Monday, August 15, 2011

The Twilight Saga - The Official Illustrated Guide

Hey, it's the 120th post. Let's go completely ballistic on Twilight!

Heaven knows it could use one...

While I’m enjoying a reprieve from regular chapters of the love between two angsty fools, I got the idea into my head to do something of a review for the series handbook. You know, the one where the author more than indicates she does think the fantasy genre is carte blanche to do whatever she pleases. Seeing as I’m not actually going to be researching it to resolve problems unless dates are involved. Partly because reading the guidebook tends to cause more problems for the series than it solves anyway.

As long as I’m going over the definitive be-all, end-all repository of sparkly vampire knowledge, this seems as good a place as any to say I’m not planning to discuss the topic of vampire parenthood in too much detail. If I even live to make it that far. To be totally honest, I hate it when people waste their effort and my time trying to make fantasy sound scientifically feasible. I care more about consistency and coherence, so I might talk about that, but no in depth-examination of how the miracle of Renesmee came to be. Sorry if I’m letting anyone down. I will say that by “My scientific reasoning works for me,”* I get the feeling Meyer really meant the perfect romance wouldn’t be complete without the perfect child.

* (So what? You’re the one who came with up it. Maybe I’m not published yet, but I understand I’m connected to what I write in a way somebody reading it won’t be and might make assumptions about what people understand and what sounds good. As a result, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else around who isn’t afraid to tell you there are issues with your work. I kind of doubt Steph had anyone like that)

...and so I thought of giving Bella stuff for free, starting a grand tradition.

The book opens with 80 pages of interviews between Steph and fellow youth author Shannon Hale. Where she finds another way to duck criticism by saying she’s more amazed there are people who do get her books than there are people who don’t. And takes pride in writing for children (I think we underestimate what our kids can handle, but all the same I sure as hell don’t want my daughter relating to anything about Bella Swan), saying it keeps her humble and prevents her from becoming one of those “ ‘I am an author’ authors”. You know, if you’re smug about your humility, you’re not really being humble. I’m pretty sure Weird Al was making fun of that in “Amish Paradise”. Besides, considering what Bella tries to pull in the next book when she's alone with Edward, and with the little sparkly miracle they're given in the book after, I'm a little reluctant to say this series's target audience consists of "children".

To go off on a tangent (which might mark me as one of those “I am an author” authors in Steph’s mind, but I don’t care), while I find writing a wonderful creative outlet myself, I’d feel cheap if I didn’t try to do the best job I could and learn how to get better at it. Especially the stuff I plan to share with other people. Most of my stories are based on what I find interesting and thus would like to write about, but that doesn’t excuse me from making an effort. I’ve read non-Twilight stories with abysmal regard for spelling, grammar, clarity, pacing, and support for the story’s postulates (In Twilight's case, Edward spying on a girl without her knowledge and confining her because he doesn't like her friends proves how true his love is). I find it all extremely disrespectful of the writer to do that to the people that would read their stuff. That Steph’s so closed off to criticism she invented “the Rob Effect”* to brush off the outrage over the mess she made of the last book, well I can’t say I think much of the pride she takes in being a writer. If you’re going to share your work with the world, let alone brag about turning kids on to reading with it, don’t skimp on the effort.

* (Should you not have heard the term, “the Rob Effect” is Steph saying that people will be able to like Breaking Dawn [generally regarded as the most slapped-together of all the books] after a while, like how people originally didn’t like Robert Pattinson as the choice for Edward in the movies. Maybe part of the reason people warmed up to Rob is he seems like a pretty nice guy and really isn’t a bad actor despite the absolute shit he’s given to work with in the Twilight movies? I can tell you Breaking Dawn isn’t a misunderstood work of genius. Besides, the furor over anything will die down after a while. That’s why I keep dragging my feet on committing to reviews of another book. Most people don’t care anymore)

After the interviews, there’s a section on what exactly it means to be a vampire in the Meyerverse. What is and isn’t true, how the conversion works, the rules of being a vampire (well, the RULE), and how hybrid offspring work. It’s kind of funny to read all in one place like that, but I stand by my earlier beliefs that authors can explain themselves in the books and make good use of the space those books allot them. Meyer doesn’t do much of either.

As I noted in one of the last New Moon reviews, a heck of a lot of the guidebook's given over to profiles for every character, no matter how small their role in the larger series. First thing I feel I should mention is little sidebars of highlights from the main text. They’re all over the book, actually, but my favorite one’s in this part.

Hate to break it to you Steph, but there are names for those things Edward and the Cullens do: grand theft auto, arson, breaking and entering (or at the very least, trespassing), stalking, arguably coercion…They have names because they’re crimes. Yes, they are very much illegal. They're not any less illegal because he's somebody's dream guy. Although they might be less illegal because I have no trouble imagining the Cullens bribing a judge to look the other way if things ever did go to court...

As I've said before, it seems like the only thing they have any scruples against doing is taking a sentient life. That your heroine’s the daughter of someone in the law enforcement profession (and that he’s a lot more likable than her and Edward) does a little to remind us. Plus, as I’ve brought up several times, the fact is those acts are usually highly unnecessary based on what we know when they happen, so justifying them’s kind of hard. Imagine for a moment that Carlisle was summoned to testify before a jury who would keep it a secret that he’s a vampire and his family was fighting an evil vampire when they burned down the ballet studio. How would he explain having to torch the place after they already ripped James limb from limb*? Or stealing a car for the not-at-all-hurried trip home after Bella’s first meeting with the Volturi?

* (Just to prove I’m not a completely unfair asshole, the book does explain this. Sort of. Unless burnt, vampires can eventually “reconstitute” themselves after being ripped apart. It doesn’t say how that works, though [a legend we hear in Eclipse does, but it just goes further to show how Meyer's setting Bella up not to be a vampire, but some kind of goddess], and there were other ways they could’ve dealt with James permanently without having to torch an entire building)

The  profiles include categories on where they were born, hair and eye color, who changed them into a vampire, their special powers, their education and hobbies and physical description. Somehow this series gets even more shallow with Bella’s description, in that “Bella’s features were heightened and perfected by her transformation.”

In other words, on Bella.

I’d like to point out that when the book describes the enhancement of someone’s physical attractiveness by becoming a vampire, it doesn’t mention anything about its utility for capturing prey. Only that it has to do with their skin turning into a diamond-like substance. I can’t imagine being attracted to a woman more because she’s also a diamond. I look for different things in a rock than a member of the opposite sex. Especially since it would either make her sparkly or just pale depending on the weather, neither of which I find attractive. There's also the ridiculous implication that there's one universal standard for beauty. Remember, this isn't Bella talking. This is an impartial clinical description.

So we're admitting Edward and Carlisle picked romantic partners based on their looks?

The profiles even have “famous quotes” from the characters, which depending on who compiled them either show how bad Steph’s idea of immortal dialogue is, or how bad she is at writing it in the first place. “I think that boy is in love with you” is a memorable quote? In what universe? Not the one where this book was published.

Click 'em. You'll be glad you did.

After the profiles there are plot summaries, both by date and by chapter. They’re not only quicker, cheaper, but also a more entertaining way to go through the series. However, probably even more so than reading my reviews, you get a sense that very little of note actually happens in these books. Take, for example, the highlights of chapter 26 of Breaking Dawn: Charlie visits the family, Bella explains the sources of her daughter’s name (the summary even stops to explain it), Charlie approves of Bella’s new look, Bella gets angry about comments from Emmett, Bella beats Emmett at arm-wrestling. Can you STAND the excitement?!

Or how about something we’ve covered already, like chapter 11 of Twilight: Edward and Bella watch a movie in Biology, Bella’s “hyperaware” of Edward sitting next to her, Mike warns Bella about Edward, Edward asks Bella about her favorite things (which didn’t need to be relayed to the reader), Billy and Jacob see them together.

To show you I’m not deliberately picking the most boring possible chapters to attack, we’ll do a couple in sequence. Consider chapter 12: Bella’s afraid Billy will tell her dad about hanging out with Edward (nothing about convincing him not to), Bella sees Rosalie glaring at her at lunch, Edward explains this could destroy his family’s secrecy if things go wrong, Bella tells her “friends” she’s not going to Seattle, Edward meets Bella, they drive into the woods and hike five miles.

And chapter 13: Edward reveals his sparkling skin, there’s a large paragraph trying to make it sound like they don’t just spend most of the chapter talking about how yes, Edward’s a vampire, “Edward carries Bella back to the truck piggyback,” Edward kisses Bella.


So...Bella and Edward had sex.

There’s a section on the specifics of the cars the books’ major characters own (which was even a category in the profiles). Thing is, even though I have a Y chromosome I don’t usually care about the car a fictitious character drives unless it’s a major story element (like the Mach 5) or it says something about them. For instance, Harry Dresden’s car, the Jaime Reyes, says he cares more about making the world a little less dark than making big bucks. That magic doesn’t play well with advanced technology. That he’s kind of a nerd. I’ve already said what I think the Cullens’ wheels say about them, and in case you’re just tuning in it was nothing flattering.

Almost as pointless, to me anyway, is a section on inspirations and the official Twilight play list. And before you ask, yes, there’s a lot of Muse in there. I haven’t been able to connect with the story in anything but a derisory fashion, so playing the author’s recommended songs during certain parts hasn’t helped the experience any. Although it does make me a little uncomfortable considering I’ve toyed with the idea of something similar for my own works a time or two. Okay, actually gone ahead and done one a time or two.

Then there’s a section on international cover galleries and fanart. Which depresses me because evidently some very talented artists are fans of this series.

Although some of the pictures I just don’t get. Is that Edward in the bottom right, next to Bella’s Polaroid?

And this one…confuses me. It looks like it’s meant to be an artistic rendering of all the things Alice sees thanks to her visions. So why are there werewolves in there? That's one of the few things about her power Meyer sticks with.

After the art there’s a selection of “outtakes” which I’ve avoided so far, because I can’t quite work up the guts to see what wasn’t good enough to go in looks like. At least let me finish Kamen Rider Altis before I go totally insane, okay?

At the end there’s an FAQ in the back for general questions that don’t belong anywhere else. The most notable is the first, which is the significance of the various pieces of cover art. The apple on the first book is the forbidden fruit of pursuing Edward (as indicated by the Biblical epigraph). The wilting flower on New Moon is supposed to represent loss (which doesn’t last and only happens because of that “overthinking” thing Edward doesn’t do), and the not-quite severed ribbon on Eclipse is meant to symbolize Bella’s failure to make a clean break from her old life. It’s Bella, what’d you expect?

Most worthy of derision is the cover of Breaking Dawn. The chess pieces represent Bella. “They show her moving from the least significant player, the pawn, at the beginning of the Saga to the most important player, the queen, at the end of the series.” Because the universe didn’t revolve around Bella from day one. Also, aren’t the pawn and the queen “pieces,” while the people who use them are the “players”? I want to say Meyer thought she was going for a theatrical analogy there. And the queen is the most “useful” piece, but the “most important”? Losing which piece is an instant game over? And while it might have to do with Bella having her species removed, can I just point out there’s no way in hell for a red pawn to become a white queen? Let’s add “needs to avoid chess allusions” to Meyer’s little list, shall we?

“The chessboard also hints at Breaking Dawn’s resolution, where the battle with the Volturi is one of wits and strategy, not physical violence.” Or where Stephenie Meyer confirmed once and for all that she can’t show her characters willing to go all the way for their goals. The reason people were mad about the climax of Breaking Dawn is it’s set up like we’ll be looking forward to a big battle, what with the descriptions of all the vampires, all their fancy powers, and preparations for combat should it become necessary. Something truly epic to close out the series and show our leads standing firm against horrific odds in the name of love. But all they do is stand there. It’s a stupid copout, unless you’ve already had your hopes dashed like a stale graham cracker by how pitiful the conflict’s been leading up to that.

It even explains the meaning behind the puzzle pieces on this book and the emptying hourglass on The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. I’m hoping those were included for completeness, because the idea that the significance of those two pieces of cover art isn’t obvious from the name/concept of the work alone is kind of insulting.

And there you have it, my thoughts on the repository of all things Twilight in four pages. To close out what might be the last review on Steph’s work for a while, I’d like to counterpoint the Twilight series with another fantasy series. No, not Harry Potter. Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, which I mentioned above. It’s not a romance, and it’s not really for young readers…


…but it manages to take a lot of the elements Meyer’s books are supposed to have and make them work. The main character, a wizard/P.I. by the name of Harry Dresden, is a genuinely good person, but he has a tragic past (an actual one), has demonstrable personality flaws like a short fuse and tendency to stick his neck out too far, and has made bad calls that have earned him powerful enemies even among the people who are supposedly on his side. He flouts the law sometimes in pursuit of the greater good, like by owning a gun. In Chicago. And because almost nobody believes in magic, he hardly ever gets any congratulations for a job well done. You believe it when he says his life sucks, instead of thinking it sounds like the whining of every overly dramatic teenager ever.

Harry never just cruises to victory. We all know the good guy always wins, but after the first couple books I found myself thinking “what will victory cost him?” Harry doesn’t get the girl. Any of them. In fact right when he’s about to she sacrifices all memory of him in order to save his life. In fact she gets a vampiric thirst for blood and has to basically give up all hope of a love life because she might slip and eat them. Why does that sound familiar? Even though I’ll admit Eclipse is a little better than the previous two books, I was never for a minute worried that the characters were in danger, that Bella and Edward’s relationship wouldn’t make it, or that they might receive anything less than total victory.

Harry has fantastic supernatural powers, but there are visible limits to his abilities and knowledge, and a clear feeling that there really is someone who’ll smack him down hard for violating the rules of his kind. In the first book we meet a guy who makes sure wizards obey the rules, Morgan, who’d just love for Harry to give him a reason to drop the blade on our hero. Unlike Alice’s “whatever works best at the moment” precognition, and the vampire police letting the kids go with a nebulous warning we know won’t become a believable problem.

Things happen in Butcher’s books. I don’t know that I could find five different things to mention about any given chapter like in the summaries in The Official Illustrated Guide, but I’m on the fourth book (fifth if you count Welcome to the Jungle) and not a single chapter’s passed without at least one fairly significant thing happening. The book’s going somewhere and every chapter is a step in that journey, instead of interminable pages of sitting around wallowing in all the nothing that’s happening.

And while it might seem like Butcher took “it’s fantasy” as a pass to include whatever he felt like (there’s wizards, faeries, demons, dragons, trolls, several varieties of werewolf and vampire…), the stuff by and large clicks together without being overwhelming. Not everything’s revealed at once, but enough groundwork is laid that you don’t feel like something wasn’t mentioned before because the author hadn’t thought of it before. In Twilight the author doesn’t reach as far into the fantastic as Butcher (at least that’s what I think as someone who hates sparkling vampires because it’s stupid more than because it’s contrary to the norm), but fails to make what she does focus on compelling. Plus, the characters and their world are so poorly-etched in Twilight, when something new comes up it feels like something that wasn’t mentioned before because the writer hadn’t thought of it yet. Even if the idea actually had been there since Steph started seriously thinking about sequels.

I genuinely get the feeling that Jim Butcher has some feminist leanings because of Harry’s closest confidante. She’s looked down by her superiors for heading up the department that looks into supernatural crimes, since none of them really buy into that stuff, but hell if she’ll let that stop her from being a good cop. Plus she could knock our hero’s teeth out if she felt like it despite being a regular old human, and damn if she doesn’t get the urge sometimes. (To explain why would require me to go off on a little tangent, but you see, Harry takes a while to tell her everything he knows that might help her fight supernatural menaces because the more she knows, the more likely she might go down with him if something gets out of hand. She resents this because it’s her job to face danger to protect innocent people. Her concern’s valid, but Harry’s is too. If Edward doesn’t tell Bella things that would be handy to know for someone who associates with the supernatural as much as she does, it seems to be because of the dubious idea that he thought he could protect her, because he enjoys being one step ahead of her, or because he just doesn’t because he’s a moron).

Pictured: bad grammar. Also pictured: actual inter-character conflict.

Karrin Murphy’s a good example of how to write an empowered female character who’s still relatable. As for Twilight in that regard…you know what, Meyer? I may dislike Alice less than your other characters, but she’s in no way proof that you’re not “anti-female.” She’s super-girly*, kind of hyper, only seems intimidating when compared to uber-loser Bella, and has a potentially cool power ruined by inconsistency. Try again.

* (Which isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, but with the narrowly-defined gender roles in these books and all the other things weighing her down…damn I’m all up on the footnotes in this post)

Following in that vein, you get a definite sense from The Dresden Files that characters and supernatural beings are badasses, yet they also have visible limits and weaknesses too. Even plain old humans; in the second book Murphy drives off a monster that takes the worst Harry has to throw at it. All I’ll say is one author being discussed here likes to do more than talk about how tough their characters are.

Lastly, for books that tend to have actual end-of-the-world stakes, The Dresden Files have something of a sense of humor about themselves. The ages-old spirit who Harry turns to for things he doesn’t know is a dirty old pervert, faeries will tell you anything for a pizza, the real reason wizards wear those big flowing robes is how cold it gets in their labs, and “flickum bicus” are the magic words to light candles. Harry's read the Evil Overlord List. It has him comparing little demons combining to make a big demon to Voltron. It has the phrase "I put the 'ick' in 'magic'."

And can you see Edward Cullen fighting off the bad guys in the grand climax of an adventure wearing nothing but a stolen pair of boxer shorts covered with yellow duckies? In an actual book Stephenie Meyer would actually share? If Twilight ever tried to poke fun at itself, the unintentional ridiculousness of everything else would make the whole series collapse in on itself.

I guess it comes down to this: being a vampire never seemed hard. Never in all the words Stephenie Meyer’s written. But I did believe this about being a wizard: “It’s scary as hell. You start learning the kinds of things that go bump in the night and you figure out that ‘ignorance is bliss’ is more than just a quotable quote. And it’s--It’s so damned frustrating. You see people getting hurt. Innocents. Friends. I try to make a difference, but I usually don’t know what the hell is going on until somebody is already dead. Doesn’t matter what kind of job I do--I can’t help those folks.” (Summer Knight, p. 252)

That’s one more thing Butcher did better, now that I think about it. Working the source of the damn title into the plot.

Jim, I really like your books. I’m sorry to have compared them to Twilight. But I do feel good having recommended something infinitely better than a 2000+ page Suefic.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New Moon vs New Moon

Don’t expect this to be a long one, since I don’t plan to repeat anything I said the last time I compared the movie to the book, but here we go.

The Good

A while back I mentioned that the Harry Clearwater character was important, but only in the movie and only if you’re someone like me. See, he was played by Graham Greene who played dynamite “expert” Edgar Montrose on The Red Green Show. I went to college in a city that actually had a pretty cool PBS affiliate, you see, and…yeah, you don’t care. Anyway, to be honest the movie also did a little more to set up his character, with Charlie hanging out with Harry instead of Billy a couple times. Not quite enough, but they tried more than Meyer. His death’s also tied into the plot; because he gets Victoria to come after him while trying to spare Charlie, as opposed to dying just to set up Edward getting the wrong idea (which still happens because of his death, sadly).

Uncle Red, you have 30 seconds to get Edgar to say this word: plotless.

I get even more of a sense that Bella’s not telling the whole story. Or at least the correct one. When she and Jessica to go to Port Angeles to catch a movie, Jessica’s the picture of friendliness, not doing it grudgingly at all. It’s only after Bella starts accepting invitations from lowlifes that Jessica starts to resent her. Coupled with the sense I already had that Bella wasn’t being entirely honest, it makes it sound like in the book, where we don’t know any better than what Bella tells us, she was implanting that reluctance on Jessica out of resentment. Maybe because Jessica’s prettier and more popular (Bella thinks she’s worthless, remember), or maybe Bella’s just jealous of someone who can get through the day without hallucinating her abusive ex-boyfriends.

I include this because it sums up the character perfectly in two words.

The Bad

In the name of all that’s holy, stop having Kristen Stewart read the artsy epigraph at the beginning of the movie. She can’t imbue them with any power, or maybe she can but she’s playing her character too well. You’ve still got time to save Breaking Dawn from this, Hollywood. Speaking of…

The movie’s even worse about the Shakesperian allusions than the book
. Bella wakes up with a copy of Romeo and Juliet on her pillow, and Mike greets her at school with a “Wherefore art thou, Bella?” Which means they thought Meyer’s original writing was too subtle. Which makes me sad.

The Cullens don’t threaten Bella’s party attendance, but Alice goes through her stuff without asking. I want to like this character, but damn it, nobody’s making it easy on me. I don’t just dig through my friends’ shit unless it’s an emergency, and taking pictures of Bella’s birthday party with Bella’s own camera isn’t an emergency.

Kind of like the baseball game, the shirtless wolf-boys are something that’s even stupider with real people. At least it is to someone who’s not into bare-chested beefcakes. I mean, look at this…

This was kind of a double-edged sword, though. Seeing Edward getting his ass kicked by the Volturi was infinitely more enjoyable in live action.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Moon Epilogue - Treaty

1. Even the epilogue needs a title?

2. Bella’s rewarded for all her moping with “Almost everything was back to normal--the good, pre-zombie normal”. So yeah, after all this, the only things that really happened are 1) Jacob’s a werewolf, 2) an evil vampire’s still a threat because Edward’s an idiot, and 3) thanks to their stupidity, Bella and Edward are being watched by an underwhelming group of vampire enforcers. For some reason, I expect a little more from 548 pages of content.

“The hospital welcomed Carlisle back with eager (?) arms, not even bothering to conceal their delight that Esme had found life in L.A. so little to her liking.” Because gosh darn it the Cullens are special. This kind of crap is the main reason I’m never worried about anything bad that happens actually sticking.

We get another helping of the Cullens’ special-ness when Bella mentions applying to colleges (but only if she’ll be attending with Edward, of course), and hearing how “He’d already gone the Harvard route.”

3. A little of the hurt goes away with Bella acknowledging that “My behavior had been such last fall, after the Cullens’ supposed move to L.A., that the seat beside me had never been filled.” A little, because that implies she was only crazy during that span of time.

“With Edward back in place, it was almost as if the last eight months were just a disturbing nightmare.” As opposed to some other kind of nightmare.

4. Jacob hasn’t been answering Bella’s calls since the Cullens came back, though, and she’s been making them during that period where Charlie sends her to bed every night and Edward sneaks into her room. Edward doesn’t seem to like the idea of her socializing with the wolves: “I guessed that he had some reciprocal prejudice against the werewolves”. You mean like the far less dramatic Alice does, who has a romantic partner with nearly all the advantages she does? Like he said to Bella’s face when he found out from Alice who she’d been hanging out with after he left?

Not that it’s cause for too much concern: “With Edward near me, it was hard to think about unhappy endings--even my former best friend, who was probably very unhappy right now, due to me.” In case you’re wondering, that goes away in the next book about as easily as anything else. Edward agrees to let Bella hang out with unstable werewolves if she really wants. I find it kind of hard to consider that character development, though, instead of more simple dismissal of difficulties.

Indeed, “Being angry about things was easier than feeling guilty,” thinks our heroine as she vents to Edward after work one night. Am I really standing alone when I say I want to jump into the book and tell Edward how wrong he is when he says “It’s not you, Bella. Nobody hates you”?

5. Edward tries to explain to Bella that it’s just something they are, and vampires and werewolves are just enemies. That’s how it is.

Yeah, the Quileutes help the Cullens fight Victoria in the next book. Not in the sense that they’ll stop her if she’s in their territory, they agree to fight side by side with the sparklepires against Vic's army of newborn vamps. They even accept combat training from Jasper, a damn bloodsucker. And Edward’s prejudice goes away after Bella says she wants to be friends with both of them enough times (well, and resists being held hostage while he’s away). Stop teasing us, Steph.

6. Oh, and Bella still isn’t over Edward’s perfection yet: “Every time I looked at his face, that impossibly perfect face, my heart pounded strong and healthy and very there in my chest.” Really? Edward's good-looking? That’s such a fresh and unexpected revelation!

I mean really, two books into this and this is still worthy of mention.

7. Despite her life being perfect again, Bella’s in trouble when she gets home. Jacob left her motorcycle outside her house, it seems. “The sting of betrayal washed through me. I had trusted Jacob implicitly--trusted him with every single secret I had. He was supposed to be my safe harbor--the person I could always rely on.” And she picked Edward over him despite knowing full-well he had no love for Edward or any member of Edward’s sparkly kind. She started it.

“Of course things were strained right now, but I didn’t think any of the underlying foundation had changed. I didn’t think that was changeable!” So both of our leads are morons who can’t anticipate that people they’ve slighted might hold grudges. Good to know.

“What had I done to deserve this? Charlie was going to be so mad--and worse than that, he was going to be hurt and worried.” There’s your answer, kiddo. Imagine how he’d feel if he knew the shit you were keeping from him that didn’t involve hanging out with werewolves. “Didn’t he have enough to deal with already?” Considering he can’t prepare at all for the things that might target him because of his proximity to Bella, since he doesn’t know about them thanks to her silence, plus she sticks around keeping him as a likely collateral target, I’m not really swayed to Bella’s side here.

“I would have never imagined that Jake could be so petty and just plain mean.” What does she call what she did to him for all those months when she knew he was interested?

8. Jacob’s there, and Edward explains that it’s to talk to him. Upon seeing the wolf boy, “My fury weakened, faltered, as I stared at Jacob.” Even when she’s back together with Edward, she melts like a stick of butter when a boy’s mad at her.

Edward explains other things, no doubt gleaned by telepathy, that the reason Jacob delivered the motorcycle was to get her in trouble so Charlie would forbid her from spending time with Edward. When Bella asks why Jacob thinks she hasn’t been down to La Push, Edward explains it’s because Jacob thought Edward wouldn’t allow it. And since you’ve probably heard that Edward sabotages her truck when she thinks about making a visit, well, he was totally right.

Edward tries to thank Jacob for taking care of Bella while he was away being an idiot. Yeah, that’s a nice way to say it when she led him on and then threw him away like a dirty paper towel for a boy she didn’t even think she could get back with.

Jacob blows it off and reminds Edward of the specifics of the treaty. “If any of them bite a human, the truce is over. Bite, not kill.” Considering the Cullens more than have the means to relocate wherever they want, I don’t really see how the ire of one group of indigenous werewolves would be that big a concern for anybody in this conversation. Edward’s the guy Bella picked. The contest’s over. We know it’s over. Even before we knew about Jacob getting Bella’s perfect daughter as a consolation prize.

She even says so: “He hadn’t realized--or didn’t want to believe--that I had already made my choice. That I was really intending to become a member of the Cullen family.” And how nice of her to invite herself.

9. After the boys confirm that the ball of orange hair’s still trying to get at Bella, an irate Charlie demands that his insane daughter get inside.

Inside, she mopes some more about the state of affairs. “I had serious problems. My best friend counted me with his enemies.” Says a lot about her as a person, I’d say.

“Victoria was still on the loose, putting everyone I loved in danger.” Too bad she wasn’t even in the book.

“If I didn’t become a vampire soon, the Volturi would kill me.” We were given plenty of reason to fear those guys.

“And now it seemed that if I did, the Quileute werewolves would try to do the job themselves--along with trying to kill my future family. I didn’t think they had any chance really, but would my best friend get himself killed in the attempt?” So leave. Like they did at the beginning of the book. You see? There’s all of Bella’s big problems laid out in a nice little laundry list, and not one of them’s a believable problem either because of poor writing or our heroes’ idiocy. Which are really the same problem but why start picking nits now?

Maybe I’m just a snob, but I feel like an author’s failed when their books are only considered good by people who don’t think about the contents.

10. “Very serious problems. So why did they all suddenly seem insignificant when we broke through the last of the trees and I caught sight of the expression on Charlie’s purple face?” Maybe because those lines give just about a perfect feeling for how real those problems are, even within this fictitious universe. She brings them up and then sounds totally ridiculous with the line about Charlie's face.

11. “I squared my shoulders and walked forward to meet my fate, with my destiny solidly at my side.”

I bet that sounded like an awesome way to close out the book in the author’s head.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand looks like we’re done. Thanks for reading, everybody.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Moon Chapter 24 - Vote

Sorry this one took so long, I'm still setting up in a new apartment and have yet to see about getting a decent internet connection. Those cartoon reviews I was thinking of doing once I'm done here may have to wait a bit...

1. “He was not pleased,” we’re told, but that’s been the case pretty much every time Bella voiced a thought of her own.

Edward gives Bella one of his super-fast piggyback rides. “Even after all this time, it felt routine. Easy.” Considering all that’s asked of her is to hold on…

“The air was damp; it didn’t burn my eyes the way the wind in the big plaza had, and that was comforting.” She’s doing it with her eyes open? When did she get used to this to the point that she could do it eyes open and not get motion sick? Was it over summer break? Did Edward disapprove?

2. Edward swears he’ll earn back Bella’s trust, which was…lost when? She completely took it to heart when he said he didn’t want her around him anymore. She immediately says she does trust him anyway, she just doesn’t trust herself. Meaning she’s saying once again thinking “I don’t trust myself to be…enough. To deserve you. There’s nothing about me that could hold you.”

Darling we done this dance before and it was tiresome then. Can she still not believe there’s something there that Edward can’t resist? At the very least, can she not believe he thinks there is? When the guys who scare the crap out of him find her so intriguing?

Edward assures her that her “hold is permanent and unbreakable,” but I notice I don’t remember him ever mentioning it’s, as the guidebook says, because vampires mate for life. When they fall in love it’s the only person they’ll ever be in love with. Because that might cheapen the romance driving the story if we learned how necrotic biology plays a part in the strength of his devotion.

Gee, that guidebook’s doing nothing but creating more problems for the series. Even when I could look up the answer to a problem I’ve got, the answer’s usually still silly or “because Steph says so.”

3. Edward mopes a little too and says he’s the greatest threat to Bella, even more than Victoria and the Volturi. Saying they’re scary won’t make it so anymore than saying Edward and Bella are in love makes the way they act seem romantic. As for Victoria, well she repeatedly failed to get past a bunch of werewolves, and the only really competent thing she’s done is outwit Edward, who has yet to do anything to make him seem competent when stacked against his own kind.

Edward opines that he thinks time will be the only way to prove his devotion to Bella. “I liked the idea of time.” Except when it means the passage of time, like when Edward tries to leave her un-vamped and aging still.

4. Remember all of Bella’s birthday presents that disappeared when Edward did? Well, like the car stereo she ripped out, they didn’t actually go anywhere. While Bella was lying catatonic in the woods, Edward apparently snuck into her room one last time, pulled up the floorboards, put everything down there, put the floorboards back and left. Yeah, he can’t follow through on anything unpleasant. A lot like the author.

5. Bella lets slip what she was really doing while Edward was away, crashing motorcycles and tossing herself off cliffs to trick herself into hearing him reprimand her. Explaining it to him, she considers what had motivated her to do so, insanity or wish fulfillment. But then a third possibility occurs.

“Edward loved me. The bond forged between us was not one that could be broken by absence, distance, or time.” Yes folks, we sat through all that crap to arrive at this: the revelation that the ultimate boyfriend really does love the narrator like he says. Was the trip worth it?

“Compared to the fear that he didn’t want me, this hurdle--my soul--seemed almost insignificant.” I could say something about that, but the book’s almost over and Bella’s priorities are nothing new.

6. The feeling that Bella likes Edward more for his looks than his brains gets stronger when he comments on one area where she did better than him during the separation. Which is “surviving.” Sayeth Edward, “I couldn’t be around my family--I couldn’t be around anyone.” When is he around anyone but his family who isn’t Bella anyway? Anyway there were a lot of days where he just curled up and pretended the world wasn’t there after he broke up with Bella.

“You, at least, made an effort. You got up in the morning, tried to be normal for Charlie, followed the pattern of your life.” And strung along a boy who liked her to hold onto her memories of another boy she thought she’d never see again, performed dangerous activities sans any safety measures or basic intelligence…

Oh yes, that’s not just my cynicism talking. When Edward offers to go biking with Bella in the next book, he presents her with a helmet. Something that from the sound of things, she’d never worn before.

7. They meet with the other Cullens. “Carlisle held out a chair for me at the head.” Well of course, where else would Bella Sue sit?

“I’d never seen the Cullens use the dining room table before--it was a prop. They didn’t eat in the house.” Because they’re vampires, something that has never once been brought up in all the 1000+ pages that comprise this series so far.

“Rosalie smiled at me tentatively.” Again, why can’t we get character development as a result of things we see happen?

8. Bella explains the situation, but Edward, seeming to be speaking straight from the author’s mind, interjects, “I don’t think we need to be overly anxious.”

He explains himself, in that one of the Volturi--I refuse to store another minor character’s name this close to the end of the book--has the power to just find people. However, Edward’s pretty sure that Bella’s imperviousness to vampire mental powers will work against that. With Alice watching for when the Volturi are planning to check up on her, “They’ll be helpless. It will be like looking for a piece of straw in a haystack!” You’re an idiot, Edward. And I say that without even thinking about how that plan leaves the rest of the Cullens vulnerable to the Volturi’s wrath. If humans knowing about the existence of vampires is something they can’t permit, well, harboring fugitives from vampire justice sounds like something the Volturi wouldn’t want either.

Bella points out how they can find him even if they can’t find her, and Edward replies “And I can take care of myself.” Prove it, asshole. This, after all, is coming from the guy who claimed in this here chapter he’d just curl up in a ball when he realized he and Bella weren’t together anymore.

9. The boys start talking about their macho adventures to come of outfoxing the Volturi. “I straightened up in my chair, focusing. This was my meeting.” I guess so, but that everything’s about her so that doesn’t really help Bella earn any sympathy.

She calls for a vote and it’s largely in favor of taking her into the family but I still have yet to understand why. Edward protests at what all she’s giving up, and Bella does stop for a minute to consider how it’ll hurt to abandon her parents, but “I was hurting them more by staying human.” After all, “I was a danger magnet; I’d accepted that about myself.” So that she can be a vehicle for fantasizing about being rescued by the perfect guy. Would it be pedantic of me to point out that for all the “danger” she’s in on a regular basis just being friends with vampires and werewolves and all the massively stupid decisions she’s made all by herself, she’s got nothing to show for any of it? Could we please actually see something to show us the danger Bella’s attracting is real? Something besides a cold scar that gets mentioned once or twice in the whole series?

10. Edward rushes her home, then tries to get Bella to agree to wait on becoming a vampire. For five years, to be exact. She isn’t too happy with those terms. “Yes, but…you’ll use that time to find a way out of it. I have to strike while the iron is hot.” How is this supposed to work if they don’t trust each other and can’t agree on the big things? That just doesn’t sound like the greatest romance ever.

And this sure as hell doesn’t sound like a person wise beyond their years: “No way. Nineteen I’ll do. But I’m not going anywhere near twenty. If you’re staying in your teens forever, so am I.” Whiny little punk-ass. She’s supposed to be all selfless and she won’t give on this at all.

11. Then Edward drops a bomb. He’ll vamp Bella sooner. If she’ll marry him first. She drags her feet on that. “I’m…afraid of Renee. She has some really intense opinions on getting married before you’re thirty.” Well, how does Bella hope to get around that? If she refuses to wait until she’s thirty to become a vampire, which she very clearly does, she’ll never be thirty. Near as I can tell, vampires are frozen physically AND mentally at the age and level of maturity they were at when they were converted (and don’t even try to say Bella already has the mind of a thirty-five-year-old). Edward certainly hasn’t made any strides toward conquering the tendencies of a melodramatic teenager in his century of life.

As for the idea of marrying Edward itself, well isn’t that exactly what she wants? To be bonded with him forever?

“ ‘You’re impossible,’ I groaned. ‘A monster.’ ” Screw you and the sparkly pretty boy you rode in on.

12. Bella complains about how “He was such a cheater” because Edward knows she wants him to be the one to change her and is using it to blackmail her. Yeah, that’s true love all right.

Charlie comes in and demands to hear one reason why he shouldn’t ship Bella off to be a millstone around her mom’s neck instead. “My eyes narrowed. So it was going to be threats, was it?” Fuck you, you self-righteous little twat. He doesn’t know any better than to think you’re crazy, and imagine what he’d say if he had any idea why you were really running out on him all the time.

She says that she’s an adult, the thing with Edward was just a big misunderstanding, and if Charlie tries to put pressure on her she’ll just move in with him. That she says she’d rather not do that doesn’t go too far in undoing the image she created of being indignant that Charlie’s sick of her acting like a lunatic when she doesn’t do anything to explain different.

13. The chapter ends with another secret meeting between her and Edward affirming that yes, they’re in love. Stop talking about it and show it already.