Monday, July 18, 2011

Villains and Vigilantes - Great Bridge

As noted in my review of The Centerville Incident, it was probably inevitable that anime influences would start finding their way into the new material for a superhero RPG with a loose universe like V&V’s. So it wasn’t really a surprise to see one of V&V’s trademark villain books released with a selection of anime-inspired malcontents for your campaign’s heroes to battle should the GM come up with a reason for them to be in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The whole thing seemed a little lazy to me, though. For one thing, not counting servants or alter egos or even power suits used by other listed characters like the roll call on the “back” does, it contains 20 villains. Whereas the previous villain books for the system have always had 30. Also, while the idea behind the book is the villain profiles are taken from the files of the Department-88 agency, D-88 just sounds like a Japanese version of CHESS from the rulebook, with samurai-esque names for ranks replacing the chess piece-based one (ronin, bushi, samurai, shogun, etc.).

The villains themselves will look very familiar to anyone who’s up on their anime. Maybe a little too much. There’s a robot built by a scientist to replace his dead son, a kid whose power is owning a bunch of monsters in little containers, a catgirl, a bishonen, two characters in mech-suits and frankly something of an overabundance of embittered otaku given powers through contact with a mystical object considering how few characters the book contains in the first place (four, maybe five if you count the bullied kid who found the monster boxes). Including a withdrawn overweight guy who turns into a feisty super-strong girl, and one whose powers come from her school uniform and is afraid of perverts seeing her panties.

For that matter, given the tone taken toward the book as being a dossier on file at an anti-supervillain organization, I don’t really get why it’s specified Agent Stone was in her underwear when she got the offer from the guy willing to give her a more exciting career (especially how Department-88 would know that and think it worthy of mention).

Maybe I’m taking this book too seriously, though. After all, on the table of contents there’s a little blurb in the bottom left supposedly from D-88 correcting Americans on various cultural gaffes like the proper way to eat sushi and that geisha =/= prostitute. It even shows the Japanese are capable of cultural errors by thinking the phrase is “when in Greece.” Since this book was put together by Americans, though, it falls kind of flat as a joke.

And while I’m still on the subject of culture, was it some kind of comment on how we’re Not So Different that the markers for the American and Japanese reporters in The Centerville Incident were just recolored versions of each other?

But back to Great Bridge, as with The Centerville Incident I’m just not that impressed with the characters inside, and I blame that mainly on not automatically being impressed by anime-style art anymore. Few of the characters inside fired my imagination or held my attention for long. Plus, the creators added another qualifier to their target audience, which already included “superhero fan” and “gamer,” and with this now also included “anime fan.” And I just don't imagine there are many people who are still fans of a game that's been dormant since the late 80's that are excited by the sheer existence of anime.

And to harp on D-88 again, the ranking system sounds like it was written by a fanboy who watched a couple Lone Wolf and Cub movies and wrote down all the "ethnic" words they heard. That kind of stuff was sort of okay back in the days of Search for the Sensei and Enter the Dragon's Claw: Honor, when we were excited about ninja but knew nothing but what brainless action movies told us about them, but seems kind of lame here in 2011.

It makes me think of a Champions product called USA-50 West, where, bland as it was, they specifically made a point not to make each state's local hero some kind of ridiculous stereotype based on the area. I had respect for that, if nothing else.

Characters are trite, you only get 2/3 as many as usual, and if you want to run an anime-themed RPG, you probably already have one. Not recommending this one.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Moon Chapter 23 - The Truth

1. The chapter opens with Bella spending way too much time talking about dreams of her recent experiences. Noting, of course, that “It was the angel that was most clear.” She wakes up to, of course, find Edward there, and, of course, decide he’s not really there and just enjoy the delusions. There’s a difference between “imperfect” and “insufferable,” Meyer.

I’m not blowing anyone’s mind by saying this, but it really is Edward and yeah, he really is still interested in Bella. “Did I frighten you?” he asks upon seeing her awake. Look at what she did to hang onto the memories, dude.

Bella even starts jabbering about how she must be dead. “But I can’t imagine what you could have done to wind up in hell. Did you commit many murders while I was away?” Look at my little list of what she did, you might get a few ideas that’ll get her invited to Satan’s next luau.

“Obviously not. If I was in hell, you wouldn’t be with me.” Oh yes, because he’s such a beacon of right and morality. Because killing yourself over someone is a sign of the truest devotion, not an indication that you’re disturbed and insecure with the knowledge that they loved you. Let’s have a chapter full of this maudlin crap, please!

2. In fact, while I’ve still got the chance to talk about the love suicides of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, can I point out something else worrisome I’m not sure the author’s aware of? Check out the dedication from Eclipse.

I don’t mean to downplay the kind of devotion where someone’s willing to give their life for the sake of someone they love. That’s the greatest kind of devotion in the world. But setting out to kill yourself over the death of a loved one and being willing to lay down your life for a loved one aren’t the same thing. At all. And with how killing themselves to escape a world without the other's portrayed as an act of overwhelming devotion, I don't know that the author knows that.

 3. They talk some about how Bella’s an idiot and one manifestation of that is she’s surprised to hear Charlie’s banned Edward from the house. Which obviously won’t stop our pure respectful hero or they wouldn’t be having this conversation.

“I was going to have a few words with my father--perhaps it would be a good time to remind him that I was over the legal age of adulthood.” Maybe he forgets because she never acts like it. And to think she was fighting that little fact so hard at the beginning of the book. I’d say it means Bella’s grown a little, but it’s just another example of anything to be with Edward. She was like that from the moment she fixated on him. She still whines about the passage of time on her when Edward tries to hold off on her becoming a vampire.

4. This chapter devolves into yet another excruciating gabfest between our leads. Seriously, do we need all this space to wind things down?

Edward says he owes her an apology for doing what he did, “No, of course I owe you much, much more than that.” Does he? Look, if his presence in her life is the only thing keeping her from going on a suicidal spree and vice versa, well…That’s not completing someone. And it certainly isn’t anything to be happy about or apologize for taking way. The person who’d do that needs help.

5. Edward also apologizes for forgetting about Victoria, saying “I just didn’t see that she had this kind of response in her. That she had such a tie to him.” So his telepathy isn’t so great after all if he couldn’t predict that, or maybe he’s come to rely on that so much he never thought that maybe the evil vampire predator lady person who was the girlfriend of the guy who wanted to hunt Bella for fun might want to get even. Or finish the game. Or something. No matter how you slice it, Edward’s still a moron for leaving Bella to start a new life without him without doing something about Victoria.

That’s nothing compared to her hanging out with Jacob and his buddies, though. I mean, “when I realized that you had to put your life in the hands of werewolves, immature, volatile, the worst thing out there besides Victoria herself”…Oh yeah, vampires are so much better, Mr. Vampires Are Easily Distracted, Mr. I Have The Urge To Feast On My Own Girlfriend, Mr. I Skipped Town Because My Brother Gave Into The Urge To Feast On My Girlfriend, Mr. I Forgot My Sister Hates My Girlfriend And Turned To Assisted Suicide.

6. Oh, it gets better. Bella tries to get Edward not to blame himself for what happened. “You can’t take responsibility for the things that happen to me here. None of it is your fault, it’s just part of how life is for me So, if I trip in front of a bus or whatever it is next time, you have to realize it’s not your job to take the blame.” I guess that’s not his job, but I would be off-base in saying the near-misses she had with death after he left were of her own making? Nothing accidental about any of them?

This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about when I say I can’t trust the narrator. She’s either an idiot or a liar, and if it’s the latter remember this is the guy she thinks is her soul mate. The truest love she’ll ever have, that anyone can ever have. And if she’s lying, it sounds like she wants him to stop brooding so they can get back to their non-sexual private time. Or talk about when she gets her own sparkles.

“I know it’s your…your nature to shoulder the blame for everything.” Is that why they get along so well?

7. Edward comes back with this: “Do you believe that I asked the Volturi to kill me because I felt guilty?” He would’ve done that even if he hadn’t felt responsible for enabling Bella’s death in some fashion, he says.

“Obviously, I should have been more careful--I should have spoken to Alice directly, rather than accepting it secondhand from Rosalie. But, really, what was I supposed to think when the boy said Charlie was at the funeral?” That some weirdo he didn’t know and had no reason to trust was answering the phone in Bella’s house? And giving really vague answers, to boot? I’m sorry, Edward’s still a reactive idiot. If he had kept his cool and asked whose funeral, or asked to get in touch with Charlie because Carlisle thought he left the gas on so he could ask, none of that would’ve needed to happen.

“I’ll never criticize Romeo again,” Edward adds, evidently realizing he’s just as able to make bad judgment calls as that tragic hero of yore. Edward honestly doesn't think Charlie knows anyone whose funeral he'd be willing to attend other than his daughter's??

8. Hope you’re sitting down for this next one but it turns out Edward DIDN’T ask the Volturi to kill him because he felt responsible for Bella’s supposed death which he didn’t bother to confirm. He did it because he doesn’t want to live in a world without her. He still cares after all…oh wait, you already knew that? Yeah, me too.

That she believed him when he said he didn’t want her anymore, “That was…excruciating.” So don’t go out with a moron, moron.

“I hoped that, if you though I’d moved on, so would you.” He doesn’t know her very well, does he? Which makes the idea that their relationship will still be going strong when all the human characters are dead and buried a little problematic. And I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re meant to think from “I have always loved you, and I will always love you.”

Of course Bella’s never been able to accept that, even when times were so good. “It never made sense for you to love me.” I don’t feel like looking back to find out when it was, but didn’t she decide that love isn’t something that lends itself to logical thinking?

Reinforcing that word I’ve been using to describe him throughout this chapter, Edward asks down the page if Bella really has moved on like he intended. Oh yes, that’s why she dropped everything to hop a plane to Italy and risk certain death at the hands of the rulers of the world’s vampires to save his life. Because she’s moved on.

9. They do some back-together making out. Edward decides to stick around, partly because “It seems you can’t be safe, no matter how many miles I put between us.” Oh you mean all those things she did on purpose to trick herself into hallucinating his voice? Like she said she was willing to do to keep him close in the last book, before they were even a serious item?

10. To seal the deal Edward talks about how his life was like a moonless night but when she entered it “Suddenly everything was on fire, there was brilliancy, there was beauty” and it was gone after he left her. You’re still just saying they’re in love, Meyer, not what makes them such a good match. Let alone showing it. I’ve played hentai games where the love between two characters was more believable.

Bella’s an even bigger twit than I thought. “I wanted to believe him. But this was my life without him that he was describing, not the other way around.” If this is such a tale of boundless passion, why couldn’t it be the same? Does she not trust Edward despite loving him so much? What kind of idiot is she? Actually, I’ve already answered that question many times.

11. Back to the issue of Victoria and the Cullens’ incompetence. Edward claims that while he was away, he actually was hunting Victoria down but she sent him on a wild goose chase to Brazil, presumably looking for her on the west coast. Have those predatory instincts gotten rusty living among normal people, or is he just useless in general?

Like I’ve mentioned, the sighting of Victoria’s hair has been her only actual appearance in this entire book, and she wasn’t given much to do in the last one. We haven’t seen her do much to seem like a fearsome foe. However, we have seen Edward do a bunch of stupid things that didn’t work, in both books. He failed to scare Bella into staying away from him, his plan to protect her by leaving backfired when she started endangering herself on purpose, and he failed to anticipate Victoria wanting revenge and failed to find her trail when he did bother to think of it. I’m finding it harder to understand his appeal as this powerful inhuman creature with all the things Meyer’s doing to keep her story on track and keep Victoria as a viable menace.

Bella of course can’t bear to picture Edward trying to fight Victoria even with all of his family helping him, but after what he just admitted that’s easier to understand.

12. They discuss the threats of the various other supernatural creatures figuring into their lives now, but Edward thinks the Volturi aren’t as big a threat to Bella as Victoria. “Time means something very different to them than it does to you, or even me. They count years the way you count days. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were thirty before you crossed their minds again.” If you guessed the thought of ever being thirty horrified Bella, give yourself a cookie. Or read a smarter book.

Likewise, she’s horrified because she thinks that DESPITE EVERYTHING HE JUST SAID ABOUT LOVING HER FOREVER, having AN EVIL VAMPIRE THAT OUTWITTED HIM ALREADY after her, and that by leaving her mortal he’d eventually be CONDEMNING HER TO DEATH AT THE VOLTURI’S HANDS, he doesn’t plan on sticking around. This is dumb, Meyer. Isn’t Bella supposed to be smart? Smarter than her mortal “friends”?

He promises he won’t leave her, “but I will not destroy your soul.” Bella plays up her mortality, “But what about when I get so old that people think I’m your mother? Your grandmother?” Remember that dream sequence back at the start of the book? Yeah, me too. Not a whole lot happened for 519 pages.

Since when the hell does she care what other people think unless it impacts how easily she can get favors from them? And with Edward around and having access to anything money can buy, what would that matter to her?

This is kind of like the happenings over summer break. Maybe if we actually got to see Bella hanging out with her mortal “friends” and see that she really does care about them (and not flat-out admitting she doesn’t) and what they think of her, and not just see them as vehicles for favors, this wouldn’t sound like she was saying whatever she thought she needed to say to get what she wanted. Out of her true love, no less.

Anyway, Edward tells her that doesn’t mean anything to him, and because I want to get this stupid book over with I’ll assume he actually can see beyond the surface. Even if I’m not sure I want to know what he sees.

13. Asking once again about the Volturi, Edward replies he has “a few plans.” Which isn’t too compelling with how he dropped the ball with Victoria not once but twice now. Although of course Bella focuses more on the fact that they don’t involve her becoming a sparkly freak like him.

14. Bella claims “This isn’t just about you anymore. You’re not the center of the universe, you know.” Pardon me, won’t you? I need a second.

Ah-hahahahahahahahahahahaha ha ha ha HAW ha hahahahahahahahaha ha ha…ha…ha…ha…you stupid lying delusional bitchbag. Decide for yourself if I mean the narrator or author.

Edward’s totally the center of her universe. When he was gone everything revolved around making sure she remembered him. When she heard he was trying to kill himself, the only thing that mattered was stopping him, even if it meant destroying what was developing between her and Jacob. Don’t try to tell me the overriding reason she wants to become a vampire isn’t because she wants to be able to admire his prettiness for eternity.

The chapter closes out on Bella telling Edward to take her to meet with the rest of the Cullens. She’s going to call a vote for her becoming a vampire. Did we need to take all those pages to be able to close on that?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Moon Chatper 22 - Flight

1. With the disappointing climax to Edward’s attempted suicide and disappointing revelation of the vampires nobody messes with behind us, we’re treated to more of the author trying to get us to remember the lesser members of the Volturi and their support staff. “Demetri left us in the cheerfully opulent reception area, where the woman Gianna was still at her post behind the polished counter.”

Lots of villains have “faceless goons” for a reason, Steph.

2. Demetri warns them not to leave until dark. “Gianna did not seem at all surprised by the exchange, though she did eye Edward’s borrowed cloak with shrewd speculation.” She does work for vampires and know it, you know. Edward did try to argue for Bella’s survival based on Gianna’s knowledge which made the Volturi big sparkly hypocrites, remember?

Edward’s “voice was rough--if velvet can be rough”. Oh shut up about it already! “Still stressed by our situation, I imagined.” Gee, you think? Not that I really see why after meeting the Volturi, but they were supposed to have come that close to dying after finding each other again.

Alice points out “She’s going to pieces,” but I’ve seen nothing to indicate Bella was ever that together even when Edward was around.

“I knew it was stupid to react like this. Who knew how much time I had to look at his face? He was saved, and I was saved, and he could leave me as soon as we were free. To have my eyes so filled with tears that I could not see his features clearly was wasteful--insanity.” So why stop now?

And yeah, it’s still a total impossibility that Edward doesn’t care about her and is going to move on as soon as he’s in the clear. Even though he got his ass kicked trying to save her from Dakota Fanning’s power, argued for Bella’s survival, and would be going back on arguing for her survival by abandoning her because she knows too much and the Volturi will kill her if she doesn’t become a vampire herself.

3. It’s established that the Volturi eat some of the attendees of that big festival Bella had to run through, and I  have to wonder about the city’s reputation for safety and the festival getting such a big turnout if there are people who go there and are never seen again every year.

4. Anyway, Edward confirms that the receptionist knows she works for vampires and is hoping they’ll decide to make her one of them. Bella has possibly her most idiotic reaction yet. “I felt the blood leave my face. ‘She wants to be one of them?’ ”

So does she. She wants all the beauty and immortality that would respectively make her worthy of Edward and able to hang onto this thing she has with him forever (because when vampires love, it’s forever. Because Steph says so). The attendant power would also allow her to keep up with him when he gets “distracted.” Yeah Bella’s really shocked that the receptionist would want to be one of those…*snort, snicker* terrifying monsters, but wasn’t it our heroine who said “It’s not what you are, stupid, it’s what you do!”? The Volturi are such good friends with Carlisle, would they have a problem with some of their members mimicking his dietary habits?

Bella’s doubts about Edward don’t even flicker when he tells her there’s reasons to be happy. Such as “And we’re together.” Fuck her.

Alice adds “The outlook is quite good,” and she’ll get to see Jasper in 24 hours. “Lucky Alice. She could trust her future.” Could she? Stop writing it as fallible and reliable, Meyer.

Man, this is boring. I know that was supposed to be the exciting climax in the last chapter but it wasn’t, and we don’t need a breather that lasts as long as this. Like I keep saying the heavy stuff would be a lot more effective if Bella didn’t make it sound like everything was the end of the world.

5. Alice and Edward start talking about how they’ll get home. “It sounded like more theft would be involved, though. I wondered idly if the yellow Porsche had made its way back to its owner yet.” If it hasn’t even been a day and Alice is still there with them, probably not. Imbecile.

For that matter, am I really supposed to like the Cullens when they’re so cavalier about stealing and destroying other people’s property? Remember the ballet studio from the last book? Why was that necessary again? With their bottomless bank accounts, couldn’t they just rent a car or take a cab back to wherever they’re catching a plane back to the states? Is killing the only thing they have scruples about? They’re not even in a hurry to save someone’s life now.

6. There’s some lame blather about how Bella’s even more special because she’s what vampires call a singer, in that her blood sings to Edward. Let her be special for something she does, Meyer. Not something she just is, something she just has.

Bella feels the urge to sleep, but isn’t willing to waste a second of the time she has with Edward. “It was heaven--right smack dab in the middle of hell.” Nothing’s happening, Meyer. Stop dramatizing this.

No, really. The receptionist tells them “pleasantly” how to get out of the building and “Alice shot her a dark look.” Why must you make it so hard for me to find one character
in your books I can stand, Steph?

Alice does steal a car, and apologizes that it’s not that luxurious. Why, Steph? Yeah, I guess somebody who can afford a car like the one they stole to get to Volterra can probably replace it without feeling much of a hit to their pocketbook, but again, so could the Cullens.

Bella’s surprised when Edward joins her in the back rather than driving because she apparently didn’t hear him say he was grateful to be back together with her. Just now. They don’t talk, they just cuddle.

7. After showing she is capable of breezing over things, on the flight back to the USA Bella asks for a Coke and Edward expresses disapproval. “He knew my low tolerance for caffeine.” Which is why he insisted she drink Coke after he saved her from the rapists that time in Port Angeles, as a means of helping her settle herself. When he’d be stuck next to her in a vehicle for the trip home too. Which really didn’t make her that hyper or anything. She shuts him up by saying she’ll have nightmares if she goes to sleep.

When they get back, the Cullens meet them. “Esme reached for me, hugging me fiercely, yet awkwardly, because Edward kept his arms around me too.”

What am I supposed to think of Bella? As I probably don’t have to say, I think of her as a miserable whiner who doesn’t do anything to deserve all the favor the author gives her. She certainly doesn’t earn it, and while Meyer can defend that by saying there’s no way a normal human could compete with all these supernatural creatures, that’s no reason Bella has to be a complete and utter emotional weakling too.

She doesn’t seem like a good person underneath it all who just refuses to see the light struggling to shine out, either. She looks down on most of her “friends,” does things like crash motorcycles and throw herself off cliffs and is perfectly willing to throw her life away in order to hallucinate that perfect boy she’ll never see again, she barely even acknowledges the possibility that boy wants her back after all even though HE WAS GOING TO KILL HIMSELF TOO in order to escape a world without her and is showing her signs of gratitude at being reunited and…damn.

When everyone crowds around and is all “thank God you’re all right we were so worried  we totally owe you for saving Edward,” it feels like more of that shit where a vampire had the power to see the intensity of relationships. Rather than actually demonstrate how in love they are and how Bella really is a good person with a bad self-image, all the information we get makes her seem unstable, and given all this positive regard just because the author says so.

8. Further demonstrating how bad Meyer is at actually having things happen in her books, Rosalie feels “awful” about saying Bella was dead. Bella didn’t have to lift a finger to start resolving things between her and the only Cullen who had any serious problems with her, it just happens. Yeah, Rosalie should feel bad about that, but when Bella gets all this crap for free already…

Fudge, Bella even forgives Rosalie because she was the one who jumped off the cliff in the first place. That has nothing to do with anything. Rosalie said Bella was dead, presumably out of her (justifiable) hatred of our narrator.

9. Edward delivers a half-conscious Bella home, and Charlie’s peeved to see Edward with his daughter. “I can’t believe you have the nerve to show your face around here.” Yeah, usually he just sneaks in. Which is heartwarming. Or something. In fact, when Bella starts to panic at losing touch with Edward so soon, he whispers a promise to meet her upstairs in a minute.

That’s not touching just because you say so, Steph. And you know what, yeah, maybe your books are lacking something if thinking about them reveals a bunch of problems with how things are supposed to be. Even if it’s a fantasy.

10. The big climax came last chapter. Why does there need to be two more chapters and an epilogue? I don't mean we could just stop the book here, that would be even more awkward. But do we really need 63 more pages to wrap things up? Was there a certain page count in your contract, Steph?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Moon Chapter 21 - Verdict

1. They’re led out of the sewers into a brightly-lit hall. “This hall seemed very benign after the gloom of the ghoulish stone sewers. Edward didn’t seem to agree with my assessment. He glowered darkly down the long hallway.”

He does that when Bella just insists on sticking to her own opinion. On the other hand, he does know what they’re about to face. And so does, Bella, come to think of it, since she’s been told in some considerable detail how powerful the Volturi are, and how they don’t put up with crap from anybody else in the vampire world. So yeah, once again Bella’s seeming like she doesn’t get much use out of her vaunted brain. In the end she does seem to get it, since “I cowered in the corner, cringing against Edward.”

2. They meet the Volturi’s receptionist, apparently. “I gawked in astonishment at the woman behind it…She would have been very pretty in any other company--but not here.” Because becoming a vampire makes you gorgeous yeah yeah yeah you’ve told us 10,011 times.

We learn the lady’s name is Gianna, and we soon meet another vampire, Alec, who “could have been Jane’s twin.” Which he is, but I’m still mystified by the way Steph throws all these characters at us like the specifics matter for anything. To give you an idea of just how populous the Meyerverse is, The Official Illustrated Guide is 543 pages long. Pages 84-401 are made up of Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe-esque character profiles. I’m not even going to get into how many of those profiled characters actually receive appreciable attention in the books themselves, let alone which ones would’ve made for more interesting books. Like the cleaning lady from Breaking Dawn.

Although I will say that I instantly liked Alec a little for this. “Alec chuckled, and examined me as I clung to Edward’s side. ‘And this is the cause of all the trouble?’ he asked, skeptical.”

3. Felix (Felix?) calls dibs on Bella, but Alice cautions Edward not to do anything rash. I love how in an interview in The Official Illustrated Guide, Meyer said “Here you have Edward, someone who overthinks everything…” Which is totally demonstrated by how he’s forgone thinking through a problem at every single damn opportunity in this book. He abandoned Bella because he couldn’t think of a way to guarantee her safety (like maybe not forcing her to attend gatherings where everyone else is a vampire), and one sort of gets the feeling he didn’t even bother what with his overly dramatic tendencies. Hell, the Cullens had pulled up stakes and were gone within two days, kind of doubt a lot of time was spent thinking and discussing solutions. He immediately believed word that Bella was dead, and here he was about to throw good sense to the winds in a situation he couldn’t possibly fight his way out of because one guy said something he didn’t like until Alice stopped him.

“They exchanged a long glance, and I wished I could hear what she was telling him.” Because he’s reading her mind, get it? But you shouldn’t have to stop and think about the meaning of a sentence conveying something like two characters communicating something. Edward’s been gone for practically the entire book, and yeah I remember his mind-reading thing, and Bella might not be but I’m still getting used to him being around again. This is kind of jarring.

4. Then they enter into the meeting room of the Volturi themselves, and again we’re reminded of things like how vampires are sparkly and pretty and even the Cullens don’t compare. “He drifted forward, and the movement flowed with such surreal grace that I gawked, my mouth hanging open. Even Alice, whose every motion looked like dancing, could not compare.”

Unfortunately for the series this is also where it becomes really hard to take the Volturi seriously. The reason is the Volturi member who leads the interactions the most during Bella’s first meeting with them: Aro.

Now, from that picture you might think that Aro could either be a dangerous killer who projects a pleasant fa├žade, or a mincing little sparkly pixie. I know which one you’re supposed to think, but throughout this he claps his hands and uses words like “delightful” and “wonderful” and is so endlessly fascinated with Bella (what else is new?) and does absolutely nothing to substantiate everything we’ve heard about how they’ll end you if you contravene their rules…I kept waiting for him to clap, laugh, throw his arms wide and exclaim “Simply maaaaaaaaaaaaahvelous!”

It all gets started with how he greets them: “ ‘And Alice and Bella, too!’ he rejoiced, clapping his thin hands together. ‘This is a happy surprise! Wonderful!’ ” And after confirming that Edward’s grateful they didn’t kill him, Aro adds “I love a happy ending.”

I’m sorry, but Aro comes across as a slightly effete but harmless eccentric, not the leader of the bloodthirsty enforcers of vampire law.

5. Also, there’s this.

Aro: “Your brother seemed to think you infallible, but apparently there was some mistake.”
Alice: “Oh, I’m far from infallible.”
Aro: “You’re too modest. I’ve seen some of your more amazing exploits, and I must admit I’ve never observed anything like your talent. Wonderful!”

Well I have, and I’m still waiting for a consistent description of her power and its limitations before I’m willing to declare myself impressed.

6. Aro reveals his special vampire power then. It’s a lot like Edward’s, “only I am limited in a way that he is not.” Edward has one up on the all-powerful vampire enforcers. Isn’t that great.

However, rather than hearing what a person’s thinking right at that moment, “Aro hears every thought your mind has ever had.” I’m not sure Meyer realizes how many that is, somewhere between “uncountable” and “don’t even bother.” According to The Official Illustrated Guide, Aro’s been around since roughly 1300 B.C. Wouldn’t he have enough trouble just keeping track of his own lifetime worth of thoughts and memories? Let alone those of anyone and everyone he touches? I don’t think Steph understands how daunting it is to process and retain a ton of information all at once, or how part of the reason your memory stops working so well as you get older is there’s so much stuff in your brain by then. And the people we’re talking about have ages ranging into centuries.

I admit that’s something that doesn’t usually bother me in other fiction involving vampires, but then that other fiction tends to downplay the godliness of vampires by a lot compared to Meyer’s work.

7. Speaking of annoying overemphasis, everybody turns to look at something, but “I was the slowest to turn.” Yes, you’re a worthless stupid slow human. We get it. Just like vampires are beautiful powerful perfect things.

It’s just the rest of the Volturi showing up, even though them having individual identities will largely be as pointless as most of other characters having identities too. If nothing else it confirms that these are the guys from Carlisle’s painting if you can remember a detail like that from the first book.

Oh, and as they enter Aro gushes some more: “ ‘Marcus, Caius, look!’ Aro crooned. “Bella is alive after all, and Alice is here with her! Isn’t that wonderful?’ ” Am I riding this bit too much that I think Meyer forgot to mention him giggling after he said that?

“Their lack of interest did not curb Aro’s enjoyment.” Just wait til you get to know her, guys. You’ll be even less interested.

8. Then in the course of a single page, Bella manages to confuse her opinion on vampires twice. First we have this: “Aro raised one black brow. I wondered how his papery skin did not crumple in the effort.” Because you’ve spent the entire book talking about how vampires are invincible and all-powerful and how you wanted to be one, mainly because of that? Mainly because that was the only way you'd feel worthy of someone like Edward?

Then at the bottom of 470 we have this: “The idea of any vampire needing a guard was faintly ridiculous to me.” Me too, with the way she’s been rhapsodizing about how nobody, not even an entire pack of werewolves, is a match for a single vampire. Which is it, Miss Swan?

9. And then, probably the most retarded if not the laziest thing in the entire book happens. We find out the power of one of the other Volturi (Marcus if you care): he can see the strength of people’s relationships. “He’s surprised by the intensity of ours,” Edward explains. “It takes quite a bit to surprise Marcus, I can assure you,” Aro adds. “I looked at Marcus’s dead face, and I believed that.”

Christ on a minibike, are you kidding me Meyer? You had to give one of the vampire enforcers the power to validate Bella and Edward’s relationship? As opposed to including it in the books? That the depth of this love has yet to be believably shown makes this particular declaration sound even more stupid and desperate than the usual “take our word for it” crap about the strength of Bella and Edward’s twu luv.

And seriously, the Volturi’s powers are supposed to be even more awesome than the Cullens’, and one of them is “see the strength of relationships”? Their reputation’s getting harder to buy all the time.

10. Aro thinks about how Edward reminds him so much of Carlisle, “only he was not so angry.”

“Carlisle outshines me in many other ways as well.” Somehow I get the feeling Carlisle didn’t sneak into Esme’s bedroom.

Aro praises Edward’s awesomeness in being able to resist the call of Bella’s blood (thank an inept author for that. But then, thank an inept author for everything in these books). He also finds it so terribly interesting that Bella’s immune to Edward’s way with minds. With her permission, he tries to work his own little mind-reading magic on Bella as well. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you it doesn’t work. It doesn’t even work when Dakota Fanning tries to use her power, which is to inflict agonizing pain with a look.

Maybe it’s time to stop lying about how awesome Bella is too? I mean, all this awesomeness is tiring, but so’s Bella’s whining when she obviously is pretty and the object of desire of so many people and worthy of the love of an immortal pretty boy. She hasn’t even had her innate ability amped up by being turned into a vampire yet, and already she’s immune to the abilities of supposedly the most threatening and powerful vampires in the world. Bella being incredibly awesome too would be kind of annoying, but at least it would be less annoying than her constant wallowing in images of worthlessness.

It was kind of satisfying to see Edward rushing to stop Dakota Fanning from using her power on Bella and getting his ass beat down, though.

11. Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, where the Volturi decide the idiots’ fate. Aro offers membership to Edward and Alice, citing the usefulness of their powers, then surprises everyone by doing the same to Bella. What makes her “a prospective talent so promising”? What would she add to their organization? The ability to have people fail to read her mind? Which is made out to be a pretty rare gift, hence their desire to keep Edward alive and add him to the fold? “Can you imagine the possibilities when she is one of us?” Tell you what, let the author imagine some and then I’ll tell you what I think.

“Join or die, is that it?” Edward rages. “I suspected as much when we were brought into this room. So much for your laws.” Bella goes on to think “He sounded irate, but there was something deliberate about his delivery--as if he’d chosen his words with care.” Is he trying to get them killed after all? Is this sour grapes over being turned down for suicide before? In any case I don’t really think he’s got a leg to stand on, since he was the one deliberately trying to break their laws with the intention of getting killed hardly twenty minutes ago.

No, it turns out Edward’s trying to make them acknowledge their hypocrisy; why does Bella have to die when they have humans within their support organization? Doesn’t that mean there are humans they trust with the secret of their existence?

Ah, but it’s not the same thing. “But when they are no longer useful to us, they will serve to sustain us. That is not your plan for this one. If she betrays our secrets, are you prepared to destroy her? I think not.” So Edward’s only awesome when we ignore anything and everything about his mental processes, then.

Bella weakly tries to protest she’d never do that, and there she is with thinking she’s automatically entitled to strangers’ trust again. Remember, these guys will (supposedly) kill you for breaking their secrecy. They’re probably about the last people who’d be conferring their trust to someone they don’t know.

12. The Volturi explain the three of them would be free to go if Bella was made a vampire, but still Edward drags his feet. “Would he rather die than change me?” Maybe he’s thinking about what life would be like if she really was as immortal and mobile as he was, but let’s try examine this in the context of the books. Not half an hour ago Edward tried to kill himself because he thought Bella was dead. Just living in a world without her is obviously not something he wants any part of. What’s he thinking of doing when she dies from whatever mortal affliction ultimately claims her? How else does he plan to protect her from the Volturi now that he’s been put in this situation? He does float an idea later, but it’s only for keeping Bella away from the Volturi and would seem to place his beloved family in a lot of unnecessary danger. Edward’s seeming really selfish for the male part of the greatest romantic couple ever.

13. Eventually the matter’s settled (with Aro cackling and proclaiming the state of affairs’ wonderfulness, natch) by the revelation, via his own mind-reading, that Alice has seen Bella becoming a vampire. She assures Aro that this vision will come to pass. I know it will too, to the extent that it’s really aggravating that Meyer drags it out as long as she does, but what about all that crap about her visions being so uncertain?

“Aro seemed convinced. Did he not realize how subjective Alice’s visions were? That she could make up her mind to transform me today, and then change it tomorrow?” Yeah, even if Alice was lying about the certainty of her powers, if Aro can see everything someone’s ever thought, as ridiculous as that is, couldn’t he tell if she’d made the decision to lie to him? Damn Meyer, if you’re going to go on and on about the characters’ powers, figure them out.

So yeah, based on the account of someone with sketchy ability to see the future, the ruthless enforcers of vampire law are letting them all go based on something one of them saw happening in the future.

14. The Volturi do assure our erstwhile heroes that they’ll be checking up on them. “To be sure that you follow through on your side. Were I you, I would not delay too long. We do not offer second chances.” Were I the author, I’d be concerned for the credibility of my main antagonists here. In the course of one chapter pretty much all potential menace these guys might have wielded has been swept away by the bombastic way Aro acts and how they’re letting a human they don’t trust leave with knowledge of vampires and where the head vampires live, even.

As they leave, Aro even gives the shirtless Edward a gray cloak. “Take this. You’re a little conspicuous.” And a huge cloak isn’t? And unstated but certainly the case, Edward looked like he just stepped out of a cloak ad in it.

15. And this stupid chapter still isn’t over. As they leave the Volturi’s little sanctum, a woman (one of the guards) named Heidi comes by. Really, this damn chapter’s dragged out for another page and a half just so we can meet another inconsequential character. Here’s a tip from a writer to any aspiring to that noble craft. Before you make up and introduce hundreds of characters, ask yourself this: what purpose does this character serve, and is that important enough to merit a complete identity? The answer won’t be yes as much as you probably think. At least if you're Stephenie Meyer.

Yeah, you should flesh out your characters, I’m not saying you shouldn’t. But you don’t want to overload your reader with lots of characters who seem important but aren’t, either.

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Moon Chapter 20 - Volterra

Happy Fireworks Day, everyone! Let's celebrate with a predictable anticlimax!

1. As they crawl up the one entrance to Volterra, traffic slows to a crawl. “ ‘Alice,’ I moaned. The clock on the dash seemed to be speeding up.” They’re in a race for Edward’s life. This is supposed to be all tense. I get that, but again I’m having to start off a chapter by saying it would help the actual tension a lot if Bella didn’t make every single one of her problems sound like the end of the world.

After a bunch of mentions how everything and everyone seems to be decorated in red in accordance with this holiday, which seems a touch unnecessary now with how much effort went into letting us know the city’s secretly ruled by vampires, Alice admits she may have to drop Bella off sooner than planned. “Just keeping asking for the Palazzo dei Priori, and running in the direction they tell you. Don’t get lost.” Aren’t most of the people around tourists? You’d think so with inbound traffic being so slow. And is there any guarantee that even people who live in Volterra will know that off the top of their heads? It just seems to me they’re taking an awful chance with thinking every single person Bella might ask would be able to tell her that.

2. A guard stops them, saying only tour buses are allowed in the city on festival days. “He was apologetic, now, as if he wished he had better news for the strikingly beautiful woman.” Then recanted his words when the author remembered Bella’s one of the only people not instinctively put off by vampires. Not really, but I can’t get over how the author didn’t see a problem there.

Alice bribes their way past (with American money), in the process reminding us that the Cullens are both incredibly beautiful and fabulously wealthy. Yeah, yeah, that’s nice and all but could I could get some glimpse Bella can see past that? Because of how dubious her relationship is with Edward, I have a seriously hard time thinking she really wants to be a Cullen because she likes them and not because it’ll mean she’ll be immortal, super-powered and have more money than she’d ever need.

3. Anyway, Bella gets out and runs for Edward’s life. There’s some blather here and there about an unsuspecting family of tourists, which I guess is to either be a contrast to the emotional turmoil Bella’s (always) going through, or maybe to drive home the point further that the Volturi are cultured but predatory creatures all the same. Which won’t work out that well for reasons I’ll get into later.

4. She spots Edward standing where Alice said. “It was really him, no hallucination this time. And I realized that my delusions were more flawed than I’d realized; they’d never done him justice.” Typical. And reinforcing that feeling of mine that Bella doesn’t see anything beyond his sparkly shell.

“Edward stood, motionless as a statue,” and just as emotive. Then he stepped into the sun. “The light reflecting from the pavement of the square gleamed dimly from his skin. I’d never seen anything more beautiful.” Except she did, when they went up to that meadow so he could show her this with nobody else around. That meadow she threw herself into finding again hoping to remind herself of that time.

“And the last seven months meant nothing. And his words in the forest meant nothing. And it did not matter if he did not want me. I would never want anything but him, no matter how long I lived.” Because shut up and look at his perfect body, that’s why. Really. Seeing his beauty is what makes Bella think like this.

Oh yeah, all's forgiven. Totally.

“It was very strange, for I knew we were both in mortal danger. Still, in that instant, I felt well.” Girl, you don’t even know what that is.

5. You might want to sit down before you read this next part, but Bella does get Edward to see her and does get him out of the sun before anyone else notices. “ ‘Death, that hath sucked the honey of they breath, hath had no power yet upon they beauty,” he murmured, and I recognized the line spoken by Romeo in the tomb.” Oh will you give it up already Steph? The only way Bella and Edward are like Romeo and Juliet is they’re hormone-afflicted ninnies who think they know way more than they actually do after one or two tries at romance.

6. That’s when some envoys of the Volturi show up and demand they have this conversation elsewhere. Edward protests. “I know your instructions, Felix. I haven’t broken any rules.” Felix?

Moving right along, maybe he didn’t end up breaking any rules, but he sure as hell tried to, and the only thing that stopped him was the sudden evidence that his girlfriend’s still alive. Plus, there’s all that buildup of the Volturi as being completely ruthless and intolerant of anybody who breaks their rules. Wouldn’t backing off now because Edward exploited a loophole be a sign of weakness on their part?

I get how now that he knows Bella’s, in fact, alive, Edward wants to stay alive too and protect her. Since he was banking on the Volturi’s reputation to end his suffering not two minutes ago, though, he looks like an idiot for acting like he can get out of this with a feeble excuse after being caught. Wouldn’t the smart thing to do be to just go along with it so as not to provoke the vampire heat more than he already has, and hope he can work out some kind of deal with the Volturi on the grounds of their friendship with Carlisle? That’s part of the reason they didn’t want to kill Edward too, the friendship they’ve had with Carlisle for centuries.

“Edward didn’t move an inch. He was dooming himself by protecting me.” Yeah, step back and seriously think for a minute about who all this chaos is about. Is she really worth it? Can you present compelling evidence for your answer?

7. Eventually Dakota Fanning shows up, and Bella’s quick to note the “wide-eyed, full-lipped face would’ve made a Botticelli angel look like a gargoyle.” Because vampires are pretty, have I told you that yet?

It’s after this that Edward finally accepts there’s nothing for it and agrees to let the other vampires lead them away. And Alice has caught up with them and is led away for a stern talk too, for what it’s worth. Edward asks for the truth behind the story he’s heard, and Alice explains “Bella’s all about the extreme sports these days.” That’s a nice way of putting it.

Just as amusing is Edward’s response. “ ‘Hm,’ Edward said curtly, and the casual tone of his voice was gone.” So he’s back to being his cold, aloof self then? And this is from him saying “hm”. A really short one, even.

8. It embarrasses me just to tell you this, but most of page 458 is spent describing how Bella gets down a hole so they can get to their meeting with the Volturi. Seriously? The act of moving the narrator down a hole merits a page? And as usual Bella’s carried and dropped and caught and stood up by her precious vampires like a totally useless baby. No, I suppose we can’t all be slayers, but most of us can probably manage to fall down a hole without needing someone to drop us.

I know the previous book made a point of what a klutz Bella is, but that’s another one of those things the author seemingly forgot about when it wasn’t convenient to the narrative anymore. After all, who was able to make a successful mad dash through an unfamiliar city full of people out and about when they had a matter of minutes to save their “true love”? The vampires don’t even need to carry her because they’re being chased by other vampires and she can't keep up.

9. If you’re planning to say Bella needed help being dropped down a hole because she’s scared, she’s actually quite relieved because, you guessed it, she’s with Edward again. “For now, it felt like he wanted me, and that was enough to offset the horror of the subterranean tunnel and the prowling vampires behind us.”

In fact, “At least I could be with him again before I died. That was better than a long life.” Because why stop glamorizing death and suicidal tendencies as the best way to prove your devotion to someone now?

Then again, maybe Bella’s just plain obsessed with death. “I wanted desperately to know how we were going to die--as if that would somehow make it better, knowing in advance.”

With that, they enter Volturi HQ to meet their fate.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Moon Chapter 19: Race

1. “We made our flight with seconds to spare, and then the true torture began.” So what? It costs the wait for the plane to take off so they can save Edward some of its dramatic impact when she sounds like that about everything.

“Alice lifted the phone on the back of the seat in front of her before we’d stopped climbing, turning her back on the stewardess who eyed her with disapproval. Something about my expression stopped the stewardess from coming over to protest.” Well Bella is a dangerous crazy person. And aren’t you not supposed to say “stewardess” anymore? Not that someone with an apparent attitude on gender equality like Stephenie Meyer would care, that is.

2. Alice starts talking to Jasper, lowering her voice “till it was nearly inaudible…Contrarily, I listened harder.” Business as usual, then.

Alice dissuades Jasper from having any of the other Cullens go to stop Edward. “If he sees any of us, what do you think he will do?” Implement contractions? Aren’t they supposed to be blending in? Oh well, I’ve already been over how much they suck at that.

Seriously though, maybe he’ll think his family loves him and he’s got something to um…live?, for after all? I’d feel for Bella and Edward a lot more if most of their problems didn’t seem to spring from them being such mopey twits.

She promises to get out of the city alive, then confides in Bella, “I hate lying to him.” Maybe that’s got something to do with why I’d rather read about Alice.

3. Alice explains why the Cullens can’t stop Edward, and it’s because he’d pick them up on his telepathic radar and just act faster. Wouldn’t he see that BELLA CAUGHT A PLANE WITH ALICE AND ISN’T DEAD too? Bella’s immune to his mind-reading, after all, and would have to get right up in his face. Look, you can’t just ignore the super-awesome powers when it gets inconvenient to the narrative.

Alice tries to explain why that wouldn’t work because “it’s possible to lie with your thoughts.” Still, doesn’t Edward’s mind-reading spring from him being so good at reading people? I know I’ve said his ability to do that probably would’ve suffered thanks to his reliance on his mind-reading, but Meyer doesn’t seem to have thought so and she’s shown Bella having a similar ability despite it making no sense at all besides. Can you only thought-lie if you know somebody’s listening in? Because people lie to themselves in their heads all the time and there’s no discussion about how Edward reacts to that.

4. Bella asks why Alice said she hates lying to Jasper, even though that should be fairly obvious even to a champion lackwit like her. Bella’s romantic relationships are the only thing she devotes any serious mental energy to, after all. Oh, and on the previous page Bella just had this thought: “She was protecting Jasper, at our expense, and maybe at Edward’s too. I understood, and I did not think badly of her.”

I’m not going to tell you why Alice is reluctant to tell her boyfriend they’re going on what may be (but isn’t) a suicide mission. Unlike certain people I don’t think my readers are idiots.

Bella (surprise!) doesn’t get why Alice is so scared of the Volturi. “ ‘What makes them so much more dangerous than Emmett, Jasper, Rosalie, and you?’ It was hard to imagine something scarier than that.” That’s because she has no imagination. Or maybe it’s because she has no ability to comprehend a threat to her life.

5. Alice is about to answer that question, “and then abruptly leveled a dark glance over my shoulder. I turned in time to see the main in the aisle seat looking away as if he wasn’t listening to us. He appeared to be a businessman, in a dark suit with a power tie and a laptop on his knees. While I stared at him with irritation, he opened the computer and very conspicuously put headphones on.”

Why in the hell are they discussing SUPER SECRET vampire stuff on a plane full of PEOPLE in the first place? In fact, why are they talking at all? There are other ways to fill space, you know. Such as having things happen. Dialogue is the cheapest special effect, indeed.

6. As long as they’re talking, they get back to basking in how cool the Cullens are. “We Cullens are unique in more ways than you know.” Not really. Not much effort’s been made to make them seem anything less than totally sooper speshul awesome. Alice is specifically talking about how rare it is for vampires to live in regular groups, even though this was mentioned in the last book.

“It’s the same for Tanya’s family in the north, and Carlisle speculates that abstaining makes it easier for us to be civilized, to form bonds based on love rather than survival or convenience.” Ah, the elusive Tanya again. I know we’ll see her at some point, but dang does Meyer handle her characters awkwardly. And ain’t Carlisle awesome?

“Even James’s little coven of three was unusually large--and you saw how easily Laruent left them.” Yes but once again, didn’t Laurent join them in the first place out of fear, not survival or convenience? Not that we’ve seen, well, much of anything to actually make James and Victoria seem all that threatening. The only reason James’s plans enjoyed any success at all was because Bella’s an idiot, after all.

7. “Carlisle’s family is the biggest in existence, as far as I know, with one exception. The Volturi.” Why does Alice say it like that? Isn’t she talking about her own family? Is she trying not to say “our” family around Bella to avoid stepping on her feelings or something?

“There were three of them originally, Aro, Caius, and Marcus.” Yay for more peripheral characters with strange names!

She adds that later “two females joined them.” Who the hell talks like that?! Especially someone I’m asked to believe is blending in at an American high school. It’s probably got something to do with Meyer having an issue with calling female members of another species “women,” which I can kind of see, but it still sounds really unnatural.

But if you’re saying “that only makes five, and there’s seven vampires in Carlisle’s family,” well, Bella beat you to it. Alice tries to explain “Five that make up the family.” That’s not counting their “guards,” but I’m holding her to previous terminology. She said “family,” and there’s five in the Volturi “family” and seven in the Cullen “family.” So it’s stupid to say the Cullens are the biggest with the exception of the Volturi.

8. Alice also explains how some of the Volturi have powers too (can you believe these last three points came off of two pages? I’m having trouble with it). They have “formidable gifts, gifts that make what I can do look like a parlor trick.” Considering how her power is inconsistently written, yeah.

Having established how nasty these guys are, Alice explains, as Edward already did, that nobody’s stupid enough to mess with them. What shocks Bella, however, is the idea that the Volturi set out rules to being a vampire. If there weren’t rules, how could anybody break them? Edward did tell her he was planning this exact same stunt if he wasn’t in time to save her from James. But then, we’ve established Bella’s a moron who has trouble retaining the unpleasant things, too.

Bella’s indignant that nobody told her about the “rules,” since she wanted to become a vampire and all. Even though Edward resisted giving her an answer on that with all his sparkly might. Did she forget about that too?

There’s some junk about how protective the Volturi of are the secrecy of vampires in general but the city where they live (Volterra) in particular. They forbid even hunting within its walls (the “guards” bring in humans to be eated).

9. Alice goes back into a trance to try to figure out what Edward decided (can’t one decision derail a whole vision?), leaving Bella to her own devices oh joy.

She gets to thinking that even if she saves Edward, they won’t pair up again. “I was no different, no more special than I’d been before. There would be no new reason for him to want me now.” This thing about Bella always being down on herself isn't cute or endearing. It never was. Sorry Meyer, even if I hadn't seen the movie I wouldn't have been convinced Edward really wanted to break it off.

Oh, even better. “They showed a movie, and my neighbor got headphones. Sometimes I watched the figures moving across the little screen, but I couldn’t even tell if the movie was supposed to be a romance or a horror film.” Because for someone so read up on the classic romances, Bella doesn’t know the difference. She’s an idiot. I remember. I hardly ever watch romances and it seems like I know more about them than Bella.

“I was grateful that I’d had so many months’ practice with controlling my thoughts.” Which was what she was doing when she was crashing motorcycles to trick her subconscious? The hell…?

“And Jacob? He’d promised to wait for me, but did that promise still apply? Would I end up home alone in Forks, with no one at all?” Can’t say I’d feel sorry if you did, but considering what a wimp we have for an author I’m not even remotely considering the possibility.

10. Alice comes out of it and tells Bella the Volturi have decided to turn him down. An attendant asks if they need pillows and Alice politely declines. “Alice beamed up at him, her smile shockingly lovely. The attendant’s expression was dazed as he turned and stumbled his way back.” Ah, there we go. I was wondering when Meyer was going start failing to trust us to parse how the Cullens are unbelievably beautiful again.

But back to the so-called plot, Alice reports the Volturi will invite Edward to join their little Legion of Doom. Have you forgotten how Edward is totally awesome and special? Because he is, and there’s your proof. They don’t want to kill somebody with a power as useful as his, but that still counts.

Since, whether you believe it or not, I’m not just taking shots at anything and everything, I’ll include this bit where Bella asks how Alice is pulling this off when the performance of her powers is so erratic. “It’s clear because it’s immediate and close, and I’m really concentrating. The faraway things that come on their own--those are just glimpses, faint maybes. Plus, I see my kind more easily than yours. Edward is even easier because I’m so attuned to him.”

11. Alice mentions she’s thinking about just converting Bella now, and you can predict what happens next. “Oh, Alice, do it now! I could help you so much--and I wouldn’t slow you down. Bite me!” Maybe she ought’n’t be yelling like that on a plane, and maybe she should be remembering this is a process that takes days. She’d totally be slowing Alice down. Which Alice points out too.

Bella fears that Alice will change her mind, while Alice fears she doesn’t have the control to vamp Bella and not just feed on her. Bella of course thinks she does, because the only thing that matters is seizing that opportunity. In case you forgot Bella places no value on her safety.

“If Alice made good on her promise--and if she didn’t kill me--then Edward could run after his distractions all he wanted, and I could follow. I wouldn’t let him be distracted. Maybe, when I was beautiful and strong, he wouldn’t want distractions.” Because being a vampire is the only way to make Bella feel good about herself and feel secure about whatever she thinks she and Edward have.

But seriously, there’s that “distraction” thing Edward mentioned right before he left. How much you want to bet that was only a convenient excuse for the author and will be forgotten when he and Bella move past this (whoops, spoilers!) and start thinking about their relationship again in earnest? The fact that the Cullens are so tightly-knit for a bunch of vampires is regularly made a big deal of, after all.

12. Then Alice tunes into some bad news. The Volturi have turned Edward down. And he’s going to just walk outside during a sunny day. Do you remember how I made a point in the last book, where Bella was doing research on vampires? Do you remember hearing anything about sparkling? I didn’t, and said as much. Won’t most people just look at him and think “hipster freak,” not “bloodsucking freak”? This is one time I will consult the behind-the-scenes book, because there’s a section on vampire myths and one the Volturi were able to quash was “Vampires reflect sunlight prismatically.” Bottom of page 80 if you care to look yourself. By word of the official guidebook itself, nobody would look at Edward sparkling and think “vampire.”

I’m not sold by Bella thinking back to the day he showed the sparkling to her. “No human who saw that would ever forget. The Volturi couldn’t possibly allow it. Not if they wanted to keep their city inconspicuous.” I will refer once again to what I’ve heard about Bree Tanner, which is that it was narrated by a character far less given to melodrama than this one.

Is Edward just hoping to piss the Volturi off by defying their authority with such an act? I don’t know what I’m meant to think, and when it’s a matter of “why would this make the vampire cops mad and provide us with a dramatic climax,” that’s a bad thing. No you can’t please everyone, I know that too, but if confusion like this is what happens when you think about the proceedings at all…that’s a bad thing.

13. Edward “Is planning to flout that in their own city--the city they’ve secretly held for three thousand years, since the time of the Etruscans. They are so protective of their city that they don’t allow hunting within its walls.” Edward’s going to expose himself as a vampire in the Volturi’s hometown because that will piss them off more, huh?

I don’t know, but since they’ll kill vampires for revealing they’re vampires no matter where it is, why couldn’t the reason that Edward would do it there be because that way he won’t have to wait for the Volturi to hunt him down? That they’re especially protective of “their” city doesn’t really add any layers to the Volturi or make them more intimidating. They’re already supposed to be unassailable even by the mighty Cullens.

14. Alice “eyed me speculatively. ‘How strongly are you opposed to grand theft auto?’ ”

Ha ha ha! She’s asking if Bella has scruples! Couldn’t you just die?!

15. Alice does indeed steal a fast luxury car, and “It felt safer inside, like nighttime.”

I have to ask, is this going to happen in every book? I mean, our heroes committing crimes for the sake of a relationship we’re asked to take at face value despite each book being even longer than the last? With all that space, Meyer can’t devote any space to explaining why Bella and Edward are “in love”? It’s the centerpiece of the story, the reason all the other shit happens. Make that work first! If everybody who actually stops to think about this is saying the same thing, maybe there’s something to it.

There’s some kind of festival on the day they’re going to be getting into town. They talk some more about how one of the Volturi is actually mentioned historically as someone who forced all the vampires out of Volterra, but it doesn’t matter and I don’t care. Except that Alice goes on to mention that Volterra “is an amazingly safe city. The police get the credit.” My, how gracious of those all-powerful vampires. I’m sorry, but everything’s done in absolutes in these books. It gets annoying hearing about how perfect vampires are after a while. A short while.

16. Alice mentions Edward’s still planning to reveal himself exactly at noon. How convenient that they have an exact time, and a nice round one like that. Yes, they explained that’s because of his “dramatic tendencies,” but it still feels like the heavy hand of an amateur author.

17. The plan is for Alice to drop Bella off, point her in the right direction and then our idiot will run like bejeebers to stop Edward. Through a city filled with people on a massive holiday. Sure, whatever. It’s already gotten way stupider than that.

Alice makes sure to mention “Try not to trip.” Indeed. “That would be just like me--ruin everything, destroy the world, in a moment of klutziness.” Her world, maybe the Cullens’, but come on. I know Bella’s liable to be extremely emotional right now. Like I said at the top, the thing is she sounds like this all the time. It makes the times that actually are tense sound less so.

So does this. “I supposed the city was very beautiful.” Because she’s drowning in concern for Edward and a world without him is no world at all and DAMN girl get on with it already.