Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Moon

Bella is a horrible person. In the first book, I thought the problem was that she was pathetic and dull as an old dish sponge. In this book, she's straight-up evil. She flat-out uses Jacob -- after Edward ditches her for reasons that are contrived and silly, his company is the only thing that makes her forget -- and she even admits this to herself and continues to do it. She also deliberately places herself in danger again and again, simply because she thinks she can "hear" Edward's voice whenever she's afraid. This behavior is not romantic, it is the actions of monstrous insecurity and crippling co-dependency. If a real person did any of this stuff, she'd be committed and diagnosed with psychotic egomania, or some other mental disease that doesn't even have a name yet. One of the (bluntly simplistic) themes of this book is "True love is irrational". It should be "Love is ax-crazy fucknuts".

Again, there's hardly any plot. Edward leaves, she hangs out with Jacob, she hangs out with him some more, they fix some broken motorcycles, blah blah blah... When some conflict does come to the fore, it pretty much repeats the same formula as the first book. Guy she's spending time with suddenly starts acting all weird and she can't figure out why; it's revealed that he's part of an ancient order of supernatural beasts. There's no reason this should take 400+ pages to transpire, but it does. There's so much padding in this book it could double as protective gear for football players. See, in addition to making Bella a vapid, thoroughly selfish manipulator, Stephenie Meyer sees fit to make her protagonist the slowest, dumbest person who has ever existed. How many different ways can you make your main character loathsome? As readers we are mentally screaming at her "ARRGH, THEY'RE WEREWOLVES, YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT! THERE'S BEEN GIANT ANIMAL SIGHTINGS AND JACOB EVEN TOLD YOU ABOUT THEIR TRIBAL WOLF LEGEND IN THE LAST BOOK!!! DUHhhhhhhhHHHHHHH!!!" Even after she witnesses a goddamn pack of giant wolves chasing away the evil vampire from the first book, it still takes her forever to put two and two together.

And again (since I don't know where else to complain about this) enough with the lame-ass dream sequences already. This thing goes way overboard with them, to the point where it's less a vampires-and-werewolves romance novel and more of a dream journal broken up with intermittent sequences of vaguely-vampire-and-werewolf-related action. These sequences are used for nothing except the world's most obvious symbolism and reminding me that I hate Bella again.

Jacob was actually a pretty pleasant character up until he became a wolf. After that, he becomes just as sullen and angsty as everyone else in this crummy world. Bella says herself that she likes Jacob because he's a perpetually happy-go-lucky person. But I guess Meyer thinks we'd rather read yet another account of what a "burden" it is to have awesome powers, how much of a "freak" someone would feel like if they could do something that almost nobody else on earth can do. For all her faults, Bella seems to be the only person who sees clearly on this matter. She wants nothing more than to become a vampire (albeit just so she can stay with Edward forever) and doesn't care a whit about leading a normal life. At the end of this book, Edward promises to change her into one only after she marries him. His interest in marriage is arbitrary and seems to be there only so that Bella can have a reason to balk at being bitten.

I'll return to that later. The turning point of this book hinges on one of the most absurd, contrived, and ridiculously unbelievable misunderstandings I can think of. After Bella throws herself into the ocean in the middle of a hurricane (after Jacob comes to his senses and realizes he can't stand to be near her), Edward somehow gets wind of it and thinks that she killed herself. See, one of the elders in Jacob's tribe died of a heart attack earlier that day, so Edward places one phone call to Bella's house, asks to speak to Bella's dad and Jacob (who answered the phone for some reason) tells him "He's at the funeral." So of course, Edward does what NO PERSON WOULD EVER DO and jumps immediately to the conclusion that Bella is dead. He then jets immediately to Italy so he can commit suicide by exposing himself as a vampire in front of some kind of Reigning Vampire Elite, who are the only ones who can kill him. This is a classic example of what Roger Ebert used to call an "Idiot Plot" -- a simple misunderstanding that could be cleared up if the characters would only have a conversation that lasted longer than 5 seconds.

So let's review this sequence of events:
  • Bella throws herself into the ocean
  • On the same day, one of Jacob's relatives died
  • Edward hears about it or something
  • Edward calls Bella's house; Jacob answers
  • Jacob says that Bella's dad is "at the funeral"
  • Instead of saying "Gee, I'm a vampire who can move 1,000 miles an hour, maybe I should go pay my respects to the woman I supposedly love more than anything can possibly love any other thing or at least get a confirmed visual ID of the body", he decides "I HAVE TO GO KILL MYSELF RIGHT NOW IT'S A RACE AGAINST TIME AND EVEN THOUGH I'VE BEEN ALIVE OVER 100 YEARS THERE IS NO ROOM FOR PATIENCE OR SECOND THOUGHTS ON THIS MATTER ARRRRGH"
And ugh, the symbolism. This book strains so much to make a connection between itself and Romeo & Juliet, it's sickening. The bard rolled over in his grave so hard it actually woke him up and made him say "Damn you, Stephenie Meyer! I was enjoying being dead". It even goes so far as to compare Bella's plight with Juliet being forced to marry Paris. Now, it's been a while since 9th grade English, but I'm pretty sure Juliet didn't go running to Paris because Romeo abruptly decided to abandon her. Nor do I think that Bella was under any obligation, at any time, to marry Jacob. There is a bit of a parallel between the werewolves/vampires and the Montagues/Capulets (there's an ancient beef between them that's never fully explained), but it'd be more direct if the story were about Edward wanting to marry Jacob (now there's a story I'd enjoy).

Since we're back on marriage again, let's revisit the ending. Bella has weird hang-ups about marriage because she's a child of divorce. Some would call this a convenient plot device that's only there to prolong the story, but I think it's consistent. First of all, it's established that Bella hates absolutely everything. But it's also the only theme of the book that really works. In fact, I'd prefer to think of the Twilight Saga as less of a supernatural romance tale and more of an author's screed justifying her decision to marry and have children early. I don't know anything about Stephenie Meyer's biography, but I know she's Mormon and she's married and has kids. Therefore, I view these books as the work of an enormously insecure, egotistical and naturally defensive woman working through the following issues: 1) her parent's divorce and 2) the fear that she squandered her life by settling down early and devoting it to her family. These things are presented only as the subtlest subtext, but they're the only way these books even make sense to me. Bella takes one look at Edward and boom, from that moment, her life is over. But it's OK because it's "true love" and "love is irrational". Bella's fear of marriage is actually one of her few redeeming qualities for me. A person this young should be afraid to marry. It doesn't make up for all the shit she puts her so-called "friends" and "boyfriends" through, but I'm grasping here.

As much as it pains me to admit it, Meyer's ideas aren't horrible. I'd totally read an epic saga about a centuries-old feud between a vampire family and a mutant werewolf tribe (even without getting into the unfortunate racial implications -- all the wolves are American Indians and all the vampires are white, as far as I can tell). These books should JUST be about that. But again, the point-of-view character sabotages any shot it had at excitement. Imagine how boring the Spider-Man comics would be if they were entirely told from Mary Jane's perspective. Or Aunt May. No one would read that. This is rule #1 (or #2, at worst) of writing -- pick a good main character. Or at least, one who is relevant to the actual plot.

I'm not sure if I can continue with this series. It can't get any better. But can it possibly get any worse? Ah, there's the rub.

1 comment:

Austin said...

I'm impressed you've read as much as you have. I've literally only read a few paragraphs of her writing, and just those small snippets makes me want to stab out my eyes with whatever implement is handy. Right now it's a water bottle.

Forcing yourself to read a third one reminds me of a quote from Seanbaby who was critiquing Uwe Boll's movies:

"(reading) a third is like jamming a third coat hanger into your urethra. It's certainly possible, but every instinct in your body will keep you from doing it."

good luck reading Eclipse if you choose to, your reviews at least make it amusing.