REVIEW: Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James
This review is being posted in lieu of a morning opinion piece because it is an opinion piece of sorts and because, well, it is verbose. So you get three reviews today. Yay!
Dear E.L. James,
So I’m pretty much in the minority when it comes to this book as I hated it.
Fifty Shades of Grey came to my attention during a Twitter conversation. I was intrigued by the fact that the book was apparently once a Twilight fan fiction piece entitled Master of the Universe and featured a BDSM relationship between the main protagonists. I was told that there was a high level of WTFery but I ignored this warning. I’m usually a fan of WTFery. If I was not a fan of WTFery, I would not have enjoyed afternoon soap operas for most of my teen years. After all, WTFery is simply the absurd taken to new heights of, well, of absurdity. But this was not WTF in an absurd, adorable way. It was infuriating. I wanted to scratch my eyes out or maybe the characters’. I’m not really sure. At one point, I had to start drinking heavily. But even gin didn’t dull the fury.
In writing this, I’ve been thinking of alternate titles, something that plays on the title of the book, what it is about, and how I feel about it. Something succinct like: “50 Shades of Grey, 7 Shades of Scarlet, & 372 Pages of Dumb.” Or maybe: “120 Days of Boredom.” What about: “The Story of Oh . . . My!” Perhaps, “Where There’s a Will, There’s an Ellipsis” or “The Whiner, the Witch, and the Wanker”? No, I’ve got it: “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” but I wouldn’t want to associate X-Ray Spex with this book. So let’s call this after my favorite safe word: Julie Andrews!
I should state, for the record, that I was did not buy this book. I was lent it and I am very grateful to that person. Yes, I am very grateful despite the fact that I ended up loathing this book. So, what’s it all about?
Anastasia Steele is on the cusp of graduating from Washington State University. Before she can do that, though, she’s got to get through finals, a task which would be made easier if she didn’t have to drive up to Seattle to interview some billionaire named Christian Grey for the student newspaper. But she does have to, even though she isn’t technically on the student paper. Her BFF Kate is sick, and being sick she is incapable of driving the three hours or conducting the interview. So Anastasia does it instead. It’s a last minute thing and honestly, she’s just not prepared for it (or for anything in life, really, but we’ll get to that). She doesn’t know anything about Christian Grey. She doesn’t know how old he is or what he does. All she knows is that he’s rich and he donates to the university.
Whatever she expected, it wasn’t the reality of Christian Grey. He’s young, for one, and he’s intense, really intense. Anastasia knows that she’s no match for him looks-wise, so it baffles her when he starts pursuing her: showing up at her work, sending her a first-edition of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, rescuing her from a drunken evening out. She can hardly believe her luck when this perfect man whisks her away to his penthouse in Seattle. Only Christian Grey has a dark secret. No, he isn’t a vampire or a spy or Batman. He’s kinky. He’s into BDSM. He likes to whip and chain it. GASP!
That’s pretty much the plot. Ignorant young woman with virginity still intact and a case of low self-esteem meets a controlling, manipulative, hot, young billionaire who identifies as a dominant in order to justify the fact that he’s a paternalistic control freak. Yay! Oh, yay! It’s just such an original and imaginative take on heterosexual relationships, don’t you think? It really offers some new insight into sexuality and power.
I am, of course, being sarcastic. Fifty Shades of Grey does the exact opposite. Not only does it perpetuate damaging untruths about BDSM as a sexuality and a sexual identity, it also manages to do so in the most clichéd and hackneyed way possible. It is a thoroughly uninteresting book. The characters are as flat as a thing can be without entering the first dimension. The plot has only a single conflict: that Christian is BDSM identified and Anastasia is vanilla. E.L. James has managed to take the worst aspects of Twilight, the worst elements of a Mills & Boon circa 1977, and the worst of BDSM erotica and combine them into one glorious whole (or should that be hole?). She deploys the tropes and clichés with a heavy hand—tropes and clichés that, to be fair, are everywhere in romance. But it is the thoughtless use of these clichés that makes them problematic for me. And this is coming from a person who has just written and presented an academic paper defending the cliché and clichéd language!
Worse, the prose itself is stuttering and robotic. Sentences are rendered in a childish sing-song structure (subject verb predicate) and overwhelmingly they are in the active voice. Moreover, the prose beats you over the head with its intended meaning. James clearly doesn’t trust her readers to pick up on nuance, to infer traits and qualities from the characters dialogue and interactions, or to remember events from mere paragraphs prior (God knows Anastasia doesn’t). Instead, she spends a great deal of timing telling us all sorts of things about Anastasia and Christian but somehow manages to demonstrate the exact opposite.
What I hated about this book are certainly issues and problems that I have disliked in other novels. However, as I said above, by separating the clichés from the original forms and contexts (particularly in the case of Twilight), James loses the subtlety that made these problematic clichés at the very least tolerable in their other contexts. For instance, in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Wicked Intentions the hero’s desire for kinky sex is “cured” by his relationship with the heroine. However, the central conflict of that book does not revolve around the hero’s sexual identity nor does the heroine find it any way monstrous. As such, I was able to overlook it enough to enjoy the rest of the novel. That simply was not the case for me in Fifty Shades of Grey.
In order to address the multitude of problems in the narrative, I have divided the review into three sections. I have not written a thesis statement, which I’m sure will disappoint Maggie Stiefvater. C’est la vie! We can’t always get what we want. I certainly didn’t whilst reading this book.
The prose is dull, but it isn’t unreadable. It’s competent. The best thing I can say about it is that vast majority of sentences are grammatical. More problematically was what I shall call the rhythm of the prose. Like Gertrude Stein, I believe the sentence is the basic building block of narrative. The sentences in this book did not help me enter the world of the story. They were an obstruction. A series of pedestrian, pre-chewed sentences only slightly more sophisticated than the ones found in my 2nd grade reader:
The drive to the heliport is short and, before I know it, we arrive. I wonder where the fabled helicopter might be. We’re in a built-up area of the city and even I know helicopters need space to take off and land [Reviewer’s Note: No. They don’t. That’s their advantage over the plane!] Taylor parks, climbs out, and opens my car door. Christian is beside me in an instant and takes my hand again. (p. 63) Kindle Edition.
By pre-chewed, what I mean is that every sentence, every piece of dialogue is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect in a book like this. Like in a James Cameron movie where every character says exactly what such a character always says at such a moment. It is uniformly predictable and because it is uniformly predictable it doesn’t convey any subtle or nuanced meaning to the story. Its uniformity on a sentence level shapes the superficiality of the rest of the book—the plot, the characters, and the underlying themes. This is what I mean by clichéd.
The prose is further made awful by James’ weird and arbitrary use of the italics. Italics are used to emphasize certain words or phrases. They are also used, on occasion, as a way of setting off a character’s thoughts. By using the italics all the time, which she does, the emphasis loses all meaning and force. Quite frankly, the italics make Anastasia look dumb—not that she needs any help with that. They create a constant sense of Anastasia as a person easily startled, like someone suffering from short term memory loss who forgets she just saw you ten seconds ago and then jumps when she sees you again. It’s fucking ridiculous. For example:
“I assume you’re not on the pill.”
“I didn’t think so.” He opens the top drawer of the chest and removes a packet of condoms [Reviewer’s note: the pill doesn’t protect from STDs, yo!]. He gazes at me intently.
“Be prepared,” he murmurs. “Do you want the blinds drawn?”
“I don’t mind.” I whisper. “I thought you didn’t let anyone sleep in your bed.”
“Who says we’re going to sleep?” he murmurs softly.
“Oh.” Holy hell.
He strolls slowly toward me. Confident, sexy, eyes blazing, and my heart begins to pound. My blood’s pumping around my body. Desire, thick and hot, pools in my belly. He stands in front of me, staring down into my eyes. He’s so freaking hot. (p. 82).
Why are these in italics? What is the purpose of the emphasis? What does it tell us that the context doesn’t? That the words themselves don’t? We don’t need them if they are just supposed to be setting off Anastasia’s thoughts because the story is told in the first person and we are already occupying her headspace. We don’t need to be told that this is what she is thinking via italics. They emphasize nothing. And at one point, dialogue coming from another room is in italics (Location 2842 of 10541). So to me, there is no rhyme or reason for this usage. It just takes the reader out of the story. Let’s not even get into the plethora of ellipses (oh my god . . . the ellipses!).
A final, but by no means last, word on the prose is the use of the word subconscious. The subconscious plays a large role in Anastasia’s life. Almost as large as her inner goddess, which I can only assume is some kind of euphemism for vagina. The subconscious is constantly berating and admonishing her. The problem is that this is not what the subconscious does. That’s what the conscience does or the superego, if you are going to be Freudian about it. You are not actually consciously aware of the subconscious because it is sub conscious; it is below the level of consciousness. This may seem like mean-spirited nitpicking, but it isn’t a singular instance of wrong usage. It is a constant refrain within the book. Every time the subconscious spoke, I thought to myself: No. Wrong. No.
Because the prose is so weak, it ends up highlighting and accentuating the book’s other weaknesses, which are as follows:
The plot in this book is the characters. And that’s the problem. There is no other conflict or story other than the fact that Anastasia wants a normal relationship and Christian can’t give her one. He gives it the old school try, I’ll tell you that. Theoretically, this could be a really interesting story. What happens to a kinky person when/if they fall in love with someone who is vanilla? Is it bound (ha!) to be a doomed relationship? Or is there a way to make it work for both people? There’s a good story there. That’s a good premise. Unfortunately, that is not the story in Fifty Shades.
Going in, I had heard rumors to the effect that Christian gets “cured” of his BDSM kink and to me it was fairly clear from the beginning that this is trajectory of the story. This because of the way the narration—that is Anastasia as the first person narrator—characterizes Christian’s kink and the presumption that the reader is going to or ought have her same perspective about BDSM. But let’s talk about Christian first.
Christian is an asshole of the first order. At the outset of the story, he employs the classic move of mind-fuckers and bad boyfriends everywhere, “Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear of me” (p. 52). Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ooohhh god! What girl hasn’t heard a version of that before? Am I right, ladies? Regardless of what language it is uttered in, this is the first tip off that you are dealing with a manipulative fuck. But you know what? Let’s give credit where credit is due, Anastasia actually takes him at his word, something Christian never manages to do when it comes to her word. No, no. He just steamrolls right on over every one of her objections. But Anastasia doesn’t pursue him after he tells her this. No, he pursues her. He sends her a first edition. This is not the action of a man who wants a woman to stay away from him. When she calls him drunk to ask him why he would do that, he tracks her down and takes her back to his hotel. Nothing happens, but again, his actions say something different than his words. I would call him a stalker, but he doesn’t have that level of subtlety
The mind games really set the scene for when Christian takes Ana to Seattle where he has her sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement prior to revealing the fact that he’s a dom. There is so much wrong with this I don’t know where to begin. First, Anastasia has no effing clue what BDSM is. Second, she has no sexual experience. Third, the agreement says she can’t talk about this to anyone, which means that she cannot ask anyone bedsides Christian anything about BDSM. Thus, Christian gets to be the one who controls the interpretation of what it means to be a submissive. Does that not strike anyone else as abusive? This is such a violation of kink ethics, of ethics period.
Fine. Whatever. Let’s move on. So then, he hands her a contract. Surely you jest? I mean, dude. Just . . . wow! For god’s sake, he doesn’t even give her a chance to find out what BDSM is or whether or not she wants to pursue something with him. No. He just hands her a contract that’s basically structured to be a 24/7 Dominant/submissive relationship. I mean, I’m not kinky but it seems to me to be common friggin’ sense that you ought to at least play with someone, do a few scenes with a new partner before you go all 24/7! Let’s hire a U-Haul! Forevah, Babes! Not the mention the fact that he’s totally pressuring her to say yes immediately. Argh!
Anyhow, I shouldn’t have been surprised that Ana’s virginity would not stop him from just steamrolling right on over that issue and continuing with his plan to have her as his sub. Oh! And did I mention he blames her for not telling him she was a virgin. Douchewad! So then we get this romantic and touching scene:
“We’re going to rectify the situation right now.”
“What do you mean? What situation?”
“Your situation. Ana, I’m going to make love to you, now.”
“Oh.” The floor has fallen away. I’m a situation. I’m holding my breath.
“That’s if you want to, I mean, I don’t want to push my luck.”
“I thought you didn’t make love. I thought you fucked hard.” I swallow, my mouth suddenly dry.
He gives me a wicked grin, the effects of which travel all the way down there (p. 81)
Somebody call the producers of Jersey Shore, because it turns out The Situation is actually Anastasia Steele’s intact hymen. Yes, responsible sex at its finest. This attitude pretty much characterizes Christian throughout the novel. The only difference between Christian Grey and a Greek Tycoon is that Christian isn’t Greek, as far as I know. He also has more contracts. Other than that, his paternalism and general alpha-hole behavior may as well have been stripped from any number of Harlequin Presents, sans the nuanced characterizations or groveling scenes of penance.
Besides being the worst sort of alpha male, Christian’s personality can be summarized thus: spectacularly beautiful man who smirks a lot. There’s not a lot there. He’s pretty much a cipher, not so much enigmatic as empty.
Then there’s Anastasia Steele. She has shockingly little personality for a first person narrator. She’s vapid and dumb, so very, very dumb. She’s TSTL, but not because she chases down villains in London’s worst slums. No, but because she fails to register the blatantly obvious. Right after Christian tells her he’s kinky, we get this gem of an exchange:
My mouth drops open. Fuck hard! Holy shit, that sounds so… hot. But why are we looking at a playroom? I am mystified.
“You want to play on your Xbox?” I ask. He laughs, loudly.
“No, Anastasia, no Xbox, no Playstation. Come.” (p. 70)
Is this supposed to be cute? Endearing? If so, fail. It is one thing to be a virgin, it is another thing to be so flamingly, fantastically ignorant of the universe and the obvious. I mean, good god, Xbox?! Freaking Xbox?! (Note the use of italics, used to emphasize my disdain). Come on, woman!
I don’t have a problem with virgin heroines, because I don’t equate virginity with being a brain-dead ignoramus. Call me crazy, but I don’t think one needs to have had sex in order to be able to connect the dots in basic human interactions. James has Christian constantly praising Ana’s intelligence and bravery and cleverness, but everything Ana does renders these compliments into ironic, nay sarcastic statements. Every time something sexual is mentioned Ana blushes or flushes or gasps. Any time Christian tries to have an adult conversation with her about BDSM, she bites her lip and peeks out from under her hair like Princess Diana used to do at the paparazzi. Then he tells her he wants to fuck her. Ana’s entire attitude towards their relationship is immature and adolescent, while Christian’s is controlling and manipulative.
If only she were just dumb and easily embarrassed by sex, but no. Ana’s also judgmental and shallow. I think her attitude towards Christian is fairly well summarized in the following lines: “The problem is, I just want Christian, not all his… baggage – and right now he has a 747 hold’s worth of baggage” (p. 217). And later she says: “I’m in this fantasy apartment, having fantasy sex with my fantasy boyfriend. When the grim reality is he wants a special arrangement, though he’s said he’ll try more” (p. 269). The sheer immaturity of these statements is awe-inspiring. Ana doesn’t want Christian with all his baggage. She wants the fantasy, not the grim reality of the actual man. The fact that her adolescent crush on him is characterized as true love illustrates the underlying fuckwitted-ness of this book.
In an adult relationship we deal with the other person’s baggage, whatever that baggage is because everyone’s got it. When Ana talks about how she doesn’t have any examples except literary heroines for knowing how to deal with men, her fundamental misreading of relationships is revealed. She says, “My other references are all fictional: Elizabeth Bennet would be outraged, Jane Eyre too frightened, and Tess would succumb, just as I have” (p. 163). Ana seems to be under the misguided impression that Elizabeth was upset with Darcy for having baggage. That Jane was scared of Rochester’s baggage, which like most people he kept in the attic. But this is a terribly naïve reading of those books and the relationships they depict.
And this naïve attitude toward sex and romance is reiterated in the way that Ana repeatedly characterizes Christian as a monster, as depraved, as a nut-job, as scary, and as dangerous. At one point she says, “This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero, a brave shining white knight – or the dark knight as he said. He’s not a hero; he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?” (p. 259). And that pretty much sums up the problem with Ana, Christian, and the plot. BDSM is something you do when you don’t know how to have a “real” relationship. Something you use when you don’t know what “real” love is. “Real” love being two flawless people with no baggage loving boinking. And that’s bullshit.
Oh BDSM! Up Yours! Kink serves three contradictory purposes within this story: it is a justification for Christian being an alphahole (He’s damaged! He’s dominant! He doesn’t know what real love is!). It is the erotic titillation and tension in the sex scenes—which, FYI, are so boring they could have acted as general anesthesia. I could have had a tooth drilled during and not realized it. And it is the obstacle or conflict the hero and heroine must overcome in order to be together.
The narrative wants to occupy a position where we get to take the moral high ground sexually speaking but at the same time get to be thrilled by the eroticism of BDSM. It wants us to think of Christian’s BDSM as something that’s wrong with him, a symptom of his inner, childhood demons. But it also wants us to get off on it. Like teenage girls giggling over pictures of penises, it seems to say of BDSM, “Tee he he he! That’s so gross!” But secretly loves the titillation it gets from viewing the forbidden.
Nowhere is this made clearer than in the depiction of Mrs. Robinson. Mrs. Robinson is the name Ana gives to the older femdomme who introduced Christian to BDSM when he was but fifteen years old. Ugh! But friends, it gets worse. Ana, in her typically sensitive and insightful way, refers to her in front of Christian as Mrs. Pedo. To which Christian responds, “She’s a dear, valued friend and a business partner. That’s all. We have a past, a shared history, which was monumentally beneficial for me, though it fucked up her marriage – but that side of our relationship is over” (p. 314).
Cue stunned silence.
I don’t even know where to begin with this: the fact that one of the few, and certainly the most important, femalez involved in BDSM is depicted as child molester. Or the fact that she gave Christian the only kind of love he would accept and saved from a life of darkness and drugs. Oh my! Or the fact that it basically justifies Ana’s view of BDSM as “scary” and “dark” . . . like Christian’s eyes. This is just so, so, so WRONG.
The characterization of Mrs. Robinson as a pedophile is followed by Ana getting turned on, for the umpteenth time, by Christian and then trying to use sex to get him to tell her about his past. Followed by BDSM being characterized as some kind of therapy. Followed by another mind-blowing orgasm. This is fairly typical as far as this book is concerned. One minute BDSM is wrong, wrong, wrong. So scary! So dark! Then the next it is hot, hot, hot! Then it is therapeutic. Then it is wrong and dark again. Then Ana’s getting off on images of Christian with a riding crop, and so on and so forth. In short, the depiction of BDSM as an identity and as sexuality is careless, inconsistent, and rests on common myths and misperceptions about it. And I haven’t even gotten to the contract, yet!
It is entirely obvious to me that this used to be Twilight fan fiction because James manages to capture the vibe of the original: the shoe-gazing, eye-gazing, pseudo-angst of Bella and Edward’s tumultuous love affair. Yes! It’s all there from the zero conflict to the zero chemistry! However, as it turns out—and believe me I’m as surprised to be saying this as you are to hear it—Twilight turns out to be the more sophisticated version. If we were to characterize Edward and Bella’s relationship as BDSM, then unlike Anastasia, Bella eagerly and unconditionally accepts Edward and his darkness. She embraces him and his baggage wholeheartedly. She is happy to go into his world. She never thinks of saving him from his darkness. She never thinks of him as a monster. Edward is the one in the closet, so to speak. Edward is the one who fears his desires. This book has completely missed that aspect of its source material.
For all that Twilight normalizes the Gothic, the monstrous, and the kinky it never “cures” it. It never tries to “drag it into the light” and reform it from its bad, bad ways. Instead, and I’m quite startled to realize this, Twilight posits a world in which the “monstrous”, too, can be happy. Even the villains experience real love and true love. In fact, Victoria’s pursuit of Bella is based upon the fact that she did love her partner and mourns his death. Fifty Shades, on the other hand, persistently characterizes kink as abnormal except when it uses it to excuse bad behavior or to titillate its readers. It is exploitive and appropriative in the worst sort of way. More importantly, it separates the “hearts and flowers” sort of romantic love Anastasia wants as being distinct from and incompatible with BDSM.
I could say a lot more about this book: the use of musical references as status symbols, the weird relationship to food the narrative has, the weird relationship to appetite generally the narrative demonstrates, how the text defines love and normalcy, etc. Not to mention the hoops E.L. James has to jump through to keep Ana innocent of the world. I mean seriously, what student doesn’t have an email address? Or a computer? And there is a helluva lot more to say about the depiction of BDSM. But I will refrain.
While I recognize that there are two other books in this series that I have not read and have, therefore, not completed the narrative arc, I have no confidence that the problems that were so garishly on display in this first book have, in any way, been resolved in the subsequent installments. And I will not be reading the others to have my suspicions confirmed. I’m quite positive that my predictions will come true: Jack Hyde will turn out to be some kind of bad dom; Mrs. Robinson will play the role of jealous, glamorous older lover that Christian has to break free from in order to be with Anastasia; and finally, Christian will be set free from his need to be a dominant once he has fully come to terms with his dark past.
But why did this infuriate me so? Why? I think, after much contemplation, it was because the way in which the clichés and elements of genre romance were deployed served to reveal a troubling and repugnant worldview. Troubling for the very fact that these are not issues isolated to 50 Shades of Grey. The artless way in which they were written simply laid bare the problems, exposing a terrible underlying ideology. Whether James realizes it or not, intended it or not, she has written a book whose ultimate message is this: the only people who deserve love are those who are perfect and normal. Redemption is nothing more than learning that you were always already chosen, always already perfect.
How Calvinist! I find this message foul and damaging. Because of that fact and because it is rendered in dull, robotic prose, I hereby give this book an F.
You can read more about Fifty Shades and its origins here along with recommendations of other books here.
Thank you for sticking with this one to the end, because I think this is one case where an F review rather than a DNF is really valuable. I agree that a book about a kinky person who falls in love with someone who is vanilla could be really good, if written by a talented author. At least from what’s been quoted here, E.L. James is not that author.
I read RRR Jessica’s review from last week, which was more positive but not enthusiastic. Have there been relatively positive reviews from people who are primarily romance/erotica readers? It just seems as though a lot of this trilogy’s success is driven by the novelty factor, while those who read more romance and erotica have read this sort of thing before, only done better. Or am I totally off the mark?
Anyway – this is so not going on my TBR list. Nice cover, though.
This books sounds so bad I was actually tempted to read it. Then I clicked on the amazon link and found that it costs $10. Wow. Thats all I can say. Who would pay ten dollars for the piece of crap you’re describing?
Thank you. I struggled through the first two and flatly refuse to read the third, even if it was delivered free to my Kindle by magic. Yuck. I find Ana vapid and stupid, and I don’t WANT to be in her head. And Christian … where to begin. To wade through the rabid fangirls (and by this I mean women as old as me who should know better) who squee about this freaking book constantly like it’s great literature … I have such loss of hope for our collective minds.
This book has a very active and vocal cadre of squeeing fangirls on the Amazon romance forum. They gush more than Old Faithful!
Inner gooddess? Mrs Robinson? /facepalm
In other news, someone needs to get those rabid fangirls copies of Rice/Roquelaure’s Sleeping Beauty Trilogy. That might keep them busy for a while or two.
Kudos for a very thorough and thoughtful review.
So many people love Fifty Shades of Grey, and yet there are those who obviously do not. It serves as a reminder of how subjective this industry can be.
As an aspiring author that subjectivity gives me hope; even though there will be those who hate my books, there will also be those who love them.
For the record: I love Fifty Shades of Grey. And I can’t explain why. Maybe for all the reasons some people hate it. You know what they say: Love is blind : )
Is it wrong that I love nothing so much as when you really hate a book? I figured you would have an intense reaction to the book, but what I really appreciate is how well you’ve cataloged your issues with it. You’ve touched on many of the reasons that I think this series is impacting romance readers.
Perhaps James never intended to have romance readers as one of her main audiences, because speaking strictly for myself, I did not find Christian to be hero material. Nor did I find Ana to be heroine material. The book read almost like a character study to me, as opposed to a romance where the reader is meant to root for a happily ever after for the characters.
I was confounded by this book because while in the end it didn’t work for me, I gobbled it up in giant bites. Everything you’ve said about the prose was true, but I found it compelling reading while I was reading it – somewhat like a train wreck that I couldn’t look away from.
Thanks for this review – it was highly entertaining. I wasn’t planning to read this book anyway, mainly because I have developed a phobia about books that have a disproportionate number of 5-star reviews on GR. But the review really spoke to me – I felt your pain, remembered all the books I’ve read that left me feeling dumber for having read it, and despair over the fact that so many people loved it intensely.
What a wonderful review. The passion and energy you have brought to clearly explaining your response to 50SoG illustrates why low and negative grade reviews are so important. Thanks for giving the time to this, Lazarapaste. For me though it is your conclusion that damns the book:
“…Whether James realizes it or not, intended it or not, she has written a book whose ultimate message is this: the only people who deserve love are those who are perfect and normal. Redemption is nothing more than learning that you were always already chosen, always already perfect….”
I read romance stories in order to go on a journey with people growing and changing and whose HEA or HFN comes through their development – through the couple putting the pieces of themselves and their lives together. We are all broken in ways and degrees by life and so life is what is lived in the midst of this and through the challenges. Stories like 50SoG that don’t admit this condition are actually stories without hope at the centre and I believe that romance genre stories are all about hope and living hopefully.
50SoG is a story that leaves me chilled and tiredly angry.
I love the plot as you described it but writing seems horrid. I’ve read so many positive reviews on the Amazon boards though.Actually, it seems like half of the posts on the Amazon romance forum are about either this book, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire or anything written by Kristen Ashley.
Did the author describe WSU as being down from Seattle and only 3 hours away? If so along with the other general WTF’ery going on a lack of basic fact checking happend also.
Based on all of the positive reviews, I paid the $10 for this book and it is by far the worst purchase I have made in a long, long time. I agree with everything you said in your review, particularly about the bad writing. It seemed like all Anastasia was capable of doing was whispering. If she was happy, sad, angry, or scared, she was always whispering. I felt like every other line contained the word “whisper” and I had to put my Kindle down a few times out of sheer annoyance. It drove me crazy. Likewise, the whole “inner goddess” thing became very annoying and I too found it very hard to get past the fact that, as a college student, Anastasia didn’t have an e-mail address or a computer.
Plus, it seemed like every male she encountered was not-so-secretly in love with her, but she was the only one who didn’t realize it. Natch. I also felt like there was a very dated feel to the story. I don’t have my Kindle with me so I can’t cite specific examples, but certain phrases were used and things referred to in a certain way that made Christian and Ana seem as though they were closer to 50 or 60 rather than in their early to mid twenties.
Since I shelled out $10 for it, I forced myself to read the whole thing, but I just couldn’t make myself like Christian or Ana or the writing itself, for that matter.
There are apparently two sequels that are also selling for $9.99 each.
Thanks for the detailed review. I was considering reading this to see what the fuss was about, but I think I’d rather save my £6.50 for something that won’t make me rage. I’m especially glad you mentioned the ellipsis abuse, because while I can (and have!) put up with a lot of other wtf in books, that drives me up the wall.
@Erin L: I only got through the sample, but there is a WSU campus in Vancouver, so it’s possible. However, I do remember being confused about where the author put Portland in that scenario.
Great Review! My main issue with the first two books was that they were boring. Really, really boring. The third one was slightly more interesting because they go on a luxe vacation and try to resolve any and all plot conflicts.
So, when I read the sample, I didn’t know about the Twilight fan-fiction angle. But I kept thinking to myself, “I see why so many people like this because this is basically Bella and Edward.” It wasn’t until after that I saw how true that was.
“Every time the subconscious spoke, I thought to myself: No. Wrong. No.”
Yesyesyes… That drove me insane. Not that there weren’t a thousand other things that made me want to throw it across the room (“laters, babe” comes to mind), but this one was by far the most irritating.
“I would call him a stalker, but he doesn’t have that level of subtlety”
Ha! Christian in one sentence…
Thank you for posting this review… I’m always glad to realize that I’m not the only person to not like these books…
@Gwen Hayes: @Erin L: I had the same problem w/the WSU campus. But no! EL James clearly has access to Google Maps. She used almost the exact same distance (164 miles on Google using just the city names, 165 in the book). And Portland is in the right place (Vancouver is as close as any Portland suburb would be).
However, everything else about the campus is howlingly funny. The campus didn’t even admit freshmen and sophomores until 2006 or so, and it looks to be a commuter campus. In the first chapter, Tie Dude is described as a huge benefactor to WVU. Which is of course a state school. And he comes down to her workplace because “he’s in the area” because he’s checking out some program in farming that he’s donated gobs of cash to. So, not only is this commuter campus a farming school, it’s somehow ripped off the entire agricultural research facility from the main campus at Pullman.
Maybe it gets better after Chapter 1, but that’s when my Kindle excerpt ran out and there is no way in hell I’m spending any of the precious moments left to me on this earth reading more.
Thanks so much for this review, L. I really appreciate that you could take this book seriously (even though it was clearly painful for you), because it’s made such a splash I think readers deserve it. I found the excerpt so ridiculous that even if I read the whole thing I could never do it justice. If anyone wants to know what fan fiction characters are like, send them to the excerpt. She’s a Mary Sue who draws everyone to her like a moth to a flame even as she laments her insecurity and lack of looks. He’s a brilliant, accomplished Adonis who only has eyes for her for no reason the reader can discern (and in this version, her Mary Sue-ness will bring him back to normalcy and virtue, apparently).
The italics and ellipses are accepted methods of conveying thoughts and pauses in fan fic. But when she decided to publish this as original and not reveal it to boot (a situation that is completely unethical as far as I’m concerned), she should have re-written it for acceptable publication standards. However, considering the lack of care in other areas of the book I’m not surprised that it was left as is.
You know, fan fic writers have to understand that fan fic is a playground, and while fic readers will accept and enjoy and even praise hot messes like the above in that insular world, it doesn’t mean their writing is good or even acceptable as written when it comes to presenting it to the world at large. Many of us do get that, but I think that fangirl adulation makes others lose perspective.
Wow. Thanks, everyone for the kind comments. I was bracing myself for impact, really. I wasn’t sure how this would go over.
@Meri: The reviews I’ve seen by readers of romance have generally been more critical. I think you are right. Maybe not so compelling to those who have a similar context for this kind of story.
@Abbie Rhoades: If I hadn’t disliked it as much as I did, I don’t think I could understand why people do like. But clearly, it caused a strong emotional, albeit negative response in me, so I can see how it could do the opposite.
@Kati: LOL so that was your ulterior motive! Thanks for lending it to me. I had a hard time finishing it but I did. There’s something about it that is cracktastic in the sense that you do keep finding yourself turning the page. I, myself, did this while berating the characters, but it does make me wonder what makes you finish a book rather than DNF?
@Merrian: Thank you. I really think that is the essence of romance for me: hope. When that isn’t met by the book I’m reading, I think my reaction varies from sad to angry.
@Erin L: Yeah. I was totally wondering that but I’m not from Seattle. I’ve driven through that area once in my life. I think the WSU was supposed to be the Vancouver campus? I have no idea. WSU also apparently works on the British uni system of final exams and tutors, so there were lots of problems there. Lots of Britishisms, like UST, which I’d never heard of before.
@lazaraspaste:What’s the context for UST? In fanfic it’s a common acronym for Unresolved Sexual Tension.
Or it could mean Universal Standard Time. Which would be odd for 20-something non-military types to use, but presumably no odder than anything else here.
@Shelly: So fanfic really is a direct descendant of Barbara Cartland novels. That explains so much.
@[email protected]: That’s actually what I thought when I first started reading it! But it doesn’t seen to show up until the last ten years or so, and I’ve come to believe it’s more a result of the popularity of manga and translated Japanese novels where such use of ellipses and to a lesser extent italics is standard practice in published works.
I will freely admit to having written and participated in the fanfic community. There are shades (ha!) however, and to most rational, logical participants, Master of the Universe and its following was ridiculous and rabid. It appears that this group has followed the author, which is really too bad. There are some great fanfics out there but this was never one of them. Great analysis of the “must be perfect to gain love” angle on this story.
@Meri: I think Lazaraspaste is right that a lot of the biggest fans are people who don’t regularly read romance/erotica, and for whom the tropes might seem fresher (that’s true of a lot of Twilight fans, too, right). But there are some positive reviews from romance readers, too, like this one from the Bookpushers, who liked the first two books in the series, or this group post at Heroes and Heartbreakers, which ranges over the map.
Readers who really love it seem to love Christian and/or feel that it captures the feeling of falling crazy in love very well. It’s not surprising that a book which most be people acknowledge to be not very well-written, but to have a strong emotional core, would be so polarizing. For some people, like Lazaraspaste, it will push bad buttons.
What a well-written review!!! Despite the absence of the so-called “thesis-statement”… :-) I have contemplated buying this book numerous times just to see what all the fuss was about. After all, I was sceptical about J.R. Ward’s BDB series and the hype surrounding those books, and it turns out that I really love them for their sheer over-the-top-ness. But each time I’ve pulled up Fifty Shades on amazon and noted the PRICE (yikes) and the fan-fic connection to “Twilight” I’ve hesitated. The few negative reviews I’ve read of Fifty Shades too have resonated with me far more than any of the positive “squee” type reactions I’ve read about it. Kudos to you for writing a review that you know goes against the grain and for providing so much detail about what doesn’t work for you. Sure, this process is subjective, but it helps me see that the likelihood is that this series won’t work for me either and I should save my $10 for something else!
I had to read your whole review and just giggle over it. It was a very well done review, even if I completely disagree. :) I loved the series, although I did think the 3rd was not as good. The 2nd one was the best and I was captivated through both the first two.
Fifty was crack to me and I still sigh over it. However, I completely adored Beautiful Disaster as well so it might just be my ‘thing’.
Even if anything in this review had sparked my desire to read the book, I wouldn’t have bought it, simply because of its history as fanfic. I don’t care if the fanfic is alternate universe, I don’t care if character personalities have been tweaked or drastically altered. If that’s the case, then the author should have had the guts to write it as original fiction in the first place, rather than piggy backing off of fandom love. I have nothing against fanfic and have read it off and on for years, but I read it as fanfic. Publishing it as though it were 100% your own work (and then asking $10 per book?!) leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
When I saw this review come up on my FB page, I couldn’t wait to read it. I’m one of those who LOVED the book, and even read the second one twice. I have yet to read the final in the trilogy. I do not however, consider myself to be a ‘fangirl,’ whatever that may mean. A fan of the book? A fan of fan fic? A fan of Twilight? I’ll admit to being a fan of the book. I write some fan fic for fun and practice. And although I find most that is out there to abysmal to read myself, there are a few gems however rare. I wasn’t aware this was originally a Twilight ff, and I am certainly not a Twilight fan. I don’t follow that fandom, books, or movies.
I agree with @Kati who says she saw this book as a character study. As for the book(s), the sex was ok, but I found quickly that I wasn’t reading it for the erotica anyway. The treatment of the BDSM elements didn’t strike me the same as it did you. What appealed to me was the growth of the characters throughout the arc (at least the first 2/3). She changed for him, he changes for her, and somewhere in between they find each other and are both made better for it.
I read so many romance novels these days, most of which I couldn’t tell you the character’s names after I close the book. Most of the time, I find these books seriously wanting for any kind of character depth or relationship growth, not to mention plot, etc. Decent grammar, editing, dialogue, and generally good writing are often just as absent. Hence, my reviews, when I bother to write them are often disappointed, and sometimes scathing. This book engendered neither response in me, although I do agree with some of your comments regarding the simple language. I even managed past the typos and editing mistakes, which I haven’t been able to do in other cases. Admitting to all of these flaws, I was one of those who reviewed this book highly, because of the characters and their relationship, their own personal growth through their challenges. Fan girl? Meh. Still don’t know what that means.
I have to say that the 50 Shades trilogy stayed with me long after I finished the book(s). Do I remember the sex? The BDSM? No. The Contract- yes unfortunately, but even that is dealt with later in such a way that I can remember it positively. But what I still remember are the moments between the characters that I found heart wrenching and real.
Just…thank you. That is all.
Thank you so much for this review. Someone gifted this to me ($10 is way too expensive) and I struggled to read it, because so many people were raving about it. But I hated it. The screwed up relationship dynamic, if done right, I can handle, but the BDSM stuff pissed me off. I couldn’t really articulate why, except to make noises of rage, but you managed to capture my distaste perfectly.
“Somebody call the producers of Jersey Shore, because it turns out The Situation is actually Anastasia Steele’s intact hymen.”
LOL. This is technically not-safe-for–work…at least not for those of us who are sneaking around the Internet when we are supposed to be working. I read this, let out a loud laugh, then tried to smother it with a fake cough.
Oh, and $10? For glorified fan fiction? Yowzers!
@Cavalier Queen: “She changed for him, he changes for her, and somewhere in between they find each other and are both made better for it.”
See, that’s what I don’t think love should be about. If I’m into BDSM, I don’t want to stop BDSM for the sake of someone else. To me, that’s not love. But I guess it’s another debate and another conversation. :)
“That Jane was scared of Rochester’s baggage, which like most people he kept in the attic.”
I :love this!!! such a great throw-away line, and Jane Eyre in a nutshell.
Wonderful review. I never would have bought this anyway, not being one to shell out $10 on an ebook. And now I have further justification for avoiding what sounds like a major mess.
@Cavalier Queen: Think of fangirls as rabid fans. A fangirl is someone who flails about in adoration of a work.
Fangirling can be innocent fun, especially with other fans. I’ll admit I do it at times. But it tends to include a loss of perspective about the faults of a book or whatever a fandom is about. So fangirling within a community meant for it? Great, have fun! But in forum meant for critical review of said book? It not only doesn’t add to the discussion, it detracts from it. Especially since fangirls who lose perspective can take criticism of a book as a personal attack because their ownership of the work is so intense.
I feel sure I’d hate this book but I loved the review. It’s hard to say what my favorite lines are–there are so many excellent ones. But, as one who cringed her way through the every Twilight book but the first (I have a 15 year old daughter and read them with her.), I think I’d pick this section:
Thanks for such entertaining writing!
@Christine M. Actually, Christian doesn’t give up BDSM as a whole, although the more sadistic elements, like caning he does, because while she will play, caning is a hard limit. All BDSM books I’ve ever read, appropriate D/s respect the hard limits. Christian and Anna find a way to meet both of their needs, and he never has to give up his playroom. They meet at a place where they can both enjoy the D/s lifestyle. I didn’t consider that to be a bad thing, but rather a positive growth in the relationship. He actually loses interest in that brutality (caning), once he realizes he doesn’t need it. Not the same as giving up something he wanted to be with her. More like losing something he didn’t need anymore. I didn’t see it as a statement that BDSM is wrong or that he gave it up. In this case of character development however, I felt it was an appropriate outcome.
@Shelly: ah yes…rabid fan girls. I get it. I have a few that follow my stories. It’s fun and we can get all giggly and silly. However, I hope that in my review(s) I avoid the whole fangirl mania and still offer a serious contemplation of my POV. :-) The fan girl behaviors are strictly for forums like ff.net or AO3, where silliness reigns.
Disclaimer: I have no intention of buying ($10 WTF!) or reading (not my cuppa) this book.
@Cavalier Queen said:
This is the heart and soul of storytelling. I, too, have been lamenting the technically wonderful books I can’t recall a week later. Yes, they may have made me cry and laugh. But if I can’t remember its characters, plot, title, or cover a week after reading it, does its technical merits matter? I don’t really think so. I keep running into meh-to-pffftt books, ones that are either wonderfully written but utterly boring OR ones that are badly written WTFery that doesn’t manage to ping that thing inside me that responds to good storytelling. My tolerance level for either is dangerously low.
@Moriah Jovan: “I keep running into meh-to-pffftt books, ones that are either wonderfully written but utterly boring OR ones that are badly written WTFery that doesn’t manage to ping that thing inside me that responds to good storytelling. My tolerance level for either is dangerously low. ”
So true! It seems the only ones I can remember are the just terrible ones, even if I can’t remember their titles, covers, or character names. My still favorite line from a book I read a year ago describing how a man smelled when she went down on him: “cinnamon and mountain air.” Sorry, but WTFery like that is the stuff that sticks with me *much* longer than anything else. When I found a book that I thought about for literally months afterwards for something other than how just crappy it was, well… that had to have “pinged that thing inside me.” :-)
I’ve considered giving this book a try in the past but even if I could possibly get past all the other flaws you mention, I think the kind of sanctimonious hypocrisy you describe above would piss me off.
Oh man, I’m totally tempted to read this too. Love monster BDSM alpha-holes paired with hapless TSTL virgins. It’s like catnip to me.
But is it written in present tense? Not sure I could stand that for a whole book. Darn it. Now I don’t know what to do. I think I’ll probably end up reading it just because I love the trainwreck books. There should be a new romance genre called ‘trainwreck’ for those of us who can’t resist these trashy books.
All right. Damn. Going to download. I will hate myself later and wish I had an a**hole alpha dom to beat the guilt out of me.
I wanted to smack Ana’s inner goddess by the time I read Freed. Also, Christian is such an emo and whiny sad sack hero. he’s total vanilla when it comes down to it. The BDSM was more pop light than anything.
Give me Edward from Twilight any day.
I’m so surprised by the amount of fans for these books. I understand why the first book may have sold well, because it’s like a suped up Harlequin Presents on heroin, but honestly, I’ve read much better romantic angst. But Darker and Freed? I just don’t see the appeal, including the care bear HEA.
hmmm… just started Freed (Part III of SofG series). Might be hard to finish. 3% in and the switching back and forth of timeline, as well as finding two times where the POV shifts from first person to third is making it harder to read than the other three.
Switched to the “Happiness Project”.
I am shocked at the apparent success of this series on GoodReads and the like.
I find it hard to imagine how anybody could like such a childish heroine.
What I found most irritating is this: in “Fifty Shades of Grey” alone “Oh my” is repeated 60+ times and “crap” 90+ times… Seriously.
The bright side is that there is truly hope for any writer out there.
On the other hand, I’m afraid that this sort of writing and characters will become a standard in romance. Yes, I’m a pessimist by nature, LOL.
“The bright side is that there is truly hope for any writer out there.
On the other hand, I’m afraid that this sort of writing and characters will become a standard in romance. Yes, I’m a pessimist by nature, LOL.”
Unfortunately, I have to agree with you. I’m a writer. And like millions of others hope to one day publish. It constantly amazes me at what can get published (I’m not talking about the plethora of poorly written self-pubbed books, which this basically is if you look into it), but those published by mainstream NY houses.
I am in the camp who liked the first two books although I knew there was flaws with the series. But the crack element was engaging. I think because of the old skool HQN Presents and the sex scenes are the reasons why I think I really enjoyed them. But I do think they could have been heavily edited down and it would have been a much tighter story. However I hated the final book, the characters didn’t learn from their mistakes. It was the same old wangsting and Christian became a total arse and Ana let him walk over her. The tension and the suspense plot was hilariously bad and not well thought out because the reasons why the bad guys engaged in this was wtfery but not in a good way. Also the pacing which was an issue in the first two books was really bad in Freed.
I get the attraction and why there is such a huge following. But I would avoid the final book, because it is pretty much rinse lather and repeat of the previous issues and not even the wtfery factors can save it. A romance is about growth and there wasn’t any and then it ended with a rainbow and unicorn epilogue with a content and happy Christian and Ana – there was no real lead up on how they reached that point because I couldn’t see Christian or even Ana who is pretty much a doormat due to the lack of development and the lack of equality in their relationship.
Thank you, lazaraspaste, for this perfect review of this mess! The only thing it was good for was a laugh at how bad it was, until it got too disturbing for even that.
@courtship: I hope you and anyone else who downloads it doesn’t pay for it. It’s not like Little Brown and Stephenie Meyer are getting a cut from the IP that was taken. Just do a search for Master of the Universe. You’ll find the original, for free.
@Shelly: Thank you. It’s good to know it is a practice in fanfic. But italics and ellipses are used for similar purposes in standard novels as well. For me, they were not used consistently nor did they seem to effectively add anything, especially since they were used so often. It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets into a fight about the exclamation point with her boyfriend.
@Sunita: Ha! I think it would have been funny if it were Universal Standard Time but no. In the context, it was clearly Unresolved Sexual Tension.
@bethany: I used to read a fair amount of fan fiction, so I know what you mean. There are definitely degrees. I think the problems in this story would have been there whether or not it started out as fan fiction or not, although that might explain some word usage or aspects.
@Kristi: I’m glad you enjoyed the review even though you disagreed! That makes me happy. I can see why it would be like crack to someone. It somehow just pushed my buttons in the exact opposite way. Like @Liz Mc2 said.
@Moriah Jovan: @Cavalier Queen: I totally get this because this happens to me a lot. I think it is one of the dangers of being a voracious reader. Why does a book which is so terribly written (not necessarily this one) effect readers so much? Why does it ping with them? Why do some well written ones not ping? Why is finding a book that is both well written and ping-y so damn hard? How do you make that magic happen as a writer? Or find it as a reader? I have no idea, but the older I get, the less and less it happens for me.
THANK YOU! Honestly, after all the raving reviews I saw on GR, I was starting to doubt my insanity. I started this book, made a few “WTF” faces, decided tequila might help (it didn’t), then just tossed the book aside as an overly exaggerated Psych 101 attempt to see into a person’s soul. The story-telling was flat, the characters were flat, and I kept waiting for that moment where the book would take a 180 and become not just readable, but entertaining.
Thank you for having the ability to stick it out. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your sacrifice.
@courtship: I don’t know if it is written the present tense the whole time, but it sure as heck feels like it.
@tsukimi: I don’t think we need to worry that it’ll become a standard in romance. Certainly, there are very badly written romances out there already, from across the ages. I think we tend to forget this because as readers we tend to filter out the ones we don’t feel are worth keeping, literally or by simply not recommending them to our friends or putting them on lists, etc. I’m reminded of this every time I browse in the giant USB that has ten thousand romances.
@Has: That was my impression from the first book. I couldn’t really grasp why it needed a trilogy to tell this story. Especially since the conflict seemed fairly artificial and mostly sustained by them not really talking to each other.
@JH I tell everyone that it is 20% WTF and 80% blather.
Was this book self-/vanity-published? Or is it from a legit publishing house?
If it was the former, I’ll just say that I’m so happy to see a respectful dialogue with plenty of healthy disagreement on both sides that did not descend into chaos. I probably won’t read it for the price and the fact this review points out some of my wall-banger triggers, but hearing respectful, well-articulated disagreements by the commenters here ups the likelihood that I would consider reading it. If that makes any sense.
Also, I hope I didn’t just jinx this board :)
I probably won’t get it after all after reading some other reviews. I do wish it wasn’t so poorly written with all the BDSM issues. I love the premise of alpha emotionally-damaged a**hole hero finding redemption through the innocent, loving heroine. It seems like the tropes I love the most are always only available in the crappiest books. It was just like that Beautiful Disaster book. I love the idea but I’m afraid to read it because I hear such bad things about the craft of the book.
@JL: My understanding is that the publishing house is essentially a vehicle by which fanfic authors publish their stuff as regular books. This particular fanfic was something like 88 chapters and supposedly very little was done to change it before publication. Except, of course, changing the names from Edward and Bella to Christian and Anastasia.
I have no idea about the okay-ness of published fanfic as real books and haven’t much thought about it, but it instinctively makes me uncomfortable.
Some former fan fiction writers that really write good books (only the ones I’ve read myself): Sarah Rees Brennan and Meljean Brook.
@Estara: There’s a big difference, in my mind, between sharpening your skills by writing fanfic versus finishing a long fanfic, saying “Wow, people like this, why not publish it because writing something new and original would take extra work,” changing the names in the fanfic, and publishing it.
@Cavalier Queen:hmmm… just started Freed (Part III of SofG series). Might be hard to finish. 3% in and the switching back and forth of timeline, as well as finding two times where the POV shifts from first person to third is making it harder to read than the other three.
I loved the first two books in the series, but Fifty Shades Freed–not so much. The way it began felt very amateurish with all the flashbacks. And I found myself skimming it just to get to the good parts. The other two books I devoured, this one I nibbled on until it was done.
I think you’ve expressed what it is I have uneasiness with. Publishing fanfic seems to be something totally different from developing skills by writing fanfic and then publishing something original.
Not that Stephenie Meyer is likely to be pining away for any extra royalties she deserves from the success of this book, but still, it’s the principle of the whole thing.
@JL: For me, part of the issue is that the fanfic author is piggy backing on the success of the author that wrote the original work. I’d feel similarly uncomfortable and outraged if, say, someone wrote an original work and, when it didn’t sell, changed the names so that the story matched a particular fandom, and then sold it as original fic when it got popular. Even though the story started as original fic and wasn’t originally intended to be fanfic, I wouldn’t want to support that author, just because they gained their success in part by directly tapping another author’s fanbase. Combining that with using any part of the original author’s world as a sort of writing crutch just makes it worse. I’m doubtful that works like Fifty Shades of Grey would be nearly as popular if it weren’t for the original author’s fanbase.
Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. I couldn’t agree more.
I got this because a lot of folks were raving about it and what I learned is that a lot of people have very bad taste in reading. This is an awful and juvenile and way too long piece of fan fic drivel which sends a dubious message. And as the cherry on the top of the icky sundae it also has a whiny and endlessly navel gazing “heroine”. I wish I could get the time back that I spent reading this dreck.
Love love love these books! I’ve read the first two 4 times now and am about to do a 2nd read of the last one. Normally when I reread books that’s when the editing problems and prose problems and all the bad hits me over the head, but somehow, someway I still love these books. I have to say I don’t see them as anti-kink at all. I see them as filtering everything through a very sheltered 21 year old’s experience. I would guess that very few people upon being intro’d to BDSM say, “sounds like a good time, where do I go to do that?!” A 21 year old virgin might just have those kinds of thoughts Ana has in the books. (A 30 year old non-virgin might also have those kinds of thoughts– accepting our own kinks is not usually all that easy.) Also, Christian is self-loathing and he considers what he does to be an expression of his wrongness as well. By the end of the series there is actually a positive view on BDSM as Ana realizes that does it for her and as Christian realizes it doesn’t make him a bad guy. As for Elena (who Ana dubs “Mrs. Robinson”) I was a little disappointed that she was presented at first as a somewhat complex character who seems to have Christian’s best interests at heart and then shows herself to be a beyotch, but then again she did seduce a 15 year old boy so I might have been even more upset if she turned out to be forgiven. Why do so many people love these books or hate them? Can’t say. I can only speak for myself and add that in general the best books for me usually have a strong split of opinion in reviews (the latest George RR Martin for example or “A Lady Awakened” or “Duke of Shadows” or the Kushiel books by Carey just to name a few) and I can only imagine that there will never be a consensus and maybe the books that affect me most powerfully will have the opposite impact on someone else. It’s frustrating because when you love something or hate something it’s really difficult to imagine someone else feeling the exact opposite, but that’s just the way just about everything goes!
This was a breath of fresh air! As a person who writes fanfiction and lives a BDSM lifestyle I can truly say that this book is both offensive to me as a Domme and as a fanfiction writer. The author’s blatant misunderstanding of what a Dom is has become quite clear to more than just you insightful folk. I haven’t read the published version, but I did read it as fanfiction. The moment Christian (Edward) confessed that he liked to beat women that looked like his mother I was through. The fangirls have come out of the woodwork and they’re being taught the wrong paths for not only BDSM, but real, healthy relationships in general. I am embarrassed and appalled that this fanfiction was allowed publication. It makes it that much harder for those of us who take the time to write what we know and to do it well to get a good name. In order for me to publish now I have to relinquish any hopes I had of bringing “fandom friends” along in support because of the stigma that Fifty Shades and other novels have brought upon us. Your review was stellar and so spot. I can’t express how amazing it was to read this
Oh, ew. I feel vaguely dirty just reading this review (and not in the hot-sexy way, either). I’m just… going to go hide in a corner with my Cherise Sinclair books, now. D:
I keep hearing people remark at the good reviews and traffic this book is getting, many with honest and justifiable bewilderment given it’s (basically) vanity published background.
“on Amazon (4.5 stars, 180 ratings, 190 likes) or Goodreads (4210 ratings, avg rating of 4.41 out of 5)”
I find myself constantly reminding people that those readers aren’t EL’s. She didn’t market for them, she didn’t have any campaigns, and she never once risked any kind of creative or financial loss in gaining those readers as most published authors have. She piggybacked off of S. Meyer’s popularity instead.
Keep in mind, many fanfic communities are tight knit, even large ones such as Twilight boasts. The readers and writers are peers and they witness the birth of the story, in this case, on a chapter by chapter basis. EL’s following exists because Twilight exists, end of story. The “success” of this book is a product of community loyalty and nostalgia that simply isn’t comparable to your average published author.
So, authors of the world, don’t be disheartened with what would appear to be a sudden sweeping of unutterably awful taste. The truth is, if you published a book tomorrow, your good friends, editors, muses, and creative partners would buy it and sing its praises in support of your endeavor. EL just happens to have a few thousand of them, and though they were gained through perfectly acceptable avenues (writing fanfiction), her decision to capitalize on the loyalty of a community that exists solely for S. Meyer’s work is both unethical and classless.
Even if you publish a book and only gain a 5 reader audience, at least you know they were gained rightfully and without the pretense of being another like-minded fan and “peer”.
@ItsJejune My understanding is that James was huge in the Twilight fan fiction community. She sat on a panel at ComicCon for fan fiction writers of Twilight and her own “fans” threw her a conference in New York City. To some extent, given that the fans helped vette the book, they probably are very interested and vested in the success of this book.
I honestly thought I was expressing a minority opinion. That still may be the case but I’m glad I ended up being able to give other people a space to talk about what they didn’t like or hated as much as what they loved about 50 Shades..
@pamelia: Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
I think articulating why you hated or loved something is almost as difficult as understanding why someone might feel the opposite. How many of us had a book or a song speak to us a certain time in our life but then when we go back to it, the feeling just isn’t there?
@K: Thank you! I’m still kind of unclear why this book is such a phenomenon, even within fan fiction communities. From what people have been telling me, the stigma isn’t so much what E.L. James did, but how she did it. I would certainly hope that fan fiction continues to foster writers.
Awesome review and I agree with so much of what you’ve touched on. I’m still working on Fifty Shades of Grey myself and so far it fascinates me in a train wreck sort of way, but ultimately I wish it was worth the price tag assigned to it.
@Jane: Yes, that’s the point I was trying to make. When you’re working on a project, or at least in my experience, you have people close to you who might assist you in some way. Maybe they’re just cheerleading, or maybe you have a friend who’s qualified to give feedback, or maybe it’s just a peer or a family member who acts as a sounding board for your ideas. They all become invested in some way, in your creative endeavor, and not just because they are close to you and care, but because some part of them is also present in the product. I know I always feel a flash of pride when someone I’m supporting finds success.
But it’s not the same as, say, querying for 10 months to agents and launching marketing campaigns and editing the thing to hell and back, and THEN gaining a readership, based on all aforementioned effort. The support of those already invested is somewhat default, as is the case here. Only, instead of having 5-10 people invested, EL James, with the use of S. Meyers fanbase and their love for the characters, managed to cultivate an entire following based on the pretense that she was honoring S. Meyer’s work without the intent of gaining profit. Those readers are surely invested as well, having offered an enormous amount of feedback as the story was created. I would venture to say that something of that community is present in the final product, and I’m not even meaning S. Meyer’s characterizations, backgrounds, and relationship-building.
Because of this, I don’t think EL James is in any way comparable to the average published author.
Furthermore, as your comment reflects, it’s clear that there was a point in this story’s conception and rise to popularity in which EL James, or SnowQueens IceDragon (her fanfiction penname), became less of a peer and more of a celebrity in the community. It makes me even more uncomfortable with this book’s success. It’s almost as if she’s taken advantage of the very community who was responsible for it’s popularity, and I don’t say that because it’s successful and she must be seeing some hefty profit, but because she gained that following under the pretense of merely paying homage to S. Meyer’s characters. It’s deceitful. I wonder, is the story’s background mentioned at all in the Acknowledgments? I haven’t looked. If anyone knows, I’m very curious.
I have two friends. One absolutely LOVES this series and basically harasses me daily to buy it. The other absolutely DETESTS this series and everything it stands for.
I was curious. I heard both sides.
In one corner, a self-starter! An every-woman! She writes soap opera-like romance like nobody’s business!
In the other corner, a thief! A greedy arrogant ne’er-do-well.! She writes drivel and wouldn’t know an original thought if it pulled out her tampon! <- exact words
So I gave it a try, and it honestly just wasn't my thing. I'm not a big fan of BDSM, not that I'm a prude, but because I'm pretty close to an authentic circle of folk and apparently know more about it than most romance writers. I'm too busy being annoyed by inaccuracies to enjoy the finer points, so they just never really grow on me. Oh well.
But I've heard some really bad things about this author and the history of this story and it makes me a little sick that it's doing so well. I'm not usually one for schadenfreude, but when Friend #2 told me that James wrote this story as fanfiction (okay), offered some snippets to be sold off for charity (yes yes yes), and then decided to profitize it when she realized it raised something like $30,000 (no no no), it made me wish I'd never bought the thing :(
I'm not sure if I could resist that kind of temptation either (I can make HOW much money off my fanfic?!), but it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.
@ItsJejune: I had no idea this was Twilight fanfic in origin until someone mentioned it; it certainly didn’t appear in any acknowledgments I read.
Once someone told me, I could see some parallels. But as others have noted, at least Bella thinks she knows what she’s getting into with Edward, stalker though he is, and embraces his darkness. Even just reading the first book, I got a very strong feeling that Christian was going to be “cured” of his kink, and that was the biggest disappointment for me.
It is repugnant–that’s the perfect adjective to describe this novel, in my opinion. It’s the complete opposite of romantic and left a foul taste in my mouth.
I’m so glad that I am not the only person who thought this book was nothing short of ridiculous. Upon reading the first few pages, I felt that the book seemed unpolished–and lo and behold, after some research, I found out that it is a fanfiction-turned-published novel.
This is the first book that I have ever stopped reading halfway through solely due to the horrible writing. I literally stopped reading it after 90 pages because I just couldn’t take it anymore–and I have NEVER had this problem with a book before. Thank goodness I won’t have to read any more of the heroine’s “Oh my!” and “Oh” comments again. Only unrefined fanfiction readers can appreciate this complete and utter rubbish.
I heard Meyer is aware of this series. I wonder what she thinks and if James does sell this series to Hollywood, will Meyer halt that process?
And seriously, James’ fans threw her a conference? Did they have it in a red room and swing belts and canes around?
When I first read this review, I thought I would chalk it up to difference of opinion and let it go at that. However, when I woke up this morning STILL thinking about this review, I knew I had to figure out what was bothering me about your comments (other than I really like this series and you don’t).
First, I looked at other F reviews, trying to determine what had driven that decision on other books. An F did not seem justified for a book that you had read and spent so much time and energy analyzing. I read some of your other reviews- not much of a clue there as to what would drive an F for you.
Then the words “infuriate” and “fury” jumped out at me- you don’t just dislike this book. You really, REALLY dislike this author and all the baggage that entails. As I read the comments and become more familiar with the firestorm surrounding E.L. James, I realized where all of the intellectual angst about a fairly innocuous and entertaining bit of book was coming from.
I have just started reading a few BDSM books (and have enjoyed Sarah’s reviews on that genre) so didn’t buy (first Kindle e-book purchase) 50 Shades as a manual. I read it and the other two in the series more along the line of the Davidson’s Undead series- not to be taken seriously, just enjoyed for what they are. Not being a fangirl (at 53- I don’t think so!) and totally out of the Twilight saga loop, I also missed all of those references and concerns.
I suggest DA have one of the other reviewers take a look at the 50 Shades series and see if there isn’t another, perhaps less author-centric and serious view.
@LeeF I’ve read it. Or what I could finish of it and I thought it was an incredibly dull book interspersed with some cute texting but not one that I would recommend and thus my review here would be as I stated before. It was 20% WTFery and 80% boring blather. I remember the contract distinctly and thinking, “good god, she isn’t going to print out the entire stupid (and poorly drafted) contract, is she?” and then she did. And then she repeated large portions of it. Just tons and tons and tons of extraneous and boring detail.
@KT Grant Why would she stop it? Just because it was inspired by Edward and Bella? I highly doubt any legal entity would view this work as infringement.
I read the whole series- AND I actually liked the first two but I knew there was major issues and flaws which I overlooked but looking back especially after reading the last book, I have more mixed feelings especially with a few things that have come to light. But I did enjoy the 1st 2 books although I was very disappointed with the last book due to editing and incoherent plot-line. I also knew from reading this book, that others will either love or hate it. It seems to be a series that brings out strong emotions but I can see the reasons why people may dislike the series.
@LeeF: It seems like you’re saying that the reviewer should somehow hold this book to lower standards because of its genre? Which I mean, in some ways I get, because it’s like whenever someone gives a horror movie a terrible rating because of bad plot or bad character development, I think to myself, “But the point is just to be SCARED, that’s all we’re watching it for.”
On the other hand, that’s not really fair at all, at least in this case, especially to the readers of the genre, and certainly not fair to James, who would need a lot of polishing to make it in this industry. There are some amazing authors in this genre who have managed to write compelling characters and intriguing plots, with fantastic writing to boot, and can still be incredibly sexy. I think they are the standard that James should be held to, and I think James deserves that chance to recognize where her many weaknesses lie.
I think the point the reviewer was trying to make is that there is an enormous lack of skill present in this work, and I’d have to agree. It does read like fanfiction, as it’s unpolished and foremost, complete indulgence. Though there’s nothing wrong with indulging oneself in a little bit of bad writing for the sake of entertainment, it’s fair to say that this book wouldn’t be very marketable if it didn’t already have an established fanbase prior to publication.
But it does have a large fanbase, which I think is another reason this novel wasn’t, and really shouldn’t be, held to lower standards.
Seriously? I’m astonished that Lazaraspaste kept reading. I’m impressed beyond measure that she took the time, energy and care to detail exactly what was wrong with this book for her. Re-read the last two paragraphs of her review so you understand: It’s the worldview the author created that is so repugnant to her, not the author.
@LeeF: I’m not sure what you mean by author. If you mean, E.L. James herself, the person who buys paper towels and ties her shoes, then I certainly don’t have a problem with that author. I don’t know anything about her. Nor do I think I made any indication in the review that I did. As for E.L. James the author of 50 Shades of Grey, I didn’t know anything about the fan fiction kerfuffle surrounding the book when I read it. I really only found out about the extent of that controversy after I finished the book. Many people are very upset about it and I think the comments have given a good overview of why that may be. In any case, I don’t think my review focused that much on her authorship or her authorial persona.
I certainly did attack the book. I don’t know why my other reviews would illuminate in any way, shape or form what would make me give an F to this particular book. I would have hoped this review made my reasons clear. However, it is true that I don’t often give F’s very often. I think this might be my first. I wanted to articulate my very strong reaction to this book. So I honestly don’t understand what in my review was author-centric. Could please point to where you think I was attacking the author?
I’m also a bit baffled by your assertion that I shouldn’t have reviewed this book because I had strong negative feelings for it. Why is my reaction to a book (it did infuriate me and I was in a fury) somehow less legitimate? Why are strong negative emotions not alright but strong positive emotions are legitimate reasons for a review? Was this what you were intending to imply or did I miss something?
Look. I did attack what I thought was a problematic underlying ideology, characters, and use of BDSM. I think that is a perfectly reasonable response to a book and to its author (as authorial voice not person). I spent a great deal of time analyzing this book because I think that readers deserve to know why I didn’t like it and be pointed to specific examples in the text that illustrate those points. You are perfectly welcome to disagree with me. I am not here to bludgeon other people with my tastes. Many of the previous comments have indicated how much they liked and enjoyed the books. I would never say that they were wrong to do so or that their experiences were not legitimate. Which is exactly why I wrote such a long review. I didn’t want to simply dismiss the book with a short review when so many clearly connected with it. I wanted to give it its due and engage in a discussion about it. To me, that is a form of respect for the readership and the author.
My language in the review was passionate and even a little vitriolic. But that’s just my style. I can see how some might be put off by it. But dislike of the book is not dislike of the author.
@ItsJejune: “Even if you publish a book and only gain a 5 reader audience, at least you know they were gained rightfully and without the pretense of being another like-minded fan and “peer”. ”
@AmberS “I’m not sure if I could resist that kind of temptation either (I can make HOW much money off my fanfic?!), but it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. ”
I completely agree with these statements. I don’t know if it was from here or elsewhere but yesterday I googled “Master of the Universe.” If I had done that, before I bought the series, I would never have done so. The Twihard fandom, where this story started in HUGE…the largest on ff.net. And MofU has even inspired YouTube videos (really?? talk about rabid fan girls).
I’m a ff author, as well as someone working to create an original story, and James’ taking of her story from Twilight and doing nothing but changing the names (I could only find snippets floating around the net now but they are exactly from the book) is wrong on so many levels and it is inherently dishonest at best.
I also know of situations where ff work has been stolen by others and put directly into an “original” work by someone else and then published. This has occurred several times on Amazon. In both cases, it’s theft of IP. The first, copyright and world building. The second, the creativity the ff author put into the story. Just changing the names of the characters and then positioning it as your own work is stealing.
The whole idea makes me sick to my stomach. I liked the books (well, not Freed as I’m about 1/2 way through it and skipping in large chunks). But if I had known of the origins of the work, I would never have paid for it.
Because no one else has mentioned it, I have to give this sentence some love:
I’m baffled by the whole notion of a book that’s compelling enough to transcend bad writing, which is what a lot of commenters on various blogs seem to have said about this one. I mean, theoretically I understand it, but personally I’ve just never had that reaction to a book. Things like careless dialogue tags (“he murmurs softly” – a mere two lines after “he murmurs,” for that matter) distract me to the point of not being able to enjoy the story.
@LeeF: “I suggest DA have one of the other reviewers take a look at the 50 Shades series and see if there isn’t another, perhaps less author-centric and serious view.”
Really? Because I thought this review was VERY serious; although the style is flippant, and entertaining, the issues raised about the book are serious issues about writing, about characterization, about plot and conflict — this is by far the most extensive and serious analysis of the book I have seen. And I completely disagree that the review is “author-centric.” It is the text that is critiqued, not the person who wrote it.
I liked the book more than this reviewer did, although primarily that was because of the clever e-mail exchanges. I’m a sucker for epistolary romance. By the end of the book, though, I was disappointed, because I couldn’t reconcile the characters as portrayed in the e-mail with the actions of those characters in the rest of the book.
YES. This. Every freaking word of it. I was intrigued by the basic plot description and bought the first book, and of course you’re absolutely right. It’s dreadful, and I’m pretty outraged that such a poorly edited, weak effort is selling on Kindle for $9.99 on Amazon.com when people complained so loudly about Kresley Cole’s Lothaire being $13.99.
The ‘inner goddess’ bullshit was nonsensical and repetitive and by the time I got to the end of the book, even if I’d loved the book (and I had far too many problems with it to even come close) I couldn’t have read any more.
Thank you for writing such a well thought out and complete review!
I am a sometime fanfic author and reader, and I read “fifty shades” at the time it was being published online, and vaguely enjoyed it, but am now of the opinion that the rabid fans of the fic made the author go a little bit crazy. Fanfic is a playground for people, some of whom might be able to write though the majority of which can’t, but who still have lots of fun doing it anyway. The rules are very different to that of proper original novels, and we put up with all sorts of things that become simply horrifying on a printed page.
When reading this story as fanfic we forgave the character who is now “Christian” for being such an arse, as he was Edward, so in our minds it was Robert Pattinson looking broody, and what’s not to love? Even when reading it I thought that if the characters didn’t have that link, it would actually become quite unpleasant and disturbing. Which has now come to pass.
I beg of you to post this review, or at least a cut down version of it, on Amazon, to save more people from buying into this mess. Mine is the only negative review on Amazon UK, and I have been roundly attacked for it, and I didn’t even get as far as saying that the book was bad, just that as former fanfic it should not be published.
Finally – yes – SUBconscious!! I even emailed the author about this point while she was still writing the fic, so there really is no excuse!
I really disagree with this review! I’m so shocked. First, I thought it was clever how she tied his past to his sexual practices–it gave him some depth in my opinion more so than I usually see in this type of romance. Also the food thing is not stupid, it’s common for children who’ve suffered food scarcity to have issues. As kids they may hoard food, as adults the may turn out exactly like Christian. He was horribly abused and starving when his adoptive mom took him in. To me, you missed a main point of his characterization and how his past haunts him.
I thought the story was hypnotic and the sex was hot. I liked it.
Book 2 is where the series fell apart for me. Book 1 was hot.
@Cecilia Grant: Language/prose is something I feel needs to be talked about more in romance and genre writing. Language is the medium in which writers work. Saying the story transcends the language is as baffling to me as saying the image transcends the bad painting. What does that even mean? For me, to focus that much on the bad writing makes it nearly impossible for me to fall into the story. For me to fall into the story, the language either has to be innocuous enough that I don’t notice it all or quite good. I’d really like to know how story is distinct from language because I really don’t see how it can be.
@SonomaLass: If there was a “best” part of this book for me, then it was probably the emails. But I’m a sucker for epistolary novels, too.
@Superkitty: and @Natalie: When I wrote this review, I assumed I was in the minority opinion but the response has revealed that a lot of people share a similar view of the book. I’m glad I could open up a discussion for people to feel they could dissent against the majority view.
@Michelle McCleod: I’ve seen the hero-has-damaged-past-that’s-why-he’s-fucked-up thing so many times that I just simply wasn’t wowed (obviously) by James’ take on that trope. I can think of half a dozen romances off the top of my head that did the same thing. So that just didn’t speak to me at all.
As for the food thing. I actually was referring to Anastasia’s food thing. She always seems to be picking at her food. What is up with that? I’ve noticed it in tons of books. Like why can’t heroines eat? Are we that afraid of being fat? Why aren’t women in books ever hunger? Why does she never finish the food on her plate? So that’s what I meant by that. I get what she was trying to do with Christian and the food. It was like a hint to us that he had issues. I just didn’t buy it. It worked for you and that’s totally okay.
One last word. Look. I’m tired of authors needing a reason for the hero or heroine to be BDSM. Why can’t that just be who they are? And why is that reason always that they had a terrible childhood? To say that a person is into BDSM because they suffered from childhood abuse is as offensive as saying that the reason someone is gay is because they suffered from childhood abuse. And I guess that’s because I think BDSM is something you are, not something you do.
Natalie – Mine is the only really negative review on Amazon US and I’m stunned that there aren’t more. It’s such a poorly executed piece that the rave reviews genuinely surprise me. While I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but mentally take note of all of the mistakes and inconsistencies and I briefly thought about emailing the author about it. But why should she care if it’s poorly done? She’s making money hand over fist for an unediting manuscript, and based on the positive reviews, people will continue to buy it. Ugh.
Seems like I’m in the minority here. LOL. I gobbled up the first two books and Grey to me, was a very compelling character. Anastasia/Ana, on the other hand, irked me to no ends.
I remember checking amazon frequently to see if the third and last book was released and when it did, I finished it in one setting.
Okay yeah I get the food complaint re: Ana now. It’s so common in romance it doesn’t stop me, I just go with it, which is why I’m not a book reviewer.
And I agree the messed up past being a reason for BDSM would get tiring, I just haven’t read it much. I must be lucky to have picked mostly BDSM positive stories and Christian was my first real tortured soul.
I have an erotic novella out under a different pseudonym that deals with erotic spanking and one of the things I delve into is the transformation from ‘oh my God people DO that’ to ‘oh my God, I love being spanked’ as I feel there’s a general lack of that evolution in BDSM fiction I’ve read. My Alpha is very conscientious, a direct response to a lot of the misogyny I see in BDSM where it seems the men just want to beat the crap out of a woman. (So, to clarify, I end up reading lots of BDSM positive stories that treat women like punching bags. The former is good, the latter not so much.)
So anyhoo, I better see your point now.
@Michelle McLeod; Just out of curiosity, where does your BDSM knowledge come from? Tortured pasts don’t lead anyone to BDSM-you are either wired that way, or you are not. That’s probably why you haven’t read it that much. There aren’t alphas, there are dominants or tops. Also, I fail to see how a story is BDSM “positive” when a woman is getting the crap beaten out of her unless it’s made clear that she is a masochist and enjoying it. (Which in BDSM culture is entirely possible.)
As someone who is and always has identified as a submissive, and who is an active member of my local BDSM community, I am really sick of authors getting their “research” from reading a few Ellora’s Cave novels and maybe cruising Fetlife for a week or two.
Laura – Cosign. I dated a Dom for a while and though he was heavily into BDSM he certainly didn’t have a tortured past, nor was he acting out his issues on me or anyone else through play/scenes. Have you read Emma Holly’s Velvet Glove? I found that to be the best depiction of a D/s relationship in erotic fiction that I’ve read so far.
okeydokey. Point well made, lazaraspaste. done and done. it’s a book- let’s all move on to the next earth shattering romantic book review at hand.
I write and read Twilight fanfiction, and I have also read MOTU. Let’s just say it for what it is, the only reason why MOTU was as big as it was in the Twi-fandom was because the fans of Twilight liked reading about their two favorite characters having graphic sex. Now add whips and chains and you have one of the most popular Twi-fanfictions written.
I have not read 50SoG and I never plan to. As a fanfiction it was a good read, but as a book it’s crap. Fanfiction writers develop bad habits in their writing style (and I am including myself in this because I know I am not a good writer), but when they write a story that get tens-of-thousands of reviews they get an ego. They think they’re writing the next big thing and feel that they can be possibly writing the next Twilight. It’s very sad. Why would I pay money to read a badly written book?
And for those of you who are saying that on Amazon 50SoG was $10, when it first came out people were spending $30 for that thing! AND THEY DID! It was enough to make you bang your head against the wall when MOTU is still out there on PDF for anyone to read. And if all she did was changes a few of the characters names then what was the point in buying the damn thing?
I am a firm believer that fanfiction should never be published. When writers do that they are making money off the fandom. I’m still waiting for the day when S.Meyers gets a hold of this and puts a stop to sites like The Writers Publishing House, which is a sister site to The Writers Coffee Shop, who are the ones who try to get writers to publish fanfiction in the first place.
This is one of the reasons why authors like Ann Rice won’t allow fans to write fanfiction about their stories.
The only reason why this story has a fan base is because of Twilight, and also because these readers go through this book still seeing Bella and Edward.
I feel James was an idiot for publishing this, along with all the other people who are publishing fanfiction.
Thanks for this review–I only wish it had been published before I shelled out 10 bucks for this garbage a few months ago. It’s ridulously angsty, badly written, and an ugly portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle.
@lazarapaste — Joey Hill has a book, Branded Sanctuary, that deals with a couple wrestling with the clash between BDSM/vanilla lifestyles that I thought was beautifully written.
I initially picked up this book assuming it was a pen name for one of my favorite authors, Eloisa James. I figured she was trying a new genre or something so out of loyalty I clicked buy before reading more. Wow was I surprised and horrified to see her new venture. Thank you for clearing up that this is NOT her. Whew. Apparently next time I should do I little homework before I make an assumption like that!! Also, in line with your review, I loathed the book but I’m pretty sure I’m not the target audience.
Laura and Superkitty: I think you might have missed that I was responding to a response to my other post. Don’t take what I wrote as a standalone comment, it’s part of a larger conversation.
By BDSM positive I meant that the characters accepted BDSM as a part of life with no psychological baggage, the misogyny is a separate issue. So I see a lot of ‘the happy dom who loves BDSM in a story where BDSM = beating women’. Again, the first part is fine, the latter not so much.
@Michelle MCleod:……ummm, no. So you write BDSM, er…….erotic spanking…….from a personal viewpoint? Larger conversation, lol. How did you research BDSM?
Oh, PLEASE. Pretty soon you’re going to ask authors if they have a degree in biology if their heroine is a scientist. So, you’re allowed to judge Mrs McLeod’s BDSM portrayal by relying on your personal experience, but she’s not allowed to do the same thing?
@Junne; I am asking an author if she understands the mindset and way of life of the people she writes about. I am tired of people misrepresenting the BDSM community because they think writing kink is edgy. I’ve asked Michelle McLeod twice if she writes from personal experience or what research she’s done and she can’t be bothered to answer-to me that’s an indication that her kink knowledge comes from reading other BDSM fiction.
In a BDSM relationship, the fact that a man enjoys “beating” a woman-and she enjoys being “beaten”-doesn’t =misogyny. I’d like some examples of the fiction she is referring to, as a submissive woman I would probably not see it the same way she does. One thing you almost never see in BDSM fiction is a group of subs sitting around bragging about their marks and bruises, but that’s what my friends and I do at my regular munch.
If a character’s complete identity and mindset is wrapped around their career as a biologist, then yes I expect that author to have a full understanding! Example, Elizabeth Peters and Egypt/archeology. If that makes me a demanding reader, then so be it.
Larua: I’m not answering you because I’m busy promoting my work and reaching #12 on the Hot New Releases list on Amazon today. Sorry.
Spanking is a personal interest of mine. Has been for years. I’ve read professional fiction, lay person fiction, I am on FetLife, I have read non-fiction books and I understand the basic physiology.
Did you know spanking was often used as a cure for impotence as late as the 1800s? Harvey Kellogg used it at his ‘spa’ up in Michigan. It works because a large chunk of your parasympathetic nervous system is in the general vicinity of your ass. The para system has to dominate in order for sexy time to ensue. Stimulate that and men with erectile dysfunction can get it up…hence a long history of sexual spanking. One I find absolutely fascinating. And bonus, women like it too. Endorphins etc…
I’m not sure why you need me to prove myself to you, but this has begun to feel like a pissing contest and my perception is that you’re purposely misconstruing what I said in order to pick a bone with me that maybe isn’t even about me.
I’m removing myself from the conversation. Feel free to believe I’m some horrible spanko idiot who is too stupid to live.
And then you see things like this and wonder what is wrong with people… http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2012-02-19/trade-fiction-paperback/list.html #27
Elizabeth, I don’t think there is anytgphing wrong with me or I have horrible taste in literature as some other posters suggested – yes, I loved the book, I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. For me the ultimate criterion is what I feel after ai finish reading a book. Well, I had an urge tonreread it wright away.
I have to say that I haven’t read Twighlight, nor have I watched the movies. I became interested in the book after I’d seen it at the top of several lists on Goodreads.
I had read several BDSM books before and even if some of them were ok, I could not relate to the heroines as I don’t feel the slightest inclination towards submissiveness. But in this book I could totally relate to Ana – and it’s not like she was dismissive of the lifestyle but she had great doubts. It shows even better in e 2nd book, how she wants some of it and is open to accepting even more in the future. I totally thought that under the similar circumstances, I would feel the same.
I want to reiterate that I don’t think there is something fundamentally wrong with my literary tastes: my favorite writers are Dostoyevsky (I am Russian, after all), Nabokov, John Fowles, Iris Murdoch, LP Hartley, Dorothy Dunnett (The Lymond Chronicles was THE most challenging read in English for me in my lifetime, and I’ve read a ton).
But tastes differ – I know that Jane rates Karina Bliss’s romance very highly but for me her Here Comes the Groom was an F and I would call it an anti-romance as it made me feel so bad, I had to revert to one of my go-to authors
to fix my mood.
Sorry for all the typos, I don’t know how to fix them on an iPad (how to scroll up).
I love the FSoG series and have to respectfully disagree with the intense dislike of said series. Not everyone has the same taste or view as what constitutes as a good book and is likely the reason that this book has landed on the New York Times best sellers list.
I’m an east coast college graduate whose favorite book is Jane Eyre. Perhaps that is why I’ve been so drawn to the Christian Grey character. I do love the brooding, self-loathing Byronic heroes.
Elizabeth, as I said in twitter, this contradicts many of your (plural, not you!) thoughts on everyone having an opinion and respecting it. Evidently, the sentence: “And then you see things like this and wonder what is wrong with people…” does not show much respect for anyone else’s opinions, since it seems that because we have contributed to get Fifty to the NYT there is something wrong with us all.
I will reinstate my position.
I like it= good for me.
You don’t like it= good for you
Get me a well written/thought critique like the one above and I will read it. Does not mean I agree with it. But I am old enough/big enough to read someone else’s opinions and thoughts. It should be about the book! But please, the flaming, the name calling, the hearsay about how the author is or what she did or how she acted is getting old and it’s looking like nothing but a bunch of jealous kids. I don’t know if ANY of you have met Icy/James. I did, not in any of the events referred about but on a social occasion at a restaurant. She was perfectly lovely, very and I reinstate this, VERY humble and gracious.
So, there are my 2 cents on the matter.
Now, move on!
The only thing funnier than this book is your review of this book. Next up, I hope we’ll get a trash-talking beatdown between The Situation and Ana’s Situation.
In the meantime, I made a drinking game for your amusement.
@LivingByFiction: This just made my day.
@Elizabeth: I always ditch my partner on V-Day in favor of hanging with the girls, and I am TOTALLY going to force everyone to do a full-cast reading. Short straw has to mime the inner goddess.
@LivingByFiction: HAHAHA! Poor sucker. I’ll pray you don’t get stuck with that one. But hey, you’ll all be drunk by chapter 3 with your rules, so I guess it wont matter by that point.
Carolamex: thank you so much for your thoughtful post. You said a lot of things I feel but more articulately especially re “what is wrong with people”.
I wanted to say also that, while I understand all the bad feelings the book’s fanfic provenance causes, I for one am happy E.L. James did publish it because I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading it as I’ve never read any fanfic nor am planning to start.
One more thing, of all the book reviews on DA’s last two pages nothing can compare with this one in number of responses it generated. If the book were just meh, it wouldn’t have been the case.
@Mirole: “I wanted to say also that, while I understand all the bad feelings the book’s fanfic provenance causes, I for one am happy E.L. James did publish it because I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading it as I’ve never read any fanfic nor am planning to start.”
Just curious, but why wouldn’t you want to read more fanfic, since Fifty Shades of Grey worked for you?
“One more thing, of all the book reviews on DA’s last two pages nothing can compare with this one in number of responses it generated. If the book were just meh, it wouldn’t have been the case.”
Fifty Shades of Grey got an F grade. That’s not a “meh” grade. F reviews on DA tend to get lots of comments and attention, so this review is not unusual in that regard.
This review rates right up there with an expose on a police investigation of brutal murder committed by a perp with a big ax. The crime is obviously really personal. It presents us with a few questions…did the story feed the reviewer’s trigger points? Does the reviewer know the author personally? If so, it might explain the rage, contempt, and scorn. Is jealousy involved? There was certainly nothing professional about the review. It was so brutal that we can’t help but wonder what was going on in the reviewer’s head. It was intensely personal.
What was equally disturbing were the number of fans (sheep?) of the reviewer who bought the reviewer’s viewpoint hook, line, and sinker. And went on to join in on trashing a book a book they’ve never read and its author. I made myself read Stephanie Meyer’s books so I could converse intelligently about the YA series. Certainly wasn’t on top of my “really wanna read it” list.
Reading is extremely personal, like politics, relgions, and music. Sometimes we can’t even say why we like a song or a book, but it feels like a personal attack when others denigrate it, its creator, and those who emrace it.
So, I don’t give a rat’s a$$ what this particular reviewer had to say about this book (or any book), as it was so intensely negative as to light up every warning bell in my head.
Having read, and hated, this book, I agree with the reviewer’s thoughts. I thought she put into order all of the things the book had wrong with it in a straightforward manner that was slightly amusing to keep the attention of her readers.
The book is laughable. There was obviously little research done with regards to the D/s relationship, and the tortured role of the Hero was ridiculous. The heroine was just…an idiot. If I had to read one more “Oh, my!” I thought I might stick my fist through the wall, and all of the stuff about her Inner Goddess–when she obviously had little respect for herself to begin with–was utter nonsense.
After learning that it was a fanfiction I did my own research and found that a lot of the “Americanisms” were questions posed on twitter by the author while she was writing it as a Twilight story, and to me that is NOT research I can stand behind. Write what you know; clearly, that was not what happened here.
So, A+ to the reviewer for putting into words all of the things I myself couldn’t stomach about this book. I’m off to see what other reviews you have and what you liked, I think we might have similar tastes!
@KLCharles The fact that you had to force yourself to read Twilight but love the fan fiction based on it is kind of mind blowing for me.
The funny thing is, as I started to read the first book, I thought, this is Twilight nonsense but for some strange reason, I kept reading. It’s no great romance or novel, it isn’t even that well written but if you take it for what it is, it’s enjoyable. I actually am on the third book and even though I cringe at Ana’s uselessness from time to time, it’s a good read for me and I’ve wasted money on worse.
Ever since my best friend told me that book clubs are reading this book, I have been jealous of this author. In my fantasies, I envisioned my book, Cinderella Club, to be the BDSM cross-over to mainstream sensation.
I loved your extremely thorough review! Even though you didn’t like the book, your words were so passionate! Let me know if you want to read any of my books. It would be an honor to hear what you have to say!
@Mia Natasha Please don’t spam our comment thread with mentions of your own book. It’s rude and if anything will turn people off.
@Abbie Rhoades: I completely agree with you. I absolutely loved this book and the others in the trilogy as well.
Hello, all. I just shared the link for this review on my facebook page because I am so sick and tired of hearing people rave about this book series. The thing that kills me is that this was a Twilight Fanfiction called “Master of The Universe”. I will admit I read it as a fanfic and would never in a million years pay for something I read for FREE! Yes, the writing sucked bigtime, there was really no plot, it truly was NOT a BDSM fic and at one point, Christian(aka Edward in the fanfic) pulled a tampon out of Anastasia(aka Bella) to have sex with her. Ridiculous, if you ask me.
I think it was okay as a fanfic, if the author who was known as Snowqueens Icedragon (aka Icy) in the fanfic world was just dipping her toes in the writing world, practicing and honing her writing skills but all she did to publish these books was change the characters names, literally. She did not even bother to polish her writing, at all!
I know the fanfic has been pulled, but there are PDF’s floating around in cyberworld and can be downloaded for free, so why put more money in this so called author’s pockets? She really doesn’t need it, she is a British TV exec as well as her husband.
BTW, the reason I know all she did was to change the names is because I downloaded PDF’s of the 3 books just to compare them. And, I did not pay a penny for them.
Looked at the Kindle Top 100 Paid Downloads, and guess who was on the top 10 today as it was yesterday? FSoG. It would appear that scores of book lovers disagree with your assessment and don’t give a thought to its origins. So please move on. It’s getting rather sad at this point to see you still beating *50 giggles* your dead horse of discontent.
Great review of this novel/series. You’ve pointed out everything about it I disliked. I think for me, aside from how terribly it was written and the idiocy of the plot, is how BDSM is portrayed. It’s truly insulting and demonstrates a real laziness on the part of E.L. James or Snowqueens Icedragon or whatever the writer’s name is. It made me so glad to have downloaded the fanfic version for free rather than pay for the name-changed version.
What has stumped me is the assertion that women everywhere are reading this book as “Mommy porn.” To be perfectly honest, it makes me sad. If a woman’s sex life is so dismal that badly written sex is the apex of erotic excitement, that’s pathetic.
The Today Show did a segment today on 50 Shades http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/46590258/ns/today-books/t/triple-x-trilogy-novels-has-women-talking-quietly/#.T0_bIXmAaSo
Why is this considered triple X? The trilogy read like a typical romance to me. I did find the sex scenes hot, but triple X? Um no.
So many are getting swept up in this series and all the hype, I just have to add some more thoughts to what I stated yesterday. What EL James stole was the loyalty of SM’s fans. By first publishing this story as a Twilight fanfiction, endearing readers to EDWARD and BELLA, she hooked in the masses and then road them to the printing house. It is the unyielding loyalty that fanfiction fanatics exude that allowed these poorly written books to gain the attention they have. Think of it as a circle: These FANFICTION readers feel like they are part of these books because they were there in the beginning stages when it was posted for free. When EL decided to publish the piece of work that she herself said she never would, the fans (as she calls them, which is disgusting; they’re readers) wanted to show their support. So, they went out and bought the books and/or gave outlandish 5 star reviews on every site possible to inflate the numbers, thereby drawing more attention to the series. As such, readers take notice of the numbers AND the controversy surrounding the books. Morbid curiousity will drive a lot of people to the bookstore to pick up their very own copy to see what the fuss is all about. Therefore, even if you don’t like the books and are trying to disuade others from buying it, you’re really doing the opposite. What happens is that they feel like a sucker once they’ve read the book because it really is very poorly written and they’ve padded EL James’ pockets and boosted her sales yet again, thereby giving this crap even more attention. You see? Viscious circle.
Adding to the inflated hype … a very well paid publicist who comes with a heavily loaded arsenal of connections. Sure, if I had a buttload of money and could afford the hefty pricetag, I could get the same hype going. She’s quite the savvy businesswoman, that EL James.
And what’s more is that it had been made public knowledge that EL James (as Snowqueens Icedragon) had a conversation with another fanfiction author where she BRAGGED about her many minions and said she liked sitting atop her pedestal. What some of you may not know is that James did a fanfiction outtake from this series for charity. She commented that she felt bullied into doing it in the first place, but when that outtake FOR CHARITY made crapton of money for the charity, she commented that if people were willing to pay for something she wrote, why shouldn’t she get a piece of it? These comments are not verbatim, but the gist is certainly accurate.
So, FANATICS … she’s making a fool out of you and everyone else you turn on to her books. And all the while, she (and her inner goddess – ha!) is sitting back with her feet kicked up, sipping on a glass of champagne, and laughing at how successful you’ve made her when she cares nothing about you. How many of you actually get a personal thank you from her? My God, she’s holding contests for a signed BOOKMARK, and you’re eating that up. Really? As much money as she’s already made off of you and all she cares to offer is a bookmark? You don’t think she can afford to give away just one book?
Go ahead and feed into the hype. Let me know how that works out for you, what it gets you at the end of the day, because I’m pretty sure James isn’t sharing her success with anyone who made her successful in the first place. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be reading something that’s actually akin to real literature and still getting our rocks off on well-written smut
@Maureen Morgan: I agree with you 100%! I can’t stand seeing the hype this story is getting and I hope SM or Little Brown Books is looking into doing something about it. Like I had said before, the only reason this story did well was because the fans of Twilight liked reading about their two favorite characters having graphic sex. Now add whips and chains and you have one of the most popular Twi-fanfictions written. This was a fun fanfiction but a poorly written book. I’ll stick to the PDF version, a FREE version, than pay one cent for that rubbish.
And the fact that so many people are putting this story on such a pedestal, all because they think this is some kind of How To book on kinky sex, drives me crazy.
And Morgan, I’d tell her to cram that bookmark where the sun don’t shine.
Wow this is a super intense conversation. I just finished reading all 3 books in the series, and I have to admit…couldn’t put it down at all. My normal preference leaned towards Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews and their writing quality is quite excellent. FSoG doesn’t have that depth and I had no idea all this association with Twilight when I got the books. I just got it based on the top reading list on Amazon (which I have found several other excellent books). Thus putting all that publicity aside, what I felt with FSoG is actually pretty good. I didn’t read Twilight and could not sit through the movies without RiffTrax. Now that I know it was sort of FanFic for Twilight things in the books do make more sense. What Lazarapaste said about cliche in this book I agree, but sometimes I want to read about cliche. Because I’m in my mid-twenties I find it hard to read young adults books so I could not read about Twilight. I definitely understand how FSoG is much more appealing for the older generation. And this book is super hot…as in it definitely is erotica. I don’t think I’ve read a series of books starring the same characters that give that amount of description to every single time the characters are at it. Granted that is not why I read Romance but it was certainly an interesting set of books to pick up after reading Agony/Ecstasy. I didn’t feel like it was a train wreck while I read it but I definitely had thought multiple times that the actions of the characters does not jive with how the character would likely behave given their experience. But in the end it the lack of literary competence was not why I enjoyed the books, but more that sometimes I just want the cliche (and the awesome passionate scenes). It has been very intriguing to read some of the comments and just feel the vehemence toward the books. Sometimes I wonder about why we need to find reasons for why we like or dislike something. If you like/not like it, then you like/not like it. If anyone can suggest books similar to FSoG but written way better, please let me know!
Wow. Awesome review.
If nothing else, I would be reluctant to read this book due to this:
She’s a Mary Sue who draws everyone to her like a moth to a flame even as she laments her insecurity and lack of looks. He’s a brilliant, accomplished Adonis who only has eyes for her for no reason the reader can discern (and in this version, her Mary Sue-ness will bring him back to normalcy and virtue, apparently).
Read a Mary Sue exactly like that in Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon that had me complaining throughout the read. Does this Ana, by chance, adopt stray orphans as well? (Kidding)
I was interested enough by the blurb to consider it, but the more I hear about it, the less I want to read it.
@LeeF: I have just started reading a few BDSM books (and have enjoyed Sarah’s reviews on that genre) so didn’t buy (first Kindle e-book purchase) 50 Shades as a manual.
You might not have taken it as a manual for BDSM and may have a better understanding of BDSM, but the typical reader may not. Although it is fiction, it may give readers new to the genre the wrong impression.
A completely unimportant bit of information: Kindle version is $6.99 right now
@Shelly: Standing Ovation here…
@ItsJejune: This is exactly how I feel. I am an author, who began reading (but couldn’t finish) the fan fiction version of this novel. I had just self-published my own books when I read that EL James was publishing this, and I was livid. I do believe it’s unethical and I would never feel good about doing what she did. I like to believe this book would have very little success without Twilight fans. Still, seeing all the press she’s getting, it just makes me realize what a brilliant, opportunistic marketer she is. Too bad the writing isn’t as smart.
@Maureen Morgan: Thanks for the info. I had to see the train wreck, but didn’t want to pay for it.
I was appalled when I read that James was publishing Master of the Universe as an original work. I read it as fanfic and ate it up I’ll admit. Loved it even… because I pictured Pattinson all broody and sexy and I’m obsessed with smutty versions of Edward and Bella’s love story. The writing was naive and unpolished but fanfic readers generally forgive things in that realm that they would lambast in legitimately published works because of their emotional connection to and their affection for the original story.
I wrote several reviews of MOTU as it was being written in regards to the generally wide eyed stupidity of that Bella (Anastasia) and the vapid “oh my!” which really made her sound a worse idiot. I even asked if perhaps she could speak up once in awhile as in one chapter she whispered every single thing she said. It annoyed me that I was so drawn to something so badly written. Clearly however my opinion was outweighed by the huge support James received from just about every other reader.
I had assumed I suppose that she would make a greater effort to change things about to disguise the Twilight connection, or edit the story with greater diligence to correct some of the sloppy writing before offering it on the open market. Once again I am appalled to hear she did not. I regard this as a sign of the collapse of standards for good writing skills that’s so pervasive in our culture today… much like textspeak. But mostly I’m embarrassed for E.L. James. What worked as fanfic, and the sucesses garnered in that world for a story should not be considered the same as acclaim for work one could honestly call their own.
I thought the reviewer hit it spot on and I had to laugh out loud several times at just how well she dissected the weaknesses in what apparently is the same exact piece I read for free on fanfic.net last year.
Wow. What a fabulous and perfect review! It seriously floors me that this book is even getting this much attention. I forcibly made myself finish reading this as a fan fiction. I didn’t really get the hype, but decided to see it through because everyone was talking about it. Even when she was writing there were issues of the “Britishisms” and it seemed as if it was so difficult to use American words (my thought, why make it American then? Especially once she published) I compared the book side by side to the fic, and I can tell you the first chapter for sure was simply Find “bella” replace “ana” find “edward” replace “christian” The only benefit to this getting more attention is that people outside the world of Twilight fan fiction are saying the same things many of us did. The problem in the Twi fandom is those who are huge “Icy” supporters (that is short for SnowqueensIceDragon, which was her pen name) is we are literally attacked and called names, and we are all “haters” because we didn’t like the book. So much for to each their own or having your own opinion. It even came out during posting as a fan fiction that this author’s whole intention was to use readers as a sounding board, gain popularity then use those fans to make a buck. Then add in poor writing, editing, plot, and extremely inaccurate depiction of BDSM life style…and the huge elephant, that it was a fan fic. sigh.
“At one point, I had to start drinking heavily. But even gin didn’t dull the fury.”
MWAHA! OK, this cracked me up like I can’t even say. It could be the Twitter-friendly version of your review XD
I nearly bought the eBook yesterday… uhh… “That’s pretty much the plot. Ignorant young woman with virginity still intact and a case of low self-esteem meets a controlling, manipulative, hot, young billionaire who identifies as a dominant in order to justify the fact that he’s a paternalistic control freak… Not only does it perpetuate damaging untruths about BDSM as a sexuality and a sexual identity, it also manages to do so in the most clichéd and hackneyed way possible.” Uh, I’m as big a fan of WTFery as the next girl, but you seriously just convinced me otherwise… I kind of… I don’t know, I like reading books based on negative reviews, but some just HAVE to be avoided…
Hi Dr. Drew- I was watching your show on this book and took some interest.
First, I wanted to say that there is such a meaning as alpha and minor for a reason, right? Men, for centuries, have been the dominant, until recently, some women are noticably surfacing as dominant, but remember, not all.
Just as there are dominant men, there are submissive men. And, just as there are submissive women, there are dominant women. With that said, in matter of the situation, whether it be sexual, handling finances, or raising children, men AND women seek either dominance or submissiveness in their partner. For example, the strong, successful politician looks to be dominated or the successful male psychologist looks for a dominant female, and, of course, vice versus.
I particularly did not yet read the book, but have read other BDSM books, such as “Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns”, which is a book explaining about S & M.
I understand your point about some horrible past that causes one to turn to such measures, but not all situations of BDSM are in that case. I find it possible that the male dominant enjoys the actions only if their partner does. Some people want the extreme because of the adrenaline gained. I also know that everyone has a past, and that past makes a person who they are. Unfortunately, some people let their past control and destroy who they should be.
I am new to the psyche world, as I am still on my educational ride, but I do remember learning about firing of neurons and what happens if it is too slow or too fast. I also remember learning about the chemicals released in the brain that affect behaviors, provides satisfaction, and creates moods.
What if BDSM is a result?
I have a hard time believing that rapists, abductors, abusers, and murders would have safe words, soft whips, contracts, or swings. In fact, I do not think they would know too much about BDSM.
Those who do know and practice BDSM, do so with full understanding about the rules, which entail respect. The female virgin could be a girl who is interested in learning and as she does learn, WANTS TO practice the art because it gives her the rush she NEEDS. BDSM is a sexual art that includes intense emotion and high adrenaline, as its opposite, Kama Sutra, deep emotion and low adrenaline. Both arts are addressing the chemical type the person is. Could this be possible?
No matter what, I think anyone who is sexually eccentric has some sort of disturbing past, but that past will never go away and the shape of the person who was formed, will not either.
Thank you Dr. Drew. I have always loved listening, and now watching, you. I think I can partially thank you for the direction I decided to take my life in.
@Kimberly We were excited that Dr. Drew sent readers our way because while we didn’t like this book, we do believe that BDSM can be portrayed positively. I hope you take a look at our primer here. Scroll toward the bottom for recommendations. Our good blogging friend, Sarah Wendell has started a post for those looking for good BDSM books as well.
Thank You! Finally, someone has restored my faith in mankind (well in this case, womankind). After reading so many positive reviews about this series, i had really started to wonder what was happening to literature today.
I couldn’t understand all the gushing over this story, even back when it was still a sub-standard fanfic. It reeks of everything that’s wrong with romance novels. The bad BDSM, Pedophilia, abusive controlling relationship, and later in the story, the revelation that Christian enjoys beating women who resemble his mother. Yikes! Talk about mommy issues. This guy takes the cake!
Once i’d managed to suspend my disbelief, my thoughts about this story were, cold, cliche, and lacking in heart. And that still stands now that it’s been run through find/replace, and wrapped in a pretty cover.
couldn’t help but step up and answer/clarify for some of you….
“Have there been relatively positive reviews from people who are primarily romance/erotica readers? It just seems as though a lot of this trilogy’s success is driven by the novelty factor”– Most of the reviews and “book” publishers were from readers of the original fanfic. Not regular literature minded folks with discerning palettes. And I can say this bc I am one–FF is free, so the expectations are low…
Someone linked this site on twitter and I just had to click it. First, I have to congratulate @lazaraspaste for writing this brilliant review. You had me giggling and nodding to everything I read here. It was very accurate.
I’m part of the Twilight fic-fandom, as they call it – which means I don’t love the books, but got addicted to reading the fics. Anyway, when Fifty Shades was still fanfic I read it for a while, but got so bored with the writing and the plot in itself, that I quit after 10 chapters. I hated it, to say the least, and couldn’t really understand why it had so many fans (very angry and rabid fans, by the way). It was bad even for a fanfiction.
After being in this fandom for about 4 years now, I think I get why this story is so popular with its fans, and it all goes down to one thing: sex. Yes, this is what almost every fanfic reader is looking for. That and the ideia of romance with a “dominant” man. (I’m rolling my eyes as I type this, because, really, I just don’t get how could a relationship even work without having equality between the two parts. But that would deviate from my point here…)
While I don’t see erotica as being a bad thing at all, it should not be one’s only motivation to read a story. You pointed out how E. L. James portrayed BDSM in a negative way, and I have to add that, in my opinion, the author only opted to insert “BDSM theme” in the original plot because this is a *very* popular subject in Twilight fic universe. I’m not into BDSM at all, but I have a lot of respect for it and for the people in that world.
It’s not an easy subject to dive in, which makes it much more awful to see so many authors writing poorly about it in the fic-fandom, let alone to have someone publishing out there for the whole world to read it and create misconceptions about BDSM.
As a new writer, I am well aware of how difficult it is to build a readership. I read the book and basically hated it but I wanted to “size up the competition” so to speak. I was bewildered at how so many have latched on to this story. I get the popularity of Twilight. When it came out, it was new and exciting. It gave a brand new meaning to what it meant to be a vampire. I am an erotic paranormal romance writer and I am this because of the influence of Twilight. S. Meyer built her fan base from the ground up and now to have someone capitalize on her success, without having to do the dirty work, really pisses me off. I fight for every five star review that I get and sometimes cry when there are lesser. I built the ideology of my characters and my story line over a two year period. I queried and rallied for my book until my self confidence was nearly shattered. But I went through the process. I finally got a publisher (and not a vanity one either). For me, a great book involves me in the characters’ lives. I want to feel connected to them. I just couldn’t connect to Ana. I wrote my heroine strong because I want to empower women. I believe my heroine should be able to measure up to the hero. If you’re going to be BDSM, you have to put it all out there. “Down there” is a cop out for what it implies. I feel like the author tried to straddle too many fences to appeal to numerous genres of readers. It’s worked for her but what future does her writing career have is she can’t form her own original stories? The whole losing her virginity scene gave me the creeps. I wrote my female heroine as a virgin and trust me, I cared enough to not let her first time be so horrific. IDK. This book drew a strong reaction from me and it wasn’t necessarily a positive one. Writing is an art and therefore subjective. We don’t all like the same types of music and movies, so I guess this is similar. I’d rather have ten fans that I earned who truly adore my work, than to have millions that I gained on the back of another. I enjoyed this forum very much and the way that the debate was done in a tasteful manner.
Well done! This is truly one of the most impressive, comprehensive and downright awesome review I have ever read!
Amazon randomly recommended this book to me (God only knows why, I still read the likes of Eoin Colfer and Rick Riordan!) and I was simply astounded by the amount of positive reviews it had; there appeared to be throngs of gasping women heaping gushing praise on this book! So I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I thought, Twilight was a one time thing, surely?
But lo and behold! I read the sample chapter on Amazon and instantly hated it. It reeked of blatant S Meyer plagiarism and so much else besides which you’ve pretty much covered in your review.
It wasn’t even that it had all the self absorbed, self conscious, self indulgent crap that kept resurfacing in S Meyer’s novels. It was as if James had somehow managed to isolate this quality (for want of a worse word), dilute it and stuff as much of it as possible into the book.
It’s not even that I wanted to hate the book. I just wish that with all the claims of women being smarter than men they wouldn’t (at least most of them, since its #1 on the New York Times e-book thingy) insult themselves with this tripe. It took 1 paragraph. and I quote:
“I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. [italics] I must not get it wet. I must not get it wet. [regular] Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope I look semi-presentable.”
5 out of the 7 sentences in that first paragraph started with I. Huge literary turn off (if you’ll excuse the irony). It’s sounds exactly like a 12 year old girl whining about her unimportant little problems. It sounds like a diary. One of those pink ones with pink glitter on top. It shows in the trivial subject matter. All that is gleaned from the paragraph eventually is the character description, the ordeal and the fact that brushing her hair is too big a challenge to face. I know that first paragraphs aren’t supposed to give it all away, but the style is what bugs me most. The ‘why is it always me, life sucks, ooh look hot mysterious guy, cue emotional breakdown’ cliché that has been rehashed from Twilight.
Now I’m so frustrated I forgot everything else I hated.
This book sucks.
Kudos for the great review!
Thanks for a truly epic review. And yet, I know my morbid curiosity will prompt me to read it to just to see for myself.
It’s fiction people. Which means everyone has an opinion. Encouraging illegal downloads of her writing, when I’m guessing all the legal ones were deleted prior to publishing, is not appropriate. With all the concerns about her writing, BDSM portrayal, POV, etc., you should be able to write a book for us that will capture our imagination and have a best seller. I look forward to it.
I wish her continued success, because in the end, it’s all about numbers. If we all knew what books would be the next best thing, would anyone even try their hand at writing?
I enjoy reading different authors and everything isn’t for everyone. And the issue of paying for it, when it was free before. Price is what the market will bear. Many people haven’t read the fan fiction and this will be new to them.
People can read your review and make their own decisions.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I agree with your review 100%! The book is not only a horrible read, it just downright made me mad it’s so freaking bad!! It’s the first time I have actually gotten angy about pissing $9.99 away. The writing is horrible – “oh my”, “holy crap”, “holy sh*t”, literally every other paragraph. The character of Ana was so stupid I was actually HOPING that Mr. Grey would beat the living daylights out of her. Not that his character, nor any other in the book, was any better. Flat as pancakes. People have mentioned that the plot was interesting and I can see how this would be the case if the horrible 5th grade (optimistic here) level writing didn’t overwhelm everything else. I have read so many glowing reviews of this book (who paid those people?) that I formed a personal mission to find people who agreed with me about what a horror it is. Thank goodness I found your web site. And a black mark on the Today Show, which I normally love; they did a feature on this book causing me to purchase it. They talked about how it was all the rage of the Upper East Side. Well, Upper East Side ladies, you have possibly been slandered. But if that’s true, I’m very sorry for you because your IQ’s and sexlives must be in the basement.
Oh my god I totally agree with you! I loathed, loathed loathed this book when it was a Twilight fanfiction “Master of the Universe.” I went into such rage when I read this story that I had to stop reading it twice – I didn’t go back to it after the second time.
This book makes me so furious. How can characters like Christian/fake Edward even be seen as romantic heroes? Plenty of women all over find him swoon-worthy, and yet he is nothing but a domineering, manipulative, possessive, frightening, and arrogant asshole. He buys her an expensive car and deposits the money from the sale of her car into her banking account without her consent, he appoints a gynecologist for her without her knowledge, he buys the company she works for, he manipulates her into changing her last name, etc. And of course Ana/fake Bella’s character is so mousy and prudish and all “aww, poor 50” that it’s irritating.
The writing is also absolutely terrible. I don’t understand how this book is so popular.
The other thing that really offends me is that the author obviously has a negative view of BDSM. Edward/Christian’s obsessiveness or preference for BDSM is shown as something “wrong” that stemmed from his childhood sexual abuse that needs to be “cured” by virginal Bella/Ana. The author doesn’t portray people who have that lifestyle in a positive or even an accurate way.
So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for expressing your thoughts, which are actually sane. You recognize abuse, unlike many others who unfortunately don’t.
I need to thank you for this review. I know I am late to it, but I have been avoiding all things 50 Shades Gray since I read the first review, from a fellow member of the ‘Scene’ (a submissive in the BDSM lifestyle) and how much she was insulted by the portrayal of BDSM in the book.
Yes, I get its fiction. Trust me I get vampires and werewolves aren’t real. That is not the point. The point is, is that this book, on media outlets, is now being marketed as ‘Something that is spicing up women’s sex lives.’ Now, that leads me to believe, that people are trying BDSM play in their bedrooms, without any training or supervision. Yes, we can all say that grown adults should have commonsense. Well, we say SHOULD, I have run across a few women basically explaining they have had the equivalent to an adult tantrum to get the men in their lives to beat them with belts because of this book.
I was not only angry (as a masochist) but I was almost in tears. I have now left these forums and groups were I saw this. These are groups I thought were run by people in the Scene. After some of these posts, I learned they were just run by women that are ‘BDSM curious’.
And for all the people having tantrums over this review. Just like you have the right to gush all over about how much this book ‘changed your life’, we all have the right to be disgusted, infuriated, and disturbed at the popularity and at this book in general.
Thank you for this review, this is the second review I have read this week that had negative things to say about this book. I’m glad that they are finally surfacing, I think people that didn’t like this book felt bullied. Well, I don’t, I just feel–freaked out.
Thank you. Simply thank you. I thought I’d really stepped in it when I offered my opinion about the book and got raked over the coals for it. Now, I’m envisioning a review of similar nature to yours regarding my work very shortly from those who didn’t agree with my assertions. I don’t usually share anything online because of the strong emotional piece tied into reviews, but I couldn’t help myself this time. This book angered me as a reader, a writer, and a person in general. For ALL the reasons you’ve mentioned above and then some. There are so many phenomenal authors out there that take the time and energy to present our varied tastes of sexuality in a caring, loving manner, with stories that warm our hearts and make us cry just as much as in any other sub-genre. So now I’m left with the repercussions of having spoken out against this book and must steel myself for the barrage of horrid reviews and ratings that will be inevitable, in the name of support for another author. Well, I can only hope that just as my critical opinion of Fifty helped to push others to buy it anyway, my impending doom will help make my sales soar as well.
I do believe I shall be reading many more of your reviews, as I thoroughly enjoyed this one for it’s academic as well as emotional criticism.
Great review! After reading so many reviews of this novel on Goodreads, I’d decided not to read it–but then learned that it’s actually available as a free pdf download. I’m afraid that my curiosity got the better of me, and I slogged through this, wondering why Fifty Shades of Grey has become such a hit. Oy. I won’t be reading the other two, either. What a waste of time!
good review. just hated the first book, but its availabl free online so ill finish the remaining two anyways. never read twilight and nevr gonna read it ever. its a hit because its erotic and the shitty kinky love story. some ppl started reading it to see how can there be a love mixed with bdsm, now every1 s reading it probably to see what the fuss is all about. the author gets some bucks, we frown and loathe and waste some time on the stupid book. Whats bad sells!
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the book. I liked it & so did a lot of the people in my group. Now that the books have been picked by a major publisher, it sounds to me like there’s some serious jealousy & envy going on.. If you don’t like the books, that’s ok, but don’t be a total jerk about it.
“I liked it & so did a lot of the people in my group. ”
Well then. That’s indisputable. Everyone who didn’t like the book and said why is just a poopy head.
Or maybe, just maybe, your tastes aren’t universal.
Accusing a reviewer of jealousy is the last resort of people who can’t back up their opinion with facts, by the way.
I wasn’t keen on the first book but I have to admit, as I read more, the characters just grew on me. By the end I was cheering for them with tears in my eyes. I’m a literary snob and am not easy to please, but the mix of sex, love story and plot sucked me in. There has to be something to the hoopla. Over 300,000 copies sold is no fluke. Even if it did start as fanfic, I find it hard to believe that fanfic produced 300,000 followers. Someone else is liking it, too. The constant use of adverbs did trouble me but the author appeared to get better as the series went on (as most do). For what it’s worth, the series was good reading that entertained me. Is it Pulitzer Prize winning work? No, but it might just change the way we look at our relationships and bodies. And really, what’s wrong with a book that opens the door for intelligent adult discussions about a topic that has been taboo and swept under the rug. There’s no perfect book and no perfect writer.
I had the misfortune of reading this “book” when it was still a fanfiction. I hated it then, I hate it now. I loved this review because it points out every single flaw that is Fifty Shades of Grey – although to me, the entire book is one huge mistake.
For those who read fanfiction, you know that the structure and writing is not identical to a regular book. People take liberties. HUGE liberties. James took it to the extreme. I rarely find ellipses in books, and when I do, they are few and far between. dot dot dot-ing everything every other two lines is a frequent occurance in the fanfiction world, but it just doesn’t belong in books. To add to it, I’ve seen excerpt of the book, compared to the original fic, and they identical, sanse the names. How’s that for editing, for ya?
I’m not even going to mention the “plot” – you pointed out that so very well. I am, on the other hand, going to add to Ana’s obvious obvlivious take on the world. SERIOUSLY? Unless someone grows up in a serious religious home, or something similar, I can’t see how someone can be that dense when it comes to sex and the world. No 21/22 year old – even if they are virgins – are going to be that… annoying, innocent, and doe-eyed. Is it just me? Am I just a very aware 18 year old when it comes to the world? Because reading Ana’s/Bella’s thoughts, lines, descriptions, felt like listening to a two year old pointing at objects saying: “Ball, blue. Toy, red”.
Utterly aggrivating and infuriating.
Don’t waste your money on this shit. Don’t. If you really want to read it – don’t buy it. There are plenty of pdf-files out there, which are identical to the books, except for the names.
I actually read the work when it was Master of the Universe. I managed to put up with Anastasia and Christian’s (Bella and Edward) one dimensional nature until I got about twenty or so chapters in and then I’m afraid I flounced. It bored me silly. The female character was weak and pitiful by nature and by action, the male character was apparently an insensitive, woman hating jerk.
The fanfic version of the story had holes in it that you could drive a truck through, whether or not a mainstream editor will fix that, who knows? I know my editor thought it was awful and badly written, but then her forte is not romance or BDSM. Good job, since my own book has little romance in it. The actual BDSM would have been highly disappointing for the exponents of the art, vanilla is a good word for it. I handed it to a male friend who is a Dom and he cackled his way through it. His comment? “What this woman knows about BDSM would fit on my little fingernail.”
Ana’s continuing breathy innocence and constant gasping and whispering is reminiscent of Kristen Stewart’s acting in the role of Bella. I did see a likeness between the two, except that, as you say, Bella at least was accepting of Edward’s dark world while Ana hovers around like a virgin in the middle of a brothel “Will I, won’t I? Shall I? Oooh he’s so hot,” she whispers before she delicately attempts to superglue her knees together in some belated and futile attempt to protect her ‘situation’.
I rather wish she had managed it. At least we would have been spared the tedium.
I don’t understand the current rage for Mommy Porn, I can only think that there are a helluva lot of love and sex starved females out there. I have news for them, and it’s ALL bad, if it’s fulfilment of either that you’re after, you’re probably reading the wrong book!
Unfortunately Fifty Shades is a big success and it’s not going away. It’s been #1 three weeks in a row on the New York Times best selling list for ebook and print fiction and the second and third book are both #2 and #3 this wee. Hollywood has come calling with a movie deal of $5 million where James wants complete creative control and is not budging. If she gets what she wants, it proves that someone can be shady and in some cases unethical to get what they want and be rewarded for it. She’s made more money than ever and has hit the mainstream press in both the positive and negative. This is what most authors dream of.
Now if James is being rewarded in this way, what’s going to stop other writers from doing the same? Because if I wrote fan fiction and posted it on a site like James did and I’m watching this, which I can bet you most fan fiction writers are, they’re going to follow her lead and there’s inklings that these writers will be just as successful. This is a new trend that is going to explode.
We can talk about James’ conscious and how she has to live with herself. She’ll live with herself and be able to rest easy at night because of the money and notoriety she’s acquired that will buffer her conscious.
We could go on and on how bad and wrong this book is and the way it was published, but there’s not going to be any harsh consequences for her.
you pretty much wrote down everything I’ve been thinking since I read MOTU and for people who don’t know, the original Twilight fan fic.
I never really finished it cos I started hating myself the more I read and I just had to stop.
I should have listened to my gut when it told me to stop the second I read what Edward/Christian was about and how dumb Bella/Ana was. I kept thinking “Was she locked in a basement her whole life” But people loved it and I was pushing myself. Biggest regret since I started reading fic so many years ago.
James/Icy is just not the author for this kind of story. It’s not deep or well researched. I think I would have really liked it if someone else had written it.
The only reason it was so popular was because it was something new and one of a kind back then in the Twi fandom. And the only reason why it’s notwa popular book is the same. It’s new and the hype is big but I would bet many regret the purchase after reading it.
You’re absolutely right, however I personally wouldn’t like to live the rest of my writing life with a fanfiction biting at my rear end, and it will. Unfortunately as much money as she will make and as many books as it sells, Master of the Universe will keep coming back to sour the sweetness of her success. She might not admit it, but every time one of her avid fans waxes lyrical about Master of the Universe she will feel a sting, even if it’s only because she wants it to be known as Fifty Shades of Grey these days. The stink will follow her no matter what she does in the future.
And yes, there have already been a whole slew of Twilight fanfiction writers who have pulled their fanfics and gone for self publishing in the hopes of doing what Icy did. She had the advantage of already working in the media with access to people who could further her efforts, I wonder what advantage they have? Same as me I guess :P I researched my book for five years and struggled for a further ten to get it published through a virtual snowstorm of rejection slips and now the hard work is still in front of me, I need to get mainstream reviews and they hardly touch first time authors. No track record you see; no ready made heap of Twilight fans to boost the sales up and start the rumour mill. Just a few honourable unsought reviews on my website, but there you go, life is a bitch like that.
I wish Icy well in her efforts. I thought the fanfic was absolute dross to be honest, but if she can make enough money to insulate herself from the slings and arrows, then all power to her.
This review is right-on. I’m a twilight fan fiction author who read 50 back when James (known as Icy in the community) was still doing weekly episode updates.
It was a fun read when it was twi-fanfic. As a published piece of literature, I’m surprised it’s getting the attention it doesn’t deserve.
I don’t think fan fiction should EVER be used as a test audience. The community is very tight for the most part, and we like to support each other.
James was manipulative and egotistical about the whole thing. And when it came out in the open that she basically used the “fandom” to have a built-in audience who would then read and buy her published version, I was done with her. She never really was a true Twilight fan (some non-fans might read that and say “who cares if she wasn’t a fan?”, but that’s the whole point. It’s an unwritten and understood rule that you should pretty much like the books to write fan fiction).
Fan fiction is a great way to spread your writing wings and play. But please please please, don’t piggyback on characters that have already been written. Write your own original plot and characters.
With that said, I don’t know why you would pay $30 for something you already read when it was free. Actually, there are still free PDF copies of the original fan fiction floating around cyberspace. AND, I should say, there are a TON of REALLY GOOD writers in the community, with stories that would run CIRCLES around this crap (and I’m not talking about mine, because my stories are stupid next to some of the great writing I’ve read).
Thanks for the spot-on review. I’m glad there are readers not falling for this stupidity.
Thank you so much for this wonderful, intelligent, and scathing review. I was beginning to feel very pessimistic and angry at the world in which something as gross as this is being heralded by smart, powerful women (like donna langley!) as a ground-breaking exploration into ‘female sexuality’ whatever the eff that means. Moreover, I felt completely alone in knowing that this is no break-through, but indeed a reheating of age-old gender stereotypes and patriarchal models of romance. And worse, it’s a good, old Christian condemnation of the very thing that supposedly makes it transgressive: BDSM! I so agree with your comment that BDSM is not the opposite of ‘flowers and hearts’ romance, and this is such a horrid (and sexist!) misrepresentation of the sexuality. As someone with plenty of kink to go around, I felt personally violated by this novel, and even more so at its mainstream, mass appeal and 7-figure book and movie deals. And thankfully, I have finally found a shared opinion in your article and I could not agree more with your every analysis. There is just nothing redeeming about this book, except maybe the fact that everyone in mainstream media points to – that it’s decreasing the stigma somewhat of women jacking off to porn and erotica. I’m all for sexual satisfaction and pleasure for women, but for me, this novel even misses that mark. I can only imagine it being risque and exciting to the most sheltered and sexually repressed who have never so much as watch a soft-core porno. And is it really better if the porn women are watching promotes an ideology that actually sets women and men back to the Victorian age? I’m not so sure… I was beginning to think that maybe I was being judgemental and close-minded and I should actually read the damn thing – but your review has cemented my already well developed suspicious of this Harlequin romance in BDSM clothing.
I read an article where it was stated that it was revolutionising publishing. How?
Having said that, if you read a certain blog by a certain person, you will see that Icy herself declares that she wants to be known for revolutioning publishing, which makes me think that the term is coming from HER publicity train. Now if it’s revolutionising publishing to the extent where women can have their own version of the men’s porn mag with the pages stuck together, I’m not entirely convinced that any kind of publishing revolution is taking place. Plus – Ewwww on the visual of women jacking off to porn and erotica. It’s bad enough when the guys take a copy of Big Jugs into the toilet in order to jack off, never mind the visual of some female reading Fifty Shades and doing it. I think I would rather have Samantha’s sex scenes in Sex and The City, at least she was honest and overt about her sexuality.
I do agree that the subject matter of this story puts men, women and sex back to the Victorian age. What next? We cover the chair legs on a Sunday and then quietly see to ourselves up in the bedroom? No thanks, if I want a man, I’ll go get me a man, not read a book for vicarious kicks.
Also, it’s amazing to know, reading through these comments, that I’m not the only one who feels alone in absolutely and passionately hating everything this book is about. It gives me hope that there are still sane, rational, ethically thoughtful, and feminist people out there who see the clear and obvious dangers of these gross misrepresentations of BDSM and gender.
I got this from my 15 year old cousin who’d read the original fanfic. My cousin persuaded me saying I was gonna love it and I’d be honest , I found it humorous. Then she told me about the novel, (I didn’t even clock on to the ethical issues there) so you could see my surprise when I realised it was the same story with different names and slight alterations. To be honest, I enjoyed it in it’s original form with Edward and Bella. I just wasn’t sure what to feel about Ana and then it hit me. Does a desirable woman have to be meek, unsure, dainty, virtuous, pale and petite to find a man? All the things that I’m not. As a woman of color; I was left feeling a sadness that didn’t bother me when reading twilight. At least vampire’s aren’t real right? But if that’s the case I’ll just stick to my cooking manual guide. At least that has variations outside of the Victorian beauty ideal that doesn’t try to encompass the myriad shades of womanly beauty or personality.
Is this what women want to read…well as a guy I can see a leeway here I suppose…I mean I’m not saying that we should all read highbrow literature but really ladies? I read this and I swear all savings that my GF has read much better Mills and Boons novels with the same plot and betterly written for that matter…Oh well now I know what ladies wanna read…Imma tell my agent. ha
LOL Sebastian…. I think it’s probably clear from the comments above that not ALL ladies like Mommy Porn and yes, although I’ve never been a Mills and Boon fan, some of the novels probably do read better. However I have read the occasional romance book that was better written than Fifty Shades and didn’t have holes in it big enough for a truck to drive through.
I am an author. My book comes under Fantasy/Crime with a bit of romance thrown in, but nothing sexually graphic. I don’t believe in hitting my readers over the head with graphic details of the sex act. I prefer to lead up to it within the storyline and then leave it up to the reader. I think most people know what happens when people have sex, they don’t need a routemap. Of if they do, then they’re far too young to be indulging.
I think you’ll find that it’s only a certain section of femininity who are turned on by the sort of writing like Fifty Shades. You’ll usually find the old version at home sitting on the corner of their washing machine reading Twilight or something like Fifty Shades or alternatively there are lots of them on Facebook squeeing away or you could find them in the autograph queue at a Twilight premiere and recently they can be find in The Hunger Games queue at the cinema. And yes, I truly am that cynical and getting more so by the day. Did you know that every time a fanfiction author publishes a fanfiction with just the names changed, an original author loses a few brain cells, some of the will to write and a tad of the will to live? :P
I am personally appalled by this whole shindig. I think it is wrong for her to be banking on something that, besides the plot idea, is not hers. All of the traits from these characters were derived from Stephenie Meyer. And you may hate Twilight, but she has taken much of her characters characteristics, mannerisms, traits and locations from Twilight. Her writing is all over the place and not to mention the fact that she took her fanfic, copy and pasted into a word document, hit find and replace on the names and claimed she edited it to make it her own.
I am annoyed at the “fame” and “popularity” it is getting and I just have nothing good to say about it.
*LOL at all the butthurt fans of a book and can’t seem to handle it getting a bad review. because an honest assessment of the text and highlighting how it fell apart for the reviewer must automatically means that all the fans are tasteless dumbasses who wouldn’t know anything good if it fell on them*
I guess if the cap fits………
Sorry, I know I’m late to this post. I only stumbled upon it today. But I wanted to congratulate you on a well-written and insightful review, and thank you for putting so much time and effort into it. In all the hullaballoo surrounding these books and the bidding wars they have inspired, I haven’t read many articles/reviews that focus on the actual manuscript and how well it is (or isn’t) actually written.
I read this story when it was fanfiction, because even then it was inexplicably popular and I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I read what amounts now to the first two books, waiting for it to get good (all 180 chapters or whatever the hell it was then. Gah!). I figured if that many people were reading it, it must have some redeeming value, right?
Um…I obviously have far too much faith in humankind. Lesson learned.
After I finished reading it, I immediately took to Twitter to rant about many of the things you write about, here. I didn’t make a lot of friends that day.
The author had, quite literally, thousands of “fans” when this was called Master of the Universe. Those readers lined up like lemmings to buy the book when it was published, and those 5-star reviews all over Amazon and GR? I’d place a hefty wager that 90% of those are from her Twific fan base – 100% of the first reviews, because initially that’s who bought the book. Nothing wrong with that, and it’s almost inspiring how loyal her fans are. But it kind of explains a lot about the success of this thing.
There are many well-written fanfics, to be sure. I can name several off the top of my head that are far better than anything Stephenie Meyer could ever dream up. But as the writers are generally amateurs just having fun writing a story (which I applaud wholeheartedly), there is also a lot of badly-written crap out there and most fanfic readers don’t seem to be all that discerning when it comes to quality. There are a myriad of reasons a fic becomes popular, not the least of which is the fun discussing each new chapter with fandom friends (and even the author) on forums and Twitter and the like – it’s all part of the fun of being involved in a fandom. It also tends to make sub-par fiction become wildly popular. Readers get wrapped up in the stories their friends are wrapped up in, so they can squee and giggle and discuss cliff-hangers on Facebook.
So these thousands of rather indiscriminate readers who fell in love with 50 when he was also known as Edward tell all of their like-minded friends about the book when it’s published. They leave glowing reviews all over the ‘net so that unsuspecting non-fanfiction readers get pulled in, as well. And, as witnessed by the spectacular success of the Real Housewives’ franchise and “Two and a Half Men”, we as a population don’t have very high standards for our entertainment these days.
Not sure where I’m headed here (LOL) except to say that the problem isn’t really with 50 the book or the character – it lies within our standards. As long as we keep buying into bullsh*t, that’s all we’ll be served for dinner.
I won’t even get into the ethics of publishing what was a fanfic because my post is already far too long (sorry!). Suffice it to say, I wrote a rather popular Twilight fanfic, it’s resemblance to the original material is far harder to see than as is the case with 50 and I would never consider just changing my characters’ names and publishing it. Not unless I gave Stephenie Meyer a cut and that woman has far too much money already. So I guess my opinion on that is pretty clear.
But then, I know I have plenty of other stories up my sleeve…
One last P.S: Where the hell was this woman’s editor????? I don’t even blame the author for a lot of the technical issues with her writing (the italics, the ellipses, etc., even the over-use of British slang and the geographical errors made). They should have been corrected by professionals before the manuscript was ever published. Maybe the rinky-dink TWCS, her original publisher, doesn’t have those resources, but friggin Random House/Vintage does.
I think TWCS are pretty limited when it comes to editing. They are primarily self publishing which means that any editing that happens must be done by the author before they submit it for sale as an ebook or before it goes for a print run. In fact TWCS and organisations like it, don’t even have to fork out money for a print run if they don’t want to, they can use CreateSpace to make it a print on demand book.
Yes an editor should pick up on all of those things, which is what leads me to believe that James never had an editor, the manuscript was merely divided into a couple or three books and then went into print as is. Most of the editing was probably done by James herself and she was unlikely to change what she felt was already good writing.
My book was professionally edited and every time I pick the bloody thing up I spot some small error and it drives me nuts. I probably drove the publisher nuts with my emails listing these errors to be corrected, so it shows you that even a professional can miss things.
I’m not sure that Random House/Vintage will change anything in it because they might figure that if they start changing things, the current fanbase won’t buy a copy of the book any more. They might just decide to cut their losses and leave it as is. After all if the movie rights of the whole series has been sold to a production company fior a seven figure sum as has been reported, James and the publisher have already made their money. The majority of any monies made by the movie will go to the production company and to pay the actors who will probably be committing professional suicide if they allow themselves to be associated with it.
James won’t care though, she has already made her ‘big fat pay cheque’ as she referred to it in a well published blog!
@Anni: When the book was MotU, I remember reading that her husband was her editor and that he was supposedly a published author. I remember this, because I was discussing MotU with friends on Skype and they pointed me in the direction of her website.
Thanks for the input on TWCS. I’m sure you’re correct, as it does seem they printed on demand before they sold it to Random/Vintage. Maybe now that she’s got a real publisher, she will get a real editor and they’ll release a new version. But you’re most likely right about that, as well. Hell, I was asking myself where Stephenie Meyer’s editor was while I read her books, too.
@Karen: Well it makes me wonder what kind of books her husband publishes. Most of the mistakes which I understand have not been corrected in the printed version should have been picked up immediately. For example, my book has a few ellipses in it, but I had loads of them and the editor redlined most of them. She just left a few that she felt were relevant to the flow of the story.
A lot of the small errors I found in my book happened during the print run and a few places where the dialogue tabs weren’t done correctly.
Now there is a parody of Shades called The 50 Shames of Earl Grey.
I once tried to sell a customer a copy of the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah because we were out of the Canadian Tenors (or one of those other opera dude group) version. She brought it back the next day because it was DIRTY. That’s how I imagine the 50 Shades fangirls would be if they actually read well-done BDSM.
@ Trish: Gotta say no on your last comment. I happened to love FSOG yet I also love more “well-done” BDSM (Cherise Sinclair, some Maya Banks, some Shayla Black, The Story of O) and I’ve also despised some highly recommended BDSM (The Sleeping Beauty books by AN Roquelaure fell way short of enjoyable for me). I really enjoy envelope-pushing in books — “Heat” by R. Lee Smith is one of my recent favorite reads and if you want to talk hard core? To quote Ana Steele “Holy crap!”. I don’t even consider FSOG to be a BDSM story per-se since they really did NOT go there, but rather went to a more vanilla place and yet I love these books a whole lot. Sorry to crash the bashing the book and all us supposed idiots who happened to enjoy it party, but sometimes I am compelled to argue with the internet even though I know it does little good. Peace, all!
The reason the majority of fifty Shades fangirls love the book is because when they’re reading it, they are seeing Bella, not Anastasia and Edward, not Christian. This is what turned them onto the Master of the Universe in the first place, the fact that so many authors of the fanfics address in one story what Stephenie Meyer took four books to address and even then didn’t make a good job of it.
My thoughts on BDSM are that there are always going to be people who are dissatisfied with the way our bodies work and produce or induce pleasure and enjoyment. The more saturated we become with sex, pleasure, nakedness and graphic sex in books, television and movies, the more a lot of people crave. Is that it? Says one part of their mind, there just HAS to be more to it than that. So they push the envelope, they take it to on of those very things that in nature would save our lives if we were in real danger. Fear. Pain. We instinctively shy away from both, but the person who is not satisfied with normal sex takes it beyond those things. Pain becomes an art and a pleasure and taking someone to the edge of fear yet combining it with that pleasure gives it an edge that they feel normal sex lacks.
Also people without much of a sexual outlet are always in the market for good porn. It serves a bittersweet purpose because it reminds them of what they don’t have. Sex does sell and always will, at least as long as we humans persist in taking the notion of pleasure beyond the normal bodily functions.
Personally BDSM and the like bores the crap out of me. It’s shallow, it doesn’t evolve beyond nipple clamps and shoving ever increasing sized objects into body cavities. It can lead to dangerous precedents in that if the practitioners aren’t careful it can lead to violence as well in its extreme forms.
Fifty Shades covers nothing of this. It is vanilla, it has no plot, it has nothing other than the same breathy angsty crap that went on in the Twilight books and movies. In other words it hasn’t moved away from Twilight at all. Does it deserve best seller status with Hollywood crowding around for a piece? More so than the average novel that is completely original and owes nothing to an already published franchise? Er…no, but then nobody said life was fair and NOTHING is fair in the publishing world where damn good interesting novels get slung to the bottom of the slush pile and trash like Fifty Shades makes it big.
And now we wait for all the copycat Fifty Shades books, probably all mostly written by Twilight fanfic writers with just the character names changed. They say there isn’t an original concept left in the world and all we can all do now is try to put our own slant on it, but at least some of us writers DO try to find an original concept. We don’t use other people’s characters and behaviour patterns to do it. We actually use our imaginations.
@Anni: Oh for heaven’s sake. I’ve stayed out of this thread, but this is ridiculous. Can we just stop all the Psych 101 level analysis of readers we don’t know and who comprise a much larger group than these generalizations can possible capture, even if they are accurate for some small minority (which I doubt)?
People don’t read porn because they have uninteresting/inadequate/absent sex lives. They read porn because they like porn. Your argument is like saying “I am eating
morechocolate cake because I’m not getting enough sugar in the rest of my diet.”
“Now if James is being rewarded in this way, what’s going to stop other writers from doing the same? ”
Ethical standards? Integrity and a sense of right v. wrong?
I realize James has none, but I’m sure there are still a great many authors who do.
@Sunita: People who start shouting others down and protesting the way you have just done merely underlines my statements.
People like porn because it satisfies some need in them which isn’t being fulfilled in the usual way. Let’s face it if you have steak at home, you’re hardly going to go out for hamburger are you? Unless of course you use the porn to brighten up your love life and I might grant you that.
If you’re going to argue, then at least argue logically and don’t just step on other people’s comments for the sheer hell of it and because you can seeing as how you are sitting behind the anonymity of the internet. Just because you shout vehemently at another person doesn’t alter the validity of anyone else’s statements and make you right.
@Anni: What anonymity of the internet? I am a contributor at Dear Author. I have been online, using my real name, for well over a decade. You may not know who I am, but lots of other people do.
If you think my comment was shouting, your comprehension problem is more severe than I realized.
You have disparaged, condescended to, and insulted readers of this book in multiple comments in this thread. You make all kinds of sweeping statements about porn, BDSM, and the reasons people have for engaging in them without providing anything that looks like evidence.
Commenter, check the mirror.
“Let’s face it if you have steak at home, you’re hardly going to go out for hamburger are you?”
I go out for hamburger if I don’t feel like… ah…cooking. And the beauty of porn these days is that it’s more like delivery than take-out.
I can have steak, hamburger, or both if I want, without even leaving the house.
And some of that hamburger is quite tasty.
Fifty Shades of Grey, though–that beef’s been adulterated and left out on the counter a little too long.
Pink slime. Isn’t that what they call it? I think I’ll pass.
@Anni: Are you a first time commenter on the internet? I ask this because I’m wondering how Sunita was shouting you down by stating she disagrees with you.
I disagree with you as well, although this may be no surprise. Whatever 50 Shades faults are (and there are many), to use it to dismiss BDSM isn’t very effective as most BDSM practitioners will vehemently disagree with how it is portrayed in this book. I’m assuming you have read the book and aren’t simply offering your opinion based on either the review or what you’ve read about the book. Take, for instance, the contract itself that is poorly written, redundant, and completely unenforceable. This is hardly emblematic of the BDSM lifestyle.
As for porn (and I don’t think 50 Shades is porn) being for those sexually frustrated and unsatisfied at home, I am curious as to where you draw your statistics? If you are equating romance novels with porn, what statistical compilations have been done indicate that romance readers are often married with active sex lives.
While I don’t agree with Susan Quilliam on a number of things, she quote a 2009 study which indicated that “75.5% of regular readers of romance novels said that romantic fiction “encouraged them to have more sex, more adventurous sex and more experimental sex.”
If you have converse statistics that prove the factual assertions that you are making, I would love to hear them. Otherwise, your statements do come off as condescending. I am sure you didn’t mean to, though, right?
Fifty Shades was not BDSM if you ask me.. It really seemed like the story was anything but. I kept waiting for a good scene to arise and I just kept waiting. I don’t think this author knows anything about the lifestyle. I just read a book that blows Fifty out of the water, made it look like a joke. http://www.amazon.com/The-Belonger-erotic-novel-ebook/dp/B007QVAV0A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334331376&sr=8-1
You’ll read it to if you are on the look out for something with real BDSM in it.
That paper on use of cliches–is is available online? I’d like to read it.
Thanks – great review. Hard to find someone who does not love the book. I read the book, hate it and cant believe that so many women like it.
I keep hearing about this book. Everytime I hear about it I think of Jacqueline Carey’s Kusheline series. You said your first love is fantasy, well if you haven’t read the Kusheline series you should I believe you will enjoy it. This is my first time on your site. Jacqueline Carey does Bondage in a different way and please let me know what you think. Thanks for the review.
@bethany: I agree with the distaste for this so-called novel. I write fanfic, but this would be roundly laughed at and flamed without impunity. As I read, I kept asking myself: You’ve got to be kidding me! The Kool-aid has been avidly consumed.
Not a bad review except that as a writer I would expect that you might spell/grammar check your work before posting it.
Ellen DeGeneres “reads” 50 Shades… LOL Enjoy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on3JCwnwHbU&feature=share%27%2C%29
I went looking for your review after getting to Chapter 13 of “50Shades”. Surely I couldn’t be the only one to think this book is crap. Thank God. You agreed. Very poor writing and characterisation. Boring by the numbers sex. I mean, how bad does it get to make BDSM BORING. Only goes to show sex and social networking sells. Good Writing doesn’t necessarily make it.
BTW – a book that someone sent in a good review on – “Master of Crows” I loved. Now that had me hooked, wanting to get back to every night. Thanks to that person.
Loved the review. I skimmed the book until an uncontrollable surge of fluids in my lower abdomen nearly erupted from every oriface like Mount St. Helens. Now I’m chained to my keyboard trying to penetrate the cyberspace of our collective inner goddess with titles such as the following:
1. 50 I.Q. points of shady grey matter.
2. 50 shares of hemmorhoid creme stock traded on a grey day.
3. 50 dumb dom dominoes and still no effect.
4. 50 shades of grey poupon on a Kosher dog.
5. Schlongs, bongs, and thongs by Ima Trashay limey.
6. Of Subhuman Bondage
7. 50 pairs of shades for a grey lady.
Ahhhh crap. I had really high hopes for this book. I tried to get a hold of a copy without buying it so that I could look into it. I read the beginning of the story for free online, and it never got into the kinky bits. It was a good tease for starters, the daft little girl picking up on his sexual deviance without knowing what it was. I liked the writing style well enough, it was about what I was expecting of that kind of book. The phrasing a little flat, uninteresting as a stand alone, but correct and easily legible. I was relying on the kink to be the interest factor in the story, and since it hit such big popularity I expected at least a small level of character development throughout the story. I figured it must have some real credit as a story, or at least sound hot as hell to break out of the quarter and dime romance novels written by private horn-dogs who make sex sound boring. But according to this review, it’s just another shlock romance that gets people off by talking about a taboo. I’m so disappointed.
I had to see for myself, and I did. Now I know.
What I disliked the most were the clichés: he knows everything about wine, he can play the piano as a professional, he is into art, he is into opera, he knows how to buy clothes for a woman, he can read her mind, he remembers, he cares and cuddles, he speaks French fluently, he loves gliders…. so Thomas Crown! And yet so tormented… so Nip Tuck Christian-like! And oh… I almost forgot, he is handsome, smart and rich like no-one else.
What kind of man is he? Is he the prince charming we are all waiting for? All about emotions and stuff?
Wait what year is this?
And Ana… I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll skip.
I was not able to connect with the characters, the story, the style.
I was afraid to be the only one out there. I’m glad I’m not. Thank you for making me laugh and for making my day. The review was smart and sharp. The comments where enlightening.
Thank you for this review. I read this review months ago, but people continued to encourage me to read it so I gave it a chance. Of all the things I dislike about this book, I have to say it’s writing style is at the top of the list. It’s just plain ridiculous and puerile. For a college graduate she’s pretty stupid. Then the author just throws in sophisticated words to try to make it sound better I guess. No. It only served to infuriate me more. It just takes the reader out of the story and made me feel like I was reading something a 3rd grader wrote then looked up big words in a thesaurus. No, scratch that, a third grader definitely writes better. Anastasia sounds completely, vapid, shallow, and just plain contradictory. All she can she is how mercurial Christian is, but at the same time she’s sooo in love with him.
It’s like one of those disasters you can’t look away from. You know it’s bad, but you need to see how it turns out. I’m part of the small minority who honestly finds this book unappealing and an insult to good literature out there. I can’t stand the point of view either. The concept is interesting, its the crap, one dimensional characters and her writing that screws everything up.
Oh thank goodness. I felt like I was the only person who hated this series (I say this based on my reaction to the first book. Like you, I have no intentions of reading the 2nd/3rd books.)
So many things wrong in this book. I won’t go into that, since you covered most of them in your post, and I totally agree with you on all accounts.
I absolutely loved this review … almost better than some of the books to which I’ve lately been subjected. In just the last 4 days, I’ve had 3 people ask me if I’ve read this series. My response was ‘no’ to which I was treated with amazement. You see, I AM in the BDSM lifestyle and 2 of those asking me know it; seems they thought it was ‘right up my alley,’ so to speak.
My biggest problem with most fictionalized BDSM books is exactly what Lazaraspaste has written here. Those books are generally written by people who know nothing about the lifestyle, other than what they’ve heard or read elsewhere, and/or they can’t write at all so their books read like a 3rd grader wrote bad porn. I usually laugh myself silly reading porn or end up feeling very sorry for myself because I’ve just wasted my time and money. I spend more time re-reading to correct grammatical errors and trying to overlook spelling errors in order to understand what the author is trying to say that I lose all sense of the pornographic purpose of the story.
And let’s face it, since I am a card-carrying member of this particular lifestyle, I’ve got real-life experiences with the sex and activities involved therein. The thought that this author (or others like her) could believe I would waste my money and time to read some third-rate version of a vanilla person’s interpretation of the ‘evils’ of BDSM is laughable and insulting.
Thank you Lazaraspaste; I will NOT be purchasing/borrowing/reading this series. Readers: you want a love story that’s VERY well-written, heart-wrenching, beautiful, and thoroughly engrossing? Try the Outlander series by Diana Gabeldon. You will NOT be sorry.
This was the worst book I’ve ever read and I find it hard to believe that we can possibly be in the minority. I just think this is a perfect example of media hype causing collective insanity.
Loved your review.
I read the book because I don’t want my daughters to read it. It made me so angry.
This book scares me on multiple levels. It glorifies young stupid female characters. It does not talk about the actual harm of BDSM gone awry. Mutilation, deprivation and an increasing addiction to amping the pain thresh holds to get the same level of satisfaction.
The not so subtle message that is surfacing across books like these is that “Women want to be controlled.” and it is ok to be with men who are energy sucking dominants “I will possess you and your soul for the next million lifetimes” and they can be changed easily.
“You. Will. Always. Be. Mine.” Let me get my branding iron.
The virgin babe in the woods ingenue without email, internet or a laptop…what was she raised by wolves?
What the heck does “My breath hitched.” even mean.
My sister was fooled into buying two of these. I’ve always told her to read one page in the middle of a book. If it says,”he said, or she said,” then don’t buy it. My grad prof always said if you are redundant in your vocabulary use, or I find a he said, she said, and it wasn’t warranted, then you fail. She now uses it as a doorstop. I use the last “Hannibal” book, since I fail to believe that Thomas Harris actually wrote it and it was garbage.
It is wrong that I agree with everything you have said -from the writing to the cheap plot devices and suspending disbelief to misrepresentation of BDSM and Dom/Sub type relationships and despite it all I still like the books. Junk food for my brain – no redeeming qualities but still enjoyable. Of course I had heard much about them and I went in with my eyes wide open!
@concerned – those “risks” you mention are extremely rare in the established bdsm community. If the book was written by someone who had an actual clue about it, there would be no signing 24/7 contacts with virgins, nor people wanting to beat women who resembled their mothers!
As for addiction, no more so than good sex. And for the person above who opined that people get into bdsm out of boredom, dear god. Look, maybe some people are wired in such a way that vanilla sex would have never been satisfying to them. In my experience, they’re a minority. For most of us, I think it’s more akin to learning you like oral sex or getting “addicted” to good workouts at the gym.
Thinking this might actually be a decent fantasy novel, one of my friends let me read their PDF version. It was being compared to Twilight, and I thought since I didn’t half mind reading twilight, I’ll give this novel/series a go. However, I hit the page where I thought the “dark secret” was something like Dorian Grey or some room full of accursed objects–something along those lines. When they were describing the room, I was at a loss for words. Psycho-killer would have been a far better dirty secret than BDSM. I could handle a “Hey, I am really Dexter” as opposed to “Hey, I assault and rape women.” I could handle the journal entry-like 1st person dialogue, but there is only so much one can handle. “Electric shock” or “current” at every touch, I can’t believe I thought, “What if this person is a never-aging, self-absorbed man who found the same woman he has been chasing after all these generations?” Nope.
Needless to say I have thoroughly learned my lesson–NEVER trust this person’s taste in literature.
Great recap of this garbage. I gave up when I read Ana, the virgin, had an this unbelievable orgasm upon losing her virginity. I call bullshit.
I just had to say I’ve had the best time reading the review and the comments. It made my day haha.
I finally gave in and read the first book. I was less than half-way through when I threw it down in frustration, as I was disgusted with the overall bad writing. I felt duped. THIS is what all the fuss was about??? Really!!! Really??? So I Googled, “Bad reviews of 50 Shades of Grey,” to see if there were any other like-minded individuals out there and I was delighted to come across this post. I was so inspired by your assertion that E.L. James uses far too many ellipses, that I sat and counted all of the ellipses in the first book. The grand total (give or take a few”…”) was 887! Or, in numerological terms: 887= 8+8+7= 23… Or 2/3=0.666 (The Devil’s number).
There’s your sign
To the commenter above…AWESOME! LOL
I’m only on page 150 and just want it to be over. But like many readers, once I start, I have to see it through. That may be painful. I almost threw the book across the room last night. I think I said “are you f’ng kidding me?!” three times outloud. I’m with Sara above and call bullshit – total utter bullshit – with the losing the virginity+explosive big O number. Even w/someone masterful & gentle – you aren’t “grinding to meet thrusts” a minute in, you are praying to sweet JC for relief & wonder if you’ll ever actually like the seeming intrusion. I don’t care how intense, dark, grey his damn eyes are. Other random annoyances: James over-usage of certain words. If I NEVER have to see the words “murmur” “mutter” “whisper” “ghost of a smile” “smirk” – I’d be thrilled. (Who did the 2nd & 3rd edits? What publishing company allows such novice, immature writing?) Always with Ana staring at her hands, biting her lip, peeking up through lashes, contrite and ridiculous. Which would be fine if there was more meat to the story, more insight. (maybe the 2nd & 3rd books solve this, idk) James is inconsistent with character development and my God, they are so painfully one dimensional, lacking substance. At the end of the day, I want to at least LIKE the people I’m reading about, on some level.
And a serious eye roll that this book is being called “porn for housewives.” The sex scenes didn’t grab me. My heart didn’t race, I didn’t re-read any sentences out of excitement. In fact, I laughed out loud that its supposed to be hot.
I should have known better though, I rarely like books that are heavily hyped up.
“Er, um” (blah) I just needed an outlet for my irritation w/this book, & you gave me one. Thanks for that!
Hello, my name is Marissa, and I fell for it, all of it, I admit it: I have a very good friend who is very much into vampires, BSDM, what I call ‘heavy’ erotica – and I’ll pretty much read anything, to be honest – and she told me about FSOG. She’s a bit of a writer herself; she’s written stuff for Literotica and likes vampire fanfic and she’s not bad, so I trusted her judgement. Like a true sucker I bought the whole trilogy in one go from Amazon and immediately opened it on my iPad as soon as it downloaded.
OMG. Literally, it’s all I can say. I kept reading, hoping it would get better, hoping at some point Anna would grow a pair (or, for that matter, just grow the heck up)…alas, it was not to be. Like the reviewer above who stated it has “crackability” (I think that’s the word used), I kept turning the page, more out of curiosity than anything else, but I just found myself rolling my eyes at the lack of cohesiveness, consistency – anything, really. I truly don’t know what else I constructively add to the conversation on those fronts.
I have no problem with escapism – what I have a problem with is piss-poor writing of any genre. I expect a lack of perfection in stuff on websites; I have higher standards for anything existing on paper and being presented as a formally published work. This fell down for me on all counts in that department.
Most people have admirably presented my major issue with the entire publication: the writing is, in a word, atrocious, and I’m saddened that these books are being so over-hyped and heralded as great literature. OMG.
I had a truly massive problem with the characterization. The first thing that stood out for me was HELLO – she’s American; she’s not supposed to have been anywhere; she’s being presented as the ultimate, stereotypical ingenue, and yet she sounds more British than Kate Middleton. I’ve spent the last fourteen years of my life married to a Brit, and I feel perfectly confident in saying I’ve spent more time in the UK and in London than ELJ has ever spent in the USA. To further add to this, my oldest brother – no kidding – has lived in Seattle for the last twenty years since he retired from the US Navy, and while I know London better than I know the Puget Sound area, I definitely have a better grasp of it than this author – really, who says ‘165 miles’ when they’re describing a distance, especially if they’re supposed to be familiar with the area? I usually say ‘a couple of hours or so’. And the whole view from Christian’s office just made me LOL. Directionally speaking, it’s impossible: when I picture looking out from a building overlooking Seattle, I’m seeing the lights reflecting off the Sound or the majesty of Mount Rainier – not the skyline; I see that from the ferry! ‘Pike’s Market District’ – what inhabitant of the Emerald City would EVER say that?? No American is ever going to ‘ring’ someone unless, like me, they either live with a Brit or have lived there and picked it up (I spent 2 years in the UK and 2 years in Saudi Arabia, ironically surrounded by more Brits than Americans); they’re not going to say ‘bloody’ all the bloody time (I get teased about that one all the time, because after 14 years I’ve definitely picked it up!); and they’re certainly not going to have their tea with the bag out (when I read this, I got this great mental picture of thousands of American housewives jamming Google and trying to figure out what the hell this meant). This bugged the crap out of me from the first page – literally, within the first six or seven paragraphs I knew the author was NOT American and hadn’t bothered to work on fleshing out these people as colonials. I could give Christian a few outliers – after all, he’s supposedly much more worldly than she – but, really, in Anna it’s unforgiveable. The language isn’t just anachronistic (some of it is, believe me; no 20-something Brit talks like them, either – they talk like 50-year-olds), it’s like reading a transcript for last night’s news broadcast on the BBC.
I’m heavily into scene and setting and believable characters (even if they’re fantasy and living in some AU very different from my own), and the lack of any of that in this book was what really kicked it for me. I could pile on what everyone else here has said about how she’s a Mary Sue and he’s just bizarre, but it’d only sound recycled.
Really, I’ve been wanting to rave a bit about the whole linguistic thing, and this gave me a place to do it. (Sorry!) I read another book (an el cheapo I bought for 99 cents on Amazon called ‘London Falling’ – as I said, I have no problem with escapism) where the opposite problem existed: the author was obviously American and had no clue how Brits sound; the prose was jam packed with phrases you might hear in 197os Brit sitcoms being rerun on PBS, back when the BBC boradcast everything in ‘standard Queen’s English’, but you’d never hear any of it on the streets of London in this century from someone in their mid-thirties. And that book also pissed me off for the same reasons (poor plot and lack of believability again notwithstanding).
These books would’ve made great fanfic (now that I know that’s their true origins, I can completely see it), but as a formally published work, they’re woeful. And anything the publisher says in backtracking only sounds as if they’re covering their butts. Why on earth would you just publish something without editing first? Because I can’t believe any serious editor reviewed this stuff before it hit the presses.
As a private joke with myself, I located – and subsequently downloaded – the MOTU versions last night. And yes, they’re pretty much the same as the FSOG’s – except for names and a few sentences.
The only thing these books have made me want to do is read the ‘Twilight’ books – I never did – and I’ll keep in mind that they were actually composed for young adults, not grownups, and give some possibly poor writing a break (anything, and I do mean anything, that inspires a fourteen year old to actually PICK UP A BOOK seems pretty OK by me these days). Does that mean I’ll accept those as prime examples of tweenage lit? Heck no – so don’t misunderstand me there. My understanding is Bella, who tells the story, is meant to be 17 years old, so I feel sure some flexibility is called for. Some things are forgiveable when I’m not the target audience (or I’m at least old enough to have given birth to a member of said target audience!). I am, however, in the apparent target demographic for FSOG (I’m 39), and I don’t find them forgiveable. At all. If they were used as a tool within the story – if Anna was being presented as the ingenue in an HONEST manner, then great, I’ll buy in and see where it goes. I don’t see where she was. The only win for ELJ is I bought the stuff in the first place – she certainly doesn’t have another five star Amazon rating from me to feel smug about even if she got $7.48 from my bank account (25% of my paying price, which is apparently what she gets for each e-book sold). School costs money. Lesson learned.
I shall now step from my soapbox… :)
I whole-heartedly agree! Touché and AMEN!
WOW, I want to marry with your post.
Fanfiction made book with too many Mary Sue characters. I read the three books and thank god I didn’t pay for them (thank you, sister).
“The narrative wants to occupy a position where we get to take the moral high ground sexually speaking but at the same time get to be thrilled by the eroticism of BDSM.”
Of all the reviews and critiques I’ve read, this one sentence almost entirely encapsulates why I have such strong negative feelings about the book. Yes, the writing is pedestrian. Yes, the characters are badly drawn. Yes the conflicts are predictable and quotidian. None of those things would explain my visceral abhorrence of this book.
The outcome of the strategy the author has used is to make the reader into a willing participant in what is a prevalent and degrading sort of hypocrisy. Like the very worst tabloid journalism, it presents the subject in such a way as to titillate the reader while allowing them to also enjoy the moral self-righteousness of condemning it.
Outstanding review! The matter of Ana’s subconscious bothered me greatly. I think yours was the first review I’ve read that addressed that. I enjoyed reading this, thank you!
Finally, someone who takes the book for what it is…a soft porn book that really does increase the libido and entertain, at least for this long time married wife. It wasn’t written to be any type of great literature, just some entertainment and a spark to help build the fire!! That’s why I read them, all three, and it worked for me. Just ask my happy hubby!
ok…. I read all three and had to jump back on here to be fair. I miss Ana and Christian now thats over. There I said it. And I think that perhaps the masses are reading too much into all this. Its just, as some other person said, junk food for the brain. Once I submitted (lol) to the ride and didn’t want it to be anything else, I loved it. Darker and Freed were more tolerable then the first. James referenced some awesome literature through out her books but its clear she is no literary wiz herself – that being said, I gotta give her props….. she created two characters who I ended up liking and caring about.
Loved your review and do agree with your explanations as to why. I must confess: only made it as far as Chapter Nine. Couldn’t stomach it anymore. For me, it was one of the worst books I have ever read (or attempted to, anyway). That whiny, insecure little character known as Anastasia Steel made me nauseous, and I know 14 year olds who can write with more fluidity and grammatical correctness than E.L. James can. I simply would not recommend this book to anyone. Not even my worst enemy.
Great review! I just read Fifty Shades Of Grey on a whim, and needed to ease my pain by reading critical reviews. That being said, I basically devoured the book at top speed…. Yes, it’s horrid. Damn amusing though! Some nice light silly candy reading that I take with about a handful of salt an keep thinking…. Oh yes, this was once a Twilight fanfic, I can really tell.
I did have one thing to correct you on though (perhaps someone else has already stated this?) – When it comes to the subconscious, you can actually be somewhat aware of things in this mental place. The subconscious is not the unconscious, it is rather between the unconscious and the conscious. You can assess things rather easily in the subconscious If you try, pay attention, focus. Freud actually did not use the word actually, but preferred preconscious. People have differing opinions on how to define the subconscious… So it makes it difficult to argue about. I do agree that It was use a little liberally in Fifty Shades, but not necessarily wrong. Pardon me, I’m an obsessive patch student with a new to prove myself.
Thanks again for the review. Great read!
I wanted to punch someone in the face every time someone fucking murmured!! I hate that word now!
This review is hilarious and bang on. It reflects all my sentiments!! I could not agree with you more!
Did you happen to read/review the second and third books? I think your reviews would be hilarious to read :P
I’m not a big reader since college, but I like sex just as much as the next person, so when a few highly educated women I know recommended the book it sparked my interest.
And then I had to read the first six pages three times before I could remember what happen! I was bored, irritated, and did not appreciate Ana’s school-girl claim to every moment of her adult life. Seriously, no wonder Tiger Woods had 20 mistresses! Sometimes I try to give women credit but if the 5 star reviews of this book hold up like they already have it just goes to show the naive path women would rather take in life! And without trying to sound arrogant, for an extremely attractive female, I think I’m starting to realize why I’m still single at age 31 and am perfectly fine with it! Men abuse there power, not because they can, but because women are just stupid enough to like it!! After reading the first chapter and skimming the second, and refusing to buy the rest, I do not think I could sit through an entire conversation with E L James. Anyone naive enough to write this and think its good enough to publish would annoy me to no end and I would have to politely excuse myself, forever!! Thank you all for agreeing, I starting to think I was the only one who hated the book! Even my best friend is in love with it… I told her I’d rather watch a good porn!! Lol
Ps: Mom, sorry for making you read the book before I did!!
Your review hit the nail right on the head. I unfortunately got caught up in the hype and tried to read the book. Boy did I try, but I started skipping large chunks of it. The characters were not believable or likable. I can’t understand why anyone would find this book erotic or romantic. It’s garbage.
It is a very sad commentary on our present society that this book or trilogy is popular. I was looking for a summer read, heard someone where I workout mention it and looked it up in Kindle version (for free) from my local public library. It listed it as one of the most popular reads presently. As a 57 year old grandmother who has been an avid reader for most of my life I was stunned to read a book that glamorized domestic abuse. Even if this author has a low IQ, has she never watched Oprah and learned how abusers start to control women in their life? The situation gets worse and worse. Trust me, I know, I grew up with a mother who was a victim of domestic violence. She stayed with him until the bitter end and to this day defends that decision 20 years later. Her life was a free fall. I thought of every criminal case where the wife is murdered and wondered if these guys were like this “Christian” character. How ironic a name that comes from Christ who was about peace, love and goodness. To glamorize being controlled, manipulated, beaten for an orgasm was one of the most disgusting premises I have read in a long time. I shudder to think of one of my granddaughters reading this type of book and thinking this constitutes a healthy relationship. I hated the book from the very beginning and kept reading it hoping there would be some plot or this dummy would realize that if you meet a man and think you can “change” him you are in for the disappointment of your life. He changes you and it is always for the worse. I came to your site as I was googling the author to find out what was wrong with her to write a book like this. I did not know this book was about BDSM and only got 20% into it and KNOW I will never read one like this again. Thank God I didnt pay the author $10 for it and got it free from the library. The sex scenes that were meant to be a turn on were disgustingly embarrassing. I should have looked into it more. From what I hear it got 5 stars in review but look at our society. Kids growing up watching bad reality television, they adore poorly behaving celebrities, many never spend any time in church or in any way try to honor the God who created them. My generation fought for women’s rights in the 70’s. And here 40 years later a college student did not run from a man the minute she heard her wanted to own and abuse her. She couldn’t even have a conversation with a man or get a massage. That kind of possessiveness is so unhealthy so dangerous and this dummy was turned on by it! How many men will think it’s okay to beat a woman because not only did she tolerate it she LOVED it. So disgusting on so many levels!!! Please anyone reading this don’t give this author any more money. Rumor have it they are going to make a movie out of this! God help our society.
Thank you for giving me a place to give my opinion. Sadly, I bought the trilogy after hearing all of the hype about it. I am a fan of BDSM fiction. The “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy and “The Story of “O” will always be favorites to me. I don’t know anything of the Twilight series (never read a book/never saw a movie), and have no knowledge of how this story stemmed from it. I just heard so much hype about this trilogy that I bought it, and immediately regretted it. I am so bothered by the transparent characters, but what’s worse is that time, and time, and time again, the author shoves down your throat the premise of the book through very obvious means, which begins during the first few chapters. It became so redundant, I continuously rolled my eyes every time I saw it happen again. I never made it past the first book. I should have known better than to buy this trilogy, being it made it to the “Best Sellers” list.
Ok, I didn’t write that in my comment, but that is spot on!
I know I am coming late to the review but I wanted to add my thoughts about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I have to say that I really enjoyed the series. I realized that when I started reading the books, I did not have a point of reference for the BDSM scene, so I took that information with a grain of “salt”. I classify these types of books as fantasy (one person’s point of view of a situation).
I had the opportunity to read through many of the comments and a few issues have come up:
1. Many people have been upset about the lack of accuracy with the BDSM scene. Until I read this book, I wasn’t aware of the difference between vanilla sex and BDSM sex. I am not sure that this book is meant to portray a specific sexual genre as such but one man’s interpretation of how he adapted to this “lifestyle” and introduced someone else to it.
2. Several people have classified the Christian character as being very abusive. I would caution people to be careful before painting someone with a malicious broad stroke. I would absolutely agree that the Christian character has serious flaws and very controlling tendencies, but if a person were to read through the entire book and series of books, they would begin to understand why he has those issues. The reader would also see the evolution of the characters and how; with love, trust and understanding, the characters are able to realize the flaws within themselves and move towards positive behaviours.
Someone who is abusive would not care in the least about their partner’s orgasm, making sure that a person was protected, sheltered and loved. Let’s also realize that at any time the Anastasia character could have walked away from the relationship. Although she is not responsible for Christians’ behaviour she is absolutely responsible for her own behaviour. There were many times in the book when Anastasia had the opportunity to say “Stop” or use her “safe word”, etc. and did not. Christian cannot be held responsible for the outcome if she wasn’t willing to communicate honestly. If a woman is old enough to enter into a sexual relationship, then she is responsible for what “she puts into her body or allows to be put into her body”. We cannot cry damsel in distress. In the end, the only person that we can be responsible for is ourselves. Christian was very clear from the very beginning about who he was and what it was that he was looking for.
I think many people are upset by the fact that Anastasia compromised herself in some ways (perhaps did not speak up or object to situations) in the beginning because she really wanted to be with this gorgeous man. I think that concept is completely realistic. How many people can honestly say that they have never come across a woman/man who slept with someone hoping that they would like them in return?
In order for a relationship to work, each party has to communicate openly. When that communication does not occur, relationships run aground which is exactly what happened in the first book.
There are many positive aspects with this book though. This are many literary references that are quite lovely; Thomas Hardy for one. Emily Bronte, etc as well as movie; The Thomas Crown Affair, The Lover, etc. All of those pieces of literature were a reference to the character’s state of mind. When faced with a challenging situation Anastasia herself would wonder what her literary heroes would do. I also found that the music mentioned in the book was great. I read the lyrics to many of the songs and it helped me to better understand the characters, thereby adding another layer of complexity for me.
Overall I thought that this book was a light summer fluffy read. I don’t think that it will go down in the archives of literary history. I am not sure that in a hundred years people will be engaging in deep discussion about the complexity of the story line, this book allowed me to dream for a while about a flawed man, who was very skilled sexually and had many flaws who eventually found the light and love.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. I look forward to the discussion from everyone. ?
OMG. Thank you so much. Although the idea of the sex was interesting, I felt as if I was reading a book written by a elementary school child. It was terribly written. Thank you for saying it. And nothing happened. I finished wondering what’s next. What did I miss? I won’t be reading the next 2.
Is this what the girls want to attain to. Bondage, SM, Submission? I find it sick fantasy. I think it is a bored house wives book. If you are tired of missionary you should think of something else but practicing sick behaviour should not be an alternative. My god the girl graduated college and was to take control of her life and what does she do but sell herself into bondage. Ladies, Love you guy, treat him good, expect to be treated good, live peaceable. Married 25 years to the same guy and still madly in love, I might know what I am talking about.
@Carol Joan Haney McVey: Love your review!!!!!
Did anyone see the Katie Couric Show recently? She interviewed EL James. It was a very interesting interview. I think EL James did a very good job of explaining the premise of her books. I would be interested to know what everyone else thinks. Thanks. :)
The one thing I was dead certain of after reading the review was that I wasn’t paying for this book. After an insane wait, got the omnibus set eBook from the library and finished it (w an extreme amount of skimming through).
Wow. That is about all I can say, other than I couldn’t agree more w the genius reviewer.
Oh, and that this has also killed any push towards cracking open Twilight ever. :)
“Anything For Georgetown And Other Stories” is erotic fiction with a focus on the fetishes of spanking and tickling.
Monica is a spoiled Catholic schoolgirl with wealthy, successful parents. Despite her background, she hosts stripping parties for the boys of St. Veronica’s. She also bullies other students. She is a bit of an enigma at her school. The new guidance counselor finds out about her background, and offers her a deal: give up her racy past, and agree to be punished “his” way, and he will help her get into Georgetown University, her first choice college. However, the deal they strike becomes unbearable. Does Monica get into Georgetown?
The other three stories in the collection focus on a woman who places a personal ad to jump start her sex life. Rebecca, who is almost a 40-year-old virgin, finally knows what she wants. But will she find a man to satisfy her, as well as one she can trust enough to fall in love with? The ebook is available on Smashwords.com. (Please deactivate the adult filter.) The print book is available for only $7 (excluding shipping and handling) through November on Lulu.com.
So glad you thought this book was horrible too. I didn’t even get all the way to the first sex scene, because the parts leading up to it were so boring and cliched that I ended up just skipping to the part right after the contract just to see what all the fuss was about. And that was, indeed, very bad. XD God, I could write better porn than that in my sleep.
I am SO THANKFUL to read this review! I was starting to wonder, from listening to all of my friends and colleagues, if I was the only one who despised this book. I couldn’t even get past the first chapter. James’ writing technique is horrendous. Thank you so much for your honesty and candid review. Perhaps others will read it before wasting their money or valuable time on this book.
This is the freshest review I’ve read of these books, and a take I’m surprised isn’t more common. When I read these books I was surprised at the hype they generated. I found the quality appalling.
Imagine if EL James wrote these novels on a different subject to BDSM. Imagine the books were about a more normal love affair? If that were so then these books wouldn’t get a look in, being sold in airport newsagents with all the other lovey dovey tosh.
Fifty Shades of Grey became a sensation not because they’re well written novels, but because of the subject matter.
I might’ve been slightly despondent when I read the first book, but I’d just put down a Wilbur Smith novel. It was like going from an encyclopedia to a Sunday tabloid.
Hey would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m having a difficult time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!
I LOVED the trilogy and so far have read it twice. My biggest fear with any movie that follows a book is that it won’t have enough time to do the story justice. Something of this magnitude deserves to be a mini series, allowing two hours per book. Has this even been considered? Between now and the release date I hope to read the trilogy at least two or three more times. Anxiously awaiting February 2015!
I absolutely LOVE this book! Each of us are entitled to our opinion. I am surprised at how much hate some have for the book. At the end of the day – it’s a book. It’s not a true story and the author does not have to check facts. She can make it out to be anyway she wants, which is the beauty of our own creativity and imagination. I could not put the book down and read all three books in three days. I cannot wait for the movie so I can compare how my imagination is to the movie. It resembles the movie, “Pretty Woman” a millionaire interested in someone not his ‘type or his stature’, we get to ride along to see their relationship unfold, the problems each has as they learn to deal with them and mold themselves from two separate individual people into one very happy unconditional couple, their love and need for each other growing daily. I’m a romantic who wants to be swept off her feet – a girl can dream :)
Any reader who liked 50 Shades will LOVE the new novel Starbucks Bitches. Its longer, has more depth, better characters, better romance, better sex, better everything. It is based in Dallas, Texas, and is coffee centric. Here is the description from the website http://www.starbucksbitches.com:
Five very diverse women band together to form an unlikely, but unbreakable circle of friends, collaborating and scheming their way to better relationships and better lives. When one of them vanishes suspiciously, the others must work together to find her before she disappears forever.
With a wide range of emotional and complicated relationships that span the highs (and lows) of life, Starbucks Bitches takes the reader on a wild ride that is deeply touching, thought provoking, and intensely romantic.
One of the most erotically charged and overtly sexual novels of the century, Starbucks Bitches is an unprecedented adventure in love, lust, and unconditional friendship.
LOVED this book.