Twilight Review

Contains spoilers.


I’m not sure why I was possessed by a sudden desire to read the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.  As its reputation demands, any books about such fantasy romance should be hideous to all males.  I guess that’s precisely why I decided to read them, so I could decide for myself what I think of the books.  And also, I feel compelled to read books which reach a certain level of popularity so I can see what the fuss is about.  (Fifty Shades of Grey is on the same pile.  At the bottom).  I’d seen the film before and wasn’t greatly impressed, but I know too well how little this says about the book.  So, after particular difficulty acquiring the book – I decided not to take this as a sign – I began reading with great interest.

And, you know, it’s really not that bad.  Sure, it is a romance novel which I appreciate isn’t everyone’s thing, but I don’t feel as if any shred of ‘manliness’ I possess has been compromised for having read it.  The concept is very simple: vampire and human fall in love, vampire fights desire to kill her and drink her blood; he must then protect her from less restrained vampires.  It’s a good concept but the execution, I think, is the main flaw with the story.

The book begins when Isabella, ‘Bella’ Swan moves to the dull, wet and green town of Forks to live with her father.  Her reasons for doing so are immediately unconvincing: she wanted her mother and her mother’s boyfriend to have space as they travel across the USA, although mildly in character, as it is revealed that Bella generally response to situations in the opposite way which would be expected.  It took me a while to warm to Bella.  She seemed very conceited to begin with but I began to realise it was all part of her awkward, but generally pleasant, manner.  However for someone so independently minded it’s disappointing that she becomes so submissive and thoughtless in Edward’s presence.  At the book’s end, as she pleads with Edward to let her become a vampire, it’s clear she really hasn’t thought it through.  Sure, she’s infatuated with Edward now, but is that really worth an eternity of putting humans in danger, having to seclude yourself from society?  Granted, I wouldn’t necessarily turn down the offer myself, but her knee-jerk reaction is rushed and for all the wrong reasons.

I also was less than impressed with the development of Edward and Bella’s relationship.  While that may be down to my distaste of the flimsy nature of relationships in general, I would expect such feelings of love to come with some appreciation of the other’s company.  Yet all Bella and Edward do for the first half of the book is endlessly debate the philosophical nature of their relationship, or prattle on about how they feel about one another.  Which is fine, I’m not criticising that, but there’s never any indication they actually like one another beyond their attraction towards each other.  Edward is in love with Bella’s scent and she is in love with his perfection.  I suppose that’s just how relationships work, but it never felt believable until their love for each other had been established.

Despite my criticisms of their relationships, I do like the characters in Twilight.  Bella is interesting and unique, particularly when contrasted to the ‘typical teens’ of Forks High School.  That said, everyone’s so innocent in Forks.  When Mike arranges a trip to the beach everyone’s content to build a bonfire and then go exploring.  From my experience this outing would not be complete without at least a dozen tins of various alcohols – but perhaps that’s more a reflection on the culture I live in; Forks is four and a half thousand miles from where I live, after all.  But I digress.  Although Bella was different, there are a lot of people like her in the world and I couldn’t see what made her so special in particular.  Edward is initially the most interesting character with one hundred years of experiences, though he does begin to get repetitive as the novel progresses.  And what’s with his dominance over Bella?  I get that his domination over her, more than once dragging her to do his will (she always stops complaining before long), is meant to be romantic, but I see it as verging on misogynistic.  Charlie is your stereotypical American police officer, unable to cook and hobbies consisting of fishing and watching football.  The teenagers at the school are just as stereotypical, though mostly realistic.

The Cullens are the most interesting and varied characters.  Some are not given much development yet: Esme is ‘kind’, Rosalie is ‘hostile’, Emmett is ‘funny’.  Jasper, Alice and Carlisle are the most developed characters, and are consequently the most likable.  Carlisle in particular garners the reader’s respect, and takes the role of a wise mentor for the others.  Jasper and his ability to mildly control people’s moods is an intriguing character.  Alice, with all her enthusiasm and intuition, feels the most human of the vampires.  Then there’s James, the sadistic hunter after Bella’s blood.  He was very well crafted, and responsible for the novel’s most suspenseful moments.  I knew Bella would survive – I practically know the plot of all four novels – yet I was gripped.  The plot leaps in pace after James’ introduction and feels as if it’s finally found its feet.

Overall, Twilight is a far better book than I expected.  Not perfect, certainly, and nor is it aimed towards my demographic, yet I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I intend to read the three remaining books in the series, though I fear my resolve may fail at the repetitive nature, particularly as the love triangle around Jacob is formed (side note: Jacob’s far younger, clumsier and awkward than all the promotional images for the films would have me expect.  Interesting marketing techniques).  But I’ll persevere.  It’s been years since I last abandoned a book and I don’t intend to start now.  Who knows – I might even enjoy them.

Final Rating: 7/10

(PS: How do I tell whether I’m ‘Team Edward’ or ‘Team Jacob’ ?!)

The Serenity of Snow

Finally, after my whining, snow has arrived!  I’m writing this a day late – slushy dregs are now being washed away by a downpour of rain – but the snow yesterday was beautiful.  It lay on the ground in an unusually compact manner, so your feet barely seemed to make an imprint, yet the snow itself was only mildly slippery.  It was a joy to see the landscape once more coated in light shades, like the mud and hibernating heather had been purified.  I can suffer the cold more gladly with snow on the ground and the bright skies which tend to follow.  Being in a snowy landscape is one of the more relaxing experiences I have discovered in my life, although it can cause rather stressful transport problems!  But gone now, hopefully to return at some point this Winter.

My Love for Oceanic Climate

Imagine all the climates of the world walk into a bar.  You have the Mediterranean climate, suave and attractive, chatting to those lucky enough to be in its presence.  Nearby there’s the desert climate who is a bit strange and rather quiet but is generally the most sober by the end of the night.  Tropical climate is a right laugh, but if you get too close can be a dangerous person to know, embroiled in arts best left secret.  Polar climate is shy and withdrawn but by far the best conversation once you gain its trust.

Then there’s also, sitting modestly in the middle, the Oceanic climate.  This is the climate I have lived in all my life and has subsequently had a massive impact on my worldview, though this may not be immediately obvious.  I was prompted to think of this by my walk home today under several layers of fog, which has followed periods of sunshine and sporadic rain.  These are the wonders of Oceanic climates: Winters are mild and Summers are cool – rain falls evenly across the year so flooding or droughts are rare – diseases do not thrive here; malaria and cholera are foreign concepts – and we are free of most freak weather conditions such as tornadoes and water spouts.

But on the whole, living in an Oceanic climate means precipitation.  Lots of rain.  There’s rain pattering against the window just this moment, in fact.  Not just rain; sleet, snow and hail can occur all throughout the year.  We may appear to be the ‘dull’ climate but really we have the features of every climate rolled into one without most of the consequences.  If the climates were to exit the bar and line up on a political spectrum, Oceanic would be a clear moderate.

I’m becoming aware that this may not excite you, the reader, as much as it does me.  But what is interesting is the effect a climate can have on the person living in it.  I have built up a sense of security in this climate, this idea that the Earth is here to benefit humanity and would never turn on us (admittedly this idea was shattered when lightning ravaged my house back in August, but that really was a super-freak incident).  This must be so different for someone living in, say, the Horn of Africa.  They must contend with droughts, famine, and also a multitude of diseases.  This both leads to and is exacerbated by political instability in the region.

Cultures are affected by climates.  In religion: areas of low precipitation a worship of rain Gods is more common, and in areas with extreme weather conditions having a multitude of Deities for each one is clearly very tempting.  Some of the world’s most liberal societies are found in cold, polar regions, whereas a large number of authoritarian and totalitarian societies are found in tropical areas including Africa, and in the deserts of the Middle-East.  Oceanic societies have a heavy focus on ships and fishing, these aspects often forming the heart of a community.

There are other factors which influence human society as well, of course.  History, distance North/South, make-up of soils and rocks, etc. are all other ways in which our presence on this planet can be driven in a certain direction.  Yet the influence of climates should not be underestimated, and I am aware of how ill at ease I would become the moment I left an Oceanic climate and entered another.  It is a deeply ingrained part of who I am and always shall be.