Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eclipse Chapter 19 - Selfish



1. Admitting it doesn’t make this an exception, Steph.

2. Open on Bella waking up, and finding out she’s slept through most of the day following the monster training session. Edward was with her the whole time, of course, noting “You had a long night. You’d earned a day in bed.” I’m sorry for being so anal, but when I say I’ve had a long day, I mean it was busy or I had to put up with a lot. As usual, Bella just hung around and observed. I could even accept it as Edward being charitable to his girlfriend if not for the times the books have been willing to flat-out lie to me.

He tries to tell her she should’ve stayed home, and she fires back with “Right! And missed everything.” I know I praised Bella’s inclusion, but at the same time I have to point out the play-fighting session wasn’t what I was complaining about when I brought up how Bella’s never around for anything worth reading. Because that was some vampires play-fighting while some wolves watched.

Edward inspects the charm Jacob got her. “For a fleeting moment, I was afraid. Just the slightest twist of his fingers could crush it into splinters. But of course Edward wouldn’t do that.” Do I know that? After some of the things he has done?

“I tried to read the expression in his eyes. All I could see was thoughtfulness; he kept everything else hidden, if there was anything else.” Leave the jerky commentary to me, if you would please.

3. Edward points out that “Jacob Black can give you presents,” referring back to the birthday where Bella was almost killed, but more specifically to how she hadn’t wanted any presents from the Cullens. May I just point out that as with many of the gifts exchanged between the Cullens, those were just flashy baubles? The only gift that was  the least bit heartfelt were the plane tix to visit Bella’s mom.

Besides, the Cullens are fabulously wealthy, remember? Them giving someone a car as a present is the rough equivalent of a normal person giving flowers. Both in terms of price point and the relative lifespan of the gift.

Keep in mind I’m not saying Bella’s deep for preferring Jacob’s gift to the Cullens’. Not when the gift she really wants from Edward is eternal youth and superpowers.

“ ‘This bracelet.’ His finger trace a circle around my wrist. ‘You’ll be wearing this a lot?’ I shrugged. ‘Because you wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings,’ he suggested shrewdly.” That’s shrewd? Then again, in this moronic universe it probably is.

Edward inquires about giving her some token to help her think of him, but “You’re in every thought I have. I don’t need reminders.” I’m sorry, this blazing hot love they share comes across as so lifeless…

They talk for most of a page about the inequality of their relationship, meaning Edward’s the only one not allowed to give her presents because it’d upset her, with Bella replying that he’s given her him, which is “already more than I deserve.” You people are both nuts and your love’s still an informed attribute.

4. Alice calls then, telling Edward something, but “whatever she said didn’t surprise him.” Bella thinks the message was concerning her idea to let herself be used as bait when the newborns show up. “I want to help. I have to do something.” That’s a nice sentiment, but the problem is the author doesn’t seem to agree. And in any case that’s probably not the way the author wants us to want Bella helping.

Edward refuses, of course, but Bella tries to counter, “Jasper thinks it would. This is his area of expertise.” It’s like she’s talking about the time he nearly chomped her.

“ ‘You can’t keep me away,’ I threatened. ‘I’m not going to hide out in the forest while you take all the risks for me.’ ” That’s rich, but actually involving her in what’s going on WOULD be a big step forward. I simply can’t understand why that’s such a problem for these books. Well, I can, but knowing the answer makes it less tolerable.

As usual Bella’s wrong, though. Not just about getting involved in this battle, but in this case in regards to what Alice saw. “Alice doesn’t see you in the clearing, Bella. She sees you stumbling around lost in the woods. You won’t be able to find us; you’ll just make it more time consuming for me to find you afterward.” What does he care? He’s immortal.

She replies that if she talked to Seth Clearwater, who wants to be in on the battle too, she’d be able to convince him to take her to the battlefield. Why would he agree to take a powerless muggle like her to the site of a battle between superbeings? The wolves’ job is to protect people from vampires, not throw food straight to them. This allows Edward to retort that he’ll ask Sam to tell the other wolves not to let Bella near the battle, which allows Bella to retort that what’ll Sam do if she suggests using herself as bait? “I’ll bet Sam would rather do me a favor than you.” What favor? Letting her commit suicide in the name of “helping”? Again, the wolves are the protectors of the land and its people. Am I missing something? Or is Bella just an idiot after all?

To which Edward replies he could just say the same thing to Jacob, because he’s the second in command of the pack, and if he tells the wolves to do something they have to do it too. Like not let the girl he wants to go out with kill herself. And yeah, establishing that Jacob’s the beta-alpha was the only point of that exchange. And as usual, Bella’s the last person to find this out.

There’s another shocking revelation that one of the new werewolves is actually a girl, Leah Clearwater. Think of how effective that’d be if we knew who that was besides the sister of another minor character. Or cared. Not to mention where Edward says he’s not sure Leah deserves Bella’s sympathy, what with how she’s constantly bitching and none of them can shut her out what with their shared telepathy. That isn’t character development, Steph.

Some blather about imprinting follows, along with Edward comparing it to how he feels about Bella. And heritage of Quileute characters we hardly know. I’m sure Meyer thought this was all positively gripping, but…who the hell are these people she’s talking about?

5. Edward pontificates a little more on how fascinating he, as a telepath, finds the Quileutes’ ability to speak mind-to-mind, but this line of thought is both potentially enlightening and has nothing to do with Bella, and subsequently must be silenced.

She asks again to be allowed to attend the battle, is denied, and realizes she doesn’t want to be at the battle so much as she just wants to be wherever Edward is. Bella reminds Edward that she went crazy without him, and asks him to be with her while everyone else is fighting Victoria’s army.

I’d like to point out something nobody in the book thinks of, which is that when Edward left her in New Moon, she thought he hated her was never coming back. Here, he’d be leaving because the exact opposite is true on both counts. And he agrees, because making sure Bella doesn’t get upset’s more important then lending his aid to his family as they fight a pack of vampires at the peak of their strength and lowest depths of their restraint. If anything Bella’s devolving as a character.

I’d also like to stop and make fun of the review quotes on the back cover, particularly the New York Times review that claims “Meyer’s trilogy seethes with the archetypal tumult of star-crossed passions,” emphasis theirs. To make sure we have an understanding, “star-crossed lovers” is a saying you might have heard. Some people think it means the lovers are destined to be together, but in fact it means the exact opposite. That basically the heavens themselves seem to be trying to keep them apart. I’m frankly a little worried for the quality of the New York Times if it employs book critics who don’t know what “star-crossed lovers” means. Whoever wrote that can’t, not if Edward gets to ditch the battle to be with Bella.

Here’s the complete review, just so you don’t think I’m taking this one line out of context.

Bella does think this is “Cruel. Selfish, selfish, selfish!” and that she was “wishing I could take the words back. But knowing I probably wouldn’t. Not if it worked.” That would be nice character building if it were acknowledged a little more than in Bella’s thoughts. As it is, this is it. She reproaches herself, but the story bends over backwards to give her what she wants with no effort on her part, so it doesn’t count for anything. In fact the book takes a lot of space for Alice and Edward to assure her that insisting Edward sit this out to be with her won’t be a big deal and she needs to mellow out.

6. We’re given cause to doubt Edward’s intelligence again when Edward tells Bella not to worry about her wanting him to pick her or his family to help in this struggle. “You gave me two alternatives that you could live with, and I chose the one that I could live with. That how compromise is supposed to work.” Uh, no it isn’t. Compromise is about meeting in the middle so all parties are satisfied, not picking one of two options. That’s a normal decision. A decision to accommodate someone else, yeah, but I’m still pretty sure agreeing to one of the options they give you is a concession, not a compromise.

7. Alice comes over for dinner and Charlie mentions the party. “ ‘I’ll bet you’ve got one heck of a clean-up job ahead of you.’ Alice shrugged. Knowing her, it was already done.” Huh? What’s the basis for that thinking?

Anyway, the boys are off hiking, and Alice is at home by herself ALL WEEKEND. She mashes Bella’s toes and “I could tell she thought that I was very slow tonight” when our protagonist doesn’t get the hint. Charlie suggests Bella stay at the Cullens’ place until the boys get back, pulling emotionally devastated expressions to make it happen. So they’re still basically kidnapping her. And they’d be not kidnapping her if they just took the time to ask her to come up to their house for a while.

“With one easy conversation, Alice had cleared my schedule for the battle.” I complain about how uninvolved Bella is in the plot, but it’s not just her fault. There’s crap like this where the other characters decide and do things for her. “Edward returned not much later. He accepted Charlie’s wishes for a nice trip without surprise.” Probably because the Cullens came up with this plan ahead of time and, as usual, Bella was the last one to be brought in on it. Yay Cullens.

8. On the other hand, maybe the plan was formulated without Bella’s input because Alice actually isn’t going to hang out with her; Alice is going hunting before the fight too. It’s Edward she’s going to be hanging out with. I wouldn’t trust our mature protagonist to keep up a deception knowing that either.

9. The pair of idiots go up into the woods where Jasper and Emmett are already there, showing some more play-fighting to some of the wolves. Only Jacob and two guys you might remember being mentioned as his friends are there, though. Because of that shared minds thing, the entire pack doesn’t have to be there to watch vampires fight. Which Bella needs spelled out for her, of course. You know, she could come up with the theories and have Edward validate them. Then she’d get to look fairly intelligent and we’d get confirmation. She can still do that without being a “slayer.”

Bella panics again because she recognizes which wolf is which. “Friends who didn’t look nearly as indestructible as Emmett and Jasper did.” That isn’t character development, Steph.

Edward isn’t worried about his family, but “Edward’s confidence only applied to one set of my fears.” Meaning she’s worried about wolves dying. It’s been a long, long time since Bella freaking out like this was sympathetic and became just plain aggravating. She may know Quil and Embry as people, but we’ve hardly seen them since they got their powers too, and they’re just more of these “oorah! Let’s kill us some vampires!” action-seeking teens that make up the entire group now. No, I don’t care about them. These books’ cast is too big for the percentage I’m supposed to care about, with the amount of effort it puts into establishing them to make it work. People die in violent conflict, and this books are just that much worse to have Bella subject us to her all her whining about something that never happens.

10. Jacob conveys via Edward that there’s nothing to be worried about. “There’s plenty to be worried about,” Bella replies. “Like a bunch of really stupid wolves getting themselves hurt.” Over a stupid teenage girl.

11. “Aren’t you worried about Saturday at all?” Bella presses. Boy it’s great to have such nice neat deadlines like that. And lazy writing.

And it could be excused, too. Right now, I’m reading Jim Butcher’s Turn Coat for pleasure. Harry Dresden has about 48-hours to solve the mystery. That’s fine, because it means he’s racing the clock to avert disaster. Eclipse is just treading water until it crosses a forecasted line and it’s time for the next plot event to kick in.

12. Bella notices that when Jacob’s in his wolf form, it’s easier for her to think of him as her beloved “old” Jacob. The one who she doesn’t know wants to take things to things to the next level and doesn’t hate Edward for getting something with no effort he may never achieve with all the work he’s put in. Because to Bella, it seems like love is all about getting.

She wants Jacob a certain way, not the way he is. She gets so much from Edward, ultimately including power and immortality, but never appears to give anything in return. Sure, she talks about how she’s a middle-class human, but what about support? Faith? Not throwing away the chance he’s given her to live without threat of being eaten by his family (which conveniently goes away as soon as he’s back)?

Also, the wording: “the easy, effortless friendship that was as natural as breathing in and out”. Which, as I recall, was something she sometimes had trouble remembering to do.

“Odd that I should find that again here, when I’d thought this wolf thing was the cause of its loss.” Dear, Bella. You’re an idiot. Sincerely, starofjustice. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with her throwing him over for a person who’s nothing but a tabula rasa aside from his controlling tendencies.

You know, a spectating narrator could be interesting. Granted, not when the books are this long, so full of inconsequence, and when the spectating narrator’s the center of anything and everything going on (or doesn’t).

13. To close out, I remember reading on Reasoning With Vampires that Meyer supposedly based the Cullens on superheroes. It’s a quote I can’t seem to find but would like to so I can work it in to an analysis. Does anyone reading happen to know where I can find that? Leave a comment or send me an email. Address is in the “What is this??” in the right sidebar.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go be grateful for the results of Fred Perry’s attempts to raise morale during Desert Storm some more. Until we meet again.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eclipse Chapter 18 - Instruction


1. “ ‘That had to be the longest party in the history of the world,’ I complained on the way home.”

We open on Bella whining. How encouraging.

2. The Cullens were all reassured that the Quileutes would be fighting on their side, though. “Doubt had been replaced with confidence. The party had ended on a note of true celebration.”

Well gee, it sounds like the book might finally be--

“Not for me.”

What?

“Bad enough -- horrible -- that the Cullens would fight for me. It was already too much that I would have to allow that. It already felt like more than I could bear. Not Jacob too.”

Then what do you suggest, superbrain?

“Not his foolish, eager brothers -- most of them even younger than I was.”

Not physically.

“They were just oversized, over-muscled children, and they looked forward to this like it was a picnic on the beach.”

I find that a weird point of derision when Edward hasn’t matured a day in over 90 years and is technically younger than Bella too, yet that’s never mentioned as a negative. It ain’t like he’s got his emotions under control. Apparently it’s different because the Quileutes actually want to deal with a problem whereas Edward seems happy to let things lie unless he and his family are directly threatened. “All committed to protecting human life,” indeed.

3. The freaks are all doing something out in the woods that night, and Bella demands to be taken along. She even starts hitting below the belt when Edward tries to refuse, saying that if he tells her no then she’ll just have Jacob take her. I’d ask what difference her being there’s going to make, but the way the books keep shunting Bella away from anything that might be worth reading about’s one of the seven most annoying things about them.

Bella sneaks out, even though Charlie was “snoring so loudly I could have ripped a chainsaw to life and it wouldn’t have wakened him.” Because that’s how snoring works.

She doesn’t just leave, though. She drags him to his own bed because he’s sleeping on the tiny couch and he’ll hurt his back if he stays there all night. Going for sympathy, maybe? Then how about leaving so vampires don’t kill him? I apologize for how I can’t let go of the way Bella seems to think placing him in mortal danger is the lesser of two evils, but it’s only because I’m sure the real reason is to keep the author from having to do more work.

On the way to the woods Bella refuses to be reassured by Edward. Y’know, she doesn’t sound that smart when she constantly refuses to listen not only to people who actually know something about what’s going on, but her wun twu wuv. How can she have no faith in him? How can she be totally unreceptive to emotional support from him? Then again, I’d hardly put it past Edward to lie to her so she wouldn’t go totally to pieces like she always does.

“People -- well, vampires and werewolves really, but still -- people I loved were going to get hurt. Hurt because of me. Again.” Again?

4. They park and Edward carries her on his back like when he showed her he sparkles. And “even in his run I could feel the elation. He ran the way he did when it was just us, just for enjoyment, just for the feel of the wind in his hair.” Do you still have nerve endings when you’re made out of rock? “It was the kind of thing that, during less anxious times, would have made me happy.”

I’ve been told by a more experienced author that one of the best ways to establish something as shocking and scary is to create a mood, then shatter it. That is, show us what normal is, then smash it by having something bad rear its head. To give us some context for this, and some weight to Bella’s fears, and some basis to help us separate the angsting over the things that happen to every teenager and the ones that involve monsters. Then we could see how this is dangerous, and out of the ordinary.

5. “I realized that were in the baseball clearing.” Oh sure, remind us of that bad inclusion choice. Have they done it since? From how Bella only talks about how it’s where they met James and Victoria, doesn’t sound like it. Why not? Why mention it at all then? Probably to set up Bella’s next line of thought, but Meyer mentions the baseball game first. We’re probably going to think about that too.

This does get Bella to thinking about Victoria. She’d always seemed like a force of nature, “like a hurricane moving toward the coast in a straight line -- unavoidable, implacable, but predictable.” If it only moves in a straight line, it sounds very avoidable. Genius. “Maybe it was wrong to limit her that way. She had to be capable of adaptation.”

Where could this be going? “The Volturi love their rules. They would probably do a better job [of stalking Bella] anyway.” If it wasn’t them, then who? Bella advances a theory that it’s Victoria making the newborn vampires.

Edward remarks this does fit with Victoria’s personality (what personality?). “She showed a remarkable gift for self-preservation from the start -- maybe it’s a talent of hers.” What does that have to do with anything?

“He frowned into space for a long moment.” I know what she’s trying to say, but “he frowned into space”…?

“You’re very perceptive today. It’s impressive.” Or maybe you guys are just morons all the time. Did it honestly take anyone reading this book almost 400 pages to consider that Victoria could be the one raising the newborn army? The most obviously villainous of the stories’ vampires, who was never dealt with? Am I really being asked to believe that’s a surprise?

6. “ ‘She’ll never touch you, Bella,’ he said. In spite of his words, his eyes swept carefully across dark trees.” In spite of them? I would’ve thought he said that meaning he’d never let Victoria touch his girlfriend, and intends to be extra alert to make good on his vow. Not because he thinks Victoria’s going to give up or something despite raising an entire army just to get even with Bella, and that he can relax.

Edward mutters that he wishes he actually could get his hands on Victoria, to end the threat to his girlfriend’s life with certainty. “I shuddered at the ferocious longing in his voice, and clenched his fingers more tightly with more, wishing I was strong enough to lock our hands together permanently.” Again, she needs to have undead powers to matter. At least in her own mind. Which I’m stuck in.

“I noticed for the first time that Alice did not look as optimistic as the others…‘Is something wrong with Alice?’ I whispered.” Wow, she really is perceptive today. Says loads about these books. In case you’re wondering why, Alice’s visions have crapped out because the Quileutes are coming.

7. Bella realizes the werewolves are coming as werewolves, and almost freaks out again. Very perceptive, is she? How did she think they’d be coming to a conclave of their natural enemies? When Jasper indicated at the meaning of this meeting before; to train them how to fight vampires. And Bella was on a role with the perceptiveness too.

Mainly it’s because she’s such a fragile little flower, though. The other times she’d seen Sam as a werewolf, “They were both memories of terror.” Bella kind of reminds me of the old tribal lady from the beginning of The Leech Woman. Who says the main character is the one in her “dreams of blood.” But as the main character runs off, Mike snarkily adds “…but everyone’s in my dreams of blood so it’s not that big a deal!” I’m just saying when things are like this all the time, after a while Bella’s horror stops seeming so horrifying.

The wolves show up and Bella notices “their eyes, higher up than they should be. I’d forgotten how very tall the wolves were.” She forgets a good many things. And from where I’m sitting it’s not like she’s got a million other things wrestling for her attention, making it easy for something important to slip through the cracks. Instead it seems like Meyer made Bella unable to retain these things for readers for whom it was a new experience.

8. Edward acts as sort of an interpreter, because he can still pick up the Quileutes’ thoughts in werewolf form, but they obviously can’t talk in werewolf form. And who can blame them for wanting to be in their super forms around the Cullens?

Carlisle explains that when the newborns come, “Alice will help us intercept their path.” Even though her forewarning hasn’t been working so good, since they apparently know how to stay under her radar. Which the Cullens know they know.

They start a little play-fighting practice, with Emmett acting as the newborn because he “relies on his strength. He’s very straightforward about the attack. The newborns won’t be trying anything subtle, either.” You know, for a series of books that try to have a wide range of diverse characters, it sure seem to like to generalize. What if a newborn’s somebody who knew a thing or two about hand-to-hand combat before they were bitten?

It’s Edward’s turn to join in. “My fingers tensed around his.” Oh for God’s sake, if she gets this worked up over pretend fighting…

Jasper and Edward play-fight and the gist seems to be that even with her worthless human eyes and nonexistent knowledge of fighting, Jasper seems to be using moves Edward doesn’t know about and generally getting the better of ol’ Bronzehair. We’ve only seen Edward fight another vampire when he was trying to stop Jane from using her agony vision on Bella, though, and he got smacked down pretty hard. Yeah they’re supposed to be the uber-baddesses of the vampire world, but in case you need a reminder Edward also spent most of New Moon trying to do something about Victoria. Trying, and failing. His credentials as a vampire aren’t particularly impressive, so it’s not particularly impressive saying Jasper’s better than him. In fact, if anything Edward kind of comes across as Twilight's character who gets beat down or outsmarted to show how formidable other characters are.

Alice comes over and tries to tell Bella she can’t really make a difference here, and nobody would give up trying to stop the newborn vampires if she died. So just sit tight and have a little faith. Boy won’t Alice feel silly when the shit hits the fan and we come back to that stuff about the first werewolf’s third wife.

9. The werewolves think to familiarize themselves with the Cullens’ scents so they don’t chase down and dismember one of them by accident (as if they could, right? Vampires are #1). Sam in his wolf form is “a monster straight out of my nightmares -- literally; after the first time I’d seen Sam and the others in the meadow, they’d starred in my bad dreams.” Which we’ve heard about far more often than her pleasant ones. This is just more of what I’m talking about with Bella’s fixation on the bad. Give us a break, Meyer. Literally, give us a break to give the terrifying stuff a chance to catch its breath. And not with meandering conversation.

Then Bella notices another werewolf. “His fur was reddish-brown and longer than the others, shaggy in comparison. He was almost as tall as Sam, the second largest in the group. His stance was casual, somehow exuding nonchalance over what the rest obviously considered an ordeal.” This goes on for two more paragraphs. It’s Jacob. She knows it’s Jacob. She commented on how the charm he gave her looks just like he does in wolf form, remember? Meyer seems to think you won’t.

10. They’re hanging out when Edward gets back, and he’s disappointed with them being all cozy instead of Bella keeping as far away from him as possible. Edward picks up on some of Jacob’s thoughts, leading him to change back so Edward can’t exclude her from the conversation. Which is about what they’re going to do with her during the fight.

Do with me?” she asks because yes it seems to have eluded her that since all this is because of her, she probably shouldn’t be in the first place they’d look for her when they show up. It’s all right for your protagonist not to know everything, but does she really have to be a plain old idiot?

The day the vampires are expected to attack is on the weekend Bella bought concert tickets for, if you can remember that, and it’s mentioned she can give them to some people named Angela and Ben instead. “At least that will get them out of town.” Don’t know who they are, don’t care if they die.

Edward mentions how Bella’s scent is too strong for them to have an easy time hiding her, but Jacob reminds him how bad werewolves smell to vampires. “ ‘Hmmm, not bad.’ Edward was two steps ahead.” Of who? Not Jacob, since he reminded Edward, meaning he had the idea first. I’d say Bella since she needs it explained to her that they plan to have the werewolves run around and mask her scent.

What happened to her being able to finally make obvious connections? She’s fighting sleep at this point in the chapter, but she still remembers everything with amazing clarity for someone so exhausted.

11. Jacob gives her a hug and they walk around, to test the efficacy of using werewolf BO to hide Bella, but “It felt too intimate to me -- surely he didn’t need to hold me quite so tightly -- and I couldn’t help but wonder what it felt like to him. It reminded me of my last afternoon in La Push, and I didn’t want to think about that.” Honestly, it’s not like her attraction to Edward makes sense other than because the author says so. Jacob probably still likes his odds. You can’t really say Jacob’s any more crappy than anyone else in these books, just crappy in a different way.

After reluctantly listening to her reminder to put her down, he says something about not wanting to ruin the chances of their experiment. “You are so annoying,” she says. Glass houses, Bells.

12. Jasper kind of interrupts when Edward picks up on him thinking about using Bella as a decoy; if she were in the clearing at the time of the battle the newborns would go insane over her scent and be easy prey. Edward of course refuses, but Jasper “looked at me from the corner of his eyes, and the look was wistful.”

Hmmm, I may have a new favorite character. He’s already almost killed her once…

13. Mention comes up of the newest addition to the Quileutes’ ranks, somebody named Seth Clearwater who’s presumably related to that guy who died that one time. Since he’s the youngest and noobiest, Jacob thought up “ a new assignment for him -- cell phone.”

“I tried to look like I got it. No one was fooled.” Oh for crying out loud, has she forgotten the werewolves can hear each other’s thoughts too?

“I was reeling from the idea that little Seth Clearwater was already a werewolf too, and that made it difficult to concentrate. I could see his bright smile, so much like a younger Jacob, in my head; he couldn’t be more than fifteen, if he was that. His enthusiasm at the council meeting bonfire suddenly took on new meaning….” (Just so y’all know, Meyer’s the one making four-dot ellipses, not me)

This brings up something I may have neglected to mention (because I would’ve thought it’s obvious), which is that to develop a character, you have to establish them first. We’ve had this kid mentioned once or twice in crowd scenes. Suddenly I’m supposed to have a big reaction to find out this no-face background character’s a werewolf too? I’m supposed to think Bella’s turning to her good friend Angela for advice when her biggest distinguishing feature was to be the one girl with nothing against Bella?

And while I’m complaining, since we have Alice around and the villains take forever to do anything, maybe the book tips its hand too soon? I know I complained about the way obvious information was revealed like it was something big, but this is something else. It’s natural to get the ball rolling on the story’s action by tipping off the main characters that something’s up, but that’s the operative word. Something. Not “newborn vampires are on a killing spree in the nearest big city.” We can figure out from that alone where things are going before it’s even the end of the first chapter.

Couple that with the characters having most of the gigantic book to prepare. It saps the situation of urgency. Yeah, you can have the villains exploit something the characters forgot to overlook in their preparations, but you have to be careful there. Because the things the Cullens overlook are, like the deep revelations that aren’t, not things ordinary intellects couldn’t come up with. But we’ll get to those.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eclipse Chapter 17 - Alliance


1. Edward gets all kissy and huggy as soon as Bella shows up, but “This kiss frightened me. There was too much tension, too strong an edge to the way his lips crushed mine -- like he was afraid we only had so much time left to us.” Meyer, if you really want this to resonate, give us some idea of what things are like when they’re not worried about anyone trying to kill either of them. Give us something to compare the angsty parts against (and none of that one-move super-powered chess bull). You probably heard true art’s angsty, but maybe the romance should be romantic once in a while? In a romance?

Meyer tries to tell us what to think again as Bella says she’s not worried about herself, and Edward replies. “Why am I not surprised by that?” Because the author thinks that makes a whiny character a selfless one? Once again, if you think you don't for matter for anything, throwing everything away is kind of hollow.

“The interior of the Cullens’ home had been transformed into a nightclub -- the kind that didn’t often exist in real life, only on TV.” How the hell does she know? I go clubbing more than Bella (and I don’t go clubbing a lot). Even though she’s probably right, it still sounds ridiculous coming from somebody like her. Oh, and that’s pretty much the entire description of what Alice has done to the house. It’s like I’m really there!

Speaking of lame descriptions, “I noticed that she had changed into a sequined tank top and red leather pants. Her bare skin reacted oddly to the pulsing red and purple lights.” How did it react oddly? Does vampire skin suddenly have a reaction to something besides direct sunlight?

2. Bella asks if Alice really thinks anyone’s going to come, not managing to hide her hopes that they won’t, and Alice assures her, “Everyone will come. They’re all dying to see the inside of the reclusive Cullens’ mystery house.” Yeah, aren’t those Cullens awesome? Aren’t they reclusive in the first place because they don’t want people to find out about the bodies in the basement, as it were? Are they loosening their strictures because they’re planning on relocating soon? This just seems inadvisable in general, but especially so when the Volturi are already eyeballing them. But even with a power like hers, I’ve never been impressed by Alice’s foresight.

Before the party the Cullens hold a little war council about their plans to go to Seattle and deal with the newborns there. “I couldn’t stay behind, waiting and hoping for them to come home. I wouldn’t. I would go mad.” That presumes you aren’t already.

3. “All at once, everything was surreally normal…It was a Suburban-load of my friends, either too nervous or too intimidated to arrive on their own….Tyler, Conner, Austin, Lee, Samantha…even Lauren, trailing in last, her critical eyes alight with curiosity.”

“The room wasn’t empty; all the Cullens had taken their places, ready to put on their usual perfect human charade.”

DAMN IT, Meyer. Don’t put this in like I’ve got any context for it or know these people. Bella’s social life with normal people is such a tiny part of the narrative it seems like it’s being mentioned as a desperate attempt to assure readers that she does in fact have friends outside of Edward and Jacob.

And don’t you dare try to tell me the Cullens’ act is airtight. Unless you’re also telling me this is a world where a pair of glasses turns you into a completely different person, in which case you’d be telling me not to take this too seriously. And the way this whole thing never lets up on its end-of-the-world seriousness fosters doubt.

“…there was no denying that I was the most popular target for congratulations and thanks. Maybe because the Cullens looked just slightly wrong under Alice’s party lights…Probably Alice had done this on purpose, to force me into the center of attention -- a place she thought I should enjoy more. She was forever trying to make me be human the way she thought humans should be.”

Just because a character doesn’t want all the attention heaped on them, that doesn’t mean they’re not a Mary Sue. Especially when they get all the attention for doing something as wild as existing.

And is this meant to be more “human experience” bull crap? Getting attention isn’t something vampires do? Even ones who make an effort to blend into society?

“The party was a clear success, despite the instinctive edginess caused by the Cullens’ presence.” Exactly how does a “usual perfect human charade” work, if such a thing’s part of the equation?

“The music was infections, the lights almost hypnotic. From the way the food disappeared, that must have been good, too.” The Cullens are culinary masters despite having no need to be, isn’t that great? At least in the movie when they were making food for Bella they were watching a cooking show as they did. Maybe they did that here too, but am I really asking too much for wanting Steph to downplay this “vampires are perfect” thing a little?

“It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be. I followed Alice’s lead, mingling and chatting for a minute with everyone. They seemed easy enough to please. I was sure this party was far cooler than anything the town of Forks had experienced before. Alice was almost purring -- no one here would forget this night.” I already have. Is that seriously all we’re going to hear about the mother of all parties?

4. Jessica comes up and starts yakking at Bella, who’s able to pretend to pay attention with no effort because Jessica won’t shut up. When Edward suddenly detaches himself from Bella’s hip, though (because Alice had one of her visions and he needs to go see what), she slips away to follow. “I didn’t pause for her reaction, even to see if I’d hurt her feelings with my abruptness.” Yeah, if that thing before was an attempt to show Bella has human friends she cares about, it fails. Damn it Meyer, she can’t let Edward out of her sight for five minutes without going insane with fear of what might happen. This. Isn’t. Healthy. I don’t care what kind of “unique case” BS you bring up.

Jacob shows up. “I’d thought I’d rescinded that invitation.” Bella thinks a lot of things. Not many of them make sense.

He didn’t come alone, though, he came with two other werewolves (do you really care who?). “…their eyes flickering around the room like they’d just walked into a haunted crypt.” Is that supposed to be a subtle reminder that the Cullens are vampires? Or the werewolves don’t like them? Just saying, it’s page 371. If we need to be informed of that by now you’re probably not doing a very good job telling the story. Or you’re thinking this is way more complicated than it is. Or you think we’re really stupid.

5. Bella demands to know what Jacob’s doing here, and he reminds her she invited him. She informs him that punching him was uninviting him. One, he hardly noticed, and two, nearly all their meetings seem to end on a bad note yet they remain best friends. Can you honestly blame him for not thinking of that?

She’s not in the mood for arguing with him. “I wanted to know what Alice had seen and what Edward and Carlisle were saying about it.” Me too. In fact, shunting Bella away from pretty much anything of potential interest so we can focus on something like her boy troubles when we already know what’s going to happen is one of the things I hate most about these books’ style.

He wants to give her a present, and when she tells him to return it he tells her he can’t. It’s handmade. Spent a lot of time on it. Still, Bella tries to dodge and go listen to something that might actually matter. Jacob won’t let up, leading to this exchange.

Jacob: (referring to the kiss) “I guess I deluded myself into thinking you wanted me to.”
Bella: “Deluded -- what a perfect description!”
Me: “You ain’t exactly the picture of mental health yourself, toots.”
Jacob: “Be nice. You could accept my apology, you know.”
Bella: “Fine. Apology accepted. Now, if you’ll just excuse me for a moment…”
Me: “I don’t like you, Bella. I don’t want you to have a happy ending.”
Jacob: “Okay. I guess you’d rather be with your real friends. I get it.”
Bella: “Aw, Jake, you know that’s not fair.”
Jake: “Do I?”
Bella: “You should.”
Me: “The vampires conspired to kidnap you, and you’re saying he’s being unfair to them. Listen to yourself, lady.”

6. To awkwardly change the subject, Bella asks what Jacob got her. It’s a wolf carving, with the color of the wood even perfectly matching Jacob’s fur. They have a moment where the fighting’s forgotten and they’re best friends again, but then Jacob asks her what’s going on, and she has to admit to herself that if evil vampires are around the werewolves probably will get involved one way or another. “Only I wasn’t sure what that was yet. I wouldn’t know for sure until I found Alice.” Bet it’s nothing surprising, whatever it is.

The werewolves kind of gang up on Bella then, demanding to know what’s going down. “They all folded their arms across their chests at exactly the same time. It was a little bit funny, but mostly menacing.” Meyer, you haven’t written a menacing thing for these books. Or a funny one, for that matter. At least not one that I think you intended. And stop telling me what to think.

Then Alice reappears. “She looked right at me as soon as I called her name, despite the thudding base that should have drowned my voice.” Even though she has superhuman senses and precognition, which still provides advance warning of a sort where werewolves are involved. She comes down to get Bella, but the wolves stop her from leaving until they know what’s going on. “Jasper appeared quite literally out of nowhere.” No he didn’t and she’s had enough contact with them to know even they can’t magically appear and disappear. His “expression was terrifying,” which gets Jake to back off. What was so terrifying about it? I mean, it has that effect on someone who’s not even Bella. I’d like to know what happened.

7. Alice tells Jasper to lay off, since the Quileutes do have a stake in this too. What did she see? The evil vampires are coming to Forks. Yeah, that’s a shocker. “ ‘For?’ She nodded, understanding my question. ‘One carried your red shirt.’ ”

I guess it’s kind of nice that Meyer bothered to confirm that, but it’s not as if you’d ever doubt this was about Bella. Either because the plot’s that simple, or because Bella’s the center of the universe anyway.

“All around us, my friends and neighbors and petty enemies laughed and ate and swayed to the music, oblivious to the fact that they were about to face horror, danger, and maybe death. Because of me.” So why are in the holy balls do you insist on staying? To preserve Charlie’s feelings? Do you think maybe condemning him to die at the hands of a threat he doesn’t know exists is the lesser of two evils?

Jasper gets mad at a suggestion from Jacob that there are too many evil vampires for the Cullens to handle. “We have a few advantages, dog. It will be an even fight.” Yeah, you have inferior numbers, and inferior strength. I’m sorry, I guess I’m mainly thinking of the movie where after all the preparation, the Cullens rush at the evil vampires across an empty field. You hardly get a sense their preparations served any purpose. Even here, where we don’t see the fight, I get the feeling Jasper’s military career progressed more due to his natural charisma than anything resembling military competence.

8. Then Alice has another vision, or rather, doesn’t. Because the werewolves just got involved in the future. Jacob and his buddies are eager for a chance to fight, but Bella tries to tell him “You are staying out of this!” And what kind of authority does she think she has? Over anyone else in this story? And what about all her “friends and neighbors and petty enemies” who face a death she knows is coming but none of them do? Which is more likely to claim them if she has her way of decreasing the number of defenders the town has.

Her supposed best friend is fighting a super-powered enemy, I can see why she might be upset. But she’s always like this, always dominated by her worries. Hasn’t used her head once with it being better than halfway through the third bloody book. I’d be fine with it if we didn’t get all that reassurance that she’s so far above your average teenager.

9. Jasper agrees to let the wolves help. “If you’re going to fight with us, you’ll need some instruction.” Don’t get your hopes up, what he’s talking about’s only somewhat less silly than anything else in these books.

Jacob thanks Bella; the present she got for him is way better than the one he got her. And then he’s gone, before she can try to make a bad situation even worse by trying to keep him from fighting again. What a stupid kid.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Eclipse Chapter 16 - Epoch


1. “ ‘I have nothing to wear!’ I moaned to myself. ” What’s this? Is Bella actually taking an interest in her appearance? Is this character growth? Or does she just not want to deal with having Alice find out she can’t pick an outfit and the horrifying experience of shopping with her that’d be sure to follow?

She’s unable to find “Something that would make me look beautiful and grown up.” Since when has she thought anything but being a vampire could do that? I’m sorry, maybe Bella is supposed to be growing up a little, but with how flat the characters and shallow the books are anyway, it’s hard to be sure. Especially when the most visible changes to come over characters all seem to happen because of changes to their biology. And, well, that’s a pretty freaking lame excuse for character growth. At least, when it’s the only one you can tell’s there.

2. Alice actually does come by (through the window, how else) and give Bella something to wear, and Bella’s grateful, but again I’m not sure if she means that or she’s just grateful for the fact that Alice is throwing something at her and calling it done.

I do get a sense that Bella’s being sarcastic when Alice complains about feeling useless, “So…normal” because their, heh, “unknown” enemy knows how to avoid being spotted by her visions. With Bella following up with saying she can’t imagine how horrible it is to be normal. Boy, if only upgrading to a more powerful species was an actual option.

Yeah, yeah, it’s escapist fantasy, and wouldn’t I want to be an immortal creature possessed of inhuman power if I really got the chance? No, because I don’t think vampires are cool. And as a reader, it doesn’t help me get into this story because Bella NOT being a vampire is the source of a lot of her moaning, but also the cause of her not being around for all the action that attempts to provide tension for these books.

3. Somehow the book sinks even lower now, because Alice talking about not having seen the intruder makes Bella realize what’s really going on. The vampires in Seattle and whoever snuck into her room were part of the same group. Only took until the sixteenth chapter to connect the two vampire-related events, huh? And they still have no clue who the mastermind could be.

On the one hand, I find it annoying that Alice is around to kill most drama by giving so much forewarning with her visions, but on the other hand, it’s even more annoying that the characters are so dumb that even with the information they have in advance (from her and other sources) they end up getting blindsided, mistaking the information, or failing to come up with patently obvious conculsions so they can still have problems to deal with. It’s like a lesson in the worst ways to handle tension.

But seriously, this is a huge bomb Bella just dropped. Don’t take my word for it: “Alice wasn’t accustomed to being taken by surprise. She froze, and was still for so long that I started counting in my head as I waited. She didn’t move for two minutes straight. Then her eyes refocused on me.”

Boy, what a great friend Bella is for sitting there, timing how long it takes Alice to digest that tidbit of information.

4. “I was through expecting my emotions to make sense anymore.” If even she’s giving up…

As she realized that all the vampire intrigue was happening “for the express purpose of destroying me, I felt a spasm of relief.” Of course it’s all about her. It always has been. Also love how it’s “destroy,” like this is some stupid kid-friendly superhero show.

“Part of it was finally solving that irritating feeling that I was missing something vital.” Did I see it coming a mile away? You bet your ass I did. Did anyone else who’s ever read a book before? Them too.

“Well, everyone can relax. Nobody’s trying to exterminate the Cullens after all.” Sweetie, that hasn’t stopped them from literally going to the ends of the Earth for your benefit yet, why should it now? Plus, I still have no reason to care if she dies. Well, I’d be upset if she got killed by vampires because her father would be upset and he’s pretty much the only sympathetic character.

It goes without saying that “Edward would go berserk when he knew.”

Are you reading, Steph? Are you still sticking with this?

5. But enough about vampiric idiocy, let’s hear about Bella’s graduation ceremony neither she nor we care about. “Charlie had gotten stubborn” when Bella informed him she intended to ride to the ceremony with Edward like she does everything else. That’s not cute or romantic or healthy. “And I could see his point -- parents should have some rights come graduation day. I’d conceded with good grace…” Oh, how big of her. Edward suggested the three of them go together. “Charlie couldn’t come up with a compelling object; he’d agreed with poor grace.” There’s no telling her that her boyfriend’s a creep, I know, but at least think about what all this shit must look like to Charlie. I still stand by that “most giving fictional parent I’ve ever seen” thing I said about him in the first book.

Once they get there Edward asks if Bella’s all right, and she replies. “ ‘Nervous,’ I answered, and it wasn’t even a lie.” Look, if she’s even willing to lie to the guy she’s willing to throw away everything to be with, and over something he really needs to know to keep his girlfriend alive, why should I think she isn’t lying to me?

6. Bella notices Alice isn’t at the ceremony. “Skip graduation? What poor timing on my part. I should have waited to figure things out until after this was over with.” That could easily be the stupidest thought Bella’s had yet. She’s disappointed with herself for figuring something out that’ll let them come up with more comprehensive defense plans and keep anyone from having to die, and it’s because it means Alice is missing high school graduation. Which is probably something like her twelfth one anyway.

7. Jessica (remember her?) comes up to Bella and starts talking about all the good times and how she’ll miss Bella so much and blah blah blah. “I found that I was glad that things could end on a good note with Jessica.” And Bella gets out of yet another problem without having to do a damn thing.

“It went so quickly. I felt liked I’d hit the fast forward button.” I’d say she’s skipping the boring parts, but if that was so then the books wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Alice suddenly shows up and she and Edward make their way across the stage and get their diplomas. “Only the two of them could carry off the hideous yellow and still look the way they did. They stood out from the rest of the crowd, their beauty and grace otherworldly.” Thanks for that, it was a bit of information that I’d had to do without the entire way up to this point. And it certainly wasn’t hinted at at all by the first sentence.

“I wondered how I’d ever fallen for their human farce...” Maybe you’re a hopeless moron. Or maybe the author milks this bit way too much for the good of her opus’s believability.

8. Alice runs out as soon as she gets her stupid diploma, and then Bella “made an impulse decisions -- the kind I really should think twice about, but rarely did.” That’s sort of what an impulse decision is, genius. Not just for her, but for everybody.

What was that decision? She asks the confused-looking Edward if he’s worried about Alice. She asks what Alice was thinking and Edward replies she was thinking about something else very hard so he wouldn’t find out. “She was translating the Battle Hymn of the Republic into Arabic, actually. When she finished that, she moved onto Korean sign language.” I’m not even going to ask if Korean sign language is a thing, mainly because I don’t care, I’ll just say these books get more ridiculous every time they try to impress me.

Bella reveals her brainstorm from before to him then, and “His face turned so white that I had a hard time finishing.” He’s so pale already, how is that even possible? “But no one’s coming for you, don’t you see? This is good -- Esme and Alice and Carlisle, no one wants to hurt them!” Boy does she not know him; her protection is the mort important thing in his life, and that’s only partly because she has no ability to do so herself even within her abilities as a human. And I’m supposed to think they have this unassailable love?

9. Charlie comes up and congratulates his daughter (see how boring these books are when these are the events I’m reporting to you?), “ever so slyly shuffling Edward off to the side as he did so.” That and “He had his back to Edward -- probably an effort to exclude him.” I haven’t brought this up in a while, but given how Bella only really hangs around Edward and maybe Alice, I think I’ll bring it up again now. When did ultimate wallflower Bella learn thing one about reading somebody’s actions?

10. “Okay, so telling Edward had been a really bad idea.” Would somebody maybe remind me of one of hers that hasn’t been? “I should have waited till we were alone elsewhere, maybe with the rest of his family. And nothing breakable close by -- like windows…cars…school buildings.” You’re telling me vampires can wreck whole buildings? Did Steph pick “vampire” because she thought it would draw less Mary Sue flack than “demigod”?

11. Then it’s time for the after-ceremony festivities but Bella’s mind isn’t really on them because of you know, vampires marshalling their forces to kill her and stuff. For all the shit about savoring “human experiences,” the books sure do work hard at distracting her from doing so. What’s even lamer is the chapter title presumably refers to the end of an era in Bella’s life represented by the conclusion of her high school career, and how much attention’s she really paying to that versus the vampire murder plot?

“I did not particularly enjoy Charlie’s favorite restaurant,” but it’s not like we’ve heard much of what she does like besides kissing Edward, so that kind of talk is pretty innocuous by now.

Edward takes off quickly when they get to the eatery and Charlie asks if they’re fighting again. “Nobody’s fighting. Mind your own business,” Bella tells him. Boy she’s lovable. He rather logically replies “You are my business.” Especially with preservation skills like hers.

Over dinner Bella looked at the clock “more often than necessary.” Okay, that’s a little different than rereading a note that says “Be safe.”

12. They leave and Bella says she’s going over to the Cullens’ under the pretext of helping to set up for the graduation party. On the way out she sees a shadow approaching and almost freaks out until she sees it’s Edward. He has to know how panicky she is by now, maybe he shouldn’t sneak up on her, knowing that other vampires want to kill her (again). Then again that would require him to think. In the first place. Let alone over-think.

She tries to tell him she should’ve waited to tell him, but he gently counters “This is something I needed to know. I can’t believe I didn’t see it!” True on both counts. Oh, and Bella’s not extra-smart for making the connection, and the Cullens aren’t of average intelligence for not doing so. Especially considering they’re vampires themselves. We could say their veginess has dulled their edge, but that would imply they’re something less than totally awesome, and we can forget about Steph ever doing that.

Bella: “You’ve got a lot on your mind.”
Edward: “And you don’t?”
Me: “No, she doesn’t.”

It’s fine showing your writing to your friends, but I’ve found it’s actually productive to show it to the ones who aren’t afraid to tell you when you have a bad idea. Like maybe pretending your characters and world are deep when they so, so aren’t.

Charlie asks if Bella’s okay, probably in part because she’s not hiding her ordeals particularly well. “ ‘I feel fine,’ I lied.” Just because she calls attention to it in this chapter doesn’t mean she doesn’t do it any other times.

She even tells him he’s being a great dad. “I’m really glad I came to live with you, Dad. It was the best idea I ever had.” Because I met Edward here, and if you didn’t live here that never would’ve worked out. You’re the world’s best dad for living here, Dad.

I’m even more confused about Charlie’s actions in the last chapter when he tries to get her to stand up for herself. “No matter what side I’m on, if someone kisses you without your permission, you should be able to make your feelings clear without hurting yourself.” Yeah, she should. And she shouldn’t back down because the person she’s talking to is pretty.

13. This brings up the subject of Jacob and Bella says she isn’t sure what to do about him. Charlie sagely opines, “Yeah. The right thing isn’t always real obvious. Sometimes the right thing for one person is the wrong thing for someone else.” Don’t try to get so deep on your first time out, Steph. And I don’t care who we’re talking about, in an equal partnership things like breaking into another person’s living area and leaving them out of major decisions are never okay.

I know Steph’s said that she didn’t intend any morals with her writing, but people tend to think you do even if you don’t. Not to be nasty, but only complete amateurs don’t know that.

Zero culpability sounds like so much.

14. Charlie drives Bella out to the Cullens’ house and complains that their driveway’s impossible to find. Bella’s a little cheered at the thought that nobody will find the place, until she sees that Alice wrapped trees “all three miles of the way” there with Christmas lights. Was Alice a huge dork before she became a vampire? Or did the family’s unending wealth fuel this?

Bella’s displeased, of course. Can I have one relationship that’s at all believable? Do I use that word too much? If I do it’s only because I’m reading something like this.

“With a sigh, I marched up the stairs to endure my party.” Why does everybody hate Bella?…Besides the obvious, I mean.