Monday, April 30, 2012

Breaking Down, Book One: Bella, Chapter 1 - Engaged

Here we go on the final, most aggravating installment in this overblown series. So nobody gets confused, I actually wrote this review in my old style while I was still in the middle of doing Eclipse. The others will be my several-at-a-time format.

1. We get yet another artsy epigraph, this one courtesy of Edna St. Vincent Millay (oh boy am I not looking forward to the one from Orson Scott Card). “Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age the child is grown, and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.” Except all the humans who Bella claims to care about. Whose lives she’s cutting herself out of forever all for the sake of a man she loves for his looks and has nothing in common with except one musician. Not to mention all the poor mortal readers who made this series such a resounding success. I dunno, wouldn't a sign of maturity be the acceptance of endings? Not that it would work with the premise of this super mature Suefic.

Stupid preface, go! “I’d had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn’t something you ever really got used to.” Yeah well, I kind of think you would get desensitized to anything after enough repetitions. It certainly doesn't help that Bella treats every problem with the same lung-clogging level of anxiety.

“It seemed oddly inevitable, though, facing death again. Like I really was marked for disaster. I’d escaped time and time again, but it kept coming back for me.” It’s all about Bella, after all.

What can you do when it’s not some evil vampire out for your blood, though? If your life isn’t threatened by your own mind-shattering stupidity? “If it was someone you truly loved?”

We’re talking about Bella’s pregnancy, aren’t we?

2. We open on Bella trying to tell herself nobody’s staring at her, “But, because I couldn’t lie convincingly even to myself, I had to check.” Ah, welcome back character who deserved to have Edward slip and bite her head off three chapters in.

“It was still considered rude to stare at people, wasn’t it? Didn’t that apply to me anymore?” Maybe if she wasn’t a complete freak who deserves for people to literally stare holes in her…

As she fuels up her wehicle, the digits on the pump “ticked by sluggishly, almost if they were doing it just to annoy me.” Oh it’s so hard being you, Bella.

Oh, it sure is: “It was stupid to be so self-conscious, and I knew that. Besides my mom and dad, did it really matter what people were saying about my engagement? About my new car? About my mysterious acceptance into an Ivy League college? About the shiny black credit card that felt red-hot in my back pocket right now?” Sue.

Why are people staring at Bella? Well, it turns out her truck died (“According to him.” Trust!) and Edward replaced it with another car that Bella can’t name but which is incredibly impressive (don’t care, said why). We know this because two guys at the gas station gush at the sight of it and ask if she’ll let them take their pictures with it. I am not kidding.

From the sound of the guys’ praise, the car’s basically tankproof. Edward “going a little overboard” looking out for his squishy bride-to-be. Too bad she’s so unused to the thing that when she tried to step on the gas, “the car jolted forward so fast that my body slammed into the black leather seat and my stomach flattened against my spine.” Even if the car’s basically indestructible, it’s still not serving its purpose if Bella can’t drive it, is it? I suppose I should just be glad he’s letting Bella drive herself.

3. In the previous part there’s this paragraph that both baffles and irritates me. It starts with “On the one hand, I had been raised to cringe at the very thought of poofy white dresses and bouquets.” That’s the part that baffles me. I guess she’s talking about her mom not being big on premature marriage, but then, how long did mom know Phil before they tied the knot? According to the guidebook, Bella’s mom “loved being in love.” Granted that line comes from the summary of her youth, but with how Bella was supposedly the real grownup in the household you don't get the impression she changed all that much. Besides, the event that kickstarted the entire plot was Bella's mom getting married again. I don’t know, that’s not very consistent with the idea that this same woman’s militantly anti-matrimony and going to jump down Bella’s throat for deciding to marry so young. And in case you don’t remember, or I didn’t remember to point it out, before Edward came along Bella claims the person in the whole world she was closest to was her mom. Whether that says something about what Bella considers a deep personal relationship or her ability to understand other people in general, I’ll let you decide.

The part that irritates is me Bella thinking that the word “husband” just doesn’t fit someone like Edward. “It was like casting an archangel as an accountant; I couldn’t visualize him in any commonplace role.” Normally I’d be willing to write that off because this is the first chapter, but Breaking Dawn doesn’t do much to make itself accessible to noobs. As I read this book I saw almost nothing where Meyer was trying to explain herself to people not already familiar with her world. That’s okay, in a way, since this is the last book and they’re married by the end of the third chapter. It’s a little late to worry about getting people invested in the characters. For that reason, however, I feel vindicated in thinking SHE CAN STOP TELLING US HOW WONDERFUL EDWARD AND ALL VAMPIRES ARE ALREADY. WE’VE LISTENED TO THIS CRAP NONSTOP FOR THREE BOOKS NOW.

Like I said about Meyer not making this accessible to new readers, after getting gas, Bella drives home and as she does she sees a bunch of flyers up for her “favorite mechanic,” who’s gone missing. When we find out it’s Jacob, that’s it. Her friend Jacob’s gone missing. Nothing about the werewolf thing. Not even anything about Jacob wanting to be doing with her what Edward is. Just a bit about how Billy’s letting Jacob come home when he feels like it despite Charlie’s anxiety. And how Jacob’s friends can hear each others’ thoughts. And how Leah (remember her? I don’t) is a raging bitch. Nothing about how Jacob was supposed to be looking at a significant period of recovery after a “motorcycle accident” at the end of the previous book, and then he just disappeared before that kind of time could’ve passed.

4. Speaking of those flyers, each one felt like a “well-deserved slap in the face.” I’m sorry, I know she thinks of Jacob as her best friend and all, but…I don’t care that she feels bad about this. Putting aside my feelings on Bella as a person, I always knew who she’d pick. I’m pretty sure anybody else who paid any attention at all did too. Including Bella. Besides, by the time I was old enough to know what Bella was up to when she tried to take her clothes off around her boyfriend, I was getting bored with wimpy stories like this one with no suspense and perfect solutions to all the problems (which help with the lack of suspense).

5. Further showing us the deficiencies of Stephenie Meyer’s literary abilities, Bella mentions how “The friendship that had sprung up between Edward and Seth was something that still boggled my mind.” Me too, seeing as we hardly ever actually see character development in action. Or anything indicating Bella even has the brains God gave a mosquito. And Seth? I remember him, because he actually did something fairly significant we got to see!

For that matter, “It was proof, though, that things didn’t have to be this way. That vampires and werewolves could get along just fine, thank you very much, if they were of a mind to.” The way everything has an easy and painless resolution is obnoxious enough in something aimed above a 7-year-old audience, but the way she says that like everyone else was a bunch of children for not seeing it as quickly as she did…Especially when the books have regularly shown her to be stupid, panicky and needing to be reminded of major plot elements. Presumably because she’s devoting too much mental energy to how beautiful such-and-such is.

6. Cut to Edward and Bella waiting in her house to spring the news of their upcoming nuptials to Charlie. She’s nervous, of course, and he tries to remind her “you’re not confessing to a murder here.” “Easy for you to say,” she replies. Does everything have to be pulling teeth with her? Is it just possible there’s something to what all the mean people say about Bella?

When she hears Charlie coming in, “The sound reminded me of that part of the horror movie when the victim realizes she’s forgotten to lock her deadbolt.” Bella can’t even tell the difference between a horror movie and a romance, two of the most diametrically opposed niches of cinema. Remember back in New Moon?

And another classic moment in poor foresight appears when Bella tells us that Charlie had “been putting forth a lot of effort to like Edward more.” Again, if people were saying about my writing what they do about Meyer’s, I wouldn’t leave myself open like that. Besides, is enjoying someone’s company something it makes any sense to have to make an effort to achieve? If Edward's such a great guy, should that require an effort on Charlie's part? Or has he maybe earned the right to be wary of Senor Cullen?

In a touch of very weak humor, Charlie thinks they’re about to tell him Bella’s pregnant. At least, I think it was humor. I’m honestly not sure what to feel most of the time in these books. “What other possible reason would sane people have for getting married at eighteen? (His answer then had made me roll my eyes. Love. Right)” Gee, this really doesn’t sound like a romance comparable to the classics of old. Let alone one that’ll outlive Bella’s period of study at Dartmouth.

7. Edward explains that “I love her more than anything in the world, more than my own life.” I know I’ve complained about this before that’s something that needs more establishing. What does Edward do for fun? What got him out of bed in the morning before Bella? This suicidal devotion of theirs is more unsettling than endearing when they seem to lack any interests in life besides each other.

It’s not helped by being followed up with Bella saying, “For just an instant, listening to the absolute confidence in his voice, I experienced a rare moment of insight. I could see, fleetingly, the way the world looked to him.” Both because Bella seems to be admitting how dense she is, and because that’s all we get. No explanation of how Bella thinks Edward sees the world.

When Charlie asks if this is what Bella wants, she replies, “ ‘I’m one hundred percent sure about Edward,’ I told him without missing a beat.” Says it without thinking. You might think that speaks of the depths of their love, until you realize Bella never thinks before doing anything. Remember the motorcycles?

For that matter, she just wants to get this over with and become an unaging vampire “due to the fact that I was getting closer to nineteen every stinking day, while Edward stayed frozen in all his seventeen-year-old perfection, as he had for over ninety years.” So she’s agreeing to marry Edward because that’s the only way he’ll give her those sparkles she wants so dearly, and not so much because she dearly loves him and wants to give back some of what he’s giving her? “Not that this fact necessitated marriage in my book…” Guess not. What happened to her agreeing to wait on becoming a vampire because she finally realized she was being kinda selfish?

Edward asks for Charlie’s blessing on their union. “I’d like to do that, well, the right way. It’s how I was raised.” Bella adds, “He wasn’t exaggerating; they’d been big on old-fashioned morals during World War I.” We noticed the “as he had for over ninety years” bit, but thanks for reminding us. I mean, insulting our intelligence. I don’t remember Bella ever coming out and declaring her contempt for her listeners like that. Who’s she telling this story, anyway? I know most stories with a first-person perspective don’t worry about that question, but between all the “Edward was so pretty” and “I totally suck” moments, I kind of have to wonder who’d ask her to tell the story of how she and Edward got together and still be listening after all this garbage.

8. Charlie agrees, but cackles that Bella has to break the news to her mom herself. “The ultimate doom: telling Renee. Early marriage was higher up on her blacklist than boiling live puppies.” Save the drama for the drama, please. This is (a big part of) why the climax to this, the entire “saga”, makes a wet thud when it arrives.

Anyway, Renee isn’t upset that Bella’s getting married right out of high school. At all. In fact she encourages Bella “that you know what’s best for you.” I’d argue that Bella’s track record indicates otherwise, but she wouldn’t know about those. Mom continues in this vein, assuring her spawn that “You’ve never been a teenager, sweetie,” and “My little middle-aged child. Luckily, you seem to have found another old soul.” If not for this kind of shit, I’d say Meyer captured the voice of her protagonists perfectly.

And really, the fact that Bella invents problems where none prove to exist just helps you to see how few problems she really has to deal with.

“It let me right off the hook. Edward’s family and my family were taking care of the nuptials together without my having to do or know or think too hard about any of it.” It’s so hard being Bella.

This conversation actually shows us another of Steph’s failures to show and not tell, because the main reason Bella’s mom is so sure she and Edward will work is what she saw when they visited her before. You remember, in Eclipse? No, you don’t! Because they were going, and then they were back! We never saw Edward charming his future mother-in-law. It’s like Steph’s only realizing now that she actually has to write Bella’s mom in at some point if Bella’s so concerned about said parent’s view of her marriage.

And before I close this point, I just want to say that having Bella say “But aren’t you going to say that I sound exactly like every other infatuated teenager since the dawn of time?” doesn’t distract at all from how fake the romance comes across.

9. By the way, the scene transition between Charlie telling Bella she had to talk to her mother about this and Bella doing so was incredibly awkward. It starts with the sentence “I paused with my hand on the doorknob, smiling,” as if she’s thinking back on the conversation with it just having ended. Since it goes on to say that Renee’s helping Esme plan the wedding by phone, it sounds like Edward flew Bella across the country just to ask her mom that one question. I know his family’s got money to burn but damn, was that really necessary?

10. Alice gets Charlie a tux, and he says he looks like an idiot, and she fires back that “No one dressed by me ever looks like an idiot.” Stop it already, Steph. I know the series is almost over, but you could’ve at least limited the damage with how insufferably perfect your vampires are. Yes, it does get tiresome if you think about it. No, thinking about literature isn’t a bad thing to do.

But then it’s Bella’s turn, and she “saw the dreaded white garment bag,” and screamed a little. Bella and Alice are supposed to be like BFF’s or something, right? Then how come whenever they interact, Alice seems to be doing something that exasperates Bella? Who lets Alice do it anyway because she has no backbone.

Bella prepares for that dreaded moment where she tries on her wedding dress. “I stripped down to my underwear and held my arms straight out.” Eeewww.

Look, I’m sure that no matter how hard she pretends otherwise, Bella’s not hard to look at. But I’ve been inside her head, heard her innermost thoughts, and what I’ve seen there isn’t appealing. Being asked to imagine her with no clothes on actually only serves to make her less so.

11. Alice tells Bella to go to her happy place for this part, and she does, but the only thing definite about it is Edward’s there with her. “[B]ecause Edward was keeping the location of our honeymoon a secret to surprise me. But I wasn’t especially concerned about the where part.” Sorry Steph, I’m really not finding this romance believable when Bella has yet to concern herself regarding anything about their relationship besides getting immortality. Like, is this somebody she can really spend eternity with? Of course she can, because vampires fall in love for life.

“Edward and I were together, and I’d fulfilled my side of our compromise perfectly. I’d married him. That was the big one. But I’d also accepted all his outrageous gifts and was registered, however futilely, to attend Dartmouth College in the fall. Now it was his turn.” Oh isn’t that wonderful, her part of the deal they’d made was that she’d accept all of these extravagant gifts from him before she’d accept the most amazing gift of all. Haven't we come such a long way?

I suppose if Meyer were to read this she’d defend her work by saying Edward’s the one with all the money and power and connections, but could Bella be a little excited about what’s going on, maybe? Quit acting like admission to a high-level college and all the others things Edward’s lavishing on her are obstacles to overcome before she can get what she really wants? This doesn’t sound romantic at all. Plus she’s hardly seeming like a developed character, even after three gigantic books, when Edward remains her only goal in life.

. Building on my last thought, Bella ponders on how she’ll change, psychologically, when she becomes a vampire. You know, when you write on a blank slate, you’re filling a void, not changing what’s there. “For several years, my biggest personality trait was going to be thirsty.” Which isn’t a personality trait. I’m fine with calling topaz a color, but “thirsty” isn’t a personality trait. Neither is “obsessed with undead pretty boy.”

“And even when I was in control of myself, I would never feel exactly the way I felt now. Human…and passionately in love.” Huh? Isn’t that what Edward feels toward her?

Oh dear lord I’m only 22 pages into this 754 page book. Someone please kill me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins of Twilight (or The Only Things I Ever Talk About Anymore)

A while ago I felt like I stopped complaining so much about things like how the Twilight series is horribly misogynistic and any number of higher issues to focus on how it offended my sensibilities as someone who fancies himself a storyteller. To close out Eclipse and look at how far I’ve come, I thought I’d lay those out and say just where the most heinous examples from each book were.

I’m aware there’s some overlap here, both with the problems I’m listing and the examples I use. I’m okay with that. I’m also aware of using a couple examples from Breaking Down. I’m okay with that too.

Why don’t we jump right into how the story…

Plays it too safe.

Let’s be clear: as an author, you should strive to have your characters act in an intelligent and semi-realistic manner. For that reason, I agree it makes sense to keep the squishy Bella away from the dangerous happenings whenever possible, and use their precognitive to warn them of incoming danger. The catch is it’s also important to strike a balance between having your characters do what’s smart, and showing things that are interesting to read about. Like oh, anything but having the narrator sit around in a house or motel miles away from whatever’s driving the plot.

Just saying, it’s a not a small copout when tons and tons of effort’s put into establishing that a big battle with a fearsome force is coming, only to find out it’s going to happen someplace else while we get to listen to Jacob and Edward bickering over the affections of an unlikable ninny. Slightly less aggravating is hearing, and never seeing all of Victoria’s failed attempts to get past the Quileutes to have a chance at killing an unlikable ninny.

If you’re going to include all this conflict, all these people gathering for battle to show the depth of their convictions (or if we’re not kidding ourselves, how damn special your Sue is), why on Earth would you not show it? I don’t demand that books with superhuman beings include epic battles, but if you’re going to go that route and yet not show any of it, I don’t see why you’d go that way for drama at all.

Or maybe the author’s just a wimp who wants people to think she’s tough by using battles for drama, but doesn’t actually have the cajones to show something unpleasant. If you’ve read Breaking Dawn you’ll remember that the middle third or so is told from Jacob’s perspective. At one point he comes back from a run to find out Leah the werewolf told Bella off for continuing to string him along even after choosing Edward, marrying Edward, and being in the process of having Edward’s baby. Not only did we not see this awful harangue, everyone else thinks Leah’s just being a bitch to poor Bella. Including Jacob.

For that matter, having Alice around to foresee nearly all threats eliminates, accordingly, nearly all of the element of surprise the danger provides. It’s kind of cute, but mostly desperate the ways Meyer comes up with to weaken or phase out this awesome ability. Despite the decision to make its owner one of the most prominent characters. If you not only keep the main character out of all the exciting parts, but we have plenty of forewarning that something dangerous might happen (and usually a more-or-less exact idea of when and where it’ll happen, usually on the field where they played baseball in the first book), what exactly is meant to be dramatic about all this if have plenty of advance warning of something we won’t get to see anyway?

And it isn’t just fighting; there are indications that Meyer does have potentially entertaining character interplay too. The thing is, probably because her potentially interesting ideas usually have nothing to do with romance, none of it seems to involve Bella, Edward and Jacob.

Those potentially interesting ideas include a fairly elaborate mythology and complex genealogy of the Quileute tribe. But if the person who we rely upon to give us all our information is so focused on her boyfriend’s sparkly cheekbones the elaborate mythology feels like something merely thrown in for color, maybe it might as well not be there?

Related to my other complaints, and just as annoying, is when everyone else seems to be in on some big development, and Bella’s the last to find out. Like when she finds out Jacob’s in love with her too.
If we don’t get to be around for anything that could’ve made these books interesting, and are kept in suspense about things anybody could predict, what do we get instead? Talking. Interminable. Talking. About vitally important things like the men in Bella’s life, or how she’s not happy being a human. Or if we’re really lucky, talking about that fighting and tracking we don’t get to see.

Let me stress that the narrator of a story being largely a spectator doesn’t automatically doom it. But it’s really hard to make that work when they’re the reason for everything that goes on.

For a successful example of non-involved narrators, I’m thinking of the early Callahan’s stories by Spider Robinson, where Jake Stonebender’s usually just another guy who happened to be at the bar the night something weird happened. There were stories with him at their center, sure, but not all that many really.

The important points of distinction are that he was around to tell us about something worth reading when it happened, and the narrator was usually just another face in the crowd. Not the center of the fictional universe. Callahan’s had an ensemble cast it actually used.

Speaking of ensemble casts, it’s hard to get worked about the welfare of the…

Legions of pointless characters.

Near the beginning of Eclipse we hear about vampires murdering people in Seattle, and reading the victims’ names Bella starts to fret over how these aren’t just names, they’re people who had families and jobs and pets and Xbox Live accounts…None of them really mattered for anything other establishing that somebody was on a killing spree, but that’s the problem. It’s the tip of the iceberg of Meyer’s apparent belief that every face in her story needs a name and complete identity. No matter how inconsequential to the story they might be.

He shows up within like a chapter of the ending. And yes, his name is Charles.

Having a diverse cast of characters in your book can be entertaining. However, that needs to be balanced with knowing that you shouldn’t just have one, it should matter for something. Especially if you’re going to base major plot events on some of the smaller elements.

Yes, I’m mainly talking about the practically faceless Harry Clearwater, and how his untimely demise prompted Edward to seek assisted suicide.

That’s just the worst example. There’s a party during New Moon where a bunch of other people (from the reservation) are mentioned like their names ought to mean something. More of the same when Bella goes to hear the legends in Eclipse. Then later we might hear how such-and-such is having a rough time because such-and-such died, or because such-and-such turned out to be a werewolf. Or when Jacob talks about how stuff’s happening to his fellow werewolves, as if I know how any of them are different besides Jacob (because he’s the closest thing Edward has to a rival) and Sam (because he’s the leader). And maybe Emily (because she’s Sam’s girlfriend. And she’s ugly). Jump right off the page, don’t they?

Not the Volturi's receptionist! Why, Steph, WHY?!!!!

Or the Volturi? We meet them one time, and then we’re supposed to know who all these names are, what so-and-so wants and how so-and-so has such-and-such a power. Even though the only time we see them again before the very end of the series is when some of them show up at the end of Eclipse for no good reason. In Breaking Dawn much ado is made about a Volturi named Demetri, specifically because of his power to find people. I don’t think he gets more than a line or two in the whole series, but over and over Bella and Edward think that if anyone’s to be able to survive the Volturi’s wrath, he has to die. He wouldn’t be worth bringing up at all, if not for his power.

Incidentally, if you can remember that far back, Demetri was the Volturi member at the end of New Moon whose name I refused to remember that close to the end of the book. He was relevant to the story then for exactly the same reasons he was at the end, because he had a power that made it so hiding from the Volturi was off the table. He was literally a shiny plot device. It was one thing when he was mentioned briefly at the end of one book, but they started relying on that more toward the end of the series. It just got more transparent.

The book hardest hit by this is Breaking Dawn, when (besides leaning even harder on Demetri) the other vampires the Cullens call in to reinforce them show up. There’s about twenty of them, and aside from the Alaskan group, who got most of a chapter to themselves, they’re all introduced in the span of one chapter. Apparently that’s enough for them to be three-dimensional characters, let alone for us to be able to tell them apart, let alone give a shit about what happens to them, because a lot of the book after that is mentions of such-and-such a vampire doing something like we know who they are. There’s an index in the back, but it just lists who belongs to which group, and what name’s coupled up with what other name. Nothing about pasts, powers or personalities. Meaning like all my previous examples, it’s just a list of names. Sure the guidebook gives all those characters names and biographies, but a guidebook should help sum things up at a glance. It shouldn’t be the only place where the author gives you any reason to care about someone you’re supposed to care about.

Even the Cullens aren’t much better, what with how little involvement and depth any of them are given (even the ones we do see a lot). What do we know about them? Carlisle’s a doctor (but willing to renege on his pledge to save lives when calling in reinforcements for the sake of oh-so-special Bella and her oh-so-special kid). Esme’s his wife, and possibly mentally disturbed. Rosalie doesn’t like Bella and is obsessed with babies. Emmett’s her meathead husband. Jasper’s having the hardest time with their choice of diet and a former solider. Oh, and he’s Alice’s main squeeze, so…yeah. The only reason they’re more memorable than the background vampires is we’ve been hearing their names longer.

That’s not even getting into the teenagers who are mainly around to fill space and make Bella look good until she starts hanging out with the Cullens on a regular basis. So let’s not.

And when one of those names does something that affects the big league characters, we’re apparently supposed to have a reaction even though we barely know the character, if we even remember hearing the name before at all. Like at the end of Eclipse where it switches to Jacob’s perspective and he moans about how Leah’s bitching his ear off, like this is something we’ve seen a lot of. I don’t think Leah’d had a single word of dialogue before that. We’d been told she’d been driving the wolves crazy with this kind of thing, but secondhand info doesn’t count as character development. Which of course leads me into…

Don’t tell me what to think, show me what to think.

Every reader will put their own spin on something, true, but an author worth their salt needs to at least try to demonstrate their precepts. Twilight, on the other hand, seems to think that if it says something enough times, then people will accept it, regardless of how it shows the opposite many more times. Or flat out ignores opportunities to back up what it does say.

One of my more frequent digs during the reviews was how Bella’s billed as all smart, kind, brave, born with an old soul, etc. I’ve heard a few Twihards defend this by saying she was all that stuff. That is, before the start of the books, but goes a little insane around Edward because “love isn’t rational” and all that crap. Two things. One, we never saw Bella before she devolved into a vampire groupie, so we have no basis for that comparison. Two, if the other characters are to be believed, Bella’s still all smart, mature, brave, etc. even after going crazy over Edward. Which she isn’t.

Building on that, it’s supposed to be heroic or something how Bella’s willing to sacrifice herself. It might be, if how she didn’t go on and on about how worthless a person she is because she’s a person and not a vampire. How she’s unworthy of being called the lover of something like Edward Cullen. She’s not being humble, and certainly not being heroic. She’s just being a whiner to a higher degree, with the assumption that if she’s willing to kill herself, it’s heroic.

Again, two things. One, was it heroic when Bella took everyone’s concerns for her and flushed them down the toilet with her suicide games in New Moon? The boy who gave her life meaning was gone, and that was the only way to hold onto him (believe it or not, Meyer does have an explanation for Bella’s suicidal tendencies in New Moon, but I’ll get to that when I get to the cause of all these other problems with her style). Two, are the Cullens worth saving from other vampires? Bella tries to assure Jacob (and us), that they’re good, “to the core,” but while trying to avoid taking sentient life might make them less bad than their fellows, does it really make them good? To quote a comic strip about a six-year-old and his imaginary friend, “maybe good is more than just the absence of bad.” I amaze myself with the list of things I find more mature than these books. Actually, I don't.

Get the feeling what she loved was having incredible powers, and getting to be above the law while still being considered "good guys"...

Let’s focus more on the Cullens, shall we? Remember how early in Eclipse, Bella said the Cullens were dedicated to protecting human life? Remember how not long after Edward said the only reason they were paying attention to the killings in Seattle was it was happening so close to them? Remember how they only decided to get involved when it became clear the killers were coming for them, personally? I don’t eat tuna, but that doesn’t mean I’m actively involved in saving dolphins. I don’t hunt deer or ducks, but that doesn’t mean I’m involved with stopping them from being killed. So don’t tell me they’re saints when the only one actively doing any good’s just working as a doctor in a small town hospital.

There’s also “human experiences.” A lot’s made of that, but it’s hardly explained what it could be. Especially when the difficulties of being a vampire are so exaggerated. We hear again and again how hard it is to be a veggie vampire, how tempted Edward is to devour his true love, and all that kind of crap. I doubt I’m ruining anything by telling you that Bella shows no signs of this when she becomes a vampire; instead it’s pretty much exactly the magical experience she imagined it to be. They try to explain that, but all it really does is make you feel like it’s yet another false alarm.

And Bella and Edward’s unabiding love? That more than anything’s what I’m talking about when I mention the books trying to convince us through sheer number of vocal assurances, rather than demonstration. I’m sure that in the author’s head the vampire who can see the strength of people’s relationships had far greater significance, but in the scope of stories as conveyed by Bella, he just seemed to be another a plot device inserted to tell us how deep their love was. For realz.

Moving away from the characters a bit, just how does Volterra enjoy a reputation for extreme safety, let alone get such a huge turnout for that festival, if every year fifty or so of the people attending are never seen again? It’d be one thing if it was like in Guyver where the villains have lots of moles in politics, media and law enforcement and are able to blame their killing witnesses on terrorists or something, but it’s not. Volterra’s supposed to be one of the safest places on Earth, specifically because the Volturi live there, and yet nobody questions it when revelers never come home. Do the Volturi hunt down all those peoples’ extended families too? All their friends and neighbors and coworkers and guys who know them at the bar and church and golf course and karate class? And all the people who’d miss those people? Or did the author perhaps not realize the implications of her claim when chow time came?

Oh is that it? Thanks for making that so clear in the book, Steph.

On the other side of the coin, don’t belabor simple points. Obviously we’re talking about Bella and her almost fetishistic worship of the Cullens and their inhumanly perfectly glorious perfect perfection. Physical perfection, anyway. After a while (a little while), it stops sounding like they’re really so beautiful and Bella’s just a shallow moron who’s easily distracted by shiny objects.

Speaking of Bella and her “tendencies”…

Bella’s the drama queen to end all drama queens.

I don’t need to tell anyone Bella’s as whiny and panicky as they come. On the one hand, Bella’s a teenager, and if teenagers are known for anything it’s blowing their various issues totally out of proportion. On the other hand, well, again, two things. One, Bella’s supposed to be anything BUT your average teenager. Supposedly she raised herself while also taking care of her flighty mother, and there’s all those assurances of how mature, intelligent, and whatnot she is from other characters. Certainly I knew few girls in high school who read Shakespeare and Jane Austen for fun. And by few I mean none. Two, probably more damaging from a story standpoint is eventually Bella’s theatrical tendencies strip her recountings of all sense of scale.

Mainly this comes in when Bella refuses to shut up about Edward and how perfect he is as if that counts as development for his character and their relationship. And not just Edward, but all vampires. Or anyone related to vampires, like Nessie. Seriously, I know most parents think of their kids as little angels who couldn't possibly be improved upon and will change the world, but it doesn't sound like Bella loves her kid. It sounds like exactly what she's been saying this whole time at literally every opportunity.

But it also rears its ugly head in the form of being panic-stricken at every single unpleasant development. To Edward being out of school for a day even when she still thinks he hates her, to the vampire mafia descending on Forks to everything inbetween. Whether it’s a single vampire against numerically superior supernatural protectors, or a small army.

If this were a more traditional romance without much in the way of violent physical conflict, that might not be so bad. The drama would be coming from something other than who will win a supernatural battle to the death. It’s not, with Bella as the cause of a different battle or plot of murder in every single book. Raising the stakes as a series progresses is a natural thing for the author to do, but it only works if you can tell it’s happening. With the way Bella sounds just as distressed about getting birthday presents or attending school functions as she is about having vampires out to kill her, it’s not that long before the angsting about problems every teenager has sounds the same as the “real” ones.

One of the most annoying manifestations of this problem is Bella’s insecurities about people not liking her, or not being good enough because she's not a vampire. When everybody she meets falls all over themselves to please her, is jealous of how awesome she is, or intrigued by how awesome she is to the point of letting her be the exception to the rule of knowing about vampires.

It’s like the author thinks that hides how special she really is.

Of course, the weight of Bella’s problems it isn’t helped by how…

The author just plain sucks at showing how serious problems are.

As above, this would be less of an issue for a series that didn’t rely on fighting between super-powered beings for much of its drama. There’s no particular reason you can’t have things like that in a purported romance, but just because the super-being fighting is outside its regular genre, that doesn’t mean you can get away with trying any less hard. And it’s not limited to villains not living up to what we’re told about them, either. But that’s the main one, so let’s start there.

We’re constantly assured of how badass vampires are, by Bella’s wish to be one if nothing else. Do we ever really get to see it when it matters, though? There’s Edward’s fight with Victoria, sure, but I just couldn’t take that seriously.

What about the Volturi? We’re told how scary they are and how they’ve got no tolerance for anyone who breaks their rule, but when we actually see them, they basically say “well, guess we can let you guys go with a warning.” They’re conspicuous in their absence when vampire killings (which vampires are easily able to identify as being perpetrated by vampires) are gaining national media attention, and when they do show up they spew some crap about not allowing exceptions to their rule, yet leave the entire family of exceptions to run free. And killing someone who can’t fight back (Bree) might make them vicious, but it doesn’t make them intimidating. Any more than a teenager beating up a first grader doesn’t make them look intimidating. I have no idea what the hype’s all about. The believability of threats and scaling up might have been helped if Meyer actually watched rather than just mocked martial arts movies, or had her sons explain videogames to her.

Not that this applies only to how scary-or-not a character is. The books’ most visible problem, Bella being torn between Edward and Jacob even after taking her wedding vows (which, then again, seem to matter very little to her), neatly goes away when Jacob is snatched up by his lupine instincts to have babies with Bella’s perfect immortal spawn. He doesn’t learn to live with the fact he can never have Bella. Nope, resolution’s just a cheap plot device away. That imprinting was set up midway through Eclipse hints at just how long Meyer had been planning on that.

Not that it was much of an issue in the first place; there was no good reason for Bella to ever be interested in Edward besides his inhuman beauty. With the intelligence on display I can’t say I was much worried about her waking up and realizing Jacob was a better match for her after all. Especially with most of their meetings ending in arguments.

Did we ever really see anything lending any evidence to how hard Edward was struggling with the desire not to eat Bella? Did they ever plant any safeguards? No, because they didn’t need to. Jasper attacked her in New Moon because Meyer was in especially bad form there, and needed to get rid of the Cullens any way she could.

Hell, all Bella has to do to get through her problems, no matter how severe, is to just sit around and wait for the dust to settle. Yeah, yeah, “we can’t all be slayers,” but what is Bella, then? She’s a spectator in her own damn story who doesn’t contribute a thing until she’s finally got superpowers of her own. And when she does get to finally do something, basically she stands there and wills the Volturi to be harmless. Which is on the complete other end of the spectrum, and just as annoying.

It’s all pretty underwhelming, and eventually you stop worrying when some “terrifying” new menace appears in Alice’s head. Even when it doesn’t.

And speaking of seeing things coming…

The series thinks it’s much less predictable than it really is.

A lot of stories follow a fairly basic structure. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s how you fill the space that has a big effect on how well the story works. Twilight’s problem here is the ridiculous amount of time it spends effectively treading water, doing nothing but wasting space until it reveals something we saw coming almost as soon as the first hints were mentioned. Remember, these books are told in first person. We don’t get to see anything the main characters don’t. When it takes them so much longer to arrive at very basic conclusions, they seem pretty stupid.

The freshest examples in my mind are from Eclipse. One of them is taking forever to reveal who’s responsible for raising a vampire army close to Forks and stealing Bella’s dirty laundry. Gee, could it be the vengeful vampire they never caught? Surprise, it was! Boy, it sure was worth waiting for most of the book to have passed before that simple little tidbit anybody who’s ever read a book before arrived at immediately.

Oh, and you know how long it takes Edward to realize Bella’s immunity to vampire mental powers isn’t her brain being screwed up, it’s a power? The 32nd chapter (of 39) of the last book. You little sneak, Steph!

The other big one is how shocking it is to Bella when she finds out Jacob’s interested in her too in Eclipse. In spite of her pointing out in the first damn chapter that he was bucking to take things to the next level with her. No, I don’t buy it, and with how he only became a major character when she was left single in a fnorking romance, neither should you.

On the other hand, despite all the hoopla with Team Edward and Team Jacob and all that crap, I was never worried about who our heroine would end up with. Just about all authors think they’re creating something deep, but Stephenie Meyer wasn’t. It honestly would’ve been surprising, too, if Bella eventually decided that having a personality and being someone she can have fun with was more important than eternal youth and joining the kind of family that gives cars as gifts.

And we all believed that Edward was just going to disappear on Bella again at the end of New Moon like she thought. Right? Right?? Even though that meant the entire first book would’ve been nothing but set up for Victoria’s grudge.

My favorite examples are the ones that happen because the characters are idiots. Mostly Edward. Like when he totally fails to anticipate that an evil vampire might want to get even with him for killing her boyfriend by killing his girlfriend. And then goes and makes this already appalling oversight even worse by making his entire vampire family move away for her protection, leaving her unprotected when the evil vampire comes back.

Incidentally, my favorite example of idiocy that would’ve made the books even more predictable is a line from Breaking Dawn: “Vengeance was a common obsession for vampires, one that was not easy to suppress.” (p. 538) Bella presumably learned that from the Cullens, who took more than half of Eclipse to realize the vampire who wanted revenge on them and Bella might be behind everything.

And you know the name of the last chapter in Breaking Dawn? “The Happily Ever After.” Thanks Meyer.

It goes without saying how this story…

Takes itself too seriously.

I can hear it already. “You like those shows they make into Power Rangers! And the bug guys on the motorcycles! They take themselves seriously, and they’re stupid as hell, but you still like them!” Yes, that’s true. But what saves those is the ones I enjoy the most are usually the ones that are willing to crack a joke and put a major character in a silly situation every once in while. If you run into a dumb idea in a story that doesn't take itself totally seriously, it's easier to shrug off and keep going. If something's dead serious and has some stupid ideas, your suspension of disbelief doesn't hold up as well.

I’m just saying, some awareness and sardonic wit could’ve made some of the creative decisions in this series a lot more tolerable. But then, some awareness probably would’ve prevented a lot of them in the first place.

Let’s get this out of the way because I know we all have the same favorite example: sparkling vampires is stupid.

It’s especially stupid in a story that wants you to think they’re all powerful and dangerous and majestic and the sparkling only makes them even cooler. And Meyer acts like she has no clue. Think about it. The sparkling is what Edward plans to reveal to tourists to make the Volturi kill him at the end of New Moon. The story takes that so seriously, thinks that’s such a big deal, that it’ll get the Volturi to overlook both their friendship with his father and the usefulness of his mind-reading abilities. To compel them to dismember and immolate Edward for flouting their authority. The sparkling.

In Breaking Dawn, Bella realizes that as a vampire, she can stay standing up forever if she wants to. I get it, it’s because vampires are tireless, but I can’t think of a way to establish vampires being tireless that sounds dumber than that.

Also in Breaking Dawn, she realizes she was meant to be a vampire in life. Not a teacher or an author or a doctor or a plumber or an angry reviewer. A species. That still leaves one of my many unrelenting questions unanswered, which is what do they do with all their time? What kinds of things do they try to accomplish? They don’t have to fight crime or cure cancer, but “being a vampire” isn’t an answer. Especially not when they work so hard not to be monsters, as Bella once put it. She might as well say, “I was born to live forever and have a good-looking husband and not work.” What the fuck?

In those rare moments when we actually get to be around to witness a dramatic conflict, it seems like Bella has to fixate on a silly word that destroys the ability to take it seriously. In Eclipse it’s calling Edward and Victoria’s fight “the dance” over and over. In Breaking Dawn it’s Bella’s overuse of the word “elastic” during the showdown with the Volturi.


These are obviously big problems, but they all spring from a common source. While we’re here, summing up all the other ways Twilight fails, why not go for the jugular? I present now what may be the root of all Twilight evil…

Meyer still writes like she’s only writing for herself.

I can’t prove this one as such, but so many of the above things are indictors of someone writing something for someone who already knows what they know. That is, without thinking to make it accessible to someone not privy to the wealth of knowledge that makes it all click. This seems especially true if you read through the series guidebook, with the backgrounds of all the characters and organizations laid out bare before you. It looks like Steph put a lot of thought into the mythos and the many, many denizens of her books’ world.

As you may have noticed by now, though, it just supplies more ammo to the people still snarking at the series.

That has so much less to do with the author’s worldview than good storytelling. In all but the worst and/or most simplistic fiction, you’ll have a hard time finding “bad guys” who are bad just because they can be. Even the villain of Dino Squad had a reason for what he was doing: he wanted to retake the planet for his kind and get rid of what he considered two-legged vermin. The way he went about it was idiotic, but in his mind, Victor Veloci was the one saving the world. Having characters with motivations isn’t something to praise. It’s something that goes without saying.

Power, revenge (as quoted above), greed and flat-out insanity are motivations too, power being one of the most popular (and easiest). Power also seems the most prevalent motivation behind the Volturi and its members. So pardon me if I don’t applaud Twilight for having some kind of deep insight.

Besides, from the books alone, can you tell that James regarded Victoria as a trophy to his greatness as a hunter more than as his girlfriend? Can you tell Victoria was beaten as a child by her employers because of her hair color, and learned to “disappear” as a result? Or do they just seem like beasts who’re that way because they haven’t made the decision to be something else that the Cullens have?

Steph came up with quite a vivid world for her sparklepires. Many of the characters have long and (relatively) thoughtful backstories. It’s just, with the numerous problems I described already, it’s something you’d have a hard time telling from reading the  series. And while a guidebook can be useful in making it easy for a newcomer to jump into something long and elaborate quickly, should it be more entertaining than the work it’s trying to explain? Really, should it?

This leads into what to me is the books’ biggest shortcoming, not half because it’s one of the worst things you can do as a writer: fail to explain your world to your readers. It seems to have come about because originally, Meyer wrote the first book just to entertain herself. Meaning she already knew all the background information and character dynamics that caused things to be dramatic and just make sense in general. Because she’s the one who made it up in the first place. If you’re just writing for your own amusement, that’s okay. But if you decide to share what you write, it should be with some regard to explaining things to people who weren’t involved in the creation.

Because she already knew all that background information, it seems as if she either forgot or didn’t see the need to find ways to convey it to Bella and thus the audience. Because originally, she was the only intended audience. And when she was convinced to send the book off and it became a success, well, why change her style? Obviously it’s working.

But remember Bella’s suicidal pastimes in New Moon? Know how it makes her look all kinds of disturbed?

This isn’t a little thing. This is explaining Bella’s actions for a large chunk of the second book. Problem is, if you have to explain it in an FAQ in the guidebook, maybe you didn’t explain it that well in the actual book? Leading to people seeing something decidedly unhealthy instead of assurance of the depth of their love? Maybe that slipped through the cracks because the author knew it, but forgot to find a way to clearly convey it to the reader? Or even worse, thought it was obvious?

In Meyer’s mind, when something happened where Bella needed to be shipped somewhere safe, there were probably some terribly thrilling fights and chases going on offscreen. Maybe there were, but if I have to use my imagination every single time that happens, why don’t I just write my own story?

Meyer knew the Alaskan vampires. Knew their pain at having their mother slain for creating a vampire toddler. Knew how hard it was for them not to come to the Cullens’ aid in Eclipse because one of them was still mad. Knew the dealings between them and Laurent that caused that one member to be still mad. Knew why it was sad when the mad one got torched at the end of Breaking Dawn.

But Bella didn’t see it.

Or take all the secondhand stuff we hear about drama in La Push. In Steph’s mind this was all laid out nice and neat. She knew who everyone was, who was descended from what mythical warrior, the relationships between everyone, the different ways everyone felt about being or being related to a werewolf. So she knew what a bitch it was being mind-linked with Leah, how sad it was when Harry died, and any number of other things that could’ve been interesting to read about.

But beyond a cursory mention of Quileute heredity charts here and there, Bella didn’t see it.

Meyer knew the history of the Volturi and their predecessors. Knew how bloody the conflicts the various antagonistic vampires were involved in were, and how formidable they were versus other creatures of similar power. She knew that the Volturi earned their reputation as unstoppable enforcers of vampire law. She ought to, she created that reputation.

But the reputation was all Bella ever experienced.

And just maybe the Cullens do do good with their superhuman powers, endless coffers and ability to bypass the rules. Maybe they really were good beyond the extent that they weren’t doing one bad thing while they did numerous others. Maybe they did come up with a way to make sure Bella was safe around the entire group, despite the claims that all of them had to fight their instincts when she was around. Maybe Meyer really can explain how Edward overthinks everything when he comes across as your typical impulsive teen.

But Bella never talked about it.

I’m not Stephenie Meyer. Nobody is but Stephenie Meyer. Except for her family, friends, and the people who help get her stuff published, nobody can ask her to explain such-and-such about her books and count on getting an answer. And I’m not convinced anybody but the third group cares.

Not all of us are going to intuitively know that HallucinEdward was Bella’s subconscious working overtime to tell her what she already knew, instead of thinking she’s just a shallow idiot who’s gone around the bend over an impossibly perfect boy she can’t have.

That’s why you need to make the time to explain this stuff in the work itself.

One of the first things the teacher said to me when I took creative writing in high school was “write like I have no idea what’s going on.” Because they don’t. They weren’t involved when you came up with the characters, or the setting, or the plot, or the scale of toughness, or the decisions to make your monsters different from monsters with the same name in somebody else’s story.

This horrifies me, but the way Meyer writes, I can’t tell she knows that. And while it doesn’t matter if you’re the only audience you intend your story to ever have, if and when you share it, you’ve got to pretend they don’t know what you’re talking about until you show them. Because they don’t, until you do.

Like I said, it’s nothing I can prove, but it explains so much about Meyer’s style

I know Meyer has said she never intended any messages with her books, but if you share something with other people that relies on information only you have, maybe you’re saying something to your audience anyway?

Or maybe she did know, she was just having too much fun drooling over her imaginary dream guys to bother.

For showing us that untalented hacks can become rich and famous, the rules of good story telling don't matter, and reminding people to read something, anything else.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Eclipse Chapter 24 - 27

Chapter 24 - Snap Decision

* Edward comes back and reads Seth’s mind about the makeout session that ended last chapter. He’s not mad. Even though Jacob didn’t even start it that time, she did. And Edward and his family are putting their necks on the line for her. And he’s leaving them to fight this battle without him for her sake. And as a unit, the Cullens seem supportive of that.

He says it was Jacob tricking her into another kiss. “Bella, did you really believe he was that noble? That he would go out in a flame of glory just to clear the way for me?” No, I got the idea that he was justifiably sick of bending over backwards to do what she wanted just to end up taking it in the ass when she inevitably went back to Edward. As always, pure, grown-up, put-upon Bella bears no responsibility for her actions.

I have to think Meyer suffered from the same problem as most first-time Suethors and just didn’t have a clue, complicated by having a lot of people telling her how great her shit was that she was blinded to any problems.

* Bella of course still hates herself, as if she even needs an excuse, and Edward tries to talk her out of it, telling her she’s only human. “That’s the most miserable defense I’ve ever heard,” Bella retorts, and while I’ve heard worse, on some level I still have to agree. What does that mean? Steph has yet to provide any psychological disconnect between being a human and being a vampire besides the change in their dietary preferences. She has, however, implied on more than one occasion that it’s not just having superpowers that makes Edward something apart from Bella. What’s it supposed to be? The ability to give her kids? Having a baby is what makes her want one, and that only happens because Edward fails at foresight.

Just for the record, Edward states that he’s sure their side can win this fight. “If I didn’t truly believe that, I would be down there now -- and you’d be here, chained to a tree or something along those lines.” (slack-jawed stare) Did she actually say “because you are bizarrely moral for a vampire” right before that?

Let's explore that a bit.

When I was in fifth grade, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse came out. One of the game's big new features was having characters who could become your sidekick, one of whom was Count Dracula’s son who wanted to save people rather than kill them (despite what you might think from the related Captain N episode).

That was in 1990, and there are probably even older examples of vampires deciding to be nice rather than brutal killers that I’m not familiar with, since I don’t really care about vampire fiction in general and not just where Twilight’s concerned. Vampires breaking out of their monstrous molds has become as much a cliché as them being heartless monsters.Hell, I have an RPG called M-Force which is about the players as members of an anti-monster task force, and it warns potential GM's that in every group there's going to at least one person who wants to play a monster that's turned their back on the dark side of their nature.

And if we could, please, let's remember that the Cullens' only good deed is restraining themselves from doing one bad thing while happily doing plenty of other bad things. We only see them going into combat in their own defense. And I fully believe he would chain Bella to a tree against her will. Kidnapping and coercion are still kidnapping and coercion no matter how well-intentioned the perpetrator might be. And Edward doesn't know best. It was his failure to anticipate that Victoria would want revenge that led to all this, in spite of the fact that the desire for revenge once wronged is supposedly an intrinsic part of being a Meyerpire.

* Via reading Seth’s mind, Edward starts to narrate how the newborns are showing up and walking right into the trap. “Jasper’s a genius.” If you guessed that Bella forgot to breathe in spite of everything going to plan, send me an email and we can form a support group for people who’ve read these books.

Also, “I scowled in Seth’s general direction” when she hears that he wishes he wasn’t shipped off to babysit Bella for his protection and wants to be at the battle. Why does she do that? What does she propose to do about the evil vampires other than meet them in combat? Would she prefer somebody else make this their responsibility? Like Charlie?

* Suddenly Edward freezes in his narration, and Bella realizes things aren’t going so good. “Who had been lost? Theirs or ours? Mine, all mine. What was my loss?” This would work better if not for how, oh, Bella acts like everything’s the end of the world, like faceless names are worth our anxiety, like she actually does anything to be involved and thus have a leg to stand on when talking about suffering a loss...

Remember the chapter about the first werewolves, and how the third wife sacrificed herself to the vampires came after her? Bella starts thinking of doing the same thing the third wife did for the sake of the people she loves, because Bella’s all selfless and stuff. Say it with me, NO SHE ISN’T. How’s laying her down life selfless when she was basically doing the same thing all the time by having casual contact with the Cullens and Quileutes? Remember all the times she was warned either species was capable of slipping at the slightest provocation and attacking her?

 If Bella was taking her life in her hands every time she went to hang out with her supernatural friends, it doesn’t sound like she values her life much. And if she doesn’t value her life much then it’s hardly a grand gesture on her part if she’s willing to relinquish it.

* But no, Edward’s horror comes not from their side losing, but the fact that they’ve been outfoxed again. The newborns were just a feint, Victoria figured Edward would be wherever Bella was, and split off to follow his scent (the “snap decision” of the title). Meaning she’s on the way there. What trail did she pick up, exactly? Was it from when Edward left so Bella could talk to Jacob? That's great.

Victoria and another vampire show up, and we need to be reminded that they sparkle, apparently, because we are. The other vampire’s a dude. “His eyes -- a more vivid red than I had ever seen before -- could not hold mine.” So what? This is like the third time she’s ever seen a non-veggie vampire. There was meeting James and his gang, and meeting the Volturi, and…yeah, that’s it. All the other ones were repeat encounters with vampires she’d already seen.

“Her orange hair was brighter than I’d remembered, more like a flame.” Remember the only time we got any glimpse of Victoria in New Moon? It was when Bella saw her hair and thought it was fire.

Bella has faith in her Eddie-boy, though. “He was a good fighter, as good as Jasper.” When they were play-fighting before, I thought the point was that Jasper was winning.

* Then Steph shows us why maybe it’s better for her not to show us the battle scenes, as Edward and Victoria square off, with Seth handling the other vampire, Riley. I couldn’t take this the slightest bit seriously, and the reason why is Bella calls the duel between Edward and Victoria “the dance” six or seven times before Edward finally wins.Yes, yes, it's because vampires are soooooo beautiful and graceful, as if we haven't beaten that dead horse enough. What it doesn't do--and this is worse--is create any sense that our brave hero's in a desperate fight against a formidable foe not only for his own life but for the woman he loves. Which is only what the entire book's been trying to build up to.

Nor does it help that Meyer can't seem to get it into her head that all we've heard are mentions of Victoria and how scary she is, when this is pretty much the first time in the entire series she's ever had any kind of tangible presence. Edward's not really fighting an implacable villain determined to get revenge on him by killing his girlfriend so much as the idea of one.

* Edward picks up on Riley’s thoughts and tries to psych him out, saying Victoria doesn’t really love him and is only using him to get revenge. It would all be so touching if I had maybe seen this character before and had the slightest reason to care about him. Notice how the movie opens on Victoria chasing Riley and turning him into a vampire?

This is the stuff I’m talking about when I say Steph has potentially interesting ideas, but they seem to happen as far away from the person telling the story as possible. When they finally intrude, they feel just a smidge out of left field (Then again, when we do see the stuff with Riley in the spinoff book, it's pretty stupid too).

* When it seems like Riley has Seth on the ropes, Bella tries to go through with her plan and cuts herself to distract Riley. It turns out Seth was fine, and just faking to trick his opponent. This was probably done to show that Bella shouldn’t throw her life away, but it just makes her look like an idiot. Again.

And the “good guys” win.

Chapter 25 - Mirror

* The fight’s over and Edward’s burning the bodies. “Seth handled the pieces with his teeth. My brain wasn’t working well enough for me to understand why he didn’t change back to a form with hands.” Sweetie, don’t waste our time explaining the status quo.

“Edward stretched out his arm, his hand curled into a fist. Seth grinned, revealing the long row of dagger teeth, and bumped his nose against Edward’s hand.” Oh god, monsters fist-bumping? In something that takes itself as seriously as this does?

* Edward asks if Bella’s afraid of him, specifically afraid of him after dismembering a pair of other vampires in front of her. Of course she isn’t, the only thing she was afraid of was someone getting hurt on her account, and yeah that hurts her depth more than helps it on account of her only desire starts with an E and ends with an dward.

* Then Edward picks up another disquieting development on the werewolf band. It’s the Volturi. Took them bloody well long enough, you think? The Quileutes have taken off for the moment, because the Volturi don’t play nice with werewolves. Even though these aren’t technically werewolves, but we’ll get to that.

Edward also relays that Jacob got hurt and it’s more than Bella can take, and she blacks out. She starts to come around to Alice predicting exactly how many seconds it’ll be until Bella wakes up completely. How does that precognition work, again?

She comes around and asks about Jacob, and Carlisle says “I examined him myself” and Jacob’s going to be fine. So there goes that drama, right away. Also, really? So Carlisle can practice medicine on wolves, too (“Sam is trying to get him to get him to phase back to his human form. That will make treating him easier.”)? Sure, he’s been around long enough to learn about lupine anatomy too, but “the Cullens are immortal; they’ve studied whatever they need to know for this scene” comes off as a pretty cheap excuse by now. Ascribe some limits, please.

* Anyway, the newborns are all dead, except for one named Bree who gave herself up. “It was hard to tell if her features were beautiful, twisted as they were by rage and thirst.” Is that the only thing Bella looks for?

The Volturi show up, by the time the only thing left to do is burn the remains. Carlisle offers to take Bree in and teach her the rule of vampirism, but Jane ominously replies “We don’t make exceptions.” Meyer, you know there’s eight exceptions looking at her as she says that, right? And with how these couple of guys were sent to deal with the whole vampire uprising, I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to be able to take the Cullens if they wanted to.

Of course the real reason Bree was thrown in was to let the Volturi actually kill somebody, and it really confirms their menace when their only onscreen victim’s a dispirited young vampire who already surrendered. It’s pretty sad Meyer had to write a whole other book to try to lend this one moment some meaning.

Also, when Jane asks how many there were, Carlisle describes them “dismissively.” These were innocents made into the puppets of an evil bitch for a plan of petty revenge. I know I said it doesn’t bug me when faceless fictional people die, but they’re real in his world. Isn’t he supposed to be this big humanitarian? Isn’t that why he’s a doctor? Isn’t that why he invented eating animals instead of people? Isn’t he the least bit bothered by all this senseless slaughter? Is he putting on a tough front for the Volturi? He’s friends with their leaders, wouldn’t they already know about his “tendencies”?

God these books suck.

* As Bree’s torn apart, “I shivered, deeply grateful that the strange glitch to my system -- which had protected me from Jane the last time we’d met -- was still in effect.” Like a Mary Sue would ever lose something that was useful in any fashion. Or even just "cool".

* “Quite a pity how things turned out, isn’t it?” Yes it is, Jane. But I’d be lying if I said I’d expected anything different.

Chapter 26 - Ethics

* We open on Bella sitting in the Cullens’ bathroom, surrounded by beauty products that Alice got. Since all the Cullens are “perfect and impermeable,” Bella ruminates that they must have been bought entirely to be used on her. Sure, drive both Bella’s razor-sharp wit and the most pointless but oft-repeated tidbit in vampire history home one more time for the road.

* Bella wants to quit getting dolled up like she really want on a shopping trip with Alice and go see how Jake’s doing, but she’s shut down. “Play your role first, Bella, and then you can do what you want second. Part of being a Cullen is being meticulously responsible.” AH HA HA! Ha ha ha ha HA hee HAW ha ha…

(20 minutes later…)

Okay, where was I?

* Alice offers her sympathies on Bella having to choose between “two good things.” You’re not fooling anybody, Steph. Even Bella thinks so: “And there wasn’t any choice to make -- there was just breaking a good heart to attend to now.”

She also goes on to add. “There were people who deserved sympathy. I wasn’t one of them.” That’s true, but then, why exactly should I read these books? What are her redeeming qualities? Why should I hope she makes it through all this and gets a happy ending? We’re almost at the end of the third book, and I’m still waiting for an answer.

* Bella does go to visit Charlie first and problems, as always, continue to disappear into thin air when he talks to Bella before she leaves to check on Jacob. Carlisle’s been making house calls to see to his recover, meaning the Quileutes have finally gotten over that “fool prejudice” against those perfectly nice weirdo recluses. A better example would be Charlie admitting that Edward’s “a decent guy, Bella. I’ll try to remember that.” Excuse me, what’s this based on? His daughter’s come back from meetings with this guy and his family with injuries on a semi-regular basis. It should take a lot to forget that, and they’re working so hard to keep Charlie in the dark about just how much Edward’s really protecting her from.

Charlie’s feeling kind of edgy lately, like Bella might vanish out of nowhere sometime soon, and gets her to promise to tell him before she does “anything major.” Bella “didn’t look back as I ran out. This was just perfect, just what I needed right now.” How dare Charlie love his daughter and not want her to just disappear from his life. What a self-centered ass.

* Bella does go to see Jacob and they talk about how awesome Edward is. “He wasn’t even mad at me -- he wasn’t even mad at you! He’s so unselfish it makes me feel even worse.” If this was actually pursued in some manner, like Edward never flinches when fighting another vampire to protect Bella, but had trouble taking that step and telling her how much he really does want her, that could go a long way to filling out the character.

Jacob implies Edward might be manipulating her, and she insists he isn’t, but with all the things he’s done without her knowledge or consent, I don’t know that. And he’s got to do more than assure her that he’s going to trust her judgment, like demonstrably trust her judgment for a while, to prove his honesty. He did say something about chaining her to a tree two chapters ago, didn’t he? Not exactly encouraging. Was he joking? Then lighten the mood once in a while so I can have some basis to tell.

* He asks if it’s too late to still be friends, leading to “I think it’s too late for that, Jake. How can we be friends, when we love each other like this?” By finally showing some of that vaunted maturity? These books aren’t done bringing that up, so neither am I.

* That’s several more pages of talking but it’s all to the effect of Bella loves them both but has to choose Edward because it’s the end of the third book and way too late to pretend to otherwise now. I mean, Edward’s her true love and nothing can stand in the face of that, even her love for Jacob. Yeah, that’s it.

Chapter 27 - Needs

* Bella’s spent after telling Jacob what he already knew and just can’t drive anymore partway to the Cullens’. Within moments Edward’s there, driving her home.

Charlie asks how it went with Jacob, and she makes an offhand remark that he’s a quick healer. I get that, he’s a werewolf and heals fast, but is he going to wear a cast and fake it for the months it would realistically take? Well, no, but that factor never seems to come up at all. Even though what he ends up doing would seem to make his injuries even more of an issue in Charlie’s mind.

* After seeing the kind of cry Bella had after telling Jacob she was picking him over the wolf, Edward states, “Bella, I can’t stand for you to be miserable.” He feels so bad, he’s willing to let her pick Jacob if it’ll save her from that kind of misery.

May I go on a discursion that will probably show you once and for all how stupid I am? Thank you.

When I was about 9, I read a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book called Curse of the Sunken Treasure. In one part you’re given the choice between visiting a land of perfection or a land of hardship. If you go to the land of perfection, pretty soon you get bored with a place where there’s no such thing as losing.

Being about 9 when I read the book, I thought that was BS. The only thought in my head was that losing sucked. Then I thought about it a little, and how little satisfaction I got from beating Nintendo games with a Game Genie. Or consider that Twilight Zone episode where the crook dies and realizes he’s in Hell when he finds out all his successes are pre-arranged, robbing whatever he wants to do of all meaning.

Into every life, rain must fall. It’s the failures, the sorrows and the disappointments that make the victories and the joys matter. They’re empty if there’s nothing in our lives to contrast them. Edward can barely keep her alive, even he can’t protect her from feeling sadness sometimes, or having to make painful decisions. I kind of doubt the guy who threatened to kill himself to get some sympathy from her could do a better job. Edward can read Jacob’s mind, remember, and if he really thinks he’d be sending Bella off to a happier life with someone like that, he’s an even bigger dumbass and I believe in this relationship even less than I already do.

What with how Edward’s been alive for a century, and for that matter was so good at reading people he became a mind-reader as a vampire, I refuse to believe he hasn’t learned anything about the significance of sorrow. This crap about wanting Bella to be happy so much that he’ll let her go if it’ll save her already fragile emotions makes Edward look even less like the perfect catch. Can you imagine a guy as wishy-washy as Edward, and knowing he’s your spouse until the end of time? Can you really? Or will it not matter because Bella will never mature past thinking his perfect face is enough to carry a relationship?

I’m sure he’s supposed to look all selfless, being willing to remove himself from Bella’s life if that’s what’ll make her happy (never mind it’s what made her take up attempting suicide as a hobby), but it makes him look like somebody who never thinks about what he can do, rather than what he can’t. Like comfort his true love during a vulnerable moment, tell her he’s sorry this is hard for her but promise to always be there for her, things like that.

If he loves Bella so much and has lived as long as he has, could Edward please accept that despite our best intentions bad things happen sometimes and be there to make this easier on her, not telling her she can leave if that’s what she wants? Show something of why she’s so devoted by being there for her to make a painful period in her life pass a little easier? Being willing to bail out at a sign of trouble doesn’t make theirs seem like a rock-solid eternal love.

I can’t believe South Park was more mature about this.

Actually, yes I can.

* After our leads have recovered, Alice is all jumpy to show Bella the designer label wedding dress she got for her. “Whatever makes her happy, I said to myself.”

No, damn it. This is your wedding. Quit letting everyone decide everything for you. This is why even the fans don’t like you.

Bella asks to see Alice’s dress, but when Edward says “That was very, very nice, of you,” you can tell she’s only faking enthusiasm to make Alice happy. Has everything she’s ever done for/with Alice been nothing but placation?

* They go out to the clearing from the first book, and Edward tells Bella he’s going to stop forcing his way on her. In fact, they’re going to start doing things how she wants. “My way is always wrong.” Well, not necessarily, but the way he went about it is all wrong. At least on the surface wanting to protect your loved ones is perfectly laudable. And he does, supposedly, know vastly more about the denizens of the supernatural world than our narrator, allowing him to make much more informed calls. Normally, you shouldn’t force your judgment down their throats, is the thing. That doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t have bad judgment of their own, though, and Bella most certainly does.

* Finally displaying a little of that maturity, Bella says she’s willing to meet Edward halfway here. To give Edward that wedding and some time to love her as a human before he converts her. To not endanger his soul to get her way, but just what they’d be doing she doesn’t say. Let’s see her keep it up.

* There’s a boring epilogue from Jacob’s perspective where we actually see Leah bitching out some of the other Quileutes, but that really just gets her off on the right foot with me. Basically he decides that with Bella out of his reach, he’s just going to run until he can’t run anymore.

* Thanks for reading, everybody.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Eclipse Chapters 20 - 23

For a while now I’ve been feeling that I’m not taking quite the right approach in my analysis of the Twilight books anymore. I spend a lot of time reiterating evidence of the same old points, like how Bella’s just as overreactive a teen as anybody else, or how I’m supposed to care about a bunch of names when wI’ve been given so very, very little to connect to them.

This led to thoughts about a change in format when I did Breaking Dawn. There was no way I was doing forty more reviews in minute detail after I trudged to the end of Eclipse. Not when the content blurred between chapter barriers so easily and frequently.

The only way I could see making it all the way to the end of the series was to take bigger bites, doing several chapters at once. Then I figured, with how the books are already dragging, it made just as much sense to start that format now as when I get to the final book.

Let’s do this.

Chapter 20 - Compromise

* It’s time for Bella and Edward’s sleepover, and beforehand Bella tells us there’s one human experience she’s determined to have. 

* Edward gives Bella a crystal heart to compete with the homemade wolf charm Jacob gave her. “ ‘It was my mother’s.’ He shrugged deprecatingly. ‘I inherited quite a few baubles like this to Esme and Alice both. So, clearly, this is not a big deal in any way.’ ” You took the words right out of my mouth, Eddie.

“You forgot the most important similarity. It’s beautiful,” Bella replies. To think she ragged on Jessica for being superficial.

* Our leads cuddle up and Bella observes “It probably felt similar to snuggling with Michelangelo’s David, except this perfect marble creature wrapped his arms around me to pull me closer.” But if I’m hearing this right it’s still like cuddling up to a cold stone replica of a person? Can you imagine being turned on by that?

* They get to talking about what Edward wants in exchange for agreeing to turn her into a vampire, and since it’s so big he thinks he’s entitled to a couple favors from her. One of them is marriage, which Bella continues to resist for her flimsily-established reason. I’m rather amused that Edward’s response to Bella telling him to get to the next one is “That’s it. Unless you’d like to talk about cars…” Getting her a new car is a prerequisite to him changing her? It’s not, no, but to listen to Bella in the first few chapters of Breaking Dawn you’d think stuff like that is.

* Then Bella announces there is one thing she wants from Edward besides getting to sparkle, and she doesn’t actually use the S-word, but the mystery kind of dissolves when she tries to get undressed. He refuses to do that before they’re married and she gets mad. “I knew it was irrational.” Stop using that as a defense. Bella isn’t rational ever. She “tried to banish the reflex action that told me I was unwanted and unwantable.” See?

Edward tries to dispel her insecurities. “I feel like there’s a line behind me, jockeying for position, waiting for me to make a big enough mistake….you’re too desirable for your own good.” We’re not even pretending anymore, sounds like.

“Do I have to send around a petition to get you to believe?” I thought petitions didn’t accomplish anything. That seemed to be the Meyer family’s response to the one about people detailing what was wrong with Breaking Dawn, as I recall.

He still refuses, though. “I could kill you,” he protests. “I don’t think you could,” she replies. With all her other logic fails she just comes off as desperate to get some. “Again, I took what advantage I could.” Wow that’s some true love there, all righty.

* He tries to get religious, asking how many people in the room have a soul, and she immediately replies both of them. She “immediately replied” that, and before anybody thinks that’s just how in love with him she is and not the hormones, he adds “You know that I’ve stolen, I’ve lied, I’ve coveted…my virtue is all I have left.” He must be using “virtue” as a euphemism for “virginity,” because, you know, people with “virtue” don’t generally steal or kill. And somebody with physical power and money like he does has no need to resort to either against normal people. Not clearly legal or illegal, indeed. I know he belongs to a world with different rules, but his family tries so hard to blend in to the human world, so its rules apply to him too.

* Edward agrees to get down the wedding ring he plans to give her, which his father gave to his mother. That should seem really heartwarming, but I don’t think he means Carlisle and Esme and claims to remember so little about his biological family. In that light it comes off more like “I’m giving you this ring that some guy gave some girl who I dimly remember as being my parents. That’s romantic, right?”

Then again it must be, because we close on Edward proposing and Bella accepting. And remember, this is a “compromise.” How romantic.

Chapter 21 - Trails

* That really was a compromise, because Bella thinks about making a trip to Vegas to have a wedding that would last “no more than fifteen minutes at the most, right?” She’s cheapening what her soul mate wants so she can get to the short-lived, hormone-fueled thing she wants. True love!

* “Edward had more than enough camping gear to choose from -- props in the human charade; the Cullens were good customers at the Newton’s store.” Number one, nice spastic punctuation. Number two, that still sounds dumb considering how reclusive they are and how they’d be even more so during their “hiking” trips considering what they’re really up to. Number three, this finally answers a question I asked way back in the first book about the Cullens’ reputation with the local sporting goods providers considering their fondness for the “hiking” alibi. Way after I stopped hoping for answers on ANYTHING in these books.

* Bella tries to call Jacob to get their decoy operation going. Why does it need to be him? Maybe somebody a little more impartial? In any case he’s not home, but Billy promises to make sure he gets the message. He also wishes he could be out there fighting too. “The urge to fight must be a defining characteristic of the Y chromosome. They were all the same.” Fnck her. I wouldn’t even care about a remark like that if not for her vaunted maturity and intelligence. And it’s a billion and one times more interesting to read about than her response to problems.

* Then Alice gets all indignant at Bella, apparently having glimpsed the future of her going to the chapel of love for her wedding, and put out because Bella would choose to have the occasion in such a way that Alice doesn’t get to throw a big flashy party for it. “How could  you do this to me? I expect that kind of thing from Edward, but not from you. I love you like you were my own sister.” These, my friends, are Bella’s problems. Eventually Bella caves in because Meyer seems to see that as being self-sacrificing.

* Anyway, Alice also mentioned a storm somewhere in the area they’d be going. I have no idea how she’d know that since having a werewolf around cuts her off completely, right? Just how accurate is her vision? Even Bella calls it “blurred sight,” and she can’t be talking about having Jacob around because werewolves don’t blur what she sees, they totally lock her out. That’s the one thing Meyer’s consistent about: Alice can’t see futures involving things she’s never been. Period. Has even that changed?

* As they walk around having Bella set up a dummy scent trail for the newborns, Bella cuts herself and Edward calmly bandages it up for her like he’s not some kind of blood-drinking monster. He can do that now because that whole day where he thought she was dead  psychologically conditioned him to never do anything that could endanger her, like want to drink her blood. Still don’t see how that explains the SIX other vampires he lives with. And the 21st chapter of the next book was the first dynamic place you could find to work that in? Really, Meyer?

For that matter, in Edward’s own words, “I got over it.” That’s almost like it’s an admission of how half-assed the problem was in the first place and how Meyer’s trying to sweep it under the rug now.

“I didn’t know what to say to that.” How about something along the lines of, “Let’s stop treating inane developments like big ones”?

* Jacob shows up to spread werewolf BO to fool the newborns, and there’s a bunch of pointless blather about how they don’t like each other and aren’t happy to be working together, but anything for Bella.

* There’s a really confusing part around here where Jacob laughs that Edward got Bella a bauble to match the charm he gave her (“A rock. Figures.”). For some reason this makes Bella think back to Alice hearing about the engagement ring (“What’s one more diamond? Well, I guess the ring has lots of diamonds, but my point is that he’s already got one on --”), which leads to Bella freaking out because she starts thinking that Edward snuck a diamond onto her at some point. What in the hell…?!

* Jacob has a hopeless conversation where he tries to get Bella to realize she has no idea if Edward’s what she really wants. After a few pages he seems to give up and explains that the reason he’s the #2 guy of the pack is he was actually supposed to be the alpha instead of Sam because of superior heritage or some damn thing. If less energy went into the limp romance and more into the mythology and story, this might even enrich things.

He turned it down because he didn’t want the responsibility, and thus Sam’s the leader, not him. The chapter ends with the vital information that Edward managed to set up the tent.

Chapter 22 - Fire and Ice

* As Alice somehow predicted, a nasty storm hits and so does one of the dumbest title meanings in the series. Bella starts to freeze and as Spoony mentioned, rather than running back at super-speed to get a space heater and a generator, Edward, who’s just a cold rock, has to stand by and watch as Jacob cuddles up to Bella to keep her alive with his unaffected body heat.

The dumb thing is, Edward apparently did think of sending Jacob to get a space heater. “I’m not a St. Bernard,” wolf-boy retorts. Uh, how am I supposed to react? To think Edward was making a sarcastic quip? He’s ostensibly got the speed and strength to actually get one and bring it back quickly, and with all the other crap the Cullens have sitting around it’s kind of hard to believe they wouldn’t have that too. Or that they wouldn’t have gone out and bought it after coming up with a plan that involved hiding Bella in the mountains. Idiots.

* Since this is another chapter where Bella spends the whole time on the verges of consciousness, there’s not much else to say, except she does indeed survive the storm. Bet you were worried.

Chapter 23 - Monster

* The storm passes and since Bella doesn’t need her lupine heater blanket anymore, Edward unzips the sleeping bag violently, causing Jacob to roll onto the icy ground, then instinctively roll the other way and land on top of Bella. And then they’re about to fight until Bella stops them, with Edward stepping to defend her honor because Jacob was crushing her. It’s a good thing you’re pretty, Edward, because you’re a moron.

Bella even explains to him why that happened, and if Bella Swan gets to tell you what an idiot you are…

* Jacob needles Edward asking if seeing his girlfriend sleeping next to another guy made for the worst night of his life. Edward replies it didn’t, “But if I had been able to take your place last night, it would not have made the top ten of the best nights of my life.” With how sterile and lifeless their relationship is, what better nights are we talking about? I want to say the ones where he snuck into her bedroom before she knew he was a vampire. And that hardly speaks well of the impression these books have left.

* After the painful realization hits Bella that Jacob’s going to leave and join the fighting, she pleads with him to stay. Because our super-mature heroine has to have everything the way she wants it. We get reminded of this when they actually start talking about the best nights of Edward’s life, and how in the middle of the previous night she started muttering “my Jacob” in her sleep. That’s how she differentiates “Between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Between the Jacob I like and the one who annoys the hell out of me.”

Incidentally, all we hear about Edward’s best nights are that he’s spent them with Bella. Which doesn’t mean they weren’t when he was lurking unknown in her room.

* They list some of the Bella’s best nights, even if all this really does is reiterate that they’re supposed to be deeply in love and that Bella’s kind of an idiot. What I’m talking about is the night when they got back from their meeting with the Volturi and Bella thought she was dead or dreaming because Edward was there. Sayeth Edward, “I had no idea your dreams were so vivid. It took me forever to convince you that you were awake.” Can't say I’ve ever thought much about Bella’s connection to the real world, no.

* The air’s cut by a plaintive howl because Jacob was listening to their “romantic” little discussion. Bella says “I should save my energy to torment Jacob some more. I wouldn’t want to leave any part of him unharmed.” Before you complain I’m taking that out of context, she means she may as well finish the job with all the damage she’s already done to Jacob. “Every time I turn around, I’m hurting him again. I’m a hideous person.” This might generate some sympathy for her…if she wasn’t completely right.

Bella runs out to try to fix this, even though she stops when she realizes she has no idea how. She thinks she’s worthless yet she thinks she’s also in charge of making everything better. Again, this might generate sympathy for her if she wasn’t right about the first a lot more than about the second.

* Edward volunteers to go after Jacob so she can talk to him. Why does she care? Isn’t this the Jacob who, and I quote, “annoys the hell out of me”?

“The sound of his agony still cut at me, somewhere deep in my chest. Right beside was the other pain. Pain for feeling pain over Jacob. Pain for hurting Edward, too. For not being able to watch Jacob go with composure, knowing that it was the right thing, the only way. I was selfish. I was hurtful. I tortured the ones I loved.” Then stop moping about it and do something. Eventually feeling guilty just becomes whining. And it says a lot about the books’ ability to create drama that I expected her to compare herself to cheese again as I read that paragraph.

She mopes some more, thinking about what she’ll do if she does ask Edward to get Jacob, what she’ll do if he doesn’t agree to come back, and what if he does agree to come back. And also, “What if Edward decided to join in the fight?” Then maybe, dearie, you’d have to face the realization that you’re not the only person whose welfare matters to him. For all the crying and blame she lays on herself, I really can’t say I think she realizes how childish and needy she really is. Everything’s about her, and she knows it, even if she doesn’t realize it.

* I didn’t mention it before but Seth whoever is at the campsite, relaying mental messages to keep him safe like they talked about a while ago. He “jumped to his feet again suddenly, the hackles on the back of his neck standing up stiffly. I looked around, but saw nothing. If Seth didn’t cut it out, I was going to throw a pinecone at him.” Bitch. Because he’s interrupting your little pity party while a battle of life or death’s being fought by his friends?

I can understand Jacob’s attraction to Bella a lot more clearly all of a sudden, though. We hear about the Quileutes imprinting on toddlers and infants, and Bella acts like one.

* Edward does leave for a minute and Jacob does come back to hash things out with her. She asks him to stay with her, he rather reasonably asks why he should give up the rare chance to finally do his duty and kill some vampires when all he’s going to get for doing so is to be ditched for Edward again as soon as things calm down. Spitefully saying he might as well just throw himself into the fray, sure to take a few vampires with him before he goes down so there'll be nothing to stand in the way of Bella being with sparkleboy.

She pulls out her ace and asks him to kiss her. Two-timing bitch. He does, getting forceful again, but when Bella tries to resist, she realizes that as always she doesn’t mean it. She really does love Jacob too. “I felt joy, too, and yet his happiness was also somehow pain.” Probably because she can’t pick both of them. And even though she has some kind of vision where she sees what might have been if she’d stuck with Jacob including their kids, she’s stuck it out with Edward too long for there to be any believable chance she’d change her mind now. Sorry, Steph.

He promises to be back, gives her a brief but meaningful kiss he says should have been their first one, and then he’s gone.