As a consumer of fiction, I'm pretty bread and butter. I like thrillers and historical fiction. I will occasionally read a romance. I never read erotica. But all that changed recently when I picked up Fifty Shades of Grey. Like millions of others, I felt compelled to find out what the fuss was about.
What I found was a book that is not as good or as bad as many critics would have us believe. Like its primary characters and like most books, E.L James' novel about wide-eyed literature student Anastasia Steele and her intense, physical relationship with Seattle entrepreneur Christian Grey has its share virtues and its vices.
The vices are easy to spot. If you dislike repetition, this is not the book for you. James repeats about a dozen terms to the point of serious distraction. Bitten lips are front and center. So are inner goddesses, double craps, and holy ----s. There are 197 whispers and 424 ohs. The web is filled with sites that document the excess.
Then there is Christian and Ana. They do a bit of repeating themselves -- before breakfast, after dinner, here, there, everywhere. They take breaks, it seems, only to eat, sleep, and send each other emails, where the topic is usually . . . well, you know. Their relationship through most of the book is as multi-dimensional as a stick figure.
The characters themselves are a mixed bag. Christian is arrogant, controlling, and sadistic but interesting. Ana is a cipher who surrenders her values and individuality every time Christian curls his lip. Sometimes the two click, sometimes they don't. More often than not, they compensate for a thin plot that thickens toward the end. Only the final chapter made sense to me.
I can understand this book's commercial success. Fifty Shades is unlike anything I've ever read. It shocks. It intrigues. It takes readers to a different place. But ultimately it falls short of the hype. I found it less a groundbreaking work of literature than a breathtaking triumph of marketing. Rating: 2/5.