Sunday, June 10, 2012

Breaking Down, Book Two: Jacob, Chapter 10 - 13

Chapter 10 - Why Didn’t I Just Walk Away? Oh Right, Because I’m An Idiot

* Nah, it’s not as much fun when the book mocks itself. Not that self-mockery fixes problems…Not when it only starts coming in the fourth quarter, certainly.

* More reflection on Bella’s condition. “The girl was a classic martyr. She’d totally been born in the wrong century. She should have lived back when she could have gotten herself fed to some lions for a good cause.” Pardon me if I’m wrong, but is the book then admitting that Bella’s always trying to throw her life away over nothing? And perhaps, by extension, how a lot of the problems in these books exist solely in the minds of the protagonists? Which would’ve worked better if Steph did more with it than mention it.

* Bella and Jacob discuss the futility of their relationship, and how it felt to Edward when he met Bella. “He said it was like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, like magic. You’ll find who you’re really looking for, Jacob, and maybe then all of this will make sense.” Are we talking about fairies using love potions on unsuspecting humans? Because I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing we could talking about. Then again let’s remember this is the same girl who confused Romeo’s previous girlfriend with a character from a totally different play. Despite her only known hobby being reading classic literature.

* They discuss vampirizing as a life-saving measure, and how Carlisle “doesn’t end lives, he saves them.” With no consent from them, and not if they’ve got something to leave behind. I suppose Rosalie qualified because her parents saw her more as a trophy than a daughter.

But nobody minds or questions it, because that would lead to moral dilemmas.

* Jacob tries to get Bella to see that the vampire-spawn’s killing, but as usual she shoulders all the blame. “It’s me. I’m just weak and human.” Stop saying “human” like it’s a disease, Meyer. Yes, as a vampire she’d be stronger and tougher and be dealing with a superhuman pregnancy better, but being human isn’t the source of her myriad problems. We don’t necessarily need a protagonist who can fight, we need an author who can find dramatic possibilities with the characters she’s given herself.

* Jacob leaves because he refuses to watch Bella twist and die. He reports to the pack “Bella’s life means nothing to her,” and I think Dana put it pretty well.

* The wolves debate among themselves and figure that they need to attack and wipe out the threat of a spastic vampire baby who’ll never be able to learn the consequences of its actions. Jake protests because there’s no way to do that without killing Bella too. I realize killing humans probably runs counter to their usual mission parameters, but she made her choice. Stop with the get out of jail free cards because it’s Bella. I don’t care that it’s Jake, and he still loves her after all this. Can’t anybody have any principles?

No, of course not. It’s Bella Swan, one of the Sue-iest Sues anybody ever tried to hide. How dare anyone suggest she have to pay for insisting on hanging around the Cullens when everyone, including the Cullens themselves, warned her she could easily die that way? She didn’t listen when everyone told her not to play on the train tracks. This is what she gets.

* Jacob reflects on how such-and-such Cullen would be the most dangerous, and how good some of them are that it’d unquestionably murder to have to kill them. As if it’s not murder to kill someone who isn’t good. And one more time, this isn’t character development. Not for anybody but the one doing all this pontificating, at least.

Jake eventually gives in because Sam tells him to, and nobody contradicts the alpha.

Chapter 11 - The Two Things At The Very Top Of My Things-I-Never-Want-To-Do List

* There’s some unease among the pack. “Which brothers would we lose? Which minds would leave us forever? Which grieving families would we be consoling in the morning?” Why should I care? Why doesn’t the author make better use of the characters she has instead of piling more on? Why doesn’t she stop pretending already?

The thing is I probably would feel for them based on a line like this a lot more if not for the way the author insists on giving names to every single faceless fncker in her books. No, really. It’s the way Meyer insists on trying to make us care about every single one, by giving every single one of them a name, and saying we should care about them.

* Jacob realizes there is one way he doesn’t have to listen to Sam anymore. That is, seize upon how he was supposed to be the alpha but didn’t want to be. Isn’t it great the way so many problems are resolved by things just happening, or being a certain way? Not through effort? “I hadn’t earned anything. But there were things that had been born in me, things that I’d left unclaimed.” That’s nice that you’re pointing it out, Steph. Now stop relying on it.

Jacob’s better than Sam, by the way, because he’ll never use his alpha blood to force anybody to do anything they don’t want to. Even though that would put an immediate end to the threat of warfare between the two groups and all the wangst about whose moms they’d be comforting come the morn. He doesn’t even consider it. That might, after all, imply something other than black and white morality and require the author to make an effort.

* Jake runs to warn the Cullens of his ex-buddies’ plan to attack, and realizes partway there he’s not the only deserter. Seth came because he’s friends with Edward, and eventually Leah comes because she wanted to look out for Seth, her little brother (oh yeah, total harpy). If there’s more than one alpha, the wolves can apparently pick which one they want to follow. Convenient. Yet, it does allow for a little nice character growth among Jacob’s new recruits. Nice being relative to the rest of the series, of course.

* As he runs up to Chateau Cullen, he spots the boys out front. “They were snow white in the pale light.” Isn’t that normal for them…? Because they’re vampires?

He fills them in on the new developments among the wolves and yeah I’m really sure we’re looking at the possibility of a fight, even with a focus character who actually participates in the plot.

* Sheesh. Now that I think about it, since Bella’s life-threatening pregnancy’s the impetus of the plot, by switching the perspective to Jacob Meyer’s doing what she’s done this entire miserable experience: isolate the reader from what’s driving the story by isolating the narrator from it. Admittedly, he goes to check on her so it’s not as bas as it has been.

* Carlisle’s eternally grateful to Jacob and Seth for their “great personal sacrifice,” but I’m not sure what exactly it is he gave up other than the other wolves not killing them. I didn’t really see the friendship between them and the other wolves, just a bunch of hopped-up meatheads who wanted to kill vampires. Definitely didn’t see the relationship between Jake and his sister. Don’t know if they were happy at home. Don’t know if they had any respect for Sam. Hell, this is before alleged super-bitch Leah decides she’s in Jake’s pack too, and leaving the old pack cuts them off from that group telepathy with them. For all I know they consider this a trade-up.

* Jacob goes in to see Bella and notices “The glass wall was gone -- it looked like metal now.” Although I don’t know if this is another example of how quickly the Cullens can get and install things, or if it’s supposed to be those metal shutters we saw they already had back in the first book.

“The dripping noise was from the IV plugged into her arm--some fluid that was thick and white, not clear.” Am I supposed to know the difference? Would Jacob? Would the fourteen-year-old target audience? Would they know even if they followed this series into high school?

Oh and “Worse. Yes, she was worse.”

Sorry Steph, you’ve dropped the ball too many times for this to be a worry now.

Chapter 12 - Some People Just Don’t Grasp The Concept Of “Unwelcome”

* Jake and Seth set themselves running a perimeter around the Cullens’ house to watch for the other Quileutes like nice obedient guard dogs. Then Leah shows up, allegedly to keep an eye on her brother but also glad for an excuse to be rid of Sam. She probably wasn’t too happy being reminded every single day he dumped her because he imprinted on her cousin, after all…

Not sure why imprinting’s treated like a good thing.

* Eventually the bickering between the wolves ends and of course matters turn back to Bella’s survival.

Sayeth Carlisle, “Bella is already a daughter to me. A beloved daughter.” Of course. And it’s Bella, so the fact that Carlisle sees her as a daughter isn’t enough, he had to add another sentence with that superlative.

There’s still the possibility of vamping Bella to save her. “I’ve seen vampire venom work miracles, but there are conditions that even venom cannot overcome.” I doubt it, but it’s possible Steph did exhaustive research and found out “venom” is actually a neutral term that doesn’t mean poison. That’s what everybody thinks when they hear the word, though, and if she’s going to use “venom” to mean something that also heals and strengthens, it’d be nice to explain that in-story.

Also I wonder a little at Carlisle’s medical qualifications when he talks about how Bella’s baby is killing her from the inside because it’s not entirely human. “I can’t figure out what it wants.” Well Dr. Feelgood, the inhuman aspect must come from the father, yes? What does the father feed on? Shit, I’m not a doctor and this is no mystery to me.

Then again, how long did it take these guys to figure out Victoria was behind all the new vampires near them? To even guess that?

* Carlisle educates Jacob some on the medical differences between vampires and humans. I’m not a science guy so I can’t properly get into what’s wrong with this. If you’re interested in that, here you go. Also, the characters just say people have 23 chromosomes, not 23 PAIRS.

* Edward basically tells Carlisle he’s dumb for not figuring out the baby’s half-vampire and wants blood, and he’s right.

The Cullens prove to already have a store of human blood on hand, to keep Bella sated while going through the early days of her own vampirism. Presumably stolen by Carlisle from the local blood bank. Yay Cullens.

You could frame it by saying he did that to prevent deaths from Bella going crazy as a new vampire, but are you honestly thinking that could happen after all the other false alarms?

Chapter 13 - Good Thing I’ve Got A Strong Stomach

* Jake and Bella talk about how they always end up in situations like this, and I have to admit I do get the sense that they are friends despite all the shit she puts him through. I’m still not sure why friendzoned him when there’s actually something to get along with in the first place when it comes to wolfboy, though.

Although she does call him a jerk when he tells her that Roz doesn’t care if Bella lives or dies, as long as she gets to have a baby around. You're the one manipulating somebody to make sure things turn out how you want, Bells. And he's still right.

* The vampires bring Bella some blood to drink, “the kind with a lid and a bendy straw.” Like I’ve always, don’t want to be treated like a kid, don’t act like one.

Okay, okay, it’s really so she doesn’t have to look at it as she drinks and think about the fact that she’s swallowing blood. That’s just annoying in another way, though. When’s Bella finally going to toughen up a little and stop having every single thing done for her?

* Bella asks if this “counts,” drinking human blood before she’s a vampire. Edward assures her, “No one is counting, Bella. In any case, no one died for this. Your record is still clean.” Was it ever?

* With the little beast apparently calmed some by the blood, Bella’s finally able to get some sleep, and Jake leaves to let her.

Something that finally gets the plot moving again happens when he hears Seth and Leah howling and realizes some of the other Quileutes are on the way. Their names are listed as if that matters, but it doesn’t, so I won’t recopy it. They try to guilt Jake some into thinking he overreacted by running off like he did, and Seth thinks “Overreaction? And attacking our allies without warning isn’t?”

Allies? How are the Cullens “allies”? They joined forces with the Quileutes to fight Victoria’s gang, sure, but that was after the Alaskan vampires refused to come. It sounds like Seth’s letting the fact that he’s friends with Edward color his perception of the situation, and overlook the understandable concern that they don’t know what in the hell Bella’s going to birth. Well, actually, “concern” implies the books have any teeth.

But all the same, the Cullens helped them one time after who knows how long of uncomfortable peace. They help each other once, and they’re allies? I’m sorry to keep bringing this up, but I think it’s a hell of a difference between the Cullens and the Quileutes that the wolves actually protect their territory, while the Cullens only protect themselves. In my mind that hurts the “allies” argument too.

Maybe the author doesn’t see it this way, but based on their actions, it seems like the only reasons the Cullens wouldn’t simply leave to escape hostility is because a) it would bother Bella to do that to her family, and b) because the Volturi are keeping an eye on the family, and because of tracker-guy there’s no place to hide from them. Or currently c) because Bella’s pregnant with demonspawn and too weak to travel. And the Cullens were too stupid not to move her to one of their properties that isn’t down the street from a werewolf den in the first place.

It sounds kind of like Seth says that thinking they’re friends with the Cullens, when really they worked together because their interests happened to coincide at one point in time. I dunno, that seems a fairly wimpy definition. But a stronger one would require an author who doesn’t confuse conflict with mentioning conflict.

* Then Leah shows up, nude because of wolfing out. An entire paragraph, eight whole lines, goes into describing communal nudity and how it got weird when she joined up. Clean, huh?

* More brilliant rhetoric from this book. Jacob tells his former friends “this isn’t just about Bella.” Liar. You are a filthy, filthy liar, Stephenie Meyer.

“We’re protecting those who should be protected. And that applies to the Cullens, too.” Are you so sure of that, Mr. Black? And even ignoring their moral standing, the book still persists that vampires > every other species in the universe. When Sam was planning to attack he was sure they only had a chance as long as they had the element of surprise, and was still expecting losses. That was what that mourning families crap was about. Who says the Cullens need protection from the likes of you, Senor Black?

* More boring talk about how Sam won’t attack because he’s lost the element of surprise, and he’s afraid of more desertions, particularly among Jake’s friends. Still not much in the way of drama.

That’s a big part of the problem with going to battles as a major dramatic element once, when you’re writing a long series. It’s like Pandora’s box; once you open it and let reader expectations out, you have a hell of a time putting them back in again.

Solving problems through negotiations and concessions is boring real life shit, and it's even more galling you'd go that way after having the conflict center around supernatural beings killing each other so often by now. Disputes resolved by debating that could theoretically be dramatic (with a really good author, which leaves Steph out), but it's doomed from the beginning here because nothing’s at stake. All the Quileutes with any kind of identity are hanging with Jake and the Cullens now, and most of their development comes after this. Besides, Sam’s afraid of attacking now that the Cullens know he was thinking about it, and of his pack walking out on him since he can’t force them to do what he says anymore. The threat’s already been neutered.

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