I have a feeling that I might have been a little over-eager in my rejection of vampires.
I mentioned in that post that I’d just bought Twilight, the first in Stephenie Meyer’s four-part series about, to borrow the terms used in the blurb, a high-school vampire romance.
I know—I was surprised when I bought it as well.
I bought it because it came to my attention as a book that had become something of a phenomenon, and I figured that if I continue labelling myself a bibliophile, I really should judge these things for myself.
Although I suspect that I came to this a little late—I’ve never been a trend-setter, but I do usually get onto these things a little earlier than this. I managed to come to Harry Potter before the real media frenzy built up, after all—not right at the beginning, but early enough to feel a bit smug. (You know, privately.)
(To counter that, though, I didn’t come across Green Wing until four years after it aired in the U. K., which is chastening enough to dampen the Harry Potter smugness.)
I have a vague recollection, if I’m to be totally honest, that I didn’t come across Twilight until I started seeing information about the forthcoming movie adaptation.
You see, it’s so far outside my normal realms of interest.
I read a lot of young-adult fiction—but it’s mostly fantasy. I tend to find that—with exceptions such as Charles Stross’s Merchant Princes saga—most of the innovative, fascinating writing in this genre is aimed at young adults, for some reason.
And I don’t often buy either vampire fiction of any description or horror fiction. (The exception to these two rules is sitting on a shelf behind me, however: I do own the first 30 Days of Night trade, because the concept fascinated me so much. I haven’t read it yet; Nick scared me by telling me to make sure I read it during the day.)
But I bought Twilight and, since I’ve been marking all day and Nick’s been out all night at a Belgian-beer cafe, I read it tonight in one sitting.
That should be sufficient to demonstrate that I enjoyed it much more than I was anticipating.
I wasn’t sure what I’d make of a vampire romance set in high school. The very concept sets off warring reactions.
I’m really not keen to relive high school. I enjoyed high school in terms of the friendships that I made there and the people I got to socialise with. I was also a girly swot—still am, actually—so I enjoyed the academic side of things.
But I didn’t like high school in general; in fact, when I’m very tired or under a lot of pressure, I still often have dreams that I’m back in high school, and that they won’t listen to me when I tell them that I should be able to leave since I already have two degrees.
On the other hand, I’m keen on a good romance narrative these days.
Put the two together, though, and you have a romance between teenagers—which is a bit of a tiring prospect.
But not always—I thoroughly enjoyed I Capture the Castle when I read it a couple of years ago (although the protagonists, while young, aren’t precisely high schoolers) and even got a kick out of The (now somewhat dated) Constant Nymph, with its fraught romance between a young girl and her cousin’s husband.
And I didn’t find this romance irritating, either.
Part of that might have been the prose, which was measured and deliberate without being frustrating—and nicely copy edited, which is important to me these days. With the exception of one incorrect irregular verb—“lay” where it should have been “lie”—nothing leapt out at me.
(Unlike my most recent reprints of Dorothy L. Sayers, which I think must have been prepared on character-recognition software, there are so many frustrating errors.)
But I think what intrigued me was the presentation of the vampires.
I’m not sure that vampires have ever been static characters: the mythos is too varied across the different cultures that believe in blood-suckers for them to have ever been effectually standardised, a point that this novel makes quite neatly.
But since Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire made radical shifts to the textual presentation of vampires, authors have been playing with their depiction.
Twilight doesn’t make any extraordinary alterations to the basic nature of vampires—they still need to drink blood and avoid sunlight, although they don’t sleep in coffins, thankfully—but she does tweak the characters in ways that allow interesting plot developments.
I don’t want to mention spoilers, and I’m not going into the plot, so there’s not much I can say about how the characterisation of the vampires works.
But one thing did intrigue me: the repeated emphasis on the coldness of their skin and their closer resemblance to the artificiality of statues than to humans. I think that’s where my interest in the book really lay: the construction of alienness.
Not a unique gift, perhaps—but one that always interests me when it’s done well.
I guess when it comes down to it, I’m not particularly interested in reading books about ordinary humans living their lives.
But, ultimately, this book is only the first of a four-part saga. I’m going to have to read the rest, now, before I can decide what I really think.