Christian Grey is back and he wants to tell his side of the story.
Or at least author EL James promises he will in her new book “Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian.”
Grey is the seductive young businessman who introduced the shy virginal college student Anastasia Steele to the world of BDSM in the literary blockbuster “Fifty Shades of Grey.” This fourth book tells the original novel from his point of view. Readers are assured they will learn more about Grey, his desires and motivations.
Instead “Grey” is just “Fifty Shades of Grey: Again.” Literally. It’s a cut-and-paste job that reads like it was done in a weekend. Pick a quote or passage in “Grey,” find it in the original novel and start the comparison. It’s nearly identical.
You may also remember the more than 125 emails from “Fifty Shades” that reappear in “Grey.” And the 10-plus pages of the “contract” between Christian and Ana. It’s all there again, word for word.
Oh, James will break up her original writing with a thought from Christian now and again (we know we’re in his mind because it’s in italics). “Get a grip, Grey.” Or “You’re a fool Grey” or “Steady Grey.” Then repeat – repeatedly. (Just as she did with the three earlier novels, James repeats phrases to the point of annoyance.)
Anastasia’s previously repetitious responses of “holy cow,” have been searched and replaced by Christian’s “whoa” – a phrase befitting a hormone-driven teen, perhaps, not a 27-year-old self-made multimillionaire.
But beyond the self-plagiarism, James has an even bigger problem here: The Grey in “Grey” is a creepy jerk.
Readers fell for Christian – warts, whips and all – in the original trilogy. Fans bought into Grey as a tormented man scarred from a violent childhood, whose obsessive fear of intimacy was only relieved when he was introduced to sexual dominance and submission at age 15 by his adopted mother’s friend.
But where the original Christian also was sexy, caring, articulate, intelligent and a shrewd businessman, the guy in “Grey” is a self-centered, disgusting, misogynist jerk who thinks every woman is hot for him. “It’s just a pretty face, sweetheart,” he smirks to himself more than once in response to looks from other women, including his adored Ana.
His eloquence is gone as well, replaced by such gag-worthy phrases as “a bubble of hope swells in my chest” and “she’s oil on my troubled deep, dark waters” or something just flat out gross like “Oh, I could stop your fidgeting, baby.”
And his references to his budding relationship with the beloved Ana as a “deal” are most telling. “I can’t close the deal,” he thinks. And “I’m going to lose this deal” or “I’ve blown this deal.”
To be fair, there is some new material, as brief as it may be, including flashbacks to his childhood, a few moments/emails with his brother Elliott and a talk with his therapist. But there is only one addition of substance and it deals with the mysterious phone call that pulls Grey from his visit with Ana’s family in Georgia.
Mostly it’s snippets of useless information: Instead of Ana finding a new computer at her apartment as she did in the original novel, James writes the phone conversation of Grey ordering it; where Christian was previously eating breakfast in a hotel room, now we read about the food being delivered. It’s filler without substance and it’s laughable.
“Grey,” then, is like the disappointing extended version of your favorite DVD: You already own it, but you’re enticed into buying it again because of the promised “extras.” You keep watching (reading) waiting for something new to pop up and then realize you’ve been suckered.
This isn’t the first time James has reworked her own material. “Fifty Shades” was based off Internet fan fiction she wrote for the “Twilight” books under the name “Master of the Universe.” Later, partly because of legal issues, she changed her character names from Edward and Bella to Christian and Anastasia and produced what was billed as a new work called “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Subsequent well-publicized comparisons between “Master” and “Fifty Shades” found the works “89 percent similar.”
In essence, “Master,” “Fifty Shades” and “Grey” are nearly the same story. But the idea to tell the story from Christian’s perspective is new, right?
“Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer worked on a much-anticipated book called “Midnight Sun” that told “Twilight” from Edward’s point of view. She didn’t finish it after chapters were leaked online. To Meyer’s credit, what you can read of “Midnight Sun” is a fresh perspective, not a cut-and-paste job.
James had a choice in telling this new story. She could have explored those 50 shades of “messed up,” as Christian describes himself, but instead she stuck to the same shade of Grey.