Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On falling off the Stephenie Meyer bandwagon

A couple months ago I noted that I'd finally read the first three books in the Twilight Saga, and found myself firmly entrenched on the Stephenie Meyer bandwagon. Then, I took the 20 CD audiobook of The Host out of the library. For those not in the know, The Host is Stephenie Meyer's first adult novel. It inhabits a separate universe from the Twilight books. It is also incredibly long.

Like the twilight books, The Host, has a compelling and even exciting plot. The premise is pretty cool, and the reader or listener wants to keep going to find out what happens next. Where Twilight blended vampire horror with romance, The Host blends science fiction with romance. Here, earth has been invaded by an alien species of parasites who insert themselves into a human body and take over the brain and life of that individual. At the point where the novel begins, most of the humans have been taken over. Only a few outlaw bands of wild humans remain. One of these fighters, Melanie Stryder, is captured, and a parasite, Wanderer, is inserted into her. Something goes wrong though, Melanie refuses to fade away. Wanderer can't take over. The two must learn to live in harmony with each other. What follows is a pretty good adventure story.

However. Oh however. If you want to read this book, DO NOT listen to it on audiobook. The terrible thing about audiobooks is that you can't skim, you can't pass over the boring bits. You must listen to all of the words so as not to miss important plot points. This is what led me to the discovery of what I absolutely can't stand about this woman's writing, and about her lack of an editor. At least, I presume she does not have an editor. That is the only excuse I can think of for this book not being at least 200 pages shorter than it is. Yes. The book is told from the first person perspective of Wanderer. Yes. Wanderer is going through a bit of a rough spot. BUT. We do not need to hear each and every one of her thoughts and concerns repeated at least five times. The reading audience likely picks up on the thought after the first, or at the very most, the second iteration.

I stuck it out. I finished all 20 CDs. The plot was good. I wanted to know how it turned out. But that is a few weeks of my driving life that I will never get back.

My tumble from the bandwagon began.

Thinking about it afterwards, and about my deepening loathing for the character of Bella as her vampiric adventures progressed, it occurred to me that this is just what I didn't like about the twilight books as well. The angst of it all is just to much for me. The difference is that I read those books in paper, and in paper you can skim. You can read quickly for the plot points and pass over the self-involved whining.

The tumble continued.

Then, I read Breaking Dawn. It must be admitted that there was less in the way of self-involved whining going on. There was still far too much of it though. On top of that, I personally found the plot of this one wasn't to my taste. I read the first 300 pages in the company of others. They can attest to my throwing the book down and shouting things about breaking the rules of one's own fantasy universe, or about idiotic plot twists, or about over-predictability. I did finish the book. The last couple hundred pages were more gripping and I enjoyed them.

I will never read these books again.

The Twilight Saga keeps getting compared to Harry Potter. To my mind there is no comparison. Yes, there is unprecedented teen girl fannishness going on. Yes, other people also enjoy the books and talk about them and wait for them to come out. However, I don't think the universe created here is in anyway comparable. I am convinced that Harry and co. will stand the test of time. These books, I think, will fade quickly once the initial hype dies down.

That said, I wouldn't want to dissuade you from reading the Twilight Saga. The stories are gripping and exciting. Just don't do it on audiobook, and expect to have to skim over long passages.

End rant.


Azura said...

I compare Twilight with Harry Potter based on fluff level. Neither of them are meant to be read for deep thoughts or mind blowing literary designs. Just for entertainment.

Also, you can compare Twilight and HP in the respect that the last books in both series' were disappointing (HP more so for me than Twilight)

MadJenny said...

See. Here's the thing. Harry Potter is meant to be read for fun. Yes. I agree. However, I think that the world of HP is so much more rich - so full and developed - that it will last. I think people will likely still be reading HP 100 years from now. As they do now with fantasy novels from the 19th and early 20th century. Like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. I don't think the same will be true of the twilight books. I just don't see them lasting.

HP book 7 grew on my after a second reading. Even the epilogue.

faerie-writer said...

"I think people will likely still be reading HP 100 years from now."

I think I agree with you.

I fell off the 'Twilight' bandwagon after 'New Moon.' I forgave Bella her spinelessness in 'Twilight' because I fully expected her to be redeemed in 'New Moon.' When she wasn't redeemed but made even *more* spineless, I stopped reading. Of course, now though, with all the hype, I have to read 'Eclipse' and 'Breaking Dawn' to judge them for myself.

False Prophet said...

Sounds like Ms. Meyer falls under the first law of book marketing:

"You can judge a book by its cover."

If you look at the cover and the author's name is the same size or bigger than the title, that's a good sign the publisher feels the author's name alone can sell the book. Thus, the publisher says "we don't need to waste money on careful editing! The fans will buy it regardless!" and they're right. But such books will always be at least 200 pages longer than they should be.

It's happened before in this genre with Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton. In the case of the latter: first book--nice, light, 200-page hard-boiled witch-detective vs. the vampires tale. 10th book--800-page tome full of useless exposition, unsympathetic characters, a pointless plot, and 20 page discussions on the relative merits of different handguns and the geography of Phoenix, AZ. I felt like I was reading Ayn Rand, but without the erudition.

I think the longevity of HP will be based on the fact that it had a lot of crossover appeal with children, teens and adults (helped by the fact that readers in primary grades when they started the series were in college by the time it ended) of both genders. Whereas with Twilight; how much appeal does it have beyond teenage girls (a notoriously fickle demographic), aside from a handful of YA fans like MadJenny? ;)

[I speak as someone who's never read any Meyers, but am totally burned out on vampire-related fiction and thus probably never will.]

MadJenny said...

Interesting points FP. The funny thing about Twilight is that it does seem to have followings outside of the expected demographic. Apparently their are grandmother based fan groups. I myself have had several teenaged boys ask to be added to the waiting list....
That said, I'm not particularly convinced that those teenaged boys will actually continue with the series, or reread it and pass it on to their friends.

cadiz12 said...

i totally agree with you about HP.

i haven't read any the Twilight series, but reviews i've seen suggest it appeals to a reader who's looking to be swept up in the romance of it. HP is very universal and acknowledges major life issues without getting overly preachy. it'll never go out of style.

but i'm biased.