Friday, April 16, 2010

Light in the Night - The Twilight Saga Series

Aside from an invasion of the stupidest ants in creation in our kitchen, I've been busy reading a lot lately. I read the entire Twilight Saga series in less than 3 weeks. All ~2500 pages. It isn't that impressive though as it was definitely not a slow read. Now, I am not usually the vampire-reading type. I've read Bram Stoker's Dracula, but that is really the extent of my vampire reading. James and I had watched the films Twilight and New Moon and while I definitely thought the films had much room for improvement, it piqued my curiosity about the books. After all, the books are usually better than the films.

So I bought myself a hardcover (I always prefer hardcover) of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. The book was certainly better. At least in the book when Bella says she is like his own brand of heroine it is intended to be funny. The book also has less violence than the film and, not surprisingly, better exposition. Having enjoyed the first book, I knew I'd want to finish reading the series, so I bought the remaining three.

New Moon I tended to speed read through a bit, until the last 50 pages or so anyway. Having seen the first two films, I was becoming more curious about the 3rd and 4th books which I knew would be completely new to me. It didn't take me long to read through Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. Breaking Dawn took me aback when I read a phrase Meyer used to refer to the villains. She describes them as concerned about maintaining their reputation as "saints" and being able to keep their "white hats." Considering the villains are a group of old Italian men who abuse the trust the vampire world has put in them to expand their power and wealth under the pretext of serving others, I could not help but think that this sounded a bit like a criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Now, Meyer is a Mormon who lives in Phoenix so perhaps she was using the word "saints" in a general way and the "white hats" reference was of a more western connotation. I don't know. But as a Catholic, that isn't what came to mind. I can only hope it was not her intention to put my dear Church as the villain of her story and wish she had left the references out so it would not have occurred to me as a possibility. The reference is only made twice towards the end of the final book, I just wish it wasn't there at all.

That said, I really enjoyed the books. Like the Harry Potter series, they are not for the younger set. Though Meyer, thankfully, leaves  the more intimate scenes to the reader's imagination, the story does involve vampires and "werewolves" and people that don't always make the best choices. A story for children it is not. However, if you can separate the Twilight Saga Series from other vampire stories, lore or cultist references, it can be an enjoyable read.

In the end, it is a love story between the klutzy but perceptive Bella Swan and the attractive, old-fashioned "vegetarian" (he only drinks animal blood) vampire Edward Cullen. The creativity in the books was a draw for me. The exposition and thought she gave to the characters, their backgrounds, and how things work and happen was interesting, similar in that sense to Rowling's creativity in the Potter Series.

But my biggest fascination was the character of Edward Cullen (and he seems to be of great interest to many other fans). He is an old-fashioned perpetual 17-year-old who is always polite and very mature. But what fascinated me about him was the way he loves Bella. His care and attention to her seems to know no limits. He is always concerned about her, always wondering what she is thinking. He loves to talk with her or just watch her sleep. He loves when she blushes or when her heart begins racing (no, not because he is thirsty). He is very protective of her and spends every moment possible with her. But it is not only this that made me take notice. He is infinitely understanding of her human limitations and cannot hold anything against her. (**spoiler**)When his rival for her tricks her into a passionate kiss with the threat of suicide, she hates herself and is convinced Edward will be hurt and angry. Edward comforts her that he isn't angry and understands why she did what she did. "You are only human." Edward's understanding of Bella's human faults and frailty give him a uniqueness not often seen and, in this regard, he reminded me of the merciful Jesus. It made me wonder how often spouses take such an understanding toward their own spouse's human faults. It made me wonder how often people do towards anyone. Would Christ be so kind to us? Should we be so to others? It is a compassion so moving it is hard to ignore or brush aside and made be stop and think.

While Edward is not faultless, he is a very unique character and one I have a hard time getting out of my head. But I'm not sure I want him out of my head. I can't help feeling like there is something there that not only fascinates me but makes me question myself. It is not hard to see why Edward Cullen has such a following. His protection of her virtue is why he won't unless she marries him. He is very much  a gentleman. The fact he has such a following does suggest that maybe girls and women in America really do want more from modern American boys and men but that would be a different and much longer post.

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