|The cover of the new Twilight spinoff novel|
I know these were The Best Things because of a Best Thing I did recently. Ladies and Gentlemen, don't ask me how I did it, but I got an advance review copy, I got permission to finally spoil the cover image that everyone's been waiting to see, and I got a chance to pick over the subtext of the tale before anyone else.
And why, besides the fame and glory heaped upon me from on high, is this The Best Thing? Well, simply put, Golden Dusk is an incredibly fascinating and compelling book.
It is a work that many fans of the original series will probably hate, because it is a deep level deconstruction of what makes the original books tick, and an exploration of the implications of a world where vampires are glowing, luminous beings of temptation, werewolves are obsessives hiding in plain sight, and large institutions seem to have been utterly subverted by dark, ageless forces. It is everything the original books could have been but weren't. And instead of waiting till the last book to really expose its readers to the fucked up side of its author's psyche, these jump right in with author Randolph Georgi Jaf's translation of a certain medieval manuscript that I've mentioned on here before.1 So, its basically unromantic deconstructive nature is probably going to alienate a lot of fans, and its association with the original Twilight series and its cracked out concepts will probably inspire a lot of potential fans to steer clear.
Here's why you should check it out anyway:
Exhibit A: The Byzantine Vampire
Jaf takes the mythos in a fairly straightforward (if revolutionary) direction: the vampires are parasites cloaking themselves in the garb of Angels and Gods. There's something wonderfully perverse about this reversal of expectations, and the main antagonist/love interest (he is never named so I'm going to refer to him as The Byzantine Vampire in this article) seems to be a fascinatingly schizophrenic being, at once in love with his beauty and filled with hatred for the curse which forever separates him from humanity. This is, perhaps, one of the problems with the book--his "curse" hardly seems like much of a curse, after all. Too beautiful? Oh honey please. But his effect upon the plot is ultimately that of beautiful psychosis. The novel is explicitly designed to say, essentially, that we as readers are unable to escape the allure of such a being, but that this reaction is ultimately ruinous, and we are fools for believing anything good can come of it. So, first of all, come for the fascinating expansion of Meyer's core vampire concept.
Exhibit B: The Bella Stand In
...is a mess as a human being. She is tormented by her curse in a much more credible way than The Byzantine Vampire is, due to her religious convictions. She is obsessed with reclaiming her virtue and confuses her obsession with TBV with passionate love.2 Even within that, she is aware on some level that what she ultimately seeks is revenge, and there are a number of beautiful moments when she quite literally sharpens her blades while monologuing about undying love. I think she is still ultimately a very strong character in that she is willing to go to any lengths to reclaim her virtue--through either love or revenge. So, come for the deconstructive version of Bella that actually, you know, has a character.
And speaking of characters:
Exhibit C: The Vibrant Side Characters
C.1: Bartholomae and Cassie, the 40 year old werewolf and his 15 year old imprinted charge, locked permanently in a sort of warped, chaste-but-barely, Mutually Assured Destruction style codependency. It's a wonderful take down of the Jacob/Renesemsesmeeee... thing.
C.2: The Sybil of Cumae, a shriveled being that, as far as I can see, serves no thematic purpose, but should make fans of The Waste Land (or The Satyricon) squee with delight. I mean, come on, she's a prophetess that continues aging--unlike the Vampires--but is also immortal and slowly going insane. Yikes.
C.3: The Head of John the Baptist shows up at one point. I'm not even kidding. I won't spoil what's going on with him, but I will say that he isn't as quiet as you might expect from a decapitated head...
Everything here is either a logical extension and deconstruction of the original works, or a radical redefinition of traditional mythic figures on par with the radical redefinition of Vampires and Werewolves in the original series. In essence, everything that was bad about the originals has been horrifically deconstructed and everything that was compelling has been extended not simply by expanding the mythos of the originals but by utilizing the same strategy of totally screwing with the canon.
So, as far as I can see, that will mean that the books will be roundly hated by monster purists everywhere, and by Twilight purists everywhere, and ignored by pretty much everyone else but us dirty scholar types. Yuck. Scholarship.
But this ultimately really is a book that's worth checking out. Yes, its plotting is, at times, rather uneven. Yes, its language is dense on a level more akin to Borges or Lovecraft at his worse than to Meyer. And yes, sometimes Jaf goes chasing after totally bizarre ideas that have little or no bearing on the main plot. But for all that, it's a fascinating example of how a world can be expanded and reimagined by another author, and how the sharing of properties, even within the confines of what is ultimately a business deal, can and does produce fascinating art. It would be wonderful if more authors took Meyer's example to heart and opened their playgrounds up for others. I have to commend her for doing so; it really seems that she learned from the whole Midnight Sun kerfuffle that ultimately other people want to get involved in the world, and the writing and expansion of the world, and that's not something we should try to stifle.
Anyway, I'll get down off of my high horse, and you go preorder a copy in time for Christmas. Trust me, it's worth it.
Yes, I spent an hour and a half photoshopping a cover for a fake Twilight spinoff novel. Screw you, I'm awesome. As always, feel free to leave comments, complaints, or, best of all, your own interpretations, or e-mail me at email@example.com . And, if you like what you've read here, share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Xanga, Netscape, or whatever else you crazy kids are using to surf the blogoblag these days.
1 And can I just say--I'm thrilled that I predicted the hell out of that little development! And thrilled that Jaf has, apparently, done his homework on this one. It's definitely raised Jaf to, for me, on par with someone like Eco, Clarke, or Kostova
2 Ever heard a devout ex-virgin rationalize with a variation of the line, "If I marry him, it's ok?" Take that up to 11 and you have our main character.