OK, OK, I know I said I'd back off and leave Twilight alone, but that was before I read it. I was told by one of my friends that the books were much better than the films (she compared them favourably to the Harry Potter books, some of which I do really like (and some of which are a bit average)), so I thought maybe I should actually give it a go. And as she lent me the first book, saving me the embarassment and cost of going out and buying it, I didn't really have much of an excuse not to!
Let me start with the good (because I do strive for balance, and I really did go into this thing wanting to like it, despite my poor opinion of the films): the last 100 or so pages are quite gripping. Once the action gets going, the pace is swift, and it is pretty tense. Unfortunately, this change in gear occurs 328 pages into the 434-page book. The first 327 pages are little more than disturbingly schizophrenic teenage obsession dressed up as love. Bella falls over a lot (she makes endless complaints about her clumisness, which is obviously supposed to demonstrate her ordinariness next to the godlike, graceful Edward (just two of the many adjectives used to describe him in the book)), at least 5 boys fall in love with her (much to her surprise because, again, she thinks she's so very ordinary), and Edward spends a lot of time warning her that he's dangerous and that they should keep their distance, while at the same time stalking her (seriously. It's creepy). But there is very little evidence of a story. 'Girl meets vampire, girl begins unhealthy, obessive relationship with vampire' about sums up most of the book.
Which may suit some people fine - and it obviously does, because these books are highly popular best-sellers - but I'm afraid it lacks the depth of storytelling needed to hold my attention. There is very little subtlety or intricacy to the writing here, and the cast of supporting characters have so little page-time or dialogue as to be interchangable. It is easy and quick to read, but that's not particularly a good thing...it's quick to read because you don't need to be paying much attention to follow the 'action' (or lack thereof), and even the main characters are so unrealistic and poorly drawn that I cannot really get emotionally involved with either of them. They are cliched caracatures, not rounded human beings, and the endless overuse of superfluous adjectives/adverbs to describe everything about Edward (including his eyes, skin, hair, muscles, smell, movement, voice, smile, laugh, chest, teeth, breath (I'm not kidding)) really begins to grate. I know it is teen fiction, so my criticism of it for being simplistic may be a little harsh, but these days there are some very smart, complex teen novels out there (including works by Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and Catherine Webb), compared to which Twilight is something of a disappointment.
Sorry. I read it, I tried to like it, I failed.
It was OK, but I didn't love it. It's possible that the books get better as the series continues - I wasn't overly enamored of the first few Harry Potter books either, but the last few are cracking - but I'm not sure if I have the willpower to battle on and find out! At least the first few HP books were short!
Next I think I'll move on to The Twilight Watch (the similarity in title is purely coincidental - Twilight Watch is the third book in the superb Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko) for some seriously good, intricately-plotted, character-driven horror fantasy.