Illustration by Andrew Love
Preacher, by Garth Ennis
The idea of Twilight intrigues you. Romance, vampires, Mormonism, and strict sexual propriety get you itching in all the right ways. Well, before you blow your time, money and personal relationships on a two-thousand-page, five-film, Hot Topic-and-Borders-display-endorsed dry hump, please, put a gun in your mouth and squeeze until you’re Cobained all over the Hello Kitty shit you bought for your dorm.
Or read Preacher. Whichever.
Preacher, a graphic novel series by Garth Ennis, follows the story of Jesse Custer, a southern preacher whose church is destroyed by divine accident, and through Genesis (the product of demon-angel breeding) is given the voice of God. Jesse then decides to use his newfound power to search out God himself and get some answers on just why life is such a vicious game of son-of-a-bitch.
Not without his friends though! You can’t storm the gates of Heaven without friends! He’s traveling with his ex-girlfriend, Tulip (a female character not Hell-bent on sending feminism back 300 years), his spiritual guide, John Wayne, and an Irish vampire named Cassidy (a vampire who won’t get your mom wet!). And get this, Cassidy doesn’t sparkle, can’t survive in daylight, is actually emotionally complex, and has little to no use for 17-year-old girls who think that clove cigarettes and biting their lip all the fucking time makes them interesting. Granted, that’s the movie, but let’s face it, that’s the big success story of the whole Meyer abortion anyway.
I won’t give too much away, but I will say that as opposed to endless pining for extremely painful vampire sex, there’s a great, intricately planned and executed storyline, an unlikely but ultimately goodhearted love story (this will be foreign to you, but follow me), and more than enough humor, sex and violence to not only attract readers from both locker rooms, but keep both pleasantly satisfied. And there are pictures! You won’t get all those headaches!
So if you’re looking for something that doesn’t pander to you because you like jailbait abs and that Morrisey-looking fucker, Preacher is for you. It’s intelligent, earnest, funny and it even has Kevin Smith’s stamp of approval, which means your hipster friends will trade you Pall Malls to borrow it. Twilight is the worst thing to happen to America since 9/11, so please, do yourself a favor (do America a favor!) and swing by your nearest comic dealer before it’s too late.
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
As the season grows progressively more amber, approaching All Hallows Eve, and you look even harder for worthy endeavors with which to procrastinate, stumble into a dark and mysterious book store or some ominous and gargantuan library—preferrably when it’s raining torrentially and nearing dusk—and pick up Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.
It’s the sort of novel that makes you appreciate the disconcerting crunching of autumn leaves underfoot and clattering window shutters in the howling wind. Was that laughter coming from the basement? My candle just flickered strangely! Boy, this room sure has gotten cold. Um, okay. Well, Gaiman’s ghoulish tale is based loosely on The Jungle Book (No! Not the goddamned Disney movie! The book by that by-jingo-ing bastard, Rudyard Kipling!) in that it is a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, about a mysterious orphan who’s adopted and raised by unlikely parents.
Don’t think that you’ll be able to forsee what’ll happen to our protagonist because of this, however. In The Graveyard Book, after narrowly escaping the black lambskin-gloved clutches of the murderer (the man) Jack, the toddler, Nobody Owens, is found in the graveyard by a community of ghosts and other unmentionables who accepts the newly orphaned mortal, giving him protection and granting him Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows him to acquire supernatual skills (e.g., invisibility, the ability to walk through certain walls, et cetera). Confined to the graveyard, our wraithlike protagonist finds himself in a host of macabre (mis)adventures due to his pubescent restlessness. (And there’s also an adorable romance between Bod and a quirky girl who ventures into the graveyard.). Although marketed in the States as a novel for adolescents, The Graveyard Book is a beautifully-written piece of literature appropriate and enjoyable for mature readers of all ages (and it’s assuredly better written than anything Stephenie Meyer could dream up). It is also complemented by phantasmagorical illustrations by esteemed comic book artist Dave McKean.
For the mildly serious reader, it shouldn’t take longer than a week or two to read, and it’s almost guaranteed to leave at least a shred of warm sentimentality lingering inside.
Ah, well. The book was awarded a Newbery Medal, for chrissake, so that’s got to count for something. Read it before they make a movie out of it!
The Sookie Stackhouse Novels, by Charlaine Harris
I am ashamed to admit it, but yes, I used to be a Twilight fan. I was afflicted, but fortunately I found the light at the end of that angsty pre-teen-mess-of-a-saga tunnel. My kickass alternative to bad writing and a weak heroine is a book series by Charlaine Harris called the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Some may know this series to be what the TV show True Blood on HBO is based on. To start off, the Sookie Stackhouse novels were published before Twilight was around, so Harris’ ideas were quite original in this aspect. The book shares a few similarities to Twilight: girl falls in love with vampire, there’s competition for the girl’s heart, blah blah blah.
The difference? The Sookie Stackhouse novels are well-written. The girl in question can actually defend herself and doesn’t need a man to survive like Miss cant-walk-down-the-damn-sidewalk-without-tripping-Bella Swan. The vampires aren’t sparkling vegetarians who’d prefer not to fight; they’re violent, they’re vulgar, and they’re badass, like vampires should be. The politics of the vampire world in Charlaine Harris’ novels are unique with vampires having “come out of the coffin,” so to speak, due to a new synthetic blood which the Japanese have invented so that vampires won’t have to feed on humans (even though they still do).
Whereas in Twilight, the evil Volturi seem like something Stephenie Meyer simply threw in at the end of each book just to have an antagonist. Charlaine Harris’ novels are a unique blend of Southern, gothic, comedic, and murder mystery styles. Stephenie Meyer’s novels are a mix of a stalker vampire boyfriend, a pedophile werewolf (no, seriously), and a Mary Sue heroine who has successfully warped pre-teen girls’ minds into thinking the perfect man is going be watching them sleep someday outside their window.
If this hasn’t convinced you yet, let me just say that Harris’ novels have 100% more sex. While Stephenie Meyer completely skips over sex scenes and does not go into detail whatsoever, Charlaine Harris will dedicate at least three pages worth of sex detail for your perverted fantasy’s benefit. So do yourselves a favor, people, and go get hooked on a real vampire series like the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Oh, and check out True Blood on HBO too. It’s pretty kickass as well and much more worthy of obsession than Twilght.
The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice
Twilight is not as bad as everyone says it is. I don’t care how bad the writing can get. Anything that promotes reading is a positive step in the right direction. After all, Twilight is a book written for young teenagers and as so, hits the twelve-to-fifteen demographic. However, once one is out of this age group, one should explore the entire literary spectrum of forbidden love, vampires, dark, gloomy, brooding men, or my personal favorite, good writing. That is where Anne Rice comes in. Anne Rice is by far one of the most talented writers out there and happens to excel in the genre of vampires.
Upon opening any of Anne Rice’s books of The Vampire Chronicles, one can instantly get a feel for how much better these books are than the works of Stephenie Meyer, mainly because the book is made for adults. The themes themselves are much more mature. Did I mention that there is actual blood-drinking in the book with no glitter involved? And I am not talking about drinking blood from a gauntlet, but real hunting and feeding. The writing can be a bit graphic, but there is an aesthetic beauty in the writing style and descriptions of Anne Rice. Her words are as natural as they are engaging and leave one re-reading sentences just to fully appreciate them.
As the book progresses, Rice’s ability as a storyteller shines and includes one of the biggest things Twilight lacks: character development. The growth and depth of the vampires really shine (burn?) as the series unfolds. Each vampire has his or her own story, and each one is true to the vampire genre, including elements of the dark depression of eternal life and the realization of what they have become.
Unlike the story of Twilight, which focuses on teenage love with vampires who try to reconcile co-existing in two worlds, Anne Rice’s novels focus on the mythological elements of vampires, similar to shows like True Blood, but better.
If dark writing is something that intrigues you, give Anne Rice a shot. I wouldn’t waste my own time reading a bad book, and no way will I waste anyone else’s.