Sunday 15 February 2015

Today's Review: Fifty Shades Of Grey (The Book)

I'm going to see Fifty Shades Of Grey the movie tomorrow. I certainly noticed the furore surrounding the books when they were released, but I never wanted to actually subject myself to the thing. No, I was quite happy to sit back and watch the ridicule roll in, picking up little tidbits here and there that I could casually throw into conversations to seem topical. But with the tickets already purchased for a movie I'm sure I will not rate highly, I thought it would be best to have some frame of reference for how truly awful it may be. So I set myself the task of reading the book, and unfortunately I set myself that task yesterday morning. It's been a truly exhausting two days, with a deadline looming over my head that I really didn't want to make. But about an hour ago, I finished. There's really not much I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but here goes.

Fifty Shades Of Grey follows Anastasia Steele, a perfectly innocent young woman who finds herself absolutely entranced by wealthy CEO Christian Grey. Fortunately, the feeling is mutual, and Grey pursues Steele relentlessly, and after one date he rolls out an extensive BDSM contract that makes Anastasia a submissive sex slave that must satisfy Grey's every whim. What a classic love story. There's really not much more to the plot than that. After the first act, during which Grey stalks Ana and displays every indication of being a very dangerous man, everything comes up trumps for him, and we have several elongated chapters, in which Ana and Grey meet someplace, have sex, she goes to another place, he shows up, they have sex, repeat ad nauseam. I can't tell which erotic happenings occur in which place, but it doesn't really matter, they all seem the same. Sure, there's some "kinky" stuff afoot in a couple of chapters, but it's mostly oddly worded cookie cutter sex scenes, written with an odd sense of timing that makes it seem like it's all over in 30 seconds.

It's funny I should mention the writing... actually, no it's not, because the writing is bad. It's not appalling, there aren't any typos, and you can actually read it, but it's certainly not good. Sure, it's a lot better than some of the fan fiction out there (this was originally written as Twilight fan fiction, you know), but the writing is just wholly uninspired. The amount of overused utterances and references are well publicised, between the "oh my" and "inner goddess", and the repeated mention of "there", it's just laughable. The one that really got to me was the constant reference to Grey's "long index finger", not just because I was completely baffled as to how that's the sexiest thing one can think of, but because whenever it's said all I can picture is E.T. The image certainly isn't helped by the fact that Grey has a brother called Elliot.

Of course, the main focus in the book is Anastasia. She's the one providing the narrative, and her journey from innocent virgin to submissive is the main draw of the novel. But her character is so frustratingly underdeveloped and poorly written that I couldn't help but feel agitated throughout the whole book. She's constantly at war with herself, which is a good way to write a character, but it's just so cheesy. Whenever she has to make a decision, she is either chastised by her "subconscious" or egged on by her "inner goddess", clearly representations of Freud's super-ego and id respectively, but overall coming off as a dissociative identity disorder. Actually, we shouldn't drag such complex terms into this, because Anastasia is a frustratingly simple character. The extent of her inner turmoil goes something like this:

Grey: "I want to have sex with you, but not in a regular way, in a nasty way. Also, you still haven't signed this contract, and no matter how much time I give you to think about it, I know where you are and will turn up at your doorstep without warning"
Ana's subconscious: "Eww, this guy is creepy. He's definitely dangerous and stalker-like, and you're being a bit of a ho-bag"
Ana's inner goddess: "Oh, but he's so dreamy"
Ana: "I'm going to succumb to your every whim now, but later I'm going to moan about it"

This is what happens, time and time again. The process gets repeated so much, you could probably just condense the entire book down into one meeting, one revision of "the contract" and one sex scene. Nothing gets learned, Ana has some inner turmoil, but immediately turns to jelly every time she sees her new lover. It's exhausting, and it may be a bit more bearable if there was some actual interesting writing going on, but it's the same references, the same descriptions, the same utterances.

Fifty Shades Of Grey is a one-dimensional book filled with one-dimensional characters. I wish the book itself was one-dimensional, so I hadn't wasted two days ploughing through 500 pages. So yes, it's bad. It's not the most awful thing I've ever read, but it's certainly the worst book I've read. That probably doesn't mean much coming from me, I'm not a big reader, and I'm quite discerning with my literature, but this certainly isn't an experience I enjoyed. Now I know for sure that the movie adaptation can only be poor at best. So check back tomorrow, when my misery has been fully realised.

My rating: 1/5

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