is in the far thousands and that’s not even counting the Angry, Hurt Looks and the Short, Hurt Looks. In the end we all wish that either Jacob, Bella or Edward had been killed in infancy by a piano falling out of the sky. Preferably all three of them actually – it happens more often than you would think. Just ask Joe Abercrombie.

I’m almost done. Only Benito is left.

You, Stephenie, have got one single Hispanic character in your whole damn mostly-Causcasian-white-with-a-sprinkle-of-token-spiritual-natives-thrown-in-for-flavour 629-page book and you name him Benito?

Benito?

I rest my case.

Thus ends part five of the Twilight Experiment. Expect more soon when I explain why exactly Bella should dump Edward quicker than you can say Jacob’s biceps.

The Twilight Experiment: Day 2

It’s early in the morning and I’m going shopping. Cat food. We’re out and Cat needs to eat. I’ve got Twilight with me, the book that I think will be my steady companion for the next few days, if not weeks. The rules of the experiment are clear. I only read when I’m out and about, to maximize exposure. Goad the haters, if you will. Destiny is about to take a crap on my plans, but I don’t know that yet.

I’ve got a headache. I don’t think that it is caused by my reading material, especially seeing as I’ve only read for about two minutes at this point, but I can’t be sure. What I am sure about is that I am feeling uncomfortable. I’m walking down Leipziger Straße, a medium-sized shopping street near our place. In the afternoon the streets will be packed with shoppers, but right now it’s relatively quiet, which allows me to read as I walk. Later in the day something like this would be rendered impossible by the necessity of dodging people. I am used to reading as I walk; it doesn’t take much concentration to do both, and I hardly ever run into lampposts. But try as I might, I cannot pull off the trick of holding the book in such a way that no one can see the cover. You remember, the German cover looks the same as the English one, so I’m easily spotted. I remember having read about cloth book jackets aimed at grown-ups who want to read the Harry Potter books without being seen, and resolve to get or make such a device.

The book drones on. Bella is currently busy misconstructing everything in her path. Ah… Bella, what a girl.

Bella Swan: idiot, danger to herself, grump par excellence. Also, and I quote the Wikipedia here:

“Bella is described in the novels as being very pale with brown hair, chocolate-brown eyes, and a heart-shaped face. Beyond this, a detailed description of her appearance is never given in the series”

Aha. I’m on page 57 now and I know that Bella is 5 foot 4, slender but not athletic, that her lips are slightly disproportionate… I could go on for quite a bit. Who writes this shit? Just for once I don’t mean Twilight, but the Wikipedia article. What do these people want when they speak of detailed physical descriptions? Measurements in millimeters?

And Edward is very attractive. Very. Attractive. That’s about as far as Stephenie has gotten, no mention of his shoelaces though. (And I know it’s unfair to make fun of Mrs. Meyer for being called Stephenie, but… really… Stephenie? Next it will be Nychole or Makynzi. When will the mothers of this world learn that they’re not doing their children any favours?)

I get back home. My headache has swollen to inhuman proportions, just like Bella’s stupidity, and I am beginning to suspect that the book is to blame after all. In a desperate effort to save my life I down two paracetamol tablets, lie down on the couch… and continue reading. I never said that Bella had a monopoly on the idiot thing.

Thanks to my extended sicktime I read the entire book in one day. That is, the entire book minus the thirty-odd pages that I got done on the day before. My brain doesn’t ooze out of my ears, so the physical side effects aren’t as bad as I feared.

But my mind… my mind is hurting from deep down in the logic centers.

Bella Swan. Bella. Swan. You see… Bella is sullen, antisocial and clumsy. These are, I swear to God, her dominant character traits. Her only character traits, actually. A real charmer, our Bella. And the two worst things about her are that a) she’ll always, no matter what the situation may be, assume the worst about her fellow human beings and their opinion of her and b) that the woman shouldn’t have lived past her first year given how clumsy she is.

Hypothetical situation: Bella comes home to Phoenix after a long stay in Forks. Her mum is overjoyed, throws her a surprise party, refurnishes her room and gifts her a car. This doesn’t happen in any of the books, but I swear that if it did, Bella would come to the conclusion that her mother didn’t like her anymore. Why? Go figure. But this girl spends about half the book alternately moping or crying over the latest, absolutely imagined insult. And yes, I know, we’ve all been teenagers at some point, and stuff like that can happen in real life, but not that much. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that Mrs. Meyers is only trying to push the word count, but I get the bad feeling that she actually thinks teenage girls behave like this. If that were true then it would be a miracle that the human race hasn’t collectively committed suicide yet.

As to the clumsiness charge: yes, you heard right, Bella should have died of dropping a piano on herself at the age of fourteen months and three days. The world would be a happier place if she had.  But she didn’t, and so we get Twilight. And a scene where she hits herself in the face with a badminton racket. Herself. Face. Badminton racket. For those of you who are just asking themselves what my problem is: please, pretty please, go to the garage, or the attic or wherever your family keeps sporting equipment, and get a badminton racket. Everyone has one of those lying about somewhere. Softball will do at a pinch; ask the neighbours if you must. Hold it in your hand… and try to hit yourself in the face with it. You’ll see that it is a lot harder than you think. Bella must be some kind of contortionist genius. For someone who seems to take unearthly delight in minutely planing and describing every movement needed by Edward to scratch his perfectly attractive bum, Stephenie Meyer could have put a little more thought into that one. And I’ve had enough phys ed classes in my life to know that there are a lot more creative, not to mention likely, ways to do yourself harm.

But it’s not only sports. Bella also breaks into a sweat when she is faced with walking off the beaten track, literally this time. A short, five-minute hike through the forest and the girl is all bruises and cuts. Which makes the idea that she faints if she sees so much as a single drop of her own blood even more ridiculous. There are some sights that even the excessively squeamish will get used to after the two-hundredth time. But I suppose it’s just so funny to have a protagonist that is afraid of blood and falls in love with a vampire. Hahaha.

I won’t go for the feminist angle here because… I just don’t care. Bella is weak and stupid and deserves to die, but I would feel the same about a male character like that. And I don’t care that this is an often-propagated stereotype that gets overapplied to the fairer sex. Don’t. Care. Just saying that. In case you’re wondering.

It’s late now. Past midnight, and I’m getting closer to the end. Bella has finally gotten all the myriad misunderstandings that were keeping her from her favourite hematophile out of the way. Everything is peachy except that she also is being chased by a tracker named James. A tracker, as we learn, is a vampire that specializes in finding people and won’t give up until he has found, killed and eaten them. And Bella’s got a dinner invitation from him. She’s the main course. Edward Cullen doesn’t want to tell us why his family of seven strapping vampires won’t stand watch over Bella’s house until the creep shows so that they can kill him; I suspect his reasons can be summed up as: because the author said so. And because Mrs. Meyer said so we get the extra bitter-sweet parting scene and Bella gets whisked away to Phoenix, because getting her away from her (vulnerable) father and closer to her (vulnerable) mum makes, like, sense. In Phoenix, Bella lays on the sullen extra thick because her favourite Cullen isn’t there, and because that’s not embarrassing enough she also gets it into her head (let’s be fair here, yes, I know, she actually gets tricked) that James has her mum and the only way for Bella to save dear old mum is to go to James alone for a hostage exchange. All because James has been such a reliable and trustworthy fellow all along. Bella is full of great ideas…

… can anyone explain to me why she doesn’t tell anyone? I mean Alice can, like, see the future, maybe she can help

Oh, I get it. It’s because the author said so. Sorry. My bad.

The rest is easily told. Bella almost gets killed. Edward comes to her rescue at the last possible moment (probably waiting in the wings until James has his teeth in her, for maximum dramatic effect) and everyone lives happily ever after. Everyone except me, because I know now that I will have to read the other three books as well.

Call me a glutton for punishment. Call me a woman of science. Call me an idiot. But, to quote Babylon 5: Never start a fight, but always finish it. Stephenie Meyer started it. I will finish it. And besides I really, really want to know how that whole demon-baby thing will work out.

The Twilight Experiment: Day 1

I slide the book over the counter, cover down, and look at the cashier. A middle-aged woman – very short red hair, glasses, and the distinct air of a book-snob about her – looks back at me. My ruse hasn’t worked. She knows immediately what I’m buying. My mind is racing, imagining that the only thing that’s keeping her from saying something is the fact that the copy of Twilight that I’m about to buy is in English while she is German. I want to blurt out that I’m buying this thing, this literary abomination, for the sake of an experiment. For the sake of science, so to speak. Really quite self-sacrificial of me. But in the end I don’t say anything, not even hello/thank you/goodbye. Better to let her think I don’t speak German.

Outside of the bookstore I don’t have much time to look at the slim paperback that I just bought. I need to meet someone and I’m in a hurry. Also I’m not that keen on actually starting this little experiment of mine. Someone could get hurt.

My brain, for example.

Rewind… I’d seen Twilight: New Moon a while ago and thought that it had possibly set a new record for storyline-atrocity. But only just possibly, there’s always Bloom. Looked good though, can’t deny that. And then there was the thing with the other readers, sane people one and all, people whose judgement I trust, people who seem to have taste (you know who you are). And they had read Twilight. And New Moon. And the rest. Not only had they survived the experience, they had also said things like “reads well” or “it’s sort of fun, in a guilty pleasure kind of way”. And that planted the seed of doubt. Twilight, scourge of high fantasy, read by millions upon millions of teenagers. Was it really that bad? Did I have a right to participate in the ongoing Twilight discussion trashing without having read a single word of it? Does Bella Swan have a single redeeming feature? I don’t believe in guilty pleasure, at least not very much. If someone says something is a guilty pleasure he or she usually means that it is good, but doesn’t want to admit to thinking that in the company of others. Here in Germany Harry Potter is a guilty pleasure, see?

We have a saying in Germany which roughly translates as “eat shit, millions of flies can’t be wrong”. It doesn’t translate very well, but still serves to illustrate what is at the core of this little experiment: What if millions of flies aren’t wrong?

Back to Day 1: I meet the person I was going to meet and get a very disapproving frown when I mention what I have just done. Twilight, well actually fantasy literature as a whole, has a bad standing in Germany. Escapism, nonsense, childishness, these words are spoken much quicker and with less kindness here in the country of sheep. Intellectual people read suspense novels, because when the gardener kills Lord Adolfstein by shoving him into the paper shredder that’s, like, real, you know.

I’ve heard all of it before and gotten inured to the attacks of the literary elite by now. Still I try to explain. “It’s because I finally want to have an informed opinion. I don’t want to be talking out of my arse all the time.” Only three days later I will be ready to launch into a well-rehearsed speech on the subject of why reading Twilight was such a spiffing idea.

In the train on the way home, I open the book for the first time. I keep it on my lap, bending over in order to still be able to read. The cover of the German edition is identical to the English one; if I hold the book up like I normally would, people might notice what I’m reading.

I only skim the acknowledgements. Usually not my style, I tend to assume that authors have put some thought into whom they thank, but Stephenie Meyers’ acknowledgements are longer than some books I’ve read. It takes Jonas to point out that she thanks her “online family” at fansofrealitytv.com. That explains so much.

“I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.”

It’s not the first sentence of the book, that honour goes to something bland and incredibly convoluted, but if it were it would easily win the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, probably for several years in a row. It’s just that kind of sentence. I can’t even begin to describe what is wrong with it, there’s just too much, although the part about “pleasantly looking back” certainly makes up a good deal of the overall horribleness.

Two paragraphs down, 434 pages to go. Suddenly I’m not sure if I can do this. Yet I turn the page and read on. Once I’m in the flow it isn’t too bad. The atrocities keep coming, but they somehow get drowned out by all the filler. And there’s a lot of that. Mostly descriptions of how Bella hates the world in general and human beings specifically. Such a charming, vivacious personality! I already want to adopt her. Still, the filler isn’t thick enough to submerge the very, very frequent descriptions of Edward’s attractive voice. And his attractive skin. And attractive hair. He probably also has attractive shoelaces, but before I get to that part I need to stop reading in order to get off the train. I’m glad to stop – this book is so full of attractiveness that it makes my brain ache.

I have done my scientific duty for today. It doesn’t make me feel great, but at least I don’t feel too dirty.