Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic novel by E. L. James that I wrote about a few weeks ago, has become a publishing sensation, topping bestseller lists, inspiring scads of stories in various media outlets, and even landing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was curious to know if the book was any good. So for you, dear Stellar Four followers, I have read the book — and survived to warn you all away from it.
I wanted to like this book. I really did. I wanted a BDSM erotica novel that began life as fan fiction — Twilight fan fiction, no less — to end up being sexy, dangerous fun. I wanted it to show all those stodgy types that creativity on the web can be as high quality and entertaining as works that flow from a traditional publishing source.
Well, my friends, I'm sorry to tell you that Fifty Shades of Grey is a terrible book. It made me want to put the book in a car, set that car on fire, then push that flaming car off a cliff. As I was reading it, I had only one question: Did a single editor cast her eyes on any these words?
First, the sexy times scenes: They're well done. If that's what you're reading the book for, dive in and enjoy. They're steamy, and the kink level pushes the limits of traditional romance novel sex scenes. But literally every other part of the book is problematic. Sure, you've got your typos and your punctuation problems that any good copy editor should've caught. But worse than that, the book was a repetitive slog. Ana bites her lower lip 40 times in the book, and every single time, it drives Christian into a sexual frenzy. Every. Single. Time. (Gads, she must spend a lot of money on lip balm.) People — primarily Christian — were described as smirking 39 times. No way is anybody that smirky going to be the sex god he's made out to be; no woman would spend enough time with that smug bastard to let him get any practice in. These and the many other tiresome repetitions demanded an editor's pen.
|Pictured: Fodder for creepy mental images.|
To be fair, the book shows flashes of witty writing, but they're buried in an onslaught of redundancies and descriptions of Christian's tousled copper hair. I suspect the bigger reason that the books are so successful is the same reason Twilight succeeded: That guilty, heady thrill that comes from reading about the impossibly handsome, emotionally remote man who's baffled to find himself falling in love with the plain Jane woman. However, the well-done sex scenes and the secret shame of loving a Mary Sue story just aren't enough to overcome the shaky, amateurish writing.
Seriously, publishing houses, who is on your payroll? I don't care how small an operation you are; you are publishing books. Books contains words, and words frequently need editing. Did you know there's a job shortage out there? Can't you find a few unemployed editors who could read a manuscript and pick it apart with a red pen before you peddle it to the masses and expect them to drop their hard-earned dough for a saggy, laughable, amateurish piece of work? This isn't fan fic's fault; it's the fault of a publishing house that didn't properly prepare its manuscript for publication.
Recent news stories indicate that James sold the movie rights to the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy for a rumored $5 million. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go scream into a pillow.