Title: Fifty Shades Trilogy – Fifty Shades of Grey (book one)
Author: EL James (UK)
Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop (e-book) & Vintage Books
Date: E-book & print on demand paper back by The Writer’s Coffee Shop – May 2011. By Vintage Books – April 2012.
Genre: Romance/Erotica – including BDSM
Fifty Shade of Grey by El James, if you haven’t heard of the romance/erotica novel, then I would like to ask where you have been these recent months? The book is causing a huge sensation in the literary world, selling absolute millions internationally. The trilogy has a huge fan following, as well as a huge following of haters; especially since the content of the book have been disclosed as BDSM erotica, something for the right wing/conservative/religious zealots to get their book burning teeth into (for all you book burners out there, I hope you realise your actions do little to solve your perceived problem. In burning the book you have to actually buy the books to burn, thus increasing the book sales and keeping the book in the attention of the media and on the best sellers list).
Given all the hype which has surrounded the Fifty Shades trilogy, I became curious to see what all the fuss was about and I bought the book; at a deal too for half the original price. Now having finished the book, I’ve come to realise I have paid half the price too much for this atrocity of fiction! I can honestly say I absolutely detest this book! Now I’m no prude, I have very little problem with the erotica or BDSM in this book, my main gripe with this book I shall explain bellow.
I started reading the book, and after a couple of chapters I got a feeling of Déjà Vu. I had a feeling I had read about these characters before, and then it hit me: I realised someone had been reading/watching the Twilight Saga. Yes, the influence of Twilight became blindingly obvious, but as I read on, it seemed to be Twilight was much more than an influence in Fifty Shades of Grey.
The resemblance between Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey was uncanny. The two main characters Anastasia Steele & Christian Grey could very easily pass for Isabella Swan & Edward Cullen; the only difference being a name change and the odd change in physical appearance. The main core of what made Edward and Isabella who they are was present in Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. But it wasn’t just the main characters I noticed a similarity to Twilight, the supporting cast in Fifty Shades of Grey also bore a strong resemblance to the supporting cast in the Twilight Saga. And it didn’t stop there, the dynamic between Christian and Anastasia was the same as Isabella and Edward, similar plot points which had appeared in Twilight were appearing in Fifty Shades of Grey, and there were at times where I read the same scenes from Twilight in Fifty Shades of Grey. For example:
In Twilight, Edward is always telling Bella she should avoid him because he is dangerous, but decides to pursue her because he is unable to stay away from her any longer, even though he never earnestly tried to keep his distance. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian constantly tells Anastasia to stay away from him and he is no good for her. He admits he tried to stay away from her, despite the fact he was going after her from day one.
In Twilight, Bella’s father buys her an old truck which used to belong to the grandfather of Bella’s friend, Jacob Black. Jacob Black had also restored the old vehicle and also does repair jobs on it for Bella. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia’s step dad bought her an old Beetle, which used to belong to the grandmother of Anastasia’s friend José. José had restored the old car and also does repair work on it for Anastasia.
In Twilight, Edward takes Bella to a restaurant and in the restaurant the waitress tries to get Edward’s attention, much to Bella’s annoyance. Thankfully, Edward only has eyes for Bella and ignores the waitress’s advancement. In Fifty Shades of Grey, whenever Christian and Anastasia eat in a public place, all the female waiting staff are trying to get Christian’s attention, much to Anastasia’s annoyance. Yet Christian only has eyes for Anastasia and ignores all the waitresses.
I could co on and on with the similarities between Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
However, having noticed the strong connection between the two books, I decided to do some research. I eventually learned Fifty Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fanfiction which had become so popular, the author decided to publish it has her own piece of original fiction. Now I have no problem with a fanfiction author taking their original concept from a piece of fanfiction and using it to build their own original piece of fiction and selling it – I say good luck to them. What I have a problem with is: a fanfcition author taking a piece of fanfiction with all the original ideas/characters from a title/series by another person and selling it off as their own original piece of work!
In my opinion EL James is nothing more than a thief! I see nothing original about Fifty Shades of Grey, and it has been compared to be 89% the same as the piece of fanfiction it initially was. It seems, All EL James did was make a few name changes so her characters and ideas she borrowed from Stephanie Meyer were not identical. You can read a report here on how Fifty Shades compares to Master of the Universe (the fanfiction she originally wrote).
Doesn’t EL James’s actions infringe on copyright law? She has taken characters and ideas created by Stephanie Meyer, tweaked them a little and claimed them as her own original ideas, whilst riding on the coat tails of Twilight’s success. As far as I’m concerned, what EL James has done is morally wrong!
I am absolutely disgusted with myself for having bought this book new, now knowing my money has gone to line the pockets of the publishing house and EL James – even at a discount price. I would like to take the opportunity to apologise to Stephanie Meyer: I had no idea Fifty Shades of Grey was so heavily based on her work. If I had of known, I would not have bought the book!
I am not a Twilight fan, I don’t personally like the saga, you can see my review for the first book here. But, I respect the fact Stephanie Meyer created the ideas and characters herself, and I do not think she deserves to have her characters pinched from under her nose in such a blatant fashion. Stephanie Meyer took the time and effort to create her characters, only to have someone come along and swipe them, give them and new name and eye colour, and then claim Stephanie’s characters as their own.
When I hear about EL James and Fifty Shades, all I can envision is a charlatan stealing someone’s work, and because of that I can find nothing positive about this book to critique. However, this is a review of the book, and I shall do my best to give some kind of fair critique.
To begin with, the grammar isn’t too great. The flow of the words just doesn’t seem quite right and comes across as amateurish. Many times I found myself mentally re-writing sentences/paragraphs so they would read better. Another thing to take note of, is EL James repeats a lot of words, impassive seemed to be very popular – as well as the description of shattering orgasms, and the mental thoughts of oh my. About a third of the way through I was sick to death of the repetitions.
There was also the constant mention of how Christian’s trousers hung off his hips in “that way”. “That way” was never explained in the book. Was it at a jaunty angle, or perhaps dangerously low, whatever “that way” meant I have no idea. It was just another annoying repetition and with no clear explanation to the phrase made it stupid.
The plot is also very thin to, as not a lot happens. All we have is Anastasia fawning over the ridiculously handsome Christian Grey, who proposes they enter into a BDSM relationship where he is allowed to punish her by hitting her because he gets off on it. Anastasia now has the dilemma of falling in love with beautiful and rich Christian, but contemplating whether she should let him hit her, all interjected with kinky sex. It was all long winded and boring, just like the relationship between Bella and Edward in Twilight.
Had Fifty Shades stayed as fanfiction, I would have given EL James credit for having Anastasia/Bella questioning the darker aspects of her relationship with Christian/Edward, instead of just glossing them over. Another thing I would have given EL James credit for had Fifty Shades stayed as fanfiction, is Anastasia/Bella seems a lot nicer and actually comes across to appreciate her friends and family instead of whining about absolutely everything and everyone – excluding Christina/Edward. However, Fifty Shades was not kept as fanfiction and I cannot in good faith give sincere praise for something I find morally wrong.
Now I think about it, because Fifty Shades was originally fanfiction and has stuck so close to its fanfiction roots, it also means the problems with Twilight will now be present in Fifty Shades. We have Anastasia falling in love with Christian foolishly fast and with no logical reason why. We also had Anastasia continuously referring to how beautiful and fantastic Christian is. Both points were present in Twilight, and both points were infuriating in Twilight as they are in Fifty Shades. And because Anastasia and Christian are alternate versions of Edward and Bella, it also means neither of the two main characters are likable – even if Anastasia seems nicer than her Isabella Swan incarnation.
I did get a bit of a mental reprieve; at least EL James had Anastasia/Bella sticking up for herself with the overbearing control freak Christian/Edward – occasionally, and at least she didn’t continuously mention Christian’s/Edward’s crooked smile. Unfortunately, half way through the book, Christian’s/Edward’s crooked smile started making an appearance. ARRRGGGHHH!
The dialogue was also weak and very cheesy in places, making it cringe worthy to read. EL James also had a problem with repetition here too. For example: she would have a character thank someone in the first sentence, then in the next sentence within the same speech brackets the character would be giving thanks again, just with a different terminology. You didn’t need two mentions of thanks in the same speech brackets, and moments like this happened often.
Another thing with the dialogue, was EL James suddenly had Christian referring to Anastasia as Baby. Terms like: “laters baby”, “baby what’s wrong”, and “come for me baby” cropped up regularly. I found this to be very jarring; here we had this character of an extremely successful CEO, who’s intellectual, into art and music (many classical pieces included), and likes flying. He is depicted as being suave, smooth, charismatic, eloquent, and enigmatic man who suddenly starts sounding like a stereotypical skater dude. I hated seeing Christian use the term baby, and at one point I was screaming at the book to stop using the damn terminology as it does not suit the character.
There were also large sections of the book devoted to e-mails between Christian and Anastasia. A majority of the time the e-mails contributed very little to the plot other than to fill it up with more cheesy and sappy content. However, the e-mails did take up a lot of space on the page with very little words, making reading through them quick and help speed along getting through the book. (Ooo, I think I just found a redeeming feature)
I also found the characters, including the two main ones, very bland and boring. No one really grabbed my attention and made me care about them or feel any kind of emotion for them other than apathy. Part of this was because the characters came across as very clichéd, and EL James seemed to be trying too hard in the dialogue to inject some personality into the characters, which didn’t work. Plus, there is the fact virtually all the characters seem to be based on a characters from the Twilight Saga – characters who were originally uninteresting to begin with.
Finally, there are the sex scenes, another aspect of the book which has propelled it to its current heights with infamy and notoriety. I’m not going to go on about all the people complaining about the sex in this book, they need to get over themselves and realise making such a huge fuss about it is only making more people read the book they want to disappear into obscurity.
Getting back to the sex scenes in this book, they’re poor. Completely un-erotic and un-stimulating. Also, for BDSM, they seem rather tame. I think part of the problem is because the sex scenes were over with very quickly, you didn’t have much to get your heart racing. Even though we were told how earth shattering the orgasms were, it just seemed to be a flash in the pan moment and we were back to the tedium of the book. If I had been the one to have a passionate tryst with the oh-so-wonderful Christian Grey, the words “Is that it?!?!?!” would be passing my lips.
Another problem, was at times things seemed very unrealistic. I know it is meant to be fantasy, but it helps to have some plausibility in you story. I was once told anything is possible in fiction; yes, anything is possible in fiction, anything is possible in bad fiction.
First: we have Anastasia losing her virginity, yet she suffers no pain what-so-ever. Despite the fact Christian has a large dick, wasn’t gentle with her, and she bled. Somehow, I can’t see her first time being pain free, especially with those three factors.
Second: we have Anastasia giving her first blowjob, and taking Christian’s penis to the back of her throat without a single gag reflex. I don’t even think the most expert of blowjob givers have no gag reflex, and probably takes them a second or two to control it.
Now I know you can say I’m nit-picking, but I was doing it a lot in this story, and if that’s the case then there is a problem with the book. In all fairness, it wasn’t just the sex scenes with these questionable plot points. The book was littered with them, snapping you out of the story and brining you back to reality scratching your head, while you realised no such situation would happen in real life, nor could it be conceivable in any kind of specific circumstances.
Overall, the book is a shambles, and I advise all people to avoid it. There are so many things wrong with this book, and yet the success and praise it is receiving is astounding. I can guarantee you, if you look for fanfiction relating especially in the vampire genre, you will find many pieces like Fifty Shades – and that is where Fifty Shades should have stayed!
I am now going to do the one and only good thing I can do with this book and stick it in the recycling bin – maybe it can be made into toilet paper.
- Published fanfiction, thus making it a rip off of Twilight
- Bland and boring characters
- Corny dialogue
- Poor grammar making it very jarring to read at times
- Unsatisfying sex scenes
- Over hyped
- Weak plot
- Tedious relationship dynamic
- Problems occurring from Twilight also present here
- Unbelievable scenes.
- E-mail sections make reading this torturous book a little quicker.