Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Moon Chapter 12: Intruder

1. When Bella first sees a “huge, dark shape” outside her window she thinks it's Victoria, even though it “wobbled erratically on the other side of the other side of the glass”. Since when do those vampires you admire so “wobble erratically,” Bella? What happened to everything they do being so graceful it’s another dead giveaway? She worships vampires so much it should be instinctive by now.

As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, this is just Bella being an idiot again. It’s actually Jacob, who asks her to open the window so he can come in. Like a certain someone he jumps in anyway after Bella opens it to talk to him, disregarding her wishes. She’s still dealing with how he’s changed and this isn’t her precious Jacob. “His harsh rejection had punched a painful new hole in what was left of my chest.” Shouldn’t that be “heart” or “soul” or something? At least that way it sounds like emotional turmoil and not that she’s saying she’s walking around with a gaping orifice in her torso. Not to imply Bella’s ever been good at descriptions, giving them or figuring out what’s worthy of one.

Oh, and his midnight visit reminds her of Edward doing the same. Thanks, we got it.

2. Bella’s as big an idiot as ever, as she tells Jacob to get out, “putting as much venom into the whisper as I could.” Maybe he came to talk and smooth things over without his new buddies looking over his shoulder? Oh I forgot, this is Bella Swan we’re talking about. The most negative possibility is the only possibility. Besides, if this reminds her of Edward, shouldn't she probably be reminded of how she's unlikely to win this disagreement?

Also typical Bella, when Jacob apologizes for how he acted before, her earlier resistance melts like the Wicked Witch of the West. “The apology was sincere, no doubt about it”.

He wants to tell her what’s going on, but physically can’t do it. He asks her “Look, Bella, haven’t you ever had a secret that you couldn’t tell anyone?” He knows about the Cullens, doesn’t he already know the answer? Anyway, “Sometimes, loyalty gets in the way of what you want to do. Sometimes, it’s not your secret to tell.”

That does strike a chord with Her Royal Emo-ness. “He was exactly right--I had a secret that wasn’t mine to tell, yet a secret I felt bound to protect. A secret that, suddenly, he seemed to know all about.” So you don’t really have a secret anymore, huh?

3. Jacob gets the idea he can kind of sort of tell Bella what’s going on by just dropping hints. Like reminding her of the stories he was telling her when they met again (or “the first day we met” even though they’d known each other as kids) in the first book. OH YEAH! That thing with the legend about vampires that was totally true! Which you knew was true if you just read the back cover!

It pains me to type this but Bella was so wrapped up in the possibility of learning anything new about Edward, even old tribal legends (“Only one story really mattered”), that she’s completely forgotten the one about the tribe being descended from wolves. Once again, maybe if their love had seemed the least bit believable, Bella would seem like less of an idiot. Notice I said less.

“I protected the Cullens’ secret out of love; unrequited, but true.” There you go with telling us about the true love again, Meyer.

4. She suggests they just run away, even though she just observed that there was something more than personal morals holding Jacob back (“For me, this was all essentially voluntary…For Jacob, it didn’t seem to be that way”). She’s figured out it’s not that simple for him yet she acts like it is anyway.

Maybe it’s got to do with this kind of worldview: “I realized I hated it, hated anything that caused him pain. Hated it fiercely.” For someone so mature, Bella sounds like she sees her ever-complicating world in black and white.

Jacob gets ready to leave, telling Bella to think about his mention of the legends. “I’m going to do what I can to be here for you, just like I promised. It would really help if you could figure this out on your own, Bella. Put some honest effort into it.” Yeah, could you try a little less to be a protagonist that things just happen around? I don’t care what Meyer thinks, you don’t need superpowers to make an impact. Although you probably do need an author who doesn’t think you do.

“He grinned at me suddenly. The grin was not mine, nor Sam’s, but some combination of the two.” What in the fudging hell…???

5. As Jacob goes, he says he’ll try to see her soon and the others will try to talk him out of it, and she says not to listen to them. She also asks why she wouldn’t want to see him even though it’s pretty obvious he can’t answer that question. Dumbass.

“Oh, I can think of a reason,” he replies. Is it being a monster? That didn’t stop her before, and he knows it.

He stresses “I need you to understand. I won’t lose you, Bella. Not for this.” What happened to “I can think of a reason”? In fact, why did he bring that up at all when the purpose of this visit was to try to smooth things over from before and stay in contact with her?

After he goes Bella manages to get back to sleep and has a boring dream where Meyer tries to pretend it’s not obvious the red-brown wolf was Jacob.

6. After Bella wakes up (screaming, of course), she does indeed remember the stuff about lupine heritage and puts it all together. It gets her to thinking just what the heck’s going on. “Could a world really exist where ancient legends went wandering around the borders of tiny, insignificant towns, facing down mythical monsters?” That’s a clunky way to put it, and what exactly is so insane about this so long after she found out vampires were real? And was so accepting of that fact she wanted to be one? I mean, if I found an honest-to-God gremlin in my house, and then later I got attacked by zombies, I’d probably be scared but I don’t think I’d be disbelieving to run into for real zombies. Once the door's been opened like that, like by going out with a vampire and knowing it, well isn't that the kind of thing that would get you to questioning what else might be real? Not if you're Bella Swan. Who I'll remind you all is supposed to be really smart and literate and stuff. Too busy obsessing over Edward's sparkly perfection to question any of it, eh?

I’m even more confused because Bella thinks that too. “Hadn’t I already accepted the existence of vampires long ago--and without all the hysterics?” Oh, so you really are just a huge drama queen.

She thinks it’s mainly because of the circumstances behind this revelation, that she knew Jacob as a normal person before this happened. After all, “there’d never been one moment that I wasn’t completely aware that Edward Cullen was above and beyond the ordinary.” And there wasn’t a moment you let us forget it, either.

Wondering what being attracted to monster guys says about her, Bella thinks “It said there was something deeply wrong with me. Why else would my life be filled with characters from horror movies?” Is she seriously saying it’s got something to do with her that the Cullens and Quileutes lived in that area? If by “her” we mean Meyer, sure, but aren’t we talking about Bella?

And by the way, it’s only after all this that Bella finally puts the pieces together and realizes Sam’s cult is a pack.

7. Bella decides to pay Jacob another visit and hears from her dad that volunteers are getting together to go into the woods and do something about the wolves. She’s terrified, but surprisingly, more for Charlie and the hunters rather than the wolves. She tries to talk him out of going, “It’s too dangerous!” Yeah, who do you think you are? The police chief?!

“I’ve got to do my job, kid. Don’t be such a pessimist--I’ll be fine.” Pardon me for thinking he’s right, on the grounds of Meyer being too flaky to have any actual tragedy in her books despite all the attempts to pretend otherwise.

8. Notice how I said “more” worried about Charlie? She adds onto her itinerary for the trip out to see Jacob to warn him about all those gun-packing rednecks. “Jacob was my best friend; I needed to warn him.” Best friend? Thought it was stronger than any schoolyard romance. Then again, that’s what sets Jacob apart from Edward: he actually gets along with the girl he’s in love with.

9. Then again Bella starts wondering if Jacob’s buddies really need to be warned. “Should I warn him, if he and his friends were…were murderers?” Kind of weird, with how quick she was to ignore Edward’s warnings. Are the Quileutes not hot enough to earn that same myopia from her?

“It was inevitable that I would have to compare Jacob and his friends to the Cullens.” I suppose, but how is she comparing them? Edward seemed to earn her faith automatically. There was no crisis of trust like the one she’s going through here.

“I didn’t know anything about werewolves, clearly. I would have expected something closer to the movies.” And look how off-base those were about the Cullens. “So I didn’t know what made them hunt, whether hunger or thirst or just a desire to kill. It was hard to judge, not knowing that.” Ah, but it isn’t hard to judge if they flat-out tell you and also mention it’s a fight against their internal cravings every second you’re around. Hell, Bella tried to take the blame for everything that happened when Jasper attacked her.

She goes on to think about whatever Jacob’s going through can’t be harder than the Cullens fighting those cravings. “It couldn’t be harder than that…Nothing could be harder than that.” And yet you swept it under the rug faster than anyone ever has with anything.

“The werewolves had chosen a different path.” Really? Now that she knows they’re werewolves, well, my first thought for why the boys on La Push suddenly join Sam's gang, with the way Jacob described it last chapter (that the gang was good, he just couldn't see it before), would be it’s something that just happens to them at a certain point. And that’s what it turns out to be. Remember how Jacob was all sick when his change hit? And I didn't mention it, but there was a time when it was pretty obvious Jacob had crossed some kind of line and his brain just disconnected from his mouth, indicating some kind of outside power really was keeping him from just telling Bella what's happening. There’s no choice involved.

I’m sorry, this all probably makes sense to the fans, but Bella’s reactions to the two mythical species just confound me.

Screw this book, I’m gonna go watch some Garo.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Moon Chapter 11: Cult

1. Bella still can’t get through to Jacob, and realizes (yes, realizes) she misses him, especially with Victoria after her. “I wanted to believe that it was worry for his friend that was occupying all his time, not that he was just giving up on me.” What happened to nobody can heal the hole left by Edward dumping her? I’m curious about how Bella records her exploits, like did she write this all down as it happened, so when she said she was broken forever, she still thought she was? I’m also curious as to how she decides which parts of her life to share, like why doesn’t she brag about her summer with Edward before the start of this book by including part of it? No, she’s not above that.

I know, I’m thinking too hard about a stupid book. But you wouldn’t still be reading if that bothered you. Or maybe you would, for the same reason I’m still reading this mess.

In any case, Bella wondered “Were the phone lines still having problems? Or had Billy invested in caller I.D.?” Why she thinks Billy owes her the time of day, let alone contact with his son, after she ignored both his advice to stay away from Edward, and Edward’s advice to stay away from Edward, and then started inflicting her insane influence on his kid on a regular basis…

2. Bella decides it’s safer for Jacob if she stays away from him with Victoria on the warpath, she won't kill him too. Even though Victoria’s not a “good” vampire and feeds on humans anyway, but whatever. “It was bad enough that I couldn’t figure out a way to keep Charlie safe.” It’s bad enough she can’t even figure out a way to keep herself safe, but I did it for her: kill yourself, Bells. I know you’re used to being the victim, but at least that way you can meet your maker with one victory to your credit because you’ll have denied Victoria the satisfaction. And wasn’t one of Meyer’s criticisms of Pride and Prejudice that if a member of the spotlight couple died, the other would “carry on bravely”? Is this better than that because Bella's carrying on pathetically?

What else is she going to do? She’s already accepted the wolves didn’t kill Laurent (“I knew that Laurent had gone back to Victoria by now”) and there’s nothing she can do to keep Victoria from hunting her down sooner or later. If there’s only two possibilities, what would Edward be more proud of? Bella just rolling over and dying, or giving Victoria the finger by doing the deed herself? Then again, I’m not Edward Cullen.

I admit that with her concern for Charlie’s life (if no respect for his desire to protect her by risking her life to keep from having to let go of a past phase of her life) there’s a flicker of Bella not being a completely selfish waste of oxygen. Of course, one flicker doesn’t erase all the idiotic things she’s done, all the selfish thoughts she’s had, and all the closed-minded judgments she’s made.

3. Another course of action does present itself when Bella thinks “So I couldn’t run away. Even if I could, where would I go? To Renee?” What about Denali? Where the other “good” vampires live? Edward and the other Cullens have gone up there to get away sometimes, they must know him. By mentioning she’s his ex-girlfriend and if necessary his reason for breaking up with her, couldn’t she earn their help? Hell, maybe he's there now and she could tell him about his little oversight.

4. As she drives home from school, Bella realizes that Jacob’s been avoiding her on purpose. You can’t say he doesn’t have any number of reasons, but the one Bella figures is the cause is Jacob having been absorbed into Sam Uley’s gang too. Or “cult.”

“Sam would pull him deeper into his frightening, compulsory gang.” The one that gets rid of drug pushers. It’s impossible that what they do really isn’t that bad and Jacob’s just been able to see so for himself, huh? Believe it or not, there are people who want to do more with their lives than just hang out with someone attractive all day and night. What are Bella and Edward going to do to fill eternity?

This is a serious question, because Meyer’s so hands-off about the issue of what you do when you have no concept of time it’s ridiculous. A week later, Victoria still hasn’t killed Bella, “so I must not be a priority.” What’s Victoria doing that’s more important, then? I know the real answer as to why Bella isn’t dead yet, but what does Bella think Victoria’s doing instead?

With that thought of not mattering even to Victoria, Bella decides to risk a trip to La Push. “This was a rescue mission.” Oh, that’s rich. She hasn’t been able to stand up for herself once and she thinks she can make a difference now?

5. Of course if there’s anything Bella’s better at than having no control over her life, it’s deluding herself. “I’d once seen a PBS show on deprogramming the brainwashed.” And I’ve seen Top Gun. Does that mean I’m qualified to fly fighter jets? I’ve seen Star Cops. Does that mean I’m qualified to be an astronaut and an officer of the law? I’ve read some of The Dresden Files. Does that mean I’m a wizard? Of course it doesn’t, it just means Bella’s ever stupider than I thought. And that Meyer seems to think ability means nothing compared to passion.

As well, “I decided I’d better call Charlie first. Maybe whatever was going on down in La Push was something the police should be involved in.” I’m pretty sure La Push is separate from Forks, and as a result I kind of doubt Charlie has any authority there. In the end it doesn’t matter because Charlie doesn’t see what there is to dislike about Sam Uley and his anti-drug, daughter-saving ways. Plus, Charlie lives in the real world and reasons that unlike his daughter, Jacob has other things going on. “ ‘He can’t spend every waking minute with you, after all,’ ” indeed.

6. Charlie tells Bella he’s got more important things than her teenage insecurities to deal with, since some tourists went missing and were apparently killed by the wolves. It blows Bella’s mind that a bunch of wolves bigger than bears could have survived an encounter with a lone vampire, but I already talked about that. “What I’d seen in the meadow just got stranger and stranger--more impossible to understand.” No, you’re just too enamored of Edward to even realize there might be things capable of threatening perfection such as his.

7. Bella does indeed drive out to La Push and runs into Jacob’s other, non-cult-inducted whoever friend who doesn’t understand why Jacob and the other whoever friend would get involved with Sam Uley. The whoever friend talking to Bella’s afraid he’s next. “What was happening here?” Okay, Steph? YOU SUCK AT BEING MYSTERIOUS. I suck at being mysterious too, but at least I know that and don’t attempt it.

Yeah, I did come into this knowing about the werewolves, but if the reader was paying any attention at all they noticed the “descended from wolves” legend before Jacob started talking about his tribe’s legends about the Cullens. Am I really the stupid one for thinking that one legend about a mythological species being true leaves the door open for others to be true too? I’d say the evidence indicates I’m not.

In any case, Bella pulls up outside the Blacks’ house to wait for Jacob. Billy sees her, but closes the curtains. “I was prepared to stay as long as it took, but I wished I had something to do.” Boy Bella sure is with it, huh? Bring a book, idiot. You might learn something about being a sympathetic character while you’re waiting.

8. It doesn’t take that long before the new and improved Jacob shows up, and he’s all but unrecognizable. “There was a darkness in Jacob now. Like my sun had exploded.” Based on how she reacted to Edward’s warnings about the darkness in him, I thought she found that sexy. He’s all tough and big and edgy and stuff now, and he’s there with the rest of his new friends. “I couldn’t even pick Embry out of the group.” Giving these mostly pointless second-tier characters weird names doesn’t make them more memorable, Steph.

Bella sees Sam and realizes how much she wants to hurt him for daring to do this to her beloved Jacob. But to have the power to do that, “I wanted to be a vampire.”

Then comes her next thought. “The violent desire caught me off guard and knocked the wind out of me.” A subconscious urge had a physical effect on her. Drama queen. Why did it knock the wind out of her? “It was the most forbidden of all wishes…because it was the most painful. That future was lost to me forever, had never really been within my grasp.” Am I missing something here? If she’s pained by memories of her past dealings with the Cullens, why was she ecstatic when she found a way to trick herself into hearing Edward talk to her? Seriously. This isn’t funny, and it sure as hell isn’t how you make a sympathetic protagonist.

9. Bella wants to walk and talk with Jacob, and without any kind of response he obliges her. As they walk “he was right beside me, his feet having somehow found a less noisy path than mine.” Try this, Meyer: “I suck.” Bella’s saying the exact same thing, and it frees up a ton of space you could fill with something of actual substance to partially justify the length of this trip through Sawitcomingamileawayville.

10. I won’t bore you with the details because you already know what happens. Jacob says what Sam does isn’t bad, he just couldn’t see that before. Bella, who has no idea whatsoever that could be, belittles Jacbo’s new association and says he doesn’t need her anymore now that he’s got Sam. Those are pretty close to her exact words.

He tells her not to blame Sam, and she asks who she should blame. How about herself, because she can’t deal with life without a hot guy and the author’s behind her 100%.

“I want  to know, and I want to know now” Bella demands. It was wanting to know that led to that huge hole being punched in your heart, Bells. This sounds like something just as big…

He tells her she doesn’t really want to know, and she snaps back with “Don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong -- I’m not the one who got brainwashed! Tell me now whose fault this all is, if it’s not your precious Sam!” Fine, I won’t tell you you’re wrong, I’ll tell you you’re stupid. You have no idea what’s going on here, but you’re jumping to the conclusion that fits your desired outcome best. Oh, it’s just so impossible that maybe what Sam and his people are doing is good, and Jacob knows what it is now and wants to be part of it. But it leaves him less time for Bella, so it must be bad. No, it leaves him less time for Bella, so he must’ve been brainwashed and she has to get the Jacob she knew to fight his way out again so he can devote all his time and attention to making life less miserable for her again.

Somebody, fan or anti, please explain this to me. Tell me what Bella’s appeal is supposed to be. Not as someone you want to read about, but someone every person in the book’s universe finds so enthralling.

11. Then Jacob blows her out of the water: he knows the Cullens are really vampires. Bella’s feeble denial of the truth gets her nowhere as with anything.

“How did he know this?” Because their attempts to blend in were pathetic? “And how did it have anything to do with Sam’s cult? Was it a gang of vampire-haters? What was the point of forming such a society when no vampires lived in Forks anymore?” Gee, maybe it’s not that simple? And what about Victoria?

Jacob tells her they’re going back. “There’s nothing more to say.” She fires back “There’s everything more to say! You haven’t said anything yet!” And what exactly entitles you to hear it, Bells? You yourself have repeatedly said you’re nobody special, and you haven’t done a thing to work yourself into these people’s good graces. It feels like I’ve said that before.

12. In the downright laughable conclusion to the conversation, Bella asks “Are you…breaking up with me?” They were going out? Wouldn’t they have to have been before he could “break up” with her? “After all, what Jake and I had was more than any schoolyard romance. Stronger.” I’ve heard that before, Miss Swan, and it wasn’t any more convincing then. At least then people were saying she and Edward were in love. Here I was just beginning to get the feeling things might be blossoming when Jacob hit his tough guy phase here.

Jacob at least tries to dispel the notion that this is her fault (which does seem to be her natural reaction to most things). “Don’t blame yourself, don’t think this this is your fault. This one is all me. I swear, it’s not about you.”

Her response? “ ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ I whispered. ‘There’s a new one.’ ” A new what? A new hole in her soul? “There’s a new one” could mean a ton of different things.

13. She probably does mean Jacob left a new hole in her because she moans about it once she’s home and by herself. “I’d thought Jake had been healing the hole in me--or at least plugging it up, keeping it from hurting me so much. I’d been wrong. He’d just been carving out his own hole, so that I was now riddled through like Swiss cheese.” That’s some choice poetic imagery for a shattered existence, there. “I wondered why I didn’t crumble into pieces.” Because people don’t work like that? You hurt for a while, but then you move on. Except if you’re emotionally disturbed or Bella Swan. Which isn’t to say the two things can’t be one.

14. Charlie comes to check in on Bella and try to help because he’s, you know, a sympathetic character. He asks if she really thinks there’s something up with Sam Uley. “I know there is. Jacob wouldn’t tell me what, though,” she tells him. Again, this is evidently based on nothing more than Jacob finding a new crew to hang with and not spending time with her. No, Bella doesn’t do pretty well, all things considered. She’s a kindergarten brat with an English major's vocabulary.

Charlie calls Billy to demand some answers, and Bella overhears him say “What do you mean I don’t know my daughter as well as I think I do!” I have nothing to add.

Charlie promises, threatens, really, to keep an eye on Sam’s gang. Bella’s thoughts? And before you ask no, I didn’t leave out anything that would allow this to make more sense. “So Billy was going to blame me. I was leading Jacob on and he’d finally had enough.” Well, yeah, pretty much. I’m surprised it took him this long.

15. The day’s events have made Bella suspicious. “It made me think that whatever secret they were keeping was bigger than I’d been imagining. At least Charlie was on my side now.” So now she’s abusing her father’s position as head of the local police force. I love you, Bella. Besides, as I said before, hasn’t she learned knowledge can be deadly, not to mention emotionally painful? If she’s supposed to be smart, couldn’t she be put in a situation where the smart things isn’t to cut her losses and move on? Could she maybe say she’s doing this because Victoria’s going to kill her anyway and she’s got nothing to lose at this point? That wouldn't make the story better, but at least we could tell some effort was being made.

16. She dreams of seeing Jacob in the woods, but then he turns into Edward, and then he disappears. Yes, yes, it’s all very sad that two crushes in a row haven’t worked out. If Victoria wasn’t going to murder her she’d be scarred by this for the rest of her life.

She wakes up to the sound of someone throwing rocks at her bedroom window.

17.  I would like to stress that I don't support suicide despite my advice to Bella in this chapter. It's not funny and it's not romantic, in a book or in real life. But Bella's just a made-up character, and one who wallows in her helplessness and self-destructive tendencies at that. I wouldn't shed any tears if she ate a bullet.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Moon Chapter 10: The Meadow

1. “Jacob didn’t call.” So our chapter begins. I still find it hilarious how that’s a red flag and not simple confirmation that there are parts of Jacob’s life that don’t involve Bella.

I get this is a romance story, but this isn’t romantic, it’s obsessive. Maybe if Bella wasn’t so judgmental she’d have more than one friend and thus wouldn’t push the panic button when that one friend failed to stay in touch for a while.

“I got nosy.” She got nosy? “…checking to make sure that Billy had taken him to a doctor. Billy said he had, but, for some reason I couldn’t nail down, I didn’t really believe him. I called again, several times a day, for the next two days, but no one was ever there.”

I think I nailed it down. Bella doesn’t trust anyone, even the people she claims to like, and won’t admit it to herself. Remember when she didn’t trust the Cullens to protect her family from James and Victoria? And get ready for those names to finally reenter the plot.

“Saturday I decided to go see him, invitation be damned.” Well aren’t you endearing? Sweetie, just because Edward did things like be invasive in other people’s privacy doesn’t make it right. You were annoyed with him often enough to realize that, I hope.

“I stopped by the hospital on the way back home, but the nurse at the front desk told me neither Jacob or Billy had been in.” And they’d tell a complete stranger. I think I nailed down how Bella works along a double standard when it comes to trust, too. Remember how after the van incident Bella insisted Edward could trust her with the secret of his speed and strength, but had done nothing to prove that to him? She appears to have no trust in anyone else, but somehow thinks she deserves implicit trust.

It gets to the point where Bella forces her dad to call another of his friends in La Push to ask about Jacob, and he puts his hand down over her drumming fingers to make her stop.

2. Charlie reports that there’s been trouble with the phones out on the reservation, and Jacob appears to have come down with mono and isn’t allowed visitors. “ ‘No visitors?’ I demanded in disbelief.”

I’m so mature, I’m so sensible, I raised myself because I have a ditzy mom.

The other thing is that the guy Charlie called, Harry Clearwater (but who really cares?), has also had health problems. “Charlie was too worried about Harry. That was clearly the more important issue--it wouldn’t be right to bug him with my lesser concerns.” Forgive me for thinking she probably means that in a pouty, sarcastic way what with being cut off from the current center of her universe.

“I’d give Billy a week, I decided, before I got pushy. A week was generous.” Maybe Billy just doesn’t want this brat hanging out with his son after she refused to listen to his advice about going out with a guy like Edward. “A week was long. By Wednesday, I was sure I wasn’t going to live till Saturday.”

I wouldn’t mind the hyperbolic teenage stuff (okay, I'd mind it less) if Meyer had just said that’s what Bella was in the first place. Bella’s supposed to be really mature and smart and thoughtful. She’s not. She’s so not. I’m all for flawed characters, but unless you’re deliberately creating a stupid or jerky protagonist (and Meyer’s not. She’s so not), flaws have to be balanced with positives.

3. Without Jacob, Bella starts having nightmares again. “I wasn’t handling alone well.” Then try actually opening yourself up to other people, Bells. Plenty of people at school are willing to be friends with you, and maybe you’re actually to blame for the ones who aren’t (she even confirms it this chapter with “I smiled and nodded as if I cared what my other friends thought”).

Bella eventually does get through to Billy and he says Jacob’s feeling better and went up to Port Angeles to catch a movie with some friends. “Jacob was better, but not well enough to call me. He was out with friends. I was sitting home, missing him more every hour. I was lonely, worried, bored…and perforated--and now also desolate as I realized that the week apart had not had the same effect on him.”

Here’s a theory. Maybe when Jacob was sick he had a lot of time to think and realized what a clingy codependent mess Bella is and that he didn’t want to be around her after all. Or maybe he bought into that stuff about her being smart and mature and didn’t think she needed up-to-the-minute progress reports on him, and that she understood already that he had activities and friends outside of seeing her. No that’s not why, but man Bella sucks.

4. I want to take a second to think about the bit following Meyer’s anti-human crack: “I wrote this story from the perspective of a female human because that came most naturally, as you might imagine. But if the narrator had been a male human, it would not have changed the events. When a human being is totally surrounded by creatures with supernatural strength, speed, senses, and various other uncanny powers, he or she is not going to be able to hold his or her own. Sorry. That's just the way it is. We can't all be slayers. Bella does pretty well I think, all things considered.”

In case you haven’t read it, I’ve been writing a story called Kamen Rider Altis. The story’s about a female reporter pursuing a mysterious man. She does not, however, do it because he’s hot and she’s bored. She does it because it’s her job and he’s connected in some fashion to what appears to be a silent invasion of monstrous killers.

My point is I’ve gotten a fair bit of positive feedback regarding the story, meaning there are people including myself who don’t think the protagonist has to be able to rip someone’s head off with their bare hands to be interesting in a story with supernatural characters. It’s the way Meyer handles it that makes the stories bad and her narrator unlikable. As Meyer says, I don’t think Twilight would differ much if we were reading about Bill’s pursuit of the sparkly Edwina. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, either. The tone of most chapters of my story was the narrator, having no abilities enabling them to fight a monster, would hang back and do commentary on the fight between the guy who can and the monster.

I hope I don't sound arrogant by drawing this comparison to something I wrote myself (this is in here for the "let's see you do better" crowd), but consider if you will: there’s no evident thought process that went into motivating the characters and their behaviors beyond what Meyer thought was sexy. Bella seemingly pursues Edward because he’s pretty and she’s got nothing else to occupy her attention (she complains about people dying later in the book, but it seems like she only cares about that because she doesn’t want to believe Jacob’s a killer. That is, she seems to care less about the deaths themselves than the idea that her current boytoy could be the one responsible). Their interactions certainly don’t imply what they have is an everlasting love and not a pair of impulsive teenagers thinking they've discovered something no one else in history has. Seemingly the whole reason Bella’s a mopey little whiner is because she’s the frail human who’s surrounded by all the powerful supernatural beings (never mind that there are tons of stories about characters who can't compete with the beings around them on a physical level, yet are able to find other ways to contribute besides being something worth fighting for). On account of our narrator being a mopey little whiner who can’t defend herself and is worth protecting at all costs, most of the action happens off-screen, which comes across as really awkward. Especially when you can’t pin down why they’re going to so much trouble over her.

Madeleine couldn’t win a fight with a vampire either, and there were times I had her despair because her dreams of bigger and better things didn’t seem any closer despite all the near-death experiences she had. But at least she had a valid reason to pursue what she pursued (it’s her job and people are dying), had ambitions other than getting married to a hot guy, and wasn’t a withdrawn little sadsack who refused to relate to normal people and curled up into a ball when it looked like her romantic forecast was still barren. Plus she was there when things happened, since of course the guys fighting the monsters were ultimately trying to protect people, but couldn't spare the time to personally babysit her. So even if she didn’t join in the fight, you still saw the fight. That way if you felt gypped, it was at least because it was a lame fight and not because I decided to lock you out of something potentially cool.

Seriously, the entire first book basked in Edward's awesomeness at every opportunity and we don't even get to see him save the day? Who cares if it's in character for Bella to be pummeled unconscious, it's still a painfully lame climax.

But what do I know? Meyer probably told herself something similar about Twilight. At least I'll listen if you've got something less than positive to say about Altis.

5. Damn I gotta pick this up or I’ll have written a book of my own. After some more whining about how nobody understands her or something Bella decides to pick up the exploration for the meadow by herself. She finds it, but isn’t sure why. "It was the same place...but it didn't hold what I had been searching for." Unless she was hoping Edward would be there willing to take her back, I have no idea what that might be.

“What was the point of going any farther? Nothing lingered here. Nothing more than the memories that I could have called back whenever I wanted to, if I was ever willing to endure the corresponding pain--the pain that had me now, had me cold.” Just come out and say it, Meyer. Bella gets off on being miserable and that’s the real reason she pretends she and Edward are in love.

6. Then she realizes she’s not alone, Laurent's there (wait, so we've got a Lauren and a Laurent?)! If you can’t remember, he was the third member of James’s group who was only hanging around with James and Victoria because it was safer for him to pretend to be on their side. Meyer’s changed her story abruptly again, though, seeing as “he’d had no compunctions, at the time, against making a meal of me.” Gee, based on what little I saw of him he seemed like an okay guy who was indeed pretending to side with two malicious vampires out of fear. He even said he’d go live with the other “good” vampires out in Alaska. He doesn’t have “the same golden eyes that the…Cullens--I forced the name out, wincing--had. That all good vampires had.” Because wild animals have less right to live than humans? It’s just when you put it like that…

(Update 5-15-11: Also, since a "good vampire" is defined as one who morally objects to feeding on humans, doesn't that mean they're not "anti-human"? I'm sorry to keep bringing that up, but I'm honestly not sure what Meyer meant by it)

Seeing Laurent is a sign of relief for Bella all the same. “Here was the connection I’d sought. The proof, however remote, that--somewhere in the same world where I lived--he did exist.” Where did she think that car stereo she pulled out and put in her closet came from, then?

7. Laurent tells her that Victoria’s gunning for her, because Edward killed her boyfriend, so she thinks it’s only fair she kill Edward’s girlfriend (or Edward’s “mate” as the characters insist on saying). Think about that. The great, wise Cullens didn’t think the other remorseless vampire they met might want to get even with them for killing James and left Bella all alone without settling things with Victoria. It sounds like they completely forgot she existed. Remember, the Cullens left Forks to protect Bella, and left yet another reminder of her old life around. One that can end her new life.

Bella hallucinates Edward at being around another vampire, and Bella's insanity tells her to lie that the Cullens are still around, but she doesn’t fool Laurent.

8. Anyway Laurent hopes Victoria won’t be too mad with him for killing Bella himself. She just smells so appetizing to vampires, remember. That’s still not a downside, because aside from that one time with Jasper the only times it induces vampires to try and kill her they would’ve tried to kill her anyway. Laurent’s not a good vampire, after all.

He doesn’t get the chance, of course. Right then a gigantic wolf and his gigantic wolf friends show up. Bella takes a second to realize they’re big wolves and not bears after all, which kind of runs contrary to the way Bella knew so much about the behavior of predatory animals when James’s group met the Cullens.

9. Laurent’s afraid to be confronted by a pack of huge wolves, which mystifies Bella. “What reason would a vampire have for fearing an animal?” For someone who knows vampires are real, Bella’s closed minded. Remember these wolves are so big people are mistaking them for bears, and it took her a second to recognize them as wolves in the first place. A regular wolf is nowhere near as big as a regular bear. That would kind of suggest something’s up with them. Maybe something…supernatural? Which might allow them to kill something that’s also supernatural? Something that a supernatural being would’ve heard about before?

I again doubt Bella’s knowledge of predators when she waits for “the wolves to turn on me, the much weaker of the available prey.” Maybe that’s why they’re focused on Laurent. He’s another predator in their territory and obviously a greater potential threat than the Codependent Emo Ranger.

10. A reddish brown wolf turns to look at Bella and “I suddenly thought of Jacob.” Take a wild guess why. This isn’t hard to figure out, it doesn’t warrant the space Meyer takes until she reveals the answer.

11. The wolves chase Laurent away and Bella still can’t wrap her headd around the fact that an entire pack of ginormous wolves might be a threat to a vampire. Vampires can be killed, she knows the Cullens killed James, right? She remembers when Edward mentioned committing suicide by provoking the Volturi, right? She remembers worrying the Cullens might get hurt in the process of protecting her and her family from James and Victoria, right?

She drives home and just to make this all more confusing, Bella knows what a jaybird sounds like and what a hemlock tree looks like. Maybe Jacob told her when they were looking for the meadow, but I still feel comfortable blaming an inconsistent author.

12. Once she gets home Bella decides to try honesty for once when Charlie asks what happened to make her all disheveled, and she says she didn’t really go study with one of her "friends," she went walking around in the woods and ran into the bears. Which Charlie has been informed by people who actually do know about animals are really big wolves.

Charlie asks after Jacob, and Bella replies he was still out with mono according to his dad. “It sounded like he was implying that I’d been lying to him this morning. About something besides studying with Jessica.” I thought Bella didn’t lie about Jessica because sooner or later Charlie would talk to Jessica’s mom and Bella would be caught. And Bella lying to Charlie, or to anyone? What a novel concept!

This time she’s innocent, because when Charlie went to hang out with somebody at La Push he saw Jacob up and about. Bella gets it into her head that Jacob didn’t call because he was confronting Sam about the recruitment of his whoever friend. It takes that to get her to open her mind to the possibility Jacob might have other priorities than hanging out with her, huh? Bella does pretty well, all things considered, huh?

13. Bella has a hard time getting to sleep knowing Victoria’s coming after her for revenge. “There was no place I could hide. There was no one who could help me.” Either because you push them away or they’re morons, Bells.

She pins her hopes on that outrageous chance of the huge wolves killing Laurent, and Victoria mistaking his demise for Bella still being under the Cullens’ protection. Even that only made them want to hunt her even more before.

“My good vampires were never coming back.” Kind of casts them in a different light now, huh?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


A lot of things have been going on for me over the last couple months. The biggest one is that I have a steady job again, which of course is going to limit the time I have to write. That and other things have forced me to prioritize what I do with my time, and so I think it's only fair to say the frequency of reviews is going to slow down. I'm going to try to stick to one New Moon chapter a week at the very least, until I get finished with that book. Currently, I don't plan on following up with Eclipse. There just doesn't seem to be enough hate anymore for me to do the entire series, though once again I might reconsider if people want it. Plus my Eclipse has an error cover and is thus kind of a collector's item, and so to review that I'd have to have another one, and I for one think I've given Stephenie Meyer too much of my money already. But hey, I changed my mind about continuing those reviews once.

I'll try to start doing cartoon reviews again too, if I can pick a Generation Z episode worth heckling, or find a whole new show worth heckling. Dino Squad's looking a little played out.

Also I want to finish up my original stories, Stellarman and Kamen Rider Altis. Sorry to anybody enjoying Kamen Rider Tarock, but I've put so much work into those other stories it seems kind of dumb not to finish them up. I'm not going to stop writing Tarock, but new chapters are going to be showing up slower than for the other stories. Goofus that I am, I'm even thinking about starting a new Sentai, once I get a good idea for one. We'll see what happens on that one.

Thanks to all my readers, wherever you read my stuff. You may not be the most talkative people out there, but I want you to know I appreciate each and every one of you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

New Moon Chapter 9: Third Wheel

1. Because she’s latched onto a new good-looking guy, “time began to trip along much more quickly than before,” and “Charlie got his wish: I wasn’t miserable anymore.” Sure, having a good friend or a romantic partner does a lot to invigorate your outlook on life. But when that’s the only reason you have for any kind of enthusiasm about anything, and you don’t seem to care about any of the particulars regarding who that person is…

Furthermore, “When I stopped to take stock of my life, which I tried not to do too often…” Because Bella’s supposed to be smart but doesn’t like to think, not just about this but pretty much anytime. Which boils down to not being smart after all.

Lending weight to that theory of mine that the source of Bella’s disappointment is thinking of everything in the most grandiose terms possible, she thinks of herself as a lost moon whose planet was destroyed but who hovers in the same area, “ignoring the laws of gravity.”

2. The search for Edward’s clearing continues, but Bella is either lying to herself or lying to the people she’s telling the story, because “I tried to live as much in the present as possible, no past fading, no future impending.” If that’s the case, then why did she throw “myself into the search for the meadow with slightly frenzied intensity,” since it’s to remind her of someone who she thinks is gone from her life forever?

The punch line to this contradiction being that Bella doesn’t realize it’s Valentine’s Day until Jacob tells her. “You can be so out of it sometimes,” he says, though of course one has to ask when she’s with it.

With Jacob giving her candy and asking her to be his valentine, Bella “was trying to think of some way to make the boundaries clear. Again. They seemed to get blurred a lot with Jacob.” Once again I must call attention to Bella’s failings as a narrator because I don’t remember hearing anything substantial about “boundaries” with him. I can imagine what they are, that she doesn’t want to connect with anyone because no one can ever fill the hole Edward left and it’ll only hurt to try, but I still don’t see why this isn’t being described better. Or at all.

Maybe Meyer’s being so vague because otherwise it’d be even more obvious Bella’s exploiting Jacob the way she exploits everyone else. Not that Bella makes any attempt to mask her contempt for the rest of her “friends” when she tries to distract Jacob by inviting him to see a movie with her and the others. After all, she likes “the the idea of having his company for the ordeal--I had promised Mike, but didn’t really feel any enthusiasm at the thought of following through--was just too tempting.” Emphasis mine. She even gives him permission to invite Quil along without asking the other kids. When Jacob replies Quil will flip over getting to hang out with senior girls, Bella even promises to “try to get him a good selection.”

Maybe Edward and Bella do have the deepest love of all time, but she’s still the most selfish, manipulative bitch I’ve ever been asked to root for.

3. When she discusses the movie trip with Mike, who’s hitting on her again because he apparently has the same standards Bella does, she stresses she wants to go with a group, to see an action movie. “I’d done my homework this time--even reading the movie spoilers to be sure I wouldn’t be caught off guard.” Because the last movie she saw turned out to be exactly what she thought it was going in. Huh? If it was about seeing a happy couple at the beginning of the movie making her think it was a romance, I still say that’s Bella failing for not knowing how romances generally work.

Also, she talked like she had already made plans with Mike when discussing this with Jacob, but makes it sound like this was something he knew nothing about when she mentions it to Mike.

He suggests some of their other inconsequential “friends” along as well, but Bella tells him she’s already invited some friends from La Push along to so they’ll need to use his family’s Suburban. What an entitled brat. I know she turned down or resisted gifts from Edward, but when that happened I got the feeling she was trying to tell him there was only one thing she really wanted from him and it wasn't any of those.

In the end just about everyone they thought about inviting has to bail on them anyway, even Jacob’s buddy. Since Bella only wanted them around as protection from Mike, she probably wasn’t too broken up. Except for not having that shield. Which she even admits when it turns out it’s just her, Jacob and Mike (nice of Meyer to name the chapter after him).

4. Before the trip, Mike asks if Bella really wants to see the action movie. Her response? “I’m in the mood for action. Bring on the blood and guts!” That must’ve sounded so fake in person…

5. When Jacob says Mike, he describes him as “The one who thought you were his girlfriend. Is he still confused?” Bella’s reply, “Some people are hard to discourage.” Look who's talking.

This was established the first time we saw Jacob, on the trip out to La Push in the first book, but man. Is it some kind of requirement that the guys in these books make fun of a perfectly nice guy who doesn’t have supernatural powers? Actually, it probably is what with that “anti-human” thing and the kind of guys Meyer evidently finds attractive. Once again, you have my deepest apologies that we’re not as appealing as creatures you made up, Steph.

What can it mean that a woman in her thirties is still writing like a teenager writing down stories to live out their fantasies, and her avatar is supposed to be so mature she was born thirty-five?

6. During the drive Mike’s dumbstruck to find out Bella doesn’t like music. Why not? Wasn’t one of the reasons she started liking Edward because they liked one of the same musicians? Did she stop listening to music because she can’t hear it without hearing Edward’s heartbreaking piano recital anymore? Do Bella’s interests change at whim because Meyer’s a bad writer? I don’t feel like I’m in the wrong for wanting the greatest novelist of our time to explain discrepancies. “Why doesn’t Bella like music anymore” isn’t the kind of thing you leave mysterious to be thought-provoking. At least the way it’s handled by Meyer, where it seems like she just forgot the thing about Clair de Lune from the last book.

Once they get to the theater, “I almost wished that Mike had decided to bow out. He was still sullen--not much of an addition to the party.” Ah-ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha HAH! He forgave your shit when you were like that, Miss Swan! Why in the hell should I want a happy ending for this character? She never grows as a character, she only thinks her life has improved when she finally gets to shed her reviled humanity.

Once they’re inside Bella “settled in to endure the two hours, watching the colors and the movement on the screen rather than seeing the shapes of people and cars and houses.” Did it even matter what movie they went to see, then?

7. During the experience Bella actually starts to watch the movie after Jacob laughs to her about how implausible the action is. “How was I ever going to fight the blurring lines in our relationship when I enjoyed being with him so much?” It’s called moving on with your life, Bella. It’s a sane thing to do, and it’s what Edward wanted for you when he left so his family wouldn’t try to eat you anymore like he warned you they’d be wanting to do since almost the minute he started talking to you in earnest.

I love how Meyer defends this. “I can only say that we all handle grief in our own way. Bella's way is no less valid than any other to my mind. “ It’s “no less valid” that she tries to avoid closing the book on that chapter of her life even though she’s accepted Edward’s gone and isn’t coming back.

We get some glimpse into why she’s starting to move closer to Jacob when he makes no illusions about her taste in cinema: “You sure can pick them, Bella. This movie really sucks.” Also when Mike leaves because all the simu-carnage has made him ill and Jacob mocks him for his weak stomach.

With the competition gone, Jacob put his arm around Bella’s shoulders and when she’s not comfortable with that, “wrapping his other hand around my wrist when I tried to pull away again. Where did he get the confidence from?” Confidence's source isn’t external for everybody, you know. Considering she’s shown an ability to understand people’s thoughts that defies everything we’ve heard about her personality and background, you’d think she’d know that.

8. Jacob asks for confirmation that Bella likes him, and she complies, but stresses that it’s only as a friend. He accepts that. “That’s okay, you know. As long as you like me the best. And you think I’m good-looking--sort of. I’m prepared to be annoyingly persistent.” At least he’s more upfront than Edward.

“I’m not going to change,” Bella insists, and tells Jacob he’s wasting his time trying to move things up with her, “though I wanted him to. Especially if he was willing to accept me the way I was--damaged goods, as is.” Because people never recover from break-ups, the damage really is as permanent as it seems the first time it happens. I've been in love. It didn’t work out, but I wasn’t thinking the void would never go away as long after the fact as it’s been for Bella . Know what Meyer, yes Bella is a wuss for still being in recovery.

Oh, someone might defend this by saying Edward’s so much more fantastic than any ordinary guy, it’s extra dispiriting to break up with him! Once again, that might be believable if we’d actually seen an attraction. Instead of our only assurance being the characters saying how deeply in love Edward and Bella are.

“Detractors of her reaction don't always take into account that I'm talking about true love here, rather than high school infatuation.” That’s the problem, Steph. You’re talking about it, not demonstrating it.

9. As you might remember, Mike’s sick to his stomach and “the salesgirl” at the concession stand begs them to get Mike outside. “She was obviously the one who would have to clean the floor.” And I guess she’s not the one who’d have to clean it up if he puked on the sidewalk outside. Maybe Meyer doesn’t know but somebody would still have to clean it up even if he didn’t empty his guts on the ground inside the theater. Think about how much business the theater could stand to lose if people came up and thought “look at all the hurl in front of the doors! And they’re just letting it sit there!”

On the way to the car Bella notices it’s really cold but Jacob doesn’t seem affected at all. “ ‘You must have a fever or something,’ I grumbled.” Hey, if he’s interested in Bella fever-induced delusions seem like a pretty reasonable explanation.

Bella talks some more to herself about how it’s not fair to let Jacob think they could become something more because she’ll never get over being dumped by Edward blah blah you’re right Steph don’t listen to all those nasty people these books are genius.

10. Bella tries to fool us into thinking she feels bad about what’s happening with Jacob: “Heaven knows I had never wanted to use Jacob, but I couldn’t help but interpret the guilt I now felt to mean that I had.”


She twisted him around her little finger to get him to tell her what his people knew about the Cullens. She got him to fix the motorcycles and teach her how to ride for her own (sick) reasons which she never told him. And she may honestly be so clueless about people she doesn’t realize it, but she’s latched onto him to give her existence meaning after it got harder to reconnect with the memory of Edward. How has she never wanted to use him? Unconscious urges count too. You don’t usually decide to want something.

As I was saying, “Even more, I had never meant to love him.” Exactly. You don’t decide to find someone appealing. Although with how unconvincing things were with Edward I wouldn’t put it past Bella.

“But I needed him now, needed him like a drug.” Oh, so he’s your brand of heroin? Why am I willing to let Ami and Yumi get away with that kind of romantic imagery but not Meyer?

And despite saying again and again that even Jacob’s affections can never repair her broken heart, Bella tells us she’s going to let him try anyway. An admission that she’s fixable by the right guy after all, or more proof that Bella’s a thoughtless bitch even to the few people she admits to liking?

11. Anyway, it turns out Mike puking his guts out was actually due to twenty-four-hour stomach flu. She calls Jacob when he doesn’t call, only to get his dad who says Jacob got sick too and wasn’t up to calling her. “Billy sounded distant. I realized he must want to be with Jacob.” I understand how parents being concerned for their children is probably a foreign concept to Bella, but geez…

She asks about coming over to see him, but, “ ‘No, no,’ Billy said very quickly. ‘We’re fine. Stay at your place.’ The way he said it was almost rude.” Don’t like the taste when it’s going down your throat, huh?

Bella spends most of the next day on the floor of the bathroom when she comes down with stomach flu too. “Charlie claimed he had to work, but I suspected that he just wanted access to a bathroom.” Bella’s not a wuss, huh? Yeah I’ve been sick plenty of times that involved semi-regular vomiting, but I didn’t spend the whole time in the bathroom, denying other people use, in case I needed to puke. My family put a bucket next to my bed instead.

Bella keeps a close eye on the time, waiting for her twenty-four hours of sickness to be up. It’s nice that life works along perfectly even terms like that, doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t, and I’m finding it easy to believe Bella, maybe even Meyer, doesn’t know that.

12. Bella calls Jacob to see how he’s doing, but he’s still sick. She apologizes for getting him stomach flu, but he tells her, “This isn’t your fault.” Gee, that’s so unlike the perfect boy she fights to remember.

She offers to come over, but he tells her not to. Because not everything is about her. Not really, but it's not something she ever needs to learn.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the reason Jacob’s still sick, the reason he’s never cold, and the reason the next time you see him he’ll be part of Sam Uley’s gang is because he hit werewolf puberty. I’d complain about how Meyer’s dragging the revelation out, but we actually get a glimpse of things happening next chapter.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Villains and Vigilantes - In Broad Daylight

***This review of an RPG adventure is for GMs’ eyes only***

With the revival of Villains & Vigilantes, the game’s original creators have started to get back in on the action themselves. Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, who claim to have dreamed up the game as a means to settle which comic book characters could beat other comic book characters, also did some work for V&V’s early modules. With the V&V archives at Fantasy Games Unlimited being opened up again after all these years, Jack and Jeff are together again coming up with new stuff like an updated rule book and this, a new adventure that’s compatible with V&V, or the Living Legends game Jeff came up with after striking out on his own.

I was a little leery coming into this one, since the only module Dee and Herman worked on together was Crisis At Crusader Citadel, which gave us V&V’s iconic characters but also pioneered the “introductory encounter, fight with villains, track villains to lair for final battle” formula that defined a lot of V&V’s premade adventures. But hey, that was about thirty years ago, right?

Indeed it has been. Things start with the heroes being contacted by a modeling agency. It’s not what you’re thinking, though. One of their girls disappeared at the climax of a bungee jump off the Chrysler Building and they’re looking for experts in the unusual to investigate the matter. Gotta say, that’s a new way to get PC’s involved on me.

After that, the emphasis is on investigation of the disappearance and related unusual phenomena. It’s a well-constructed mystery, really, but has to be run with a group that’s good at keeping track of details. I usually haven’t had the privilege of gaming in groups like that. But come on, being a superhero isn’t about dealing out super-powered punches to the face all the time, and it’s good to see Jeff and Jack acting on that.

It does require super-battles every once in a while to keep things energetic, though, and In Broad Daylight doesn’t lag there. In fact between the villains, monsters, discovering the fate of the model, an unusual bank robbery and a secondary objective to save the life of a young metahuman, this a pretty busy module. There’s just enough going on for it to be fun and make the mystery that much more satisfying without being crowded, though. Although once again, it requires a certain kind of player to work right.

Ah, the villains. Overall, they’re a pretty solid team, but if I were ever to run this adventure you can bet I’d think of a better name than “Refuseniks” before I did. Even if it is rather appropriate with them having their secret base underneath a giant garbage heap. The concepts behind some of the…*sigh* Refuseniks are interesting, for all that. While a villain whose power is making killer toys is nothing new, the killer mermaid was a welcome surprise, as was the villain who’s basically an anthropomorphic disease.

Packed in with the module is a set of six pre-generated heroes, the Indestructibles, who as the authors are happy to point out appeared on early editions of the V&V rulebook.

They’re mainly intended as a ready-made group of PC’s, and they work fine for that. Tactically they represent a solid combination of powers, but perhaps more importantly, an interesting combination of personalities and backgrounds that could get good role players going off one another. The leader’s the son of another famous hero, for one thing, and another’s a Valkyrie on a search for a magic ring. Also, I liked that it mentioned the professional skills they have, which does something to answer a question about NPC heroes I felt V&V had been failing to answer for a long time: what do these guys do when they’re not saving the world? To my relief, books like this and Vigilantes International are bothering to think a little about that now.

But for all the cool possibilities they represent, I lost a lot of respect for the Gunsmith character because his backstory involves the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard in anything superhero-related: his father was shot in the groin and the bullet passed into a woman behind him, resulting in conception. I wasn't really that surprised to download the new rulebook, and see that in the example of play he got the crap kicked out of him (by, admittedly, a very formidable villain).

For that matter, the disparities in experience levels might cause some balking when the guy playing Blastar wonders why his buddy playing Armorman Jr. starts the game five levels higher than him.

The inclusion of the team heightens the feeling that parts of this adventure are screaming out to be expanded on in later material. For one thing, the Indestructibles are the heroes of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Did Shatterman and Condor from the comics apply to them before the Crusaders? When the players are summoned to New York to investigate the disappearance, the issue’s bound to come up of where all the local heroes are during this. The module even names the city’s main team (the Progeny) and explains why they’re not around (they’re in the middle of an annual “time out” where they focus on charity and solo work), pretty heavily implying harder details exist for these guys in the authors’ minds. Heck, if the players don’t manage to recover the means to save the metahuman child, the hero Axiom--who even showed up in insert art in the new rulebook--will fly to the other side of the planet and bring back a spare just in time. Could a universe book be in the offing?

They just know we're begging to hear more about this guy.

A lot of hard work obviously went into this adventure, and it’s plain how much Jeff and Jack have evolved since the 80’s (although I’ll admit there’s a part of me that misses the civilian names based on the hero names from their early stuff). If you know some players who wouldn’t mind more mystery than mayhem, this one comes highly recommend.