Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 6 - Switzerland

1. Oh man, she actually named the chapter after that part.

2. “As I drove home, I wasn’t paying much attention to the road that shimmered wetly in the sun.” Oh, please tell us what Bella was thinking! I’ll just die if I don’t know!

Oh, thank you Steph! Despite all the arguing, Bella’s feeling lighter because of her chat with Jacob. Because of the way the universe bends over backwards to cater to her whim. Yes, a lot of favorite characters in fiction change the world. That’s because they actually work hard to do so, not because everything goes their way because a bad author says so. With the way Bella obsesses over the guys in her life, and the level of attention most characters who aren’t potential boyfriends get, it seems like Bella wants the Cullens and Quileutes to stop fighting not because she’s worried about the numerous deaths that would result if things got ugly, but because she doesn’t want to have to give up either Jacob or Edward. That’s a laudable motivation to seek an end to conflict, isn’t it?

3. As she’s thinking that a familiar silver Volvo drives up behind her. Again, Edward’s stalking Bella to make sure she doesn’t do anything that he, a guy who hasn’t matured a bit in nearly a century, doesn’t think is in her best interests.

With all the trouble Bella creates, I have to ask something I’ve asked before: why are the Cullens so attached to this particular piece of ground? They own a private tropical island, fer chrissakes. They give each other cars as presents. I understand a place like Forks helps them hide their sparkles, but things have gotten even more uncomfortable than ever with the other supernatural creatures in the area.

The Cullens don’t have to work, they don’t socialize outside the family, and when they do try to blend in they do a pretty piss-poor job of it. It’s only through the author’s will that anybody in the story buys it. What keeps them in Forks? I know, Bella, but would she really elect to stay, to spare Charlie the separation anxiety, if Edward told her things were getting too dangerous for them and the family had to move? Since he’s the entire reason for her existence, I’m leaning toward no.

Let me give you budding authors out there a tip that I shouldn’t have to give: really think about your characters’ problems, and think about their options for dealing with them. If the most sensible option is the one that would result in an abrupt and lame ending, like the Cullens and Bella moving away from Forks so the werewolves will stop being bothered by their antics, then you might want to address it.

4. Edward actually doesn’t try to stop her, probably saving it for when he can do it without anyone around to hear what he thinks a healthy relationship is, and Bella stops at the house of one her “friends.” A girl named Angela whose only distinguishing trait is not treating our heroine as if she’s a total psycho.

Angela thanks Bella for saving her from watching “two long hours of a plot-less, badly dubbed martial arts film.” Glass houses, Steph.

Bella and Angela do senior prom stuff as they…*sigh* sit around and talk. How about some lines of particular note? “Angela’s easy human dramas were oddly reassuring.” Don’t try to make Bella’s problems seem bigger by comparing them to a normal person’s, make them seem bigger by making them bigger.

“But, like Charlie, she was also too observant sometimes.” Steph, you’re not making your characters look more observant, you’re making your universe look stupider if the kinds of things that are considered big revelations in there are really supposed to be things most people wouldn’t think of or notice.

“I wanted to moan a little bit, like any other teenage girl. I wanted my problems to be that simple.” If you want Bella’s problems to look big, how about you not only actually make them big, you make her save her angsting and whining for the things that merit it. After a while they all start sounding the same, and that while was a long, long, long time ago.

“ ‘What’s wrong?’ It was so easy to talk to Angela. When she had a question like that, I could tell that she wasn’t just morbidly curious or looking for gossip, like Jessica would have been. She cared that I was upset.” Stop telling us what to think. These books aren’t so tightly-plotted there’s nothing that couldn’t have gone to make room for us to actually see this stuff she’s talking about. Plus, this has me thinking of the contrast of the “Bella and Jessica going to the movies” scenes in the book and movie versions of New Moon again. Which is to say I got the feeling she was twisting the story to make people she didn’t like for whatever reason sound bad.

“I hadn’t realized I was so starved for human conversation.” That’s the thing, isn’t it? These books were written for human readers. Who are going to want characters they can relate to. If you’re going to have lots of characters who AREN’T human, and don’t think or act like them, then maybe you ought to show us what it is about those characters that makes it so we should like them. And yes, that goes for our heroine too.

There, I just summed up what’s wrong with this whole series. Goodnight.

5. …fine. Damn it. Bella thinks about the vampire menace going on in Seattle, because Angela’s attending college there I guess. “Would it be safe then? Would the wild young vampire menace have moved elsewhere?” Would those (not) terrifying vampires who all the others vampires fear, the ones who don’t tolerate any threat to the secrecy of their existence, have not done anything about it by then? Or, more to the point, with Bella thinking of herself as the source of all the problems in the universe, why does she not think that’s got anything to do with her? Because you know what, if you don’t think it does, congratulations, you’ve never experienced fiction before.

6. “A swell of quiet sadness crashed over me; maybe it was a mistake to get closer to Angela now.” It’s certainly too late to try to get us to care. Bella starts thinking about maybe she really is missing out on “human experiences” by having Edward vamp her as soon as possible, which is actually a step toward that “character growth” thing. Too bad it’s totally snatched away right when she starts thinking seriously about it next book by her vampire pregnancy.

7. Bella goes home and guess who’s waiting in her bedroom for her. Edward talks about how close he almost came to violating the treaty and going into Quileute territory after her. Pardon my poor memory, but wasn’t this exact guy thanking Jacob at the end of New Moon for keeping an eye on Bella while he was gone? Does that enter his thought process at all? Or is it yet another thing changed to suit the current situation?

Edward also tells Bella he was having Alice watch for her, and she retorts that she trusts Jacob and next time Edward’s not going to overreact because of how trustworthy Jacob is. And because, despite the sexuality on display in the last bit of the book, this was written with the moral complexity of something for 8-year-olds.

Edward at least has no delusions about the mind of the author. “This is only about you. All I care is that you’re safe.”

Oh, boy. “Jacob is family. You are…well, not exactly the love of my life, because I expect to love you for much longer than that. The love of my existence. I don’t care who’s a werewolf and who’s a vampire. If Angela turns out to be a witch, she can join the party, too.” This party already has a witch. But really, show us why these two are the greatest match ever. I’m sure it’s perfectly clear why in Stephenie Meyer’s head, but, thank God, I’M NOT STEPHENIE MEYER! You cannot assume we see what you see, that we instinctively know what you know. You have to make it clear to someone who’s never heard of your stuff before. SDT!

That resolves that (“For now”), but Bella intends to continue seeing Jacob. After all. “Forks was neutral, just like Switzerland -- just like me.” What makes me really sad is that the way that thought was worked into the movie was even more idiotic than it is in the book.

And how in the flying fnork is she neutral, anyway? She wants both groups of supernatural shitheads to get along, yes, but there's still a bias that couldn't be more obvious if it was sticking a fork in your eye. She's going out with the vampire, not the werewolf. And she's planning to become a vampire so she can be with the vampire forever.  Meyer tries to pretend Bella's in love with Jacob too later on in this very book, but that would only work if she were willing to admit her obsession with Edward's looks and the power being like him would give her were parts of a shallow phase she was going through. And Bella was never a child. Her mommy says so.

Even when Bella was spending all that time with Jacob, she was just bending him around her finger to help hang onto Edward's memory. She forgave Edward for trying to forbid her to see her friend after some perfunctory rebellion. Don't try to fool us, Meyer.

8. Edward hasn’t given up, though. In fact, he’s upped the ante. Since Bella’s visit to La Push interrupted his hunting trip, he’s going again. But he’s sent Alice to not just use the precognition, he’s having her full-on kidnap Bella under the guise of a slumber party so there’s no way she can do anything Edward wouldn’t allow. He’s even bribed Alice with a car “exactly like the one I stole in Italy.” Wow that’s amazingly endearing. Not just the having his girlfriend kidnapped thing, but with their casual crimes. Not clearly legal or illegal, huh?

9. Bella: “Alice, don’t you think this is just a little bit controlling? Just a tiny bit psychotic, maybe?”
Alice: “Not really. You don’t seem to grasp how dangerous a young werewolf can be.”
Starofjustice: “Wouldn’t be the first thing she’s failed to grasp…”
Alice: “Especially when I can’t see them. Edward has no way to know if you’re safe. You shouldn’t be so reckless.”
Starofjustice: “Could the author please actually show them to be a fncking danger to our heroine at some point? Maybe? To maybe justify some of this tension? She spent a big part of the last book around these guys, NEVER ONCE did I feel like she might end up like Emily. I know we’ve got a living example of this ‘werewolves are unstable’ thing, but Meyer hasn’t made good on one single chance to show how Bella’s threatened by any threat in these books. Tension? What’s that??”
Bella: “Yes, because a vampire slumber party is the pinnacle of safety conscious behavior.”
Starofjustice: “And if I can have my cake and eat it too, since when has their desire to eat her gone away? These books don’t work no matter which way you think about ‘em!”

10. Bella does go along with it, of course, because for a heroine capable of bringing about such sweeping change to the entire supernatural world, she doesn’t need to be able to do anything stupid like stand up for herself.

“Alice did insist on the pedicure, and I wondered if she was working from a list -- maybe something she’d compiled from watching bad sitcoms.” So how exactly vampires fill eternity if they’re awake 24/7? I mean, hunting for wild animals seems to take awhile, but they also only seem to have to do that once every couple weeks. What do the Cullens do with all their time? What does Bella plan to do with hers?

11. Bella calls Jacob once she gets to the Cullens’, and he spouts off “Can’t you have a life when he’s gone?” That sort of implies she has one while he’s around.

In spite of this, she tells him to relax because “their hearts are in the right place.” Would I seem petty if I said these books would be fifty pages long if somebody’s BRAIN was ever in the right place?

To further smash any hope I might have of ever liking Alice, “ She grinned. ‘This hostage stuff is fun.’ ”

12. Bella finds out Edward got her a bed for while she’s under house arrest in another family’s house, and about a third of a page goes into describing it. Because you know, the Cullens are rich and their stuff is really elaborate.

Alice asks, “You didn’t really think he would make you sleep on the couch, did you?” I really couldn’t be sure with all the other things he’s done to her. And if they’re just plonking down bucks for all these beds and cars on spur of the moment, I have to ask again why the Cullens insist on digging in their feet and staying where there’s another supernatural clique that’s starting to eye them inhospitably. Hell, from the legend we hear about how the Quileute werewolves came to be in a couple chapters, it sounds like there probably aren’t any other werewolves anywhere.

“I’ll give you some privacy,” Alice says as she leaves to let Bella get changed into her pj’s. They have to consciously do that, don’t you want in on this family?

The chapter ends as Rosalie comes in and asks to talk with Bella. Oh, boy…

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zork 3 - The Cavern of Doom

Despite their promise not to stay away quite so long at the end of their last quest to save Zork, it’s been two months since Bill and June smashed the wicked ambitions of Malifestro. They end up in Zork again by accident when trying to save their magic ring from rolling off a cliff, where they learn from their “uncle” that numerous brave adventurers have gone missing in a recently discovered network of caverns.

And no, the first decision of the book isn’t whether to accept the quest or not. That’s the first decision that has any bearing on the plot. The first decision is what the kids want to do on their first day back in Zork, but they end up listening to Syovar’s stories no matter what you pick. Because they feel bad for not doing what poor old uncle Syovar wanted to do. I’m sorry, I just don’t get how Bill and June become people with lives and relatives in Zork whenever they put on the ring, and why I should act as if Syovar’s related to my avatar(s). Even the book describes him as “uncle” in quotations when mentioning him before they travel to Zork.

Oh yeah, the plot. After not deciding to put the book away before the adventure even starts, Bivotar and Juranda are allowed to enter the caverns to go looking for all the missing explorers. And Max and Fred from the last book, because they were such funny and endearing companions, right? (No, they weren’t)

What this means is even more than in the first book, the adventure is devoted to the kids bumping around in caves, interacting with random things they come across and occasionally finding something that will help them on their quest. Not to mention often meeting one of numerous grisly deaths.

Slide 1 of 67

I know this is based on an ancient computer game, but I really must protest that I don’t enjoy games where I’m just wandering around in a nondescript cave where things happen with no rhyme or reason. That The Cavern of Doom puts even more emphasis on this than The Forces of Krill is the book’s first major problem.

For all the book's faults, this is a pretty darn impressive picture.

Then there’s the grisly deaths. Looking back, I have no idea how I didn’t have nightmares reading this book as a kid. Besides the various endings where the kids are eaten alive by Grues for wandering around menacing caves without light, there’s the one where they accidentally enter a crematorium and are burned alive by insane robots. Let’s have an ending where a pair of adolescents are jammed in an incinerator. That’s okay for young readers, right?

Instead of being required to find just one item like other books in the series, getting through The Cavern of Doom requires several. I personally liked this, as I thought it helped this feel more like an actual quest game, and made the puzzles feel less like a constant stream of “which tunnel’s less likely to have something that’ll kill me?” This doesn’t change the fact that most of the stuff down there doesn’t make much sense (if the dragon’s been guarding that tunnel for hundreds of years, how did all the explorers get past him?). Also the puzzles feel inconsistent at times. One requires finding several gems to bribe someone, and so an ending where you’re killed for trying to claim a treasure chest feels like a cop-out. Oh, you wanted me to do that before but not now, huh? Okay.

I will say this about the book, unlike the two preceding it the kids don’t go through hell and back just to have Syovar fight the main bad guy for them. Still, it’s too little, too late.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 5 - Imprint

1. Continuing where we left off last chapter, Bella’s trying to console Jacob with the pain of choosing Edward over him. “Isn’t it getting any better?” No, it’s not, because people don’t get completely over other people in these books. With some of them it’s even used to demonstrate their devotion.

2. We find out Quil (whoever that is) joined the werewolf pack too, and rather than being emo about it, “he’s jazzed. Totally thrilled.” After all, “Shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. It’s so Quil.” I’m supposed to know what they’re talking about right? Because I do know the character, but I don’t know the character, if you get what I’m saying.

Then again I do know some of the characters Meyer brings into focus next, but still don’t know what it is about them I’m meant to like. Namely, Bella says Edward might come looking for her, even if he thinks she’s on the Quileutes’ land, if he thinks she’s doing something “he considers…risky.”

Like I’ve said, I’m not entirely against Edward wanting to protect his girlfriend. If he didn’t we’d be calling him something else. It’s just the way he goes about it is as if she’s his pet rather than his soul mate. If she wants to do something he doesn’t want her to do, she won’t, because he’s the big strong vampire with a precognitive sister and money he’ll still be trying to burn through when the sun’s going dark, and she’s the pitiful little human who still shares a bathroom with her dad. My condolences to the Twihards who haven’t grown out of thinking that’s a model for a lasting relationship.

My mind isn’t changed any when Bella asks why their two groups can’t just be “civilized” to each other. Hey, most vampires really are remorseless killers, and the way Edward tries to confine Bella and all the other crimes his family has committed, most of them over this whiny little sadsack, don’t really make them look like the angels Bella and middle-aged real Bella would have us believe. Let alone the the way Alice, Bella’s supposed best friend among the family, treats her  a lot like Edward does but as a life-sized Barbie rather than a dog. I can almost forgive a first-time author for not knowing that readers won’t necessarily like the protagonist just for being the protagonist, but with all the reading she’s claimed to have done that helped inspire this, I don’t think I should. Even if I can.

Also, in reference to Edward, “At least he can be a grown-up about this.” Is that why he disabled your truck so you couldn’t visit your friend he doesn’t trust?

“He knows that hurting you would hurt me -- and so he never would. You don’t seem to care about that at all!” Me me me me me me me me me! I didn’t like Kamen Rider Kabuto much, but at least it was honest enough to come out and say its protagonist was the center of the universe.

3. After Meyer tries to convince me she understands character development and the dynamics of loving relationships more and fails, Bella tries to defend the Cullens to Jacob more. “The Cullens had no idea. They didn’t think that werewolves still existed here. They didn’t know that coming here would change you.”

Didn’t they? They brokered a truce with werewolves in this territory, and she had more contact than the Cullens did with someone who took that agreement very seriously. Remember Billy trying to warn her off going out with Edward? What, exactly, was it that made the Cullens think that there were no more werewolves around if the tribe they belonged to was still around?

And maybe I’m missing something, but it seemed like none of the pack forming and teenagers wolfing out happened until Victoria came back and started gunning for Bella. She, after all, presumably didn’t know about the Cullens’ agreement with the Quileutes and didn’t know vampires were supposed to stay off their land. It seemed to me they were wolfing out in response to the threat she posed. To the extent the concept of “threat” exists in this universe at all.

“You think I should be as forgiving as you are? We can’t all be saints and martyrs.” Yeah, some of us have personalities.

“Grow up, Jacob.” Get some perspective, Bella.

4. We find out perhaps how much growing up Bella herself really has to do when Jacob replies that he can’t grow up, because if he changes into a wolf on a regular basis, he, like the others, won’t age.

“Am I the only one who has to get old? I get older every stinking day! Damn it! What kind of world is this? Where’s the justice?…Shut, Jacob. Just shut up! This is so unfair!” Boy she gets more and more relatable all the time, doesn’t she? This isn’t making a good character flawed, it’s making a flawed character insufferable.

He calms her down by saying that it’s not really that simple. The reason he got so much bigger in between the last time she saw him as a human and when he joined Sam’s pack is he’s in his mid-20’s, physically, thanks to the change. Which, as usual, our super-aware protagonist never really thought about until somebody shoved her face in it.

Jacob: “So, did you want to hear more about Sam, or did you want to scream at me some more for things that are out of my control?”
Bella: “Sorry. Age is a touchy subject for me. That hit a nerve.”
Starofjustice: “She was never a teenager, huh?”

5. They talk about some boring stuff about when Sam first became a werewolf, and then Jacob tells her about the really weird part about being a werewolf. “I’m a pro at weird,” Bella replies, which is why she’s always in the dark.

Jacob’s talking about one of Meyer’s most dubious inclusions, imprinting. “ ‘Imprinting?’ I repeated the unfamiliar word. ‘No. What’s that mean?’ ” Because a smart, well-read person who’s nearly out of high school wouldn’t have heard that word before.

Imprinting, at least in regard to Meyer’s werewolves, involves them falling permanently, obsessively in love with someone out of the blue (not stated here but in the next book is it doesn’t matter if that person’s a toddler). Bella asks if it’s like love at first sight, but told “It’s a little bit more powerful than that. More absolute.” You know, according to the guidebook Meyerpires fall in love once and then that’s it for the rest of their eternities. For a romance novel a lot of the couplings seem biologically motivated.

Sam fell for Emily that way, even though he was going out with her cousin Leah. This is why Sam hates vampires, evidently. Because their presence made him change into a werewolf, which made him imprint on Emily, which made him break up with Leah. Because he and Emily are…extremely happy…together. Even though Emily really had no interest in Sam before she got imprinted on. But hey, “it’s hard to resist that level of commitment and adoration,” sayeth Jacob. In this universe where the concept of being creeped out by guys doesn’t seem to exist, that’s probably true. Then again this is also a universe where moving on with your life is treated like cutting off your arm, because Leah’s still pissed about it. Even after she wolfs out herself she still acts like it was something he could’ve controlled.

Anyway Sam slipped that time and mauled his soul mate (what kind of system is this?). He was really devastated by what he’d done, but then, “somehow, she was the one comforting him, and after that….” That’s all we’re going to hear about that, I guess. Way to explain yourself, Meyer.

Bella expresses gratitude (inwardly) that Jacob’s not saying there’s anything like that between him and her. “I didn’t need any more of the supernatural that I already had to deal with.” Which is why she wants to immerse herself deeper in the supernatural world by becoming a vampire.

Wait, what?

6. Jacob goes quiet, and “My intuition told me that I didn’t want to hear what he was thinking.” Bella has intuition? And fine, don’t tell us.

By the way, Bella’s such a pro at weird that when Jacob tells a “funny” story about another werewolf imprinting, Bella says it’s not something the other werewolf should’ve shared and Jacob has to remind her werewolves can hear each other’s thoughts whether any of them want to or not. It’s nice to be reminded of that, but Meyer could’ve found a way to have Bella tell us that as an aside. Or maybe Meyer couldn’t, and that’s a bigger problem.

7. Bella tells Jacob Edward’s mind-reading doesn’t work on her.

Bella: “It probably means there’s something wrong with my brain.”
Starofjustice: “Sweetie, plenty of things you’ve done mean there’s probably something wrong with your brain.”
Jacob: “I already knew there was something wrong with your brain.”
Bella: (sarcastically) “Thanks.”
Starofjustice: “You’re welcome!”

8. Jacob brings up the nature of something Edward picked from his mind when they met two chapters ago that “bothered” Edward, which is the image from Sam’s head of how messed up and totally destroyed Bella was that night Sam found her in the woods after Edward dumped her.

Bella’s mad at Jacob for this, but I’m kind of on Jacob’s side here. Maybe it’d actually teach Edward to think through problems like he doesn’t no matter what his creator says. I can hardly remember any character getting smart about anything we’ve seen happen in these books. And from that I kind of get this sense that the author thinks “it’s fiction” and “love isn’t reasonable” are defenses against most of the criticism leveled against her characters and books as a whole.

“If you can’t be nice, I won’t come back at all!” Bella threatens. Is that what Edward’s doing by using his inhuman resources to try to keep her from seeing her friends? Is that what Edward’s doing by having her hang around his family, when her blood smells just so much more delish than anybody else’s? He says fear of losing her wiped out any urge he might’ve had to feed on her, yeah, but what about the other six vampires he lives with? Was it him or one of them that lost control around her? What's being done about that? Or is it being ignored because Meyer doesn't need it anymore?

I get really disgusted with these books when Bella insists that things like the entire reason the Quileutes regained their lupine heritage was because of the Cullens being in the area don’t matter (I still say it makes more sense that it was because of Victoria). “You are Jacob, and he is Edward, and I am Bella. And nothing else matters.” I’m not trying to sound racist or anything, and I’m not trying to deny that we need to make an effort to focus less on racial boundaries. But I am sick of this being how complex the books’ morality gets; yes everybody can get over issues they've had for generations, and all it took was Bella to get it to happen.

To prove it, eventually Jacob agrees to try to just see Edward as Edward and not Edward the bloodsucker. Because gosh darn it Bella’s special and it would be a shame not to have her around even though they seem to argue every time they meet.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dino Squad - The Trojan Dinosaur

Been a while since I did a Dino Squad review, and since that’s apparently the second-most popular series of reviews I do, how about another one? The last one they ever did, to be exact.

Max is upset that the group is inside the lighthouse studying on a beautiful day. I mean, who cares about subjects like Greek Mythology? More importantly, what high school teaches that?

Moynihan tries to sympathize with him, saying it seems like some things you learn in school are irrelevant, but a well-rounded education is the key to succeeding later in life. Rodger credits all the fancy-shmancy gadgets he’s invented to all he’s learned in science and math, and that’s great, but he probably excels in science and math because he likes science and math so much they’re what he does for fun, too. I paid more attention in my literature classes because that’s what I do for fun. Besides, does their equipment actually serve any purpose besides fighting tank-sized mutants?

Moynihan tries to rationalize the frustration from their studies as being part of all their obligations. Midterms, extracurricular activities, family obligations, and saving the world from a “super” villain who wouldn’t make the cut for the Legion of Doom. I notice nobody mentions social lives, because that would imply they had friends outside this little group the like of which doesn’t exist without the aid of central casting.

Or maybe it just is the knowledge setting in that most of the things they’re learning in school are pointless for most people. I’ve hardly used algebra or any of the foreign language stuff those two fat bitches in middle school tried to make me learn. That’s nothing compared to high school, though, because at least people still speak Spanish and French. I went to a high school where you had to take a certain amount of foreign language classes, and you could satisfy that requirement by taking Latin. Although it would’ve been handy that time I fell through a wormhole and landed in an Asterix the Gaul comic.

Anyway, checking in on Dr. Ignoramus, I mean Veloci, he’s launching a scheme to capture those perfect dinosaurs the kids turn into once and for all. He feels so good about this he even quotes “veni, vidi, vici.” He blames previous failures on a lack of manpower (despite this, he’s still only bringing his normal two flunkies with him), and this time plans to mutate a creature “known for its wildly uncontrollable behavior.”

Yes, he’s pulling up outside someplace having a dog show. You know, a pet you can train. And the ones being entered in a dog show will have been trained even more than most.

The kids are still grousing about the worthlessness of their educations, and the subject comes about Sir Isaac Newton and his discovery of gravity, and how they might never have flown to the moon if he hadn’t. Because it’s not like gravity was always there anyway.

Fortunately we’re spared more of this drivel when the mutant alarm goes off, picking up multiple contacts in Manchster, NH (which is only 46 miles away this time). Moynihan thinks this one might be difficult, and decides she’s coming too this time. Why? What about that time where Max and Caruso had to fight like 20 giant chickens? What makes this different? She even says the signals are weak, meaning the animals have been contaminated but haven’t actually mutated yet.

The group actually takes a sea plane to New Hampshire where they leave it with one of Moynihan’s many friends (do these people know she’s actually an immortal velociraptor?). Why? Remember that time where they took motorcycles to a place over 400 miles away and got there within like an hour? Why bother setting the episodes in real locations if you’re not going to address the distances? And then turn around and address the distances? I’m pretty sure “Scents and Scents-a-bility” was the first episode I did that Jeffrey Scott didn’t write.

All I’m asking for’s a little consistency.

While Moynihan and Caruso stand watch outside (with both of them in the same place. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of having two lookouts?), the others go inside and track the signal to a box. Which is full of chocolate lab puppies. Which immediately scamper out without the kids doing a thing to stop them. Let’s ignore why these puppies are at a dog show, and just say way to contain the threat you dipshits. And I think I brought this up before, but when they call Moynihan on their walkie talkies she goes by the handle “Mothersaurus.” I’m not sure I want to know why they call her “mother,” but why the “saurus”? If Veloci intercepts their transmissions he’s going to know they’re those dinosaurs that keep getting in his way, and quite possibly the other raptor who spent the millennia in the same cave as him. It’s just with how they’re supposed to be trying to keep a low profile, yet drive all those dinosaur-faced vehicles and do nothing to hide who they are…

The puppies do mutate and Max decides it’s a good time to do the same, even though the puppy-mutants appear to be, well, not hostile at all.

After they change for a non-fight, Veloci’s goons show up and trap them with tar guns, and it seems like he really has decided to hire more than two thugs to capture five dinosaurs at long last. It’s kind of funny, really, when Rodger notes “These guys have been doing their homework! They’ve never been this well-organized!” No, they just thought to send more than two guys. Only took two entire seasons.

Seeing another guy running inside, Moynihan follows and sees that the kids have been captured. Couldn’t they have called her and told her about Veloci’s guys being around with that telepathy they have in dinosaur form? I mean, that’s how she told them her and Veloci’s story in the pilot. With dino telepathy.

She goes dino herself to save the kids, because remember, she’s a raptor who gained telepathic powers, immortality and the ability to change into a human by hiding in a cave. Her surprise attack is helped by the goons forgetting they have weapons capable of bringing down dinosaurs. Much larger ones than velociraptors, even the Jurassic Park ones adopted by popular culture. Then again, the animation’s so bad it might be showing her to be the size of a spinosaurus like this.

The stupidity continues when she explains to Fiona that she’s not Veloci. No shit, he’s red. They’ve run into him like that several times. I know I've said this show doesn't have much cross-episode continuity, but you can't say they've never met the villain face-to-face and don't know what he looks like. Not by the second season, and not in the last episode of the second season. And as a matter of fact Veloci himself comes in, recognizes her color scheme and morphs into a raptor for another non-fight. They circle around a couple times until it occurs to one of the goons those nets that worked on the other, bigger dinosaurs might work on this one too. Although forgive me for doubting the goons can drag the dinosaurs away with their bare hands. The episode itself keeps mentioning the dinos weigh about two tons apiece.

Moynihan uses her dino telepathy on the puppy mutants to have them run up and start licking the goon (so why couldn’t the kids call her with their own dino telepathy to report it was an ambush?). This allows the kids to escape, but Veloci manages to get away with his old nemesis in tow. The puppies get in the kids’ way when they try to follow (as kids, brilliant), but are quickly zapped back to normal.

Back at the lighthouse, the kids use their dino radar to determine Moynihan’s being held at Veloci’s corporate headquarters. Okay, how does “dino radar” work? I guess they have to actually be in dinosaur form to show up on it, but the puppies hadn’t mutated yet and they did. And remember, the kids had to go 46 miles to get there. That probably took a while where the puppies weren’t mutating. Plus the kids turn into dinosaurs because of Veloci’s mutant juice, but Moynihan’s actually a raptor who turns into a human, not the other way around. And she still shows up on dino radar.

Max agonizes over how a bunch of kids, even with dino-morphing powers, can get into a super villain’s home base since it’s probably crawling with guards and booby traps. It all depends on how competent the guards need to be at the moment. If they get caught and then have to fight their way out, it’d be no problem because the villains in this show always get more incompetent the more “dramatic” the situation is.

All their middle class education hasn’t taught them anything about rescuing velociraptors from corporate super villains, but Rodger pipes up with this little pearl of wisdom, “Everything’s useless, until we put it to use.”

Wow, man. You just blew my mind.

Fiona’s inspired by them talking about Robin Hood before, specifically the part about the sheriff putting a bounty on his head. Like Veloci offering a reward to anyone with information leading to the capture of a dinosaur. And he didn’t become the laughingstock of the corporate world, you’re telling me? I just want to know what people think of this little gesture of his, considering the media firestorm that would erupt if a real live dinosaur was discovered.

Anyway, it seems like the plan is something like this: they build a cage with a trap door, so that Fiona can be inside in dinosaur mode, but once they haul her inside the building the other will hop out of the trap door and they can rescue Moynihan. Caruso comes out wearing a fake beard in case Veloci’s ever seen him before, but Max points out there’s no mistaking Caruso’s stupid haircut. Which makes their security look even more pathetic. Although this does get him to flatten that stupid pompadour or whatever down.

Incredibly, Veloci buys their story about a guy bringing his dinosaur out of his garage, and planning to take it to the zoo if they don’t want it. They could probably sneak in by pretending to be the pizza guy.

Or maybe not, because when Caruso starts trying to schmooze Veloci for the reward money for delivering a real life dinosaur, our villain voices skepticism about how an airhead like him managed to trap a dinosaur. He catches Caruso flat-footed by asking to hear the gripping story of how he trapped this prehistoric beastie. So…they were banking on Veloci to be an idiot who’d just buy this without employing any of his vaunted brainpower as to how this all happened. Caruso adapts the story of that guy who made friends with the lion by pulling the thorn out of its paw, and Veloci buys it. He buys it. Come on, Veloci was around when people made those stories up....

Clunky writing continues to favor our heroes as the cage is wheeled into the same room where Moynihan’s being held with nothing but a pair of leg cuffs. Via dino telepathy Fiona tells her they’re here to bust her out, and she replies to work fast because she can’t stay as a raptor much longer. Why not? I mean, that’s her real form. The raptor one. In most shows (that is, ones that make any effort to make any kind of sense) when your strength runs out or your control slips, you usually turn back to your true form. This episode was written by the same guy who wrote the pilot, after all, so it’s not like he wouldn’t know that. Plus, couldn’t Veloci possibly hear them using dino telepathy, since his natural form’s a dinosaur as well? Again referring to the pilot, Moynihan was a human when she used her dino telepathy to tell the kids the back story. Maybe she's thought of herself as a human for so long, as opposed to Veloci who wants to bring back the dinosaurs, that in her mind her human form is her true one now. I dunno. I don't believe I should have to invent these explanations myself unless a show was obviously trying to be vague.

Before I move on, I love the clunky terminology of the series. Whenever Veloci talks about the kids in their dino forms, he always, always calls them “PERFECT dinosaurs.” And when Rodger starts to get antsy sitting in the compartment, Max tells him “hold your horseasauruses!” To think I praised the feature film this guy wrote.

Evidently seeing the kids don’t have a plan beyond this, Moynihan shrinks back to human form, where she can just step out of the cuffs and run for it. Anyway, with the bad guys distracted, the kids sneak out through the bottom of the cage, open it to let Fiona out (they didn’t give themselves a way to open it from the inside?), and go dino themselves.

Luckily none of the guards appear to have any of those anti-dinosaur weapons they did back at the dog show, despite keeping a dinosaur captive even before they brought Fiona in. Unluckily the dimwits walk right into a circle of diodes on the floor while trying to force their way out, which turn out to generate a laser cage that Veloci turns on. Schools may not offer courses on getting around villain hideouts safely, but haven’t these guys even seen a sci-fi movie in their lives? Luckily the buttons have been labeled in Latin, which Veloci uses because “he’s been around for ages.“ This might explain his lack of success as a villain if he’s labeling the controls to his hardware in a dead language there’s no indication his guards know.

Rodger turns out to know Latin, enough to know that the first two buttons on the control panel are “warning” and “cage,” but it takes all of them thinking together on English words with similar roots to figure out that the third and final button opens the cage. And…that’s not something they could’ve just figured out through process of elimination?

Oh, and to get them out, Rodger actually pushes the same button Veloci used to turn the cage on to turn it off again, rendering the whole thing pointless thanks to animator inattentiveness.

They end up trapping Veloci in his own cage, and despite Fiona pointing out that this is a perfect chance to destroy his operation, Rodger replies that he’s “too strong and too clever” to stay trapped long. Oh, please! He hasn’t won a single non-fight he’s entered in this show, and they tricked him to get into his lab. Obviously he doesn’t have as many practical smarts as they do, and that’s not saying a lot. They don’t even show Veloci getting on his cell phone to call a red alert, and if they’re underground, would that even work? Even if we’re prepared to buy Rodger’s story, and I’m not saying I am, they should be able and willing to do some damage as long as they’re there.

But if the kids did that, there couldn’t be more episodes (which there weren't anyway. Maybe this kind of writing’s why), so they all go along with Rodger’s plan and just walk back out. Moynihan praises the kids for their brilliant strategy, prompting Max to say “Who’d have thought Greek mythology could be so useful?” Who’d have though a Ph.D.-holder would fall for a tactic that’s been around so long it’s become a cliché?

Or Latin for that matter. Buzz suddenly knows how to say “knowledge is power” in Latin, making me wish I could be watching A.J.’s Time Travelers instead. That show was funnier.

They drive home that point of theirs that everything you learn has some use, and to demonstrate its effectiveness I’d like to tell you a little story. One Thanksgiving not all that long ago, my family spent the occasion with one of my mom’s friends and her family. Because I’m such a big kid at heart, I got put in charge of entertaining mom’s friend’s grandson. He was huge into dinosaurs, so I decided to let him watch some Dino Squad. Little Will retained absolutely nothing about it besides all the cool dinosaurs running around. He also thought Veloci turned into a deinonychus.

And the show doesn’t do anything to say whether that check for 200 grand Caruso conned out of Veloci’s good or not.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 4 - Nature

1. “I was having a bad week.” When don’t you?

Bella’s freaked out to hear Victoria’s still after her, although I don’t see why she’d suddenly make up her mind to stop. Yeah, maybe she’d think twice with having to get past the Cullens too, but that would’ve been really pitiful from a dramatic standpoint, when she’s yet to get any appreciable “screen time”. Which I’m not sure I’m willing to overlook in Bella’s thought process with the way she and Edward compare themselves to people in other books.

“Not panicking was easier said than done.” Even though she’s got an entire family of vampires and a pack of werewolves looking out for her and the one person in the area whose welfare she’s shown any interest in. The two groups aren’t working together yet, but it hasn’t occurred to anybody that with the Cullens upping the ante with their very presence, that Victoria might too. As far as any of them are aware, it’s just her. Am I really supposed to be worried that Victoria’s a threat to Bella when her guardians outnumber Victoria seven to one and have the power to see the future, read minds and control moods? Not to mention have resources totaling something like $36 billion? When Victoria has, what, the same powers as any one of them and the clothes on her back?

I know Bella couldn’t protect herself from a vampire, but isn’t she supposed to be really smart? Observant? Can’t she see how badly the deck’s stacked against the threat she’s totally losing it over based on what she knows at the moment? Then again, if she actually was smart it might occur to her to link Victoria’s continued quest for revenge with the vampire killings nearby.

2. The Cullens try to assure her that with Alice around they’re not likely to be caught blindsided, but I still feel like Meyer’s writing her precognition as whatever works best at the moment. The reason for this assurance is Bella wants them to make her a vampire so she can defend herself. Even though she knows it’s taken them ages to learn to control their urges and they’d probably have to protect people from her.

To close the matter, they ask if she’s ever noticed that “Edward is just the teeniest bit prone to overreaction?” Overthinks everything, huh? And I could believe Bella hasn’t noticed that with the way she goes on and on about his sparkly countenance.

3. Edward goes to chow down on some endangered species, and while he’s away Alice promises to be around at all times if Bella needs anything. Which Bella immediately figures out is code that Alice is making sure Bella doesn’t do anything that Edward wouldn’t let her while he’s gone. I understand him wanting to keep her safe (even if I don’t believe in their relationship), but what kind of life does he think he’s giving her if every single thing she wants to do is subject to his approval? And don’t say it pains Edward to have to do this. If their love’s supposed to be everlasting they should be able to come to a compromise once in a while.

4. While Bella’s at home cleaning up and not going out because her future family won’t let her, she starts messing around with fridge magnets and starts comparing them to the Cullens and the Quileutes. That is, how the magnetism pushes them apart. “Why couldn’t they just play nicer?” She’s even complaining that the laws of science don’t play her way now. “I could have flipped one over, but that felt like losing.” It also makes this metaphor even more moronic because you know how magnets work, right? Opposites attract. Alike repel. If the Cullens and the Quileutes realized how ALIKE they are and made friends, then they wouldn’t be acting like magnets. Currently they’re opposed, or OPPOSITES, and they certainly aren’t attracted.

Then she seems to realize what she’s doing. “I stood there like an idiot for a second.” How would anyone tell? “not quite able to admit that I wasn’t having any lasting effect against scientific principles.” If she fixated on it long enough she probably could. Sues are like that.

5. Later she goes to her job at the local sporting goods store and notes that her classmate’s mom who owns the place has professionally done nails “visible through the strappy high heels that didn’t resemble anything Newton’s offered on the long row of hiking boots.” Because to run a business you have to be a client, too. Or you have to wear hiking boots in town. Or something.

Meyer, you write like a moron. I work for a pool supply company, but neither I nor anyone I work with has one.

6. Mom and classmate are arguing because classmate wants to visit Seattle but she’s having none of it while the killings are going on. Bella excuses herself because “I didn’t want to be a source of familial discord when they were already arguing.” STOP TAKING THE BLAME FOR EVERYTHING. Her lack of super-powers when surrounded by people with them doesn’t need to comprise her entire character.

7. Bella sees a poster that says “SAVE THE OLYMPIC WOLF” and rather than thinking about saving endangered wildlife or how she’s friends with people who kill wild animals, this makes her desperately want to see Jacob. She drives down to La Push without the Cullens interfering, and when Jacob greets her “the way he said the words made it sound like welcome home.” That does draw a contrast, doesn’t it? Of how the Cullens are plenty civil and everything to Bella, but sterile and controlling.

I’m really not sure why Bella considers Jacob her BFF, though, considering he starts going off on what a selfish monster Edward is and how Bella says “There’s nothing to forgive” and crap like that. Because she and Edward are in love. Shut up, don’t question it.

She thinks some about how mad Edward’s going to be for this meeting that doesn’t even seem very friendly, and I have to ask, does Carlisle know his son’s having his daughter make sure Bella doesn’t visit her friends his son doesn’t like?

8. Bella accidentally mentions to Jacob that Alice can see things, and tells him what happened when she ran out on him in the last book. “I kept it as succinct as possible -- leaving out anything that wasn’t essential.” I don’t know whether to be flattered or disgusted that Bella thinks I deserve to hear every last little detail.

Jacob’s ecstatic to hear that Alice’s powers don’t work on him and the pack. “I glared at him until he realized his mistake.” His only mistake was doing it right in front of her. The Cullens may not kill people but most of them seem to have no scruples about breaking any other laws or standards of decency.

9. Jacob in turn tells her about their run-in with Victoria, and Paul almost got rammed and “well, you know Paul.” Vaguely. In fact this part kind of calls attention to how bad Meyer is at using all her space to actually flesh out her characters when Jacob can’t remember Carlisle and Jasper’s names. It’s almost like Jacob’s channeling my reaction when Bella tells him and he answers “You know I don’t really care.”

10. Jacob brings up Bella’s little attempt at cliff diving, and how if she’d (just had the brains to) waited for him, the Cullens never would’ve come back and nothing between them would’ve changed. “It was disconcerting the way he said this, like it would be a good thing ot have no vampires in Forks.” I repeat what I said earlier about their scruples. And not everybody’s as shallow as her, you know. You know Steph, maybe there is something to what all the haters are saying, about the way you have a girl marrying a guy right out of high school mainly because he’s good-looking. She claims to see other things, but all she actually seems to notice is how perfectly perfect his outside is.

I just looooooooove the part where Jacob brings up her “jumping off cliffs,” and Bella “made a face. No one was ever going to let me forget that.” Can I hear one good reason why I should? I know what she saw and why she was happy as she was pulled under. People have every reason to bring that up every day for the rest of her idiot life. Edward's the only thing in her life keeping her sane. That's not something to be proud of.

11. I get even more dubious about Jacob and Bella’s friendship when he mentions that “you don’t see the fish trying to plant a kiss on the eagle,” Bella retorts that maybe the fish was trying, and Jacob affirms that eagles are good-looking birds. She’s insulted that he insinuates she’s so shallow, and when he asks if it’s all the Cullens’ money she comes back with “I’m flattered that you think so much of me.” Sweetie, I’m not gonna like you just because somebody says I should. You’re a moron, you fixate on these creatures’ impossible good looks, you sound resentful when people try to be nice to you, and you make every problem in your life, even the ones perfectly ordinary teenagers have, sound like the sky’s falling. Tell me now and tell me true, what about you makes up for that? Because I’m still not sure four chapters into the third book.

What are those things she sees in Edward? He’s “the most loving and unselfish and brilliant and decent person I’ve ever met. Of course I love him. How hard is that to understand?” Oh. My. Lord. I’ve been over how you can’t be unselfish when you have no self so many times, and Edward’s just as guilty of that as Bella. More, because he has a loving foster family.

Brilliant? In what way? In the way that he’d immediately assume some stranger in was talking about Bella’s funeral and decide he had to go out and piss off the Volturi to kill him (after asking nicely, at that)? Or maybe it was failing to anticipate an evil vampire wanting to get even. As I’ve said, not only does Edward not overthink everything, there’s practically nothing indicating he thinks through anything.

Decent?! When did we see that?!! Oh, I know, it was when he broke up with her and did nothing to explain himself or try to find a middle ground with her! Or no, when he came back to her and did absolutely fnck all about the danger that made him break up with her in the first place! Or no, it was when he had his sister spy on his girlfriend to make sure she didn’t hang out with people he doesn’t approve of! Wait, wait, wait! It was when he broke into her house and went through her dirty laundry to get her car keys even though she didn’t want him to!

Look, I know I may draw some fire for this, but I see some validity in Edward’s not wanting his girlfriend to hang around a bunch of crass, uncouth and volatile werewolves that she honestly doesn’t act as if she likes at all anyway. Not even Jacob. But it’s not his right to force his judgment on her. We haven’t even gotten to the part where Alice kidnaps Bella and calls it a slumber party. Because Edward bribed her with a sports car to do it. Gee, Edward almost sounds like a big bully exploiting the fact that Bella’s not as strong as him.

12. Jacob points out that he’s still human, unlike Edward. “I didn’t choose this.” Bella fires back “Do you think Edward did? He didn’t know what was happening to him any more than you did. He didn’t exactly sign up for this.” Does it impact anything that she does want to sign up for that, and she’s enticed by the power and getting to stay young and pretty with her Edward forever? With no acknowledgement at all of the desire to kill people that’ll supposedly come with it until she can learn to restrain herself? She certainly has no ability to restrain herself now, Edward even has to do that for her. What about cutting herself off from her loved ones? Oh right, she doesn’t have anyone that it would believably pain her to lose, Edward’s her entire existence. Plus there’s this apparent belief on the author’s part that protagonists shouldn’t have to work or sacrifice to gain things…

“You have no idea how truly good they are -- to the core, Jacob.” Yes, I’m sure all those people whose cars they stole and whose businesses they immolated would just love to shake the Cullens’ sparkly hands. I repeat, murder is their only reluctance.

13. Why does she put up with all this bile-slinging between her and Jacob? “Because, underneath all the anger and the sarcasm, Jacob was in pain.” You’re certainly helping him through it, Bells. “I didn’t know how to help him, but I knew I had to try. It was more than that I owed him. It was because his pain hurt me, too. Jacob had become a part of me, and there was no changing that now.”

Can I just remind everybody that Bella left the sporting goods store earlier this very chapter so as not to make things any worse between the family? Everything’s her damn fault or would be better without her. That doesn’t make her more likable, it makes her look like she’s got no concept of scale. All the problems she describes sound equally dire.

Damn it, it’s because of these books. They’re why I’ve been writing so many things with female protagonists lately, and why so much of my leisure reading’s been stuff like The Courageous Princess. So I can prove to myself main characters with XX-chromosomes don't have to suck.