03 December 2008

Twilight's OK But Not Good

Let me start this with a little background on myself. I'm a 31 year-old male living in Winston-Salem, NC. In my lifetime I've read many books regarding vampires because, well, I think vampires are cool. They're the bad guy you want to like, but also scare the bejesus out of you. When I was in Third or Fourth Grade I asked my Mom to take me to the public library-because that's what kids did back in the '80s-to check out "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. As any vampire fan will agree, this is the Holy Grail of vampire lore. It was the first commercial success. After reading Stoker's story I eventually graduated to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles during my high school years and completed them all a few years back. My personal vampire "taste" has been crafted around her version of the vampire simply because I think it is modern, well thought out, and if a vampire were to truly exist-this is the type I would like to...well...Be.

I'm also a huge fan of books like Harry Potter. I've read the entire series, and like many people I've seen all the movies to date. I will be honest: the reason I read the first book was due to all of the publicity it received from certain religious groups. I had to see what all the fuss was about. My first impression of the book was that people were talking about something in which they had never read. My second thought was: what about "Bewitched"? That was a huge hit in the '60s and no one complained then-or at least I never heard of it. In the end, the stories sucked me in. I appreciated how over the course of the series the writing style improved and became more complex. I appreciated the character development that J. K. Rowling to put into her work. I also appreciated a work that grew in maturity in the same manner as the potential reader.

So, like many Harry Potter fans I was left with a void once the series stopped. I think Rowling did the right thing by ending it when she did. I did have a problem with the ending of the last book, but that should probably be discussed in a different posting because this one is supposed to be about Twilight. So, let's get to it.

I read a couple of months ago about a new series of fantasy novels that had the potential to be the next Harry Potter. I was curious, but not enough to rush out and read the book. Then I heard that a movie was in the works. Now, I for one firmly believe you should always read the book before seeing the movie. I think it helps. Movies are on a tight budget and are limited in time. They have to edit because of this and sometimes the translations leave huge holes that are hard to fathom unless you have read the book before hand. It can make it annoying as the reader will always compare the movie to the book and end up with the result that the book was better. But it is nice to see the movie version.

In the end, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up "Twilight". I was fully prepared for what some vampire afficionado's were calling its shortcomings. I figured I could go into this with an open mind because anything had to be better than "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. (More on that later as well.)
So, what do I think of "Twilight"? It's a great story for a 13 year-old girl-or someone who likes cheesy romance novels-but a vampire story it is not. Stephenie Meyer has taken the vampire myth and basically desconstruted it to fit some moral good. There is no real conflict with being a blood-sucking demon and wanting to be good. Instead, we never truly see the fight that Edward, the main vampire of the book, has in relation to his desires for Bella. What the reader instead gets is a watered down romance novel with some form of god as the object of affection. If Ms. Meyer were to write this again, I would suggest she not call Edward Cullen a vampire, but rather an immortal for that is what he truly is. Oh sure, he was bitten and transformed, but he is not a vampire.
I'm not a huge fan of the fact that the Cullens do not drink human blood. This is a huge departure from vampire lore. The act of drinking human blood is so much more than simply drinking blood. This "act" is about drawing energy from the prey. The Life Force. Vampires are the "undead" to put it as Stoker did. They have no life. They are damned to walk the earth forever. So, they need Life to survive, and blood is the analogy. It is like saying my heart is breaking when you lose someone. Your heart is fine. But the analigous Heart is broken. Without the right Life Force a vampire will grow weak-maybe not die-but will start to slumber. We see that in "Dracula" and in "Interview with a Vampire". In "Interview" we see Louis attempt to be what the Cullens have obviuosly perfected. He attempts for days to live off of rats and other vermin only to be mocked by Lestat. Unfortunately, he is unable to sate his hunger because he is not satisfying the demon inside. He never truly feels whole and is constantly in pain. Dracula too survives off of vermin in Stoker's novel, but when a human is present he relishes in this.

So, Ms. Meyer has it wrong. She believes that imbibing blood is the main motive for a vampire's feeding. It is, quit simply: Not. The reason a vampire is drawn to the bloood is for the energy only the human soul can provide. For Ms. Meyer to miss this point entirely is dissappointing.

And this is why I'm not 100% a fan of the work. A vampire is evil; pure and simple. This is the origin of the myth. This is what is known around the world, and the use of blood as it's source of Life is a must. This would have created a better conflict. I realize that the conflict is there. It is ever present, but only to a small degree. It would have been much more interesting if Edward were to truly love her and take out his blood lust on unsuspecting people in the town, in order to preserve the love of his life. In this case, the story would have taken a better turn instead of the random plot-surprise that comes as an almost disjointed story to what had happened up until that point.
So, in reviewing this book I'll state that it is a good read with a new twist that should not be placed on an old myth. I liked it for the most part, but the lack of blood in the book was dissappointing. I am intrigued as to the next book, so I have picked it up as well. Perhaps Meyer can redeem herself in the following works.

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