What defines a “bad book”? Most people can identify what they liked about a book: the characters were believable or the writing was beautiful or the plot was striking, etc…; however, when asking someone what they did not like about a “bad book”, they can scarcely put their finger on it. Presented in this essay is a definition for a “good book” upon which three books (The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer) will be examined and determined as “good” or “bad”.
A good book can be defined with the use of three basic concepts: plot, prose and character development. The plot is essential. If the plot of a novel is lacking, almost assuredly all other points will follow. Prose, the wording and grammar of the novel, is the first contact the reader has with your novel. If the prose is bad, the likelihood that someone will want to read the book (or be able to read the book) decreases. Character development may be the single most important aspect of a novel. The characters and their decisions are what ultimately drive a story.
If a character is dull, unlikeable and or even not relatable, the book will most assuredly be bad. These are not the only methods to judge a book, but they are usually the aspects a reader will be looking at first and foremost. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown is one of the highest selling books in the 21st Century. It has been translated into numerous languages and has had a film adaptation; however, it is also ridiculed by many as being a bad book. The book, being a mystery, is packed full of action. There are clues to be solved, puzzles to solve and a whole society full of mysteries to crack.
The plot is interesting and Brown puts in a number of twists that keep the reader guessing and reading; although, there have been a number of critics on Brown’s bestseller being historically and scientifically inaccurate. The prose used in The DaVinci Code is so lacking that it is almost comical. Brown, despite being a bestselling author, does not seem to grasp grammar or fluidity sentence structure. The first page in the novel demonstrates this: A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move. ” On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.
Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils (Brown, 2). “Chillingly close” denotes that the speaker is close directly behind or whispering into ones ear. Only a few sentences down, Brown reveals that his version of “chillingly close” is fifteen feet away. Also, when one is frozen they do not turn their head. If the curator was truly frozen, his head would not be turning.
Also, it is impossible to see the skin, hair and eye color of a silhouette – a silhouette is a black figure with no apparent qualities, it is a black shadow. The character development in The DaVinci Code is also lacking. The main characters, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveau are likeable enough. We learn some of their background and history, but other than that they remain mysteries. The villains in this story are all one-dimensional. They are all connected to the Catholic Church or some sort of secret society and none have anything other than tainted motives at best.
Most of the other characters were written stereotypically: the British lord turned evil, the evil Albino, etc… The DaVinci Code, although a suspenseful page-turner, was a poorly written book. The plot was full of twists and turns that kept the readers’ attention, but was full of inaccuracies. The prose was dreadful at best. The character development was nearly non-existent, relying on stereotyping rather than explanation. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is a post-apocalyptic novel in which the entire human race, with the exception of one man (Robert Neville), has turned into a vampire.
He spends his days staking vampires and his nights barricaded in his house waiting for the sun to rise. This book has inspired more than one movie adaptation. The action scenes are remarkable in the way they are described. The simple clarity of what is going on while the vampires are banging on the walls and defenses of Neville’s house at the beginning of the book sets the tone for the rest: “He sat in the living room, trying to read. He’d made himself a whiskey and soda at his small bar and he held the cold glass as he read a physiology text.
From the speaker from over the hallway door, the music from Schoenberg was playing loudly” (Matheson, 12). The plot of this book seems simple at first: Neville is the last man on Earth who is not infected and he kills the beings that are. This book is character-driven rather than plot-driven. The prose of this novel has a flowing simplicity to it. Matheson does not need to use flowery wording or beautiful metaphors. “The sky was darkening and it was getting chilly. He looked up and down Cimmaron Street, the cool breeze ruffling his blonde hair.
That’s what was wrong with these cloudy days; you never knew when they were coming” (Matheson, 12). His manner of writing brings a depth to the story and helps sets the tone of the post-apocalyptic world. He doesn’t need to compare the sky to anything or the breeze. He writes the way the main character’s world would seem: simple and dark. Neville eats, sleeps, hides and kills vampires. The character development for I Am Legend is remarkable. In the beginning, the reader sympathizes with Neville. What would it be like to be in a world by yourself?
Fighting to survive every moment? As the book continues, the reader watches as Neville slowly becomes different, turning into a monster himself. I Am Legend is a good book. The action is detailed, the prose is simplistic but useful, the plot is character-driven and the character development for the main character is enthralling. I Am Legend is anything but a bad book. It seems as though vampires always make a comeback. They were present in I Am Legend, written in 1954, and they appear again in the recent phenomenon of the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.
Twilight is the first of a four book saga about a family of “vegetarian” vampires (vampires who feed only on animals rather than humans) and the human girl that a member of the family falls in love with. The plot for Twilight is filled with cliches: the basic Romeo and Juliet love story, a forbidden love. The idea of a vampire who does not feed on human beings – Anne Rice, for instance, had a similar idea. A misfit high school teenage girl with a strange ability (brain-dead-ness? ) happens more times than not.
Most people love a good love story, which is essentially what Twilight thrives for, the love between the hero (Edward Cullen) and the heroine (Bella Swan). The prose used in Twilight is not literary genius by any means. There are numerous repeated adjectives, descriptions of Edward that are also repetitive for example: “His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface” (Meyer, 260). There are numerous times in the novel when Edward’s skin is described as diamond-like the way it shines.
It is written simplistically, but as it is a teenage, love-struck girl who is narrating it, perhaps too flowery of words would seem out of character and strange. The character development in Twilight is limited. This could be because the story is written from a first-person perspective, limiting the reader to know only what Bella knows. Bella, as a character, is well-defined. She isn’t comfortable in her own skin, she is clumsy and smart. Edward, however, seems to have more mood swings than a teenager, despite his age of well over a century old.
In fact, he sums his whole personality up in one sentence: “How easily frustrated I am” (Meyer, 265). The high school teenagers Bella is friends with are stereotypical at best; Charlie Swan is exactly what you would expect from a small-town sheriff, there is very little learned about the Cullen Family (although that does come later in the series) and the villains James, Laurent and Victoria are one-dimensional. They seem to be after one thing and one thing only: blood. Twilight has a predictable plot, limiting and repetitive prose and inadequate character development in her full cast of characters.
By the definitions set out by this essay, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is a poorly written, bad book. In conclusion, out of the three books examined in this essay: The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, the only book that can truly be identified as a good book is Matheson’s I Am Legend; however, all three books have been phenomenon’s, selling millions world-wide in a multitude of languages and all have had silver screen adaptations.
Despite what who says these books are good or bad, the general public are frantic about them regardless. Works Cited Brown, Dan. The DaVinci Code. New York: Random House, 2003. Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1997. Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.