Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Moon Chapter 1: Party


1. The first book opened on an inexplicable quote from the Book of Genesis, this one opens on a quote from Romeo and Juliet. Laying on the subtlety on with a trowel, huh Steph? If you’re afraid of finding a copy and opening the book for yourself, it’s “These violent delights have violent ends, and in their triumph die, like fire and power, which, as they kiss, consume.”

Another prologue that actually deals with things at the end of the book. Not much to say, except I have no idea why Meyer does this to an already predictable as hell story. Maybe it’s supposed to be like a dangling a carrot in front of a horse, like “check this out! This is all building up to something really exciting!” Except getting the most clever, most unexpected ending in the world isn’t worth listening to Bella be a complete whiny parasite for over 500 pages. And Stephenie Meyer only writes unexpected endings in the sense that you never expected a human being could write something so lame.

I’ll save details until this stuff actually goes down (wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise, after all), except to say that at the end of this mess, Bella’s still going to have nothing to live for without Edward.

2. The book proper opens on Bella being “ninety-nine point nine percent sure” she’s dreaming as she sees her dead grandma. In a surprise that will surprise no one, she’s actually seeing herself in old age while her sparkly soulmate stays young and hot forever.

Maybe this was for people who didn’t read the first book--but if you weren’t willing to read hundreds of pages of pure krelm in the first place, why would you be reading this--but already the praises of Edward’s perfection start flying.

And maybe it’s just because I read this book right on the heels of the Percy Jackson series, which took the device of the prophetic dream and stood on its nuts til it cried, but this was a really clich├ęd way to start a book. The fact that it’s 563 pages long didn’t help either.

3. Bella wakes up on a day she’d been dreading all throughout “the happiest summer anyone anywhere had ever had.” Isn’t it cute when kids pretend they invented things like truth and love? What did this happiest summer ever involve, anyway? Based on how they have nothing in common and how Edward insists on a proper relationship, I get this image of them sitting on a rock in the woods just talking about how in love they are.

What exactly is this day, you ask? September 13th, Bella’s 18th birthday. Meaning now she’s physically older than Edward. “Just a dream…but also my worst nightmare.” If you go to Stephenie Meyer’s site and find the section where she talks about the writing of this book (it's almost as entertaining as reading the books themselves, if you can take looking into the writer's mind without the filter of one of her books), she describes herself as “anti-human.” Like the bad writer I already knew she was, though, she doesn’t explain what that means (if anything it sounds like she's still talking about her previous point, which was responding to accusations that Bella's weak). Is this the "anti-human" stuff? That being human means growing and changing and ultimately, not being here anymore someday?

Yeah that sucks, and yeah a lot of people try to fight that reality, but despite what Meyer might believe (she talks about her characters as if she actually interacts with them and can't control what they do) there aren’t really any beautiful sparkly people who can make that go away by turning you into one of them.

I don’t know if this is what Meyer meant by “anti-human,” but if it is she’s even more juvenile than I thought for basically telling her teenage audience to resist change and not learn to deal with the passage of time with any degree of maturity. If there’s another message in Bella checking her reflection for wrinkles, refusing to think of the old lady in her dream as herself and telling everyone she doesn’t want a birthday, it’s sure as hell slipping by me.

4. Bella goes to school and still compares Edward to “a marble tribute to some forgotten pagan god of beauty. The dream had not done him justice.” For that matter, “Even after half a year with him, I still couldn’t believe I deserved this degree of good fortune.” So after 500 pages, almost being killed in a situation of her own making, and spending the happiest summer in the history of ever hanging on that marble tribute’s arm, Bella hasn’t changed at all. Character development, after all, requires characters.

More explanation for new readers. Like how Edward and Alice, who’s also there, aren’t really siblings. And the weird things about their appearances, like their skin being the same pale shade and their eyes the same shade of gold. “To someone in the know--someone like me--these similarities marked them for what they were.” What it’s actually telling newcomers is this is a world where noticing things like that means you’re really with it. Strap on your helmets, greenhorns. It’s gonna be a stupid ride.

5. Alice has a present in her hands as Bella walks up to them, which upsets Bella because she wanted the Cullens to celebrate her birthday least of all. “The last thing I wanted was some kind of celebration of the black event.” Why, it’s like they’re rubbing her nose in it! “Obviously, my wishes were being ignored.” So what else is new?

Alice, who as you’ll recall, sees things, but with uncertain control and debatable reliability, asks Bella what she thinks of the presents she got from her parents. “Alice would have ‘seen’ what my parents were planning as soon as they’d decided that themselves.” As you’ll also recall, Meyer can’t seem to make up her mind on how Alice’s power works. Why would she see automatically see something decided by Bella’s parents? Does she have visions of everyone? That would make her power even less useful because how could she possibly interpret information resulting from the choices of all sentient life? No, even Meyerpires aren’t that awesome. Is it because Bella’s someone she, for some reason, cares about? Look, as I said near the end of the last series of reviews, if Meyer’s going to make her books so long, she can explain these things.

Meyer can’t even explain her characters' expressions. “Alice laughed, and the sound was all silver, a wind chime.” Say whaaaat?

The Cullens are throwing Bella a party after school, and head off Bella’s excuses that she has to work that night and she has to watch Romeo and Juliet for school. Because for such great people, what the person at the center of all this might want doesn’t matter for beans. Emo as that person might be.

I’m not kidding, this is in the book: “Finally, Alice lost the smug smile and glared at me. ‘This can be easy, or this can be hard, Bella, but one way or the other--’ ” Did I say I was starting to like Alice in the last book? Pardon me, apparently I was mistaking Twilight for a series with the potential for sympathetic characters. I’m forced to assume Meyer doesn’t even realize this is basically kidnapping.

6. Let’s try to breeze over the light stuff all at once or this’ll take forever. Bella and Edward are in almost all of the same classes now (“it was amazing the favors Edward could get the female administrators to give him”. Not really with the way she keeps describing him). Bella’s been working part time at the sporting goods store run by Mike Newton’s family to save a little something for college, even though she’s planning on Edward changing his mind about turning her into an sparkly undead freak like him.

Don’t know why she thinks she’d want to spend eternity with him. Yes, teenagers are a little too new to the game of love to really know the difference between lust and the real thing, but the rest of the Cullens have been happily coupled up for decades and they can’t shut up about how true Bella and Edward’s love is either. Even though this is the first relationship either of them has ever been in.

We’re also reminded of how Edward refuses to make Bella a vampire because it would mean abandoning her old life, and how she’d be willing to do anything if it meant being by his side forever. What makes her think cutting her ties would be so easy when she was about to sacrifice her life to save her mom from James in the last book? On the other hand, why is Edward dragging his feet on this if he can’t imagine life without her either? And why don’t the other Cullens lean on Edward to relent, when it would’ve been a feat worthy of Hercules to make it clearer that they want Bella and Edward to stay together because she’s the first thing to come along in a hundred years to give his unlife meaning?

She’s unwilling to accept monetary gifts from the Cullens’ bottomless coffers for a college fund (Edward of course finds her “difficult” for wanting to do something her way). While yes, Meyer's explanation that their bank accounts would have a lot of time to fill up makes sense (plus some rigamarole about Alice using her powers to predict stock prices…how does it work again, Meyer? In the last book when Alice had visions they came without warning), a semi-reasonable explanation doesn’t do much to make them seem less like Mary Sues for having money for whatever they want. Not need, want. Especially with the way they go through it.

Some talk about Bella’s mortal “friends” and the state of their relationships. Mike and Jessica were in the “awkward post-breakup friendship phase” (suckers!). Since Bella can only find happiness in the arms of someone supernatural, they merit discussion even less than they did in the last book.

Lastly, Meyer still hasn’t gotten her stories straight. “People always felt strangely ill at ease with the Cullens, almost afraid for some reason they couldn’t explain to themselves. I was a rare exception to that rule.” We’re told the reason sparklepires are so physically appealing is to lure in prey. Which is negated (or at least contradicted) if something about their condition inexplicably puts people on edge. And as Bella will go on to prove time and again in this book, the reason she’s not afraid is she has no preservation instincts.

Besides, there’s the fact that attractiveness is relative. For that matter, I’m told when the narrator of the spinoff book (the Bree Tanner one) runs into Edward, she doesn’t describe him with anything approaching the divine imagery Bella does.

7. Bella and Edward sit down to watch some Love, Shakespearean Style (it’s not enough the book had to open with a quote from that, the characters have to watch the play themselves and beat us over the head with the significance. The first chapter’s not even over and New Moon’s already going downhill). Edward thinks Romeo was a fickle moron who thoroughly destroyed his own happiness.

Just like Esme casually mentioned her dead baby and how she decided to kill herself last book, Edward mentions if he envies Romeo anything, it’s how easily he was able to kill himself after his world came crashing down. Being a nigh-indestructible rock with no weaknesses has a few downsides after all, it seems. He was making contingency plans in case he couldn’t save Bella from James, you see, for a life without Bella…is one he’s totally prepared to face in this book. Which makes the exposition he delivers seem even more forced.

Anyway he tells Bella about the Volturi. “They are the closest thing our world has to a royal family.” Basically if you don’t obey their rules, you die, “or whatever it is we do.”

I like how Bella rebukes Edward for that. “No matter what might ever happen to me, you are not allowed to hurt yourself!” After all, “I thought we’d established that all the bad luck is my fault?” He’s the invincible one, do you get the irony here? I don’t know, Bella places no value on herself, so when she does something supposedly selfless, it doesn’t make her seem like a giving person.

Plus, that thing where she fell into James’s trap? That was completely deliberate. And based on what we’ll see in the chapters to come, that suspicion of mine that she did it to prove she needs Edward babysitting her still stands.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how Meyer, blessed with her preternatural understanding of romantic fiction, made the mistake most people do and acted like Romeo and Juliet’s a straight romance story, and not a satire of the crazy things teens do when they mistake a rush of hormones for true love (Juliet was only thirteen, people!). Like kill themselves over mistaken impressions. So yeah, Edward and Bella are a lot like Romeo and Juliet.

8. On the way to his house for Bella’s like-it-or-not party, Edward asks her not to be “difficult” because the last time any of them celebrated a birthday was in 1935. Screw you, pal. I know he’s supposed to still be set in his ways from when he was alive, but a lot changes in a hundred years and if he’s so awesome he oughta know that. If he’s going to insist on treating his girlfriend the way he treats Bella, I don’t know why he didn’t just spend some his family’s unlimited money on a reinforced blow-up doll.

I’m not saying I dislike Bella any less, though. The subject comes up of Rosalie, Edward’s beautiful blonde sister who resents Bella’s presence in their lives. Since there really is no good reason for Edward to be interested in her and Bella makes all the trouble she claims, it’s not hard to think of reasons why.

In what I’m hoping is still setup for new readers, they argue more about Bella’s desire to be a vampire and Edward’s insistence it won’t happen. She retorts “That’s not fair!” but notes he’s not the only vampire she’s on good terms with, and while Edward's her first choice as a source of vampirization, she'd be willing to settle for Alice or Carlisle. And she doesn't think Edward would have any problems spending forever with someone who went behind his back and betrayed his desire that she not throw everything away for his sake. So in case you forgot, they’re supposed to be in love but you’d never know that unless they kept saying so.

9. More setup for newcomers as Edward’s weirdly-named relatives, slightly less superfluous than Bella’s human “friends,” are described. All I found worth mentioning was that Jasper’s described as avoiding Bella as much as possible, like he supposedly had before even though I didn’t notice. Then again there’s so much unnecessary crap in these books it can be hard to notice when something actually relevant comes along.

10. After that, it’s time for presents! Bella opens the first box to find out it’s empty. “It’s a stereo for your truck. Emmett’s installing it right now so that you can’t return it.” Wow, you guys really, really suck. How am I supposed to support this relationship, let alone think it has any staying power, when the people we’re meant to like have no respect for each other’s wishes?

As Bella opens her next present…it happens. She cuts herself on the wrapping paper, Edward throws her across the table in a shower of shattering glass, and grapples with Jasper as the mood-controller loses control of his own mood and goes crazy at the sight of Bella’s exposed blood.

Yes, the event that gets the plot of this book going is Bella getting a paper cut. That’s just awesomely stupid.

Quick Note: I'm using the same tag for this book because they're part of the same series, but if people would find it more convenient I'll split them up with a new tag.

1 comment:

  1. You're off to a brilliant start! I especially loved the "anti-human" bit - it truly seems like this series is about women fearing old age. Can't wait for the next chapter!

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