book-reviews

Luminosity

by Hannah Finley

Rating: ★★★

Luminosity is a re-imagining of the Twilight series, which is a class of work which I never expected to read. Given that I've never read Twilight itself, it's something of an odd thing to pick up, but I reached it via a chain of odd recommendations which led me first to the still-unfinished Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and then on into other rationalist takes on popular culture.

As with other items from this genre, Luminosity replaces the main character with a more introspective and rational person, and largely lets events unfold with that in mind. Presumably, there are no major changes to the setting. I don't know. The main character, Bella, describes a fairly successful move to live with her father in a wet and cloudy bit of the United States, followed by her uncovering a coven of vampires with magical powers living in the town. One of them falls inescapably in love with her, so she is accepted into their family somewhat. Leaping at the chance to become immortal, Bella revolutionises various small aspects of their lives by being one of few vampires transformed knowingly and willingly.

The majority of the book is pretty easy-going for rationalist Bella. She's handed a pretty sweet setup, there's nothing which particularly hampers her from enjoying it. The one time an unexpected event interrupts -- a member of a travelling coven decides to hunt her -- she ends up abducted, and has to do some quick talking to save herself, but that largely works out okay. Then, towards the end, as Bella is sitting on all her spoils of wealth, immortality and a growing collection of friends and allies she's mostly been able to benefit, it all suddenly goes to pot because a power she couldn't really check yet acts against her in a somewhat disinterested manner. Her lover is killed, her best friend is killed, the rest of her family are estranged, a lot of her other friends are killed or enslaved, and she wanders the earth lonely and purposeless.

In a sense, this could be considered some form of moral lesson: a heavy realistic reprimand to the generally upbeat tone of the earlier chapters, which seem to glisten with a sort of sickly optimism about how being a rationalist will make your life great. But the point -- if that is it -- is left until far too late, leaving the reader with the impression that a lot of what they've been reading is filler.

Despite this, Luminosity compares reasonably well with Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, to which it owes its inspiration. The tone is less preachy and moralistic -- though this does mean that Luminosity contains less in the way of actionable rationalist tidbits -- and the main character less abrasive, yet also confronted with far fewer challenges. It is maybe worth mentioning that the two both suffer from fairly blatant Mary Sueism, though this could also be considered a requirement of the genre.

Neither particularly gripping (though, like a lot of web fiction, very readable) nor all that terrible, Luminosity moves me to an average rating. Curiosity about what the downward plunge at the end of this book means for the sequel, Radiance, drives me to give it a shot. Somebody who read Twilight and scoffed at it might well like Luminosity, but for all other readers the scale probably reads from mild interest to boredom.