A friend of mine gave me the hookup to Twilight. That’s the title of a supernatural romance novel I’ve been hearing on the communications channels a lot lately. Basically girl meets boy, boy and girl fall in love, boy is really a vampire, complication, resolution, and kissy-kiss fade to black until next sequel.

I guess the buzz rose above the usual chatter static on the pop culture bandwidth, primarily because the last book in the quadrology just came out, and the movie version of Twilight is approaching theaters soon. I like vampires, and I’m into romances with a weird twist right now, so I figured what the hey.

I find the trailer interesting, so I’ll very likely rent it from Netflix to see how an actual random Hollywood script compares to the book. I see nowhere for the book version to go but up, so unless the movie is Return of Captain Invincible bad, a thankfully rare event, chances are good it’ll be an improvement.

Spoliers are a’ comin’ in, so ahrrooo!

The book annoys me, because I want to like it. The premise is a solid one (you either buy it or you don’t, there’s no middle ground here), the characters sound good at first, and the setting in pretty nifty – spooky and natural at the same time, with a hint of small town claustrophobia.

Unfortunately, the danger implied by the premise of the book never feels real. The threat supposedly hanging over the romance is that Edward the vampire will go nuts and drink Bella the protagonist’s blood. About three quarters of the way through the book it’s obvious that Edward is never going to lose control. So a bad guy is thrown in from nowhere to manufacture tension.

This is where another weakness in the book comes forward. The characters are portrayed throughout the book as shallow and not-too-on-the ball. Their response to the crisis caused by the appearance of random bad guy is confusing and ultimately, dumb. When it becomes obvious that there’s no way these losers are going to outsmart the bad guy, Bella gets herself beaten to a bloody pulp so her rescue by the good vampires doesn’t seem unearned. Not!

Another weakness is a failure to fully realize the setting, and the secondary small town characters that inhabit it. All the high school students, and even Bella’s parents, are shown to be boring and unimportant – even annoyances to Da One Twu Womance. The other good vampires exist only to validate Bella and Edward’s love for each other. There’s no real meaningful conflict or argument worth paying attention to.

What is it about this book that has got so many folks all interested in it? I kept thinking about Bella, with her self-centered, inconsiderate and arrogant attitude. We never get a sense for why she’s that way, and none of her interactions with the characters reveal any clues. Good luck with those theories! But I think the fact that she is such a horrible person, with no self-awareness or empathy is what makes her appealing. Anyone can read the book and feel superior to her, and thus displace Bella in favor of personal projections.

Edward is the strongest part of the book, I think, and represents a powerful Animus figure – supernatural abilities, no need to live in the real world, incredibly handsome, supremely loyal to Bella (the reader), and possessing an aura of danger (even though it’s phony). I don’t think anyone actually wants to be Bella, but they want to live like her, have her situation – a fantasy focused entirely on her with no demands or attachments.

That’s the magic formula in a nutshell – wearable Bella suit allowing interaction with virtual boyfriend. That’s too bad, because I think there were a lot of really cool possibilities for conflict and complications.  Without any zany bad guy vampire coming out of nowhere and eating up the  book. Heck, the manga I’m reading that take place in supernatural settings dance circles around this book, with intrigue and teen problems galore.

I know a lot has been made of the “sparkly vampire” sequence, but I thought that was cool. It’s certainly one of the more original vampire ideas I’ve seen in a while. I also liked the idea that the vampires never sleep – what does that do to your sense of time? Some of the vampire stuff is explored a little – the baseball game the vampires play because of their speed was fascinating. But it’s always a backdrop, never a focus in and of itself – fluff, as it were.

Probably my biggest problem with the book, and this stems from the lack of danger in the romance, is how chaste and repressed the whole relationship is. I never buy that Edward is in any way fighting to control his “nature”, so the tame way the two lovers approach one another starts to get on my nerves. Whenever the two of them are acting normally with each other the material is interesting. When they stoop to going on about how indescribably lovely the other looks, or how dangerous Edward is, the material starts to drag.

If their mutual good looks are generating temptations in each other, you need to see the risk they are taking. Because “forbidden love-not really” is a bummer, dude. Quite frankly, Edward suddenly losing it and almost making a snack out of Bella would be awesome. This comes to the core of my dislike of the love story. If you want me to believe in their love, you have to put it to the test. What does Bella sacrifice for her love of Edward? Her father’s image of her? Her standing at school? Her friendship with Jacob?

So I’m not going to read another book in the hopes it’ll get better. What I’ve read is all I’m going to get, and that was more than enough. But it gets me to thinking about the development of the vampire, from “symbol of unrepentant evil” and tragic figure, to cool anti-hero and stock demihuman.

I wonder if removing all trace of threat from the human-vampire relationship, as Twilight does, has not in some way robbed us of an important human quality. I keep going back to the vampire Lestat, who reveled in and embraced the guilt of his condition. Abnegation and denial of the world, as the vegetarian vampires of Twilight seem to do, doesn’t seem to me to be healthy or a proper solution to the problem of evil.

Or, to put it another way, you cannot avoid the fundamental fact of life by eating only plants. Life lives on life, no matter how you slice it. Everything you eat was at one time alive or part of a living thing. To say “we’re only killing animals instead of humans” is splitting hairs where vampires are concerned. It works only if you assume human beings are superior to all other forms of life, an assumption based on self-interest not morality. This is the mirror the vampire holds before us.

Speaking psychologically, Bella already is a vampire, because she thinks she’s the only person in the universe that counts. Everyone else is just there. Free from remorse, she casts no reflection, and sucks the life out of those around her. Her only companions are members of a magical family living on the fringes of reality.


Somewhere along the way in this labyrinth, the vampire story took a wrong turn into a dead end. Time to retrace the steps and go back to the last vital revelation of the undead monster that walks in the shadows where we dare not go. Give the vampire back their fangs, and look for an unknown, secret way still to come.