Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 1 - Ultimatum



When I finished the first book in this series, I genuinely felt like I’d accomplished something big. I didn’t feel like that when I wrote my last review for New Moon. I complained about how it seemed like nothing was happening in Twilight, but boy did I have no idea how far down there was to go. New Moon makes Dragonball Z look well-paced (Twilight does too, but New Moon’s worse). While the other books have to a one failed to live up to their promises, New Moon was worse because it didn’t even bother to promise anything. It was about was Bella not being with Edward. If Meyer had bothered to portray the questionable stuff in their relationship as problems, we might have doubted they’d end up together. But she didn’t.

Fortunately, as I noted in the review of the illustrated guide, Eclipse is a little better. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s good. Anything would’ve been a step up after that. It’s less like Meyer starts getting it right, and gets it a little less wrong this time around. Perhaps due to the stakes being higher, or the fact that there’s just one more book in the series, it seems even more like Bella gets everything without having to do anything. As helpless and weepy as Bella is, that’s still a prime Mary Sue trait.

1. Instead of the moronic teaser for the climax, why don’t we start with the summary on the copyright page this time?

“Bella must choose between her friendship with Jacob and her relationship with Edward, but when Seattle is ravaged by a mysterious string of killings, the three of them need to decide whether their personal lives are more important than the well-being of an entire city.”

Would it be unfair of me to say that sounds like something our “heroes” would have to actually think about?

Didn’t think so.

2. As for said moronic teaser, as usual it’s about a period late in the book where Bella, and really all her allies, suck: “All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.” She’s distraught about some kind of battle.

I’m worried about that too. After all, the only people with names I remember dying up to this point were James (a villain), Laurent (another villain), and Harry Clearwater (a faceless side character who died to set up the most idiotic, unnecessary climax I may have ever seen).

You know why Rob’s character died in The Goblet of Fire? A big part of it was so we’d believe in the increasing danger facing the characters. He was a good guy, and he still got killed. A lot of time’s gone into (and will continue to go into) telling us how much so-and-so’s a threat, but how much do you really want to bet we might lose a Cullen or two by the end of the series? Can you really believe Stephenie Meyer’s the kind of author who’d be willing to let that happen?

I can’t. Not so much because no “good guys” have died yet, but simply because nothing’s happened to lend any of the menaces any weight or make me think the author’s willing to let something unpleasant happen to a favored character. James only trapped Bella because she’s a moron. Victoria spent the entire last book offscreen because she couldn’t get past Jacob and his buddies. And the Volturi…well damn, did you see anything proving how implacable they are in dealing with rule-breakers? Who also happen to be anything more than a no-development background character? Then again, how may major characters do these books really have?

That more anything is the problem with Meyer’s books: she seems to think that because she says someone’s scary, or that whoever’s a jerk to our narrator who doesn’t deserve it, they are. Without having to actually let us see that for ourselves.

SDT. Learn it. Use it.

3. Things open on a note from Jacob where a bunch of angry stuff he wrote and crossed out is still rather legible. Bella, of course, feels guilty about putting him through this, since “behind each angry beginning lurked a vast pool of hurt; Jacob’s pain cut me deeper than my own.” Pardon me for not finding her very empathic when she takes the blame for everything she can, no matter how much sense it doesn’t make. You’ve got to have some sense of self before you can be selfless.

4. Meanwhile, Charlie’s trying to cook and failing, and isn’t too happy. “I was mystified. Charlie cooking? And what was with the surly attitude?” Because he’s wondering what he did to be punished with being her farther? I spent the last two books inside her head, but Charlie has to live with her. I doubt he has it any easier.

 Then there’s some stuff for new readers about how Charlie’s a cop and Bella’s going out with a telepathic vampire and how Jacob deliberately got her in trouble to limit her contact with Edward. And how Charlie doesn’t like Edward much either.

“Of course, I still saw Edward at school, because there wasn’t anything Charlie could do about that.” Besides ship her off to live with her mom again or put a restraining order on Edward, so maybe it’s because he really does love his daughter somehow after all.

Confusing is this little thought, about Bella putting up with Charlie limiting her time with Edward: “I couldn’t bear to hurt my dad by moving out now, when a much more permanent separation hovered, invisible to Charlie, so close on my horizon. My dad sat down at the table with a grunt and unfolded the damp newspaper there…”

This is about the only time in the book she doesn’t think of Charlie as Charlie. Did something not get caught in copy editing?

Speaking of damp newspapers, “Seattle’s making a run for murder capital of the country. Five unsolved homicides in the last two weeks. Can you imagine living like that?” Can you imagine living in a world where the author doesn’t slap you in the face with the plot like that?

5. Bella’s reading her copy of Wuthering Heights when Charlie says he’s got something to ask her, but if you guessed that was setup so Meyer could make some more shaky comparisons between her sparkly vampire wank dream and a piece of classic literature, give yourself a cookie. And go read a less predictable book.

6. What’s Papa Swan got to talk about, you ask? He asks her not to be mad at Jacob, and try to have contact with people besides Edward. Although I have to politely disgree with the claim that “For a teenager, you’re amazingly non-whiney.” Maybe he doesn’t actually live with her.

Bella’s surprised that Charlie’s loosening his strictures on her going out with Edward as an incentive for his entreaties, since “Edward hadn’t picked up any wavering in Charlie’s thoughts”. Even if there’s no such thing as psychic powers, even if it’s not something he can really control, I’m pretty sure eavesdropping like that’s another crime. At the very least, it’s something nobody wants happening to them. I mean, Jacob’s talked about how embarrassing it is for the other wolves to know every single thing he thinks. And when one of those things is being attracted to Bella Swan, you’ve gotta feel for the guy.

As for Bella’s “friends,” well, “Before Edward’s return, my school friends had polarized into two groups. I liked to think of those groups as good vs. evil. Us vs. them worked too. The good guys were Angela, her steady boyfriend Ben Cheney, and Mike Newton; these three had all very generously forgiven me for going crazy when Edward left.” Very generously. Unhealthily so. “Lauren Mallory was the evil core of the them side, and almost everyone else, including my first friend in Forks, Jessica Stanley, seemed content to go along with her anti-Bella agenda.” Wow, sign me up, Lauren! Do we get team jackets and have a secret handshake? I’ll join up either way.

In all seriousness, am I really supposed to think Bella’s mature beyond her years? Good vs. evil, are you fncking kidding me? In any case, it’s a little late to say Bella cared about any of them as anything but an outlet for favors. Which includes an excuse to get Charlie off her back. As much as she may care about him deep down, I’ve yet to see that for anyone in her circle of “friends.” Saying something’s so doesn’t make it so.

Bella gently tries to explain that “Friendship doesn’t always seem to be enough for Jake.” Why, I don’t think I’ll ever understand.

7. The subject of where Bella’s going to college is mentioned, and Bella mentions “I’m shocked, Sheriff. That’s a federal crime” when she finds out Charlie opened one of her acceptance letters already. Like she’s one to talk, especially considering Charlie has no idea what she and Edward really do together. Like steal cars and immolate ballet studios. Although I can believe the author doesn’t realize that.

When Bella drags her feet, dad asks what Edward’s got planned after graduation. However, “Three quick raps on the door saved me.” Bella’s not smart. Otherwise she would’ve already asked Edward what his story is. That’s no guarantee she’d know it, though, since the perfect boyfriend still seems to enjoy watching his twu luv squirm.

Anyway, yeah, it’s Edward, and about two thirds of the following page go into talking about how “Time had not made me immune to the perfection of his face, and I was sure that I would never take any aspect of it for granted.” Yeah, that’s probably mostly for the newcomers (mostly, because Bella’s gushing over the Cullens’ pretty is only a little subdued compared to what it’s been), but sheesh. You can take praising someone’s hotness too far, even in a romance novel. Which I’m still not sure these are.

It’s not just his body, but his manners that are perfect. “Edward was always flawlessly polite, though Charlie didn’t deserve it.” Screw you. Imagine what he’d think of Edward if he knew what Edward was really like, or what the real reasons were behind Bella suddenly going to Phoenix or Italy. Charlie’s not the one who would’ve never recovered from their first time being dumped without a new perfect partner entering his life, either.

“He was taking the idea of parental supervision to extremes lately, indeed.” If you don’t want people to treat you like a baby, don’t act like one. Furthermore, didn’t Edward make a point of having parental supervision in his cover story of following Bella to Phoenix during their fracas with James?

8. But back to college, Bella’s amazed at how she gets accepted to so many places, especially so late in the year. Except not really. “I could just imagine the motivations behind such exceptions. And the dollar amounts involved.” Because rules are for poor mortal people.

Edward’s so awesome that when he says he’s been accepted to Syracuse, Harvard and Dartmouth, he probably means sixty years ago. Sorry, it’s going to take more than that to make me forget how he failed to anticipate an evil vampire wanting revenge after getting diplomas at every Ivy League school you can name.

9. Edward tries to run the idea of taking Bella to Seattle past her dad, and is flatly turned down because of the killing spree going on there (why does he even suggest it, what with how manically protective he is of Bella? He knows what’s really going on there, and he even forbids her to see Jacob). She tries to protest, “Dad, there’s a better chance that I’ll get struck by lightning than that the one day I’m in Seattle--” Stop right there. The books have endlessly tried to say all that shit happens to Bella because she’s some kind of “danger magnet.” She’s also taken every opportunity to say how worthless she is as a person. Don’t try to say how unlikely it is something bad will happen to her. Not even with vampire chaperones, since we've seen more than once that Bella can be prompted to ditch whichever supernatural bodyguards she has at the time and do something pointless and suicidal. Unless we’re dropping that charade and admitting she’s a magnet for trouble at least in (large) part to her own apocalyptically bad judgement.

Oh, and even though Bella’s not in the mood to apply to a bunch of hoity toity colleges since all she wants out of the future is to be grafted to Edward’s hip, it turns out he’s mastered forging her signature and has already written her admission essays for her. Oh yes, true love, when your partner’s signing you up for things without your consent or even knowledge. I want Bella to do things besides sit around and whine, of course, but they don’t mean anything if the only reason she’d be interested is to humor Edward so he’ll give her what she wants.

Edward tries to persuade her to try college under the pretense of enjoying “human experiences” while she’s still properly human, but the only thing on her mind are the dangers staying human poses, namely being at the mercy of Victoria and the Volturi. Neither of whom, as I pointed out, is at all intimidating. Bella’s still worried even with Alice keeping an eye on the both of them with her “uncannily accurate visions of the future”. What happened to “strange, imperfect” visions? Suited the story for her to be more reliable all of a sudden, huh?

10. Edward confirms that the murders going on in Seattle are being committed by a newborn vampire, but “it’s not our problem. We wouldn’t even pay attention to the situation if it wasn’t going on so close to home.” Nice hero. Also, this means that when the Cullens do get involved, you have to wonder if they really care about saving anyone besides Bella despite what they say. Not to mention how it puts the lie to Bella claiming that the Cullens were "all committed to protecting human life." What's even worse is the part before that is "He and his 'vegetarian' family," implying that by not eating people, they're protecting human life. Just because you're not making a point to kill people, that doesn't make you their protector.

Not that I really care if anybody else gets killed. When Bella reads the names of the victims, “People who’d had parents and children and friends and pets and jobs and hopes and plans and memories and futures…” well, I’m not saying I don’t care when I hear someone I don’t know dies. I’m saying I don’t care when a made-up person I don’t know dies.

Michelle O’Connell and Ronald Albrook aren’t people who had lives, they’re a couple letters Meyer typed on a page (although I could believe they're people Meyer's known in real life). That’s why I didn’t care when Harry Clearwater died. All I knew was he was one of Charlie’s friends. He has some relatives on the reservation, but they’re barely more than names floating in limbo themselves. You can use the death of unknowns to establish something/someone as dangerous, that said something/someone is a heartless killer. Because if they kill people without a qualm, it means they probably won’t have any scruples about killing a character we’ve gotten to know and, hopefully, care about. But it’s hard to use that to make something tragic. Not impossible, but hard.

Think about it like this: when the Death Star blew up Alderaan, what did you think? “Everyone on that planet’s dead, how sad,” or “uh oh, the bad guys can destroy a whole planet”? Star Wars was trying to make the same point Eclipse is, after all.

To draw another comparison to The Dresden Files, I just finished the fourth one, Summer Knight. The plot involved saving a young woman I didn’t think we ever got to know that well, but we did meet her family, saw how close they were and how far they’d go to protect each other. We saw that family and their memories and their devotion. It wasn’t a stellar example, but it was an example. Or Kim from Fool Moon. We didn’t learn much about her before she died, but she had an honest to God meaningful conversation with the main character before she did. We found after she died that she was tied into the plot as more than just a statistic. We didn’t see that with secondary characters in New Moon. We’re not going to see it in Eclipse either.

I will say this: while Meyer doesn’t seem to understand that it helps to give us reasons to care about a character before you try to tell us it’s sad they’re gone, Bella is at least bothered by the fact that rampant loss of human life is occurring. In the last book it sometimes sounded like she only cared if someone she personally was attached to was endangered.

11. Edward starts to talk to Bella about Wuthering Heights and how “it’s not a love story, it’s a hate story,” but since I’ve never seen a movie version of it and I’m not reading a whole book to respond to one point (which knowing the author is off-base anyway), I’m going to step back from this one (anyone who knows is welcome to fill me in). Except for the part where Edward says “I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality.” If people were saying the things about my writing that they do about Steph’s, I don’t think I’d leave myself open like that.

12. The conversation turns to the Quileutes and how Edward doesn’t want her hanging around them. “Werewolves are unstable. Sometimes, the people near them get hurt. Sometimes, they get killed.” He used to say the same things about vampires, making his family’s attempts to blend into human society a bit puzzling since we’re supposed to think of them as good people.

“You don’t know them,” Bella whispers, but he assures her he does. “I was here the last time.” “The last time?” she asks, meaning that I guess she’s forgotten about the story Jacob told her that mattered, about the Cullens being vampires and the werewolves brokering a truce with them.

This…damn. It’s hard to justify Bella not knowing what Edward means even for the benefit of new readers. She’s a total moron if she doesn’t know what he’s talking about by now, with everything she’s seen. Meyer could’ve avoided that by changing Bella’s question to “You mean when Carlisle made the treaty?” and then having her remind us about that.

Edward places the blame for the reemergence of the werewolves on Bella: “Your bad luck seems to get more potent every day. Do you realize that your insatiable pull for all things deadly was strong enough to recover a pack of mutant canines from extinction? If we could bottle your luck, we’d have a weapon of mass destruction on our hands.” I thought they reemerged to protect their land from a vampire (Victoria). Yeah, whose fault is it James's girlfriend is still around, again, dipshit?

In any case, Edward refuses to let Bella go anywhere near La Push because of his distrust of werewolves. “Do you really have any idea of how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?” Show it sometime in a way that doesn't involve treating her like a brainless doll and I’ll consider it. Show it by them doing something besides risking their lives (which are defined by their relationship with the other). They compare how much they love each other, but that’s no substitute.

14. Considering the nature of the posts that prompt them, does anyone else think the Twilight ads on my blog are hilarious?


  1. I was always uncomfortable with how Edward expressed his love for (possession over) Bella. But is is sadly more than she does for him, by far. I mean, if she really loves Edward sooooooo much then why did it take her so long to agree to his compromise of them being together. If she had her way, then they would be unwed vampires. That always really bothered me. She wants to be with him forever (which is supposedly the reason for her desperation to become undead), but she doesn't want to get married because marriages don't last. How does that even begin to make sense?

  2. But look at all of Bella's whining and angsting from the shadows. Surely she's done her fair share of suffering to balance out this relationship.

    Seriously, yes, their union is woefully lopsided. Even Bella says so, but it's not because Edward's the one with all the money and power to bequeath. It's because Bella doesn't HAVE to provide anything but her mopey self. Everybody loves the queen of meaningless angst, despite her being the queen of meaningless angst. As if being the queen of meaningless angst is cute or something.

    Just because a character's not the biggest badass or the most beautiful person in the story, that doesn't mean they're not still a Sue.

  3. If it weren't because SM has shown that she's incapable of irony, I'd think Edward criticising WH is a joke. WH's male protagonist, Heatcliff, is a man who destroys his lover and mistreats his wife. He has been described as a Byronic hero, a romantic anti-hero and even as the villain of the novel (though I personally think the last one is an exaggeration). It's probably the only literary allusion that has something to do with Twilight apart from the genre. And Heatcliff had a really tragic past and the heroine loved her because he was his childhood friend and very different from the other men she knew. So, yes, no redeeming qualities at all (!).