Fifty Shades of Grey book 1 by Vintage Books - review by Velocifero

Fifty Shades of American Psycho

This book consumed a week of my life I'll never have back. It is an offensive collage of terrible writing, one-dimensional characters, and disturbing portrayals of dominant/submissive behavior. With a different jacket on the book, you may actually mistake Christian Grey for Patrick Bateman.
Good kindling
380 pages of pithy dialogue, gross abuse, and unhealthy kink portrayal.
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review

About author

Oh, EL James...where do I even start with you? Perhaps we can start with your anonymous "pen name" under which you conceived this word-vomit, Snowqueens Icedragon. This name suggests you were perhaps between the ages of 14-16 when you penned this horrific abuse of the English language, but shamefully, you are in your late 40s.

Maybe I could make mention of your British heritage that seems to have inexplicably leaked over into your vocabulary usage in a world set in Seattle with a cast of American characters and was henceforth overlooked by your editors, to whom it didn't occur that perhaps such words as "bespoke" aren't a part of American speech.

Actually, I'd love to focus on the fact that EL James has apparently only done a cursory Google search prior to writing a novel about BDSM, skipping over all the pesky things like "safe, sane, and consensual" just to get to the juicy details. I had never read anything by Ms. James before this book, but then again, I never imagined she had much of a literary career before this, given the amateur style and mind-numbingly juvenile choice of words. I've read more prolific ingredient labels.
    • Dull

Content / Style / Audience

People read Fifty Shades for the love story like people read Playboy for the articles. That is to say, this book is primarily about kinky sex with a sloppy and trope-laden love story as a flimsy background distraction. More importantly, a more understated theme to the entire book is a frightening and abusive relationship.

Christian Grey might actually be Patrick Bateman. He is suddenly madly infatuated with Ana after meeting her twice, one of these instances involving watching her throw up everywhere - but not before stalking her to a bar where she was by tracing her cell phone usage. While she's being unwillingly sexually assaulted by the delightfully cliche token Hispanic, whose campy use of 'Dios mio' is worth of an eye roll all its own, Grey swoops in and saves the day, only to take her back to his hotel room while she's black-out drunk, undress her, and climb in bed after. He swears nothing happened, so that's good enough, right? There's nothing shady going on there. I kept wondering when he'd murder her and wear her skin as a smoking jacket.

Actually, most of the book revolves around Ana as a weak-willed shell of a woman who gets abused, coerced, and molested by the men and women in her life at every turn. Her "better senses," the ones telling her that Christian Grey is a terrifying psychopath, are written off as a shrill, harpy bitch that hates sex and fun and probably kicks puppies. Meanwhile, her "inner goddess" (who appears at every turn like an irritating Tinkerbell you want to swat away) is painted as a fun-loving, sex-positive, glowing and ideal woman. Her "inner goddess" is painted as a positive influence who silently encourages her to normalize things like Christian Grey sprouting a boner over strapping her into a helicopter, or the fact that Grey stalks her halfway across the country and shows up when she's trying to have a nice visit with her mother.

Grey isolates her from her friends and family, encourages her not to talk about their sex life to anyone but people he designates, is constantly getting Ana drunk, and then trying to get her to agree to things and eventually sign their 7-page dominant/submissive sex agreement.

I can't name even a single conversation they have through the course of the book that goes beyond superficial topics where neither of them storms off or gets pissed. Out of nowhere - surprise! - they are magically in love with each other. Ana loses what very little personality she was already grasping onto whenever Christian isn't around to patronize her, and instead resorts to hysterical crying and degrading her self-worth. Very healthy stuff.

If I had to give the writing a "style," it would most likely fall under "adult erotica written by a semi-illiterate senior citizen for foreign teenagers who have never had kinky sex before." It uses the same, painfully simplistic expressions like they're the last words and phrases on earth. A few examples include usage of the word "holy" (holy crap, holy shit, holy hell, etc.) 166 times, "Oh my" occurs 78, and Ana is found biting her lip several times in each and every chapter.

Some of the language is frankly outdated and antiquated, leading me to dub the main characters "Grandmastasia" and "Christian Greybeard." Examples of this:

"You look mighty fine trussed up like this, Miss Steele."
"You taste mighty fine."

On top of it all, Ana Steele is a recent college graduate in 2011 and needs others to teach her how to turn on a laptop and send e-mail. She has never had alcohol and is a pristine, virginal woman who deep throats Grey's godly cock on the first try. There is also never any usage of the word "vagina" or any variation thereof. I had to double-check my anatomy books to make sure that "down there" wasn't actually the name for my pussy - the language is oddly Puritanical at times like that, especially for a book of its content. Ana claims she identifies with "misfits," and yet has at least three men besides Grey in the book who express sexual interest in her, is well-educated, best friends with a popular and outgoing woman, and reads British literature. Dream on, lady.

EL James is out of date and out of touch with not just American culture, but American youth, American vernacular, and American mannerisms.
    • Bdsm
    • Fiction

Personal comments

I am someone who read all three Twilight books and got superficial enjoyment out of them as mindless entertainment, even while others were ripping on it. I thought Fifty Shades might be the same, but I was instead greeted by an insultingly bad Kink 101 guide written by a woman who doesn't seem to have any personal experience at any level that makes her qualified to write about it.

I worry about vanilla men and women who read this novel and then try to dive head-first into BDSM with this as their guide. There is a disturbing lack of emphasis on building trust and gaining sober consent. It paints all dominants as being motivated by a troubled past. It makes them seem as if their need for control in the bedroom must necessarily be driven by emotional damage, and that it's okay to take advantage of the weak-willed.

I could not possibly recommend against this book more. As someone who practices safe, sane, and consensual kink, I am embarrassed and angry to have my preferences shown in this light. I am saddened that there could be men and women who injure themselves and others both emotionally and physically because this horrible book made unhealthy, abusive behavior look like modern romance. Shame on EL James for the frankly pathetic amounts of research she did on healthy BDSM relationships. Shame on EL James for failing to create even a singular strong, competent, three-dimensional female character. Shame on EL James for creating an offensive pastiche of kink.

Spare yourself the pain of this abominable pile of literary trash. It's just not worth it.
Follow-up commentary
After reading on to the second book, I am only thrown deeper into my burning hatred for this series as it has forced me to reflect on just how abysmal the first one was. I'm not much for book burning, but if I had to be, this would be first on my list for the good of all mankind.
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Do you like this review?
  • sXeVegan90
    Thank you for confirming my suspicions that this book was purely hype. There is no way I will be giving this book a chance, and frankly I too read the Twilight novels. AMAZING review on your part, and thank you so much for sharing your opinion on this.
  • geekkink
    I am glad someone else saw Patrick Bateman in Christian Grey
  • Velocifero
    Thank you! Run far, far away, friends!
  • Airen Wolf
    You know I really hate a review that leaves you wondering whether the reviewer actually liked the book or not! WOW, I am thinking this review MUST be more fun to read than the book! I didn't even find the Twilight Series to be mildly entertaining so I think I will pass on this piece of tripe.
  • Undecided
    Thanks for the review, I really have no interest in these books at all.
  • dsumrow1
  • Couponfreestuff Deals
    Thanks so much
  • Zandrock
    Thanks for the review
  • Velocifero
    Thanks to everyone I will be starting up the third book in the coming weeks.
  • EdenUser
    Thanks for your review!
  • Huff
    Something blue
  • Huff
    (Let's try that again)
    Something blue and boring with no shades of anything in this book.
    Great review, thanks
  • Terri69
    Great review! Thanks!
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