Thursday, May 26, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 40: The Fellowship Of The Promise Ring

WOW, guess what? This is the fucking worst chapter in the series. It's got some shameful moral shit, followed by some super-boring plot machination, and then at the end it just stops making sense altogether. It's the S. Meyer hat trick!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


A man wants to build a shed and he needs 99 bricks. He goes to Home Depot and they tell him they only sell bricks in quantities of 100. “Why should I pay for 100 bricks when I only need 99?” the man asks. “Sorry buddy, you gotta buy them like this,” he is told. So the man buys 100 bricks, builds his shed, and in the end he's standing in his backyard, holding this extra brick. With nothing else to do with it, he throws it into the air.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 37: While You Wait For The Others

As I write this, there's a huge garbage truck outside my window trying to turn around on my rather narrow street. They are not having a lot of success. It's appropriate that it would happen as I sit down to write about chapter 31, in which the coming conflict with the Volturi is re-framed and re-framed and re-framed. Vague suspicions about what the Volturi are up to get replaced by only slightly firmer suspicions. Vague expectations about Bella's vampire power become different vague expectations. And that's more or less it; here's a plot synopsis: Edward, Bella, Eleazar (Cutty), Tanya, Kate, and Carmen talk. The end.

Chapter 31: Talented

Cutty mumbles about what a talented family Edward has. “A mind reader for a father, a shield for a mother,” he says. Edward's like “WHAT DID YOU CALL MY WIFE, MOTHERFUCKER?” and Cutty is like, “Oh, I think she's a shield.” Edward seems to not know what a shield is (“'A shield?' Edward repeated, bewildered.”) but then like ten seconds later he knows EXACTLY what it is (“'A shield!' Edward said, deep satisfaction saturating his tone.”) and he even remembers a Volturi who is sort of one. Aro has a bodyguard (who is, notably, a woman) who mentally diverts his attackers. “There's a force around her that repels, though it's almost unnoticeable,” Cutty explains. “You simply find yourself going a different direction than you planned.” So in her human life, this chick was just really socially repellent?
Bella's power is different (Cutty tells us that no one's power is the same because no one thinks in precisely the same way. Our brains are snowflakes). She has an impenetrable brain (no one wanted to penetrate her during her human life, so...) but it is suggested she could possibly “project” her power outward, to protect other people. Still, it's pretty lame that Bella's power is so passive; Cutty observes that it's “purely defensive.” Is S. Meyer TRYING to give her critics more ammo?

Especially since Bella immediately thinks about how to use it to protect her husband and child; her power, really, is Super Motherhood. For two vampires and a hybrid, these guys have a pretty conventional family dynamic. (Really, it's conventional to the point of implausibility, right? It's 2011, not 1951!)

It felt like I had never wanted anything so badly before this: to be able to protect what I love.

You sure you didn't want like, the ability to shoot lasers out of your eyes? Flight? Invisibility? Kate is the one who suggests that Bella's power might be mobile, and when Bella considers the possibilities, she begs Kate to teach her to “project.” Kate is like, “one does not simply project into Mordor,” but doesn't say no. Her power, by the way, is that she can stun other vampires with her touch—knocking them to the ground like they've been Tasered. Finally, a cool power! We've been waiting for something like this since New Moon! And she can project the “current” over the surface of her whole body, which is very X-Men-like (and also suggestive of the fact that she never gets laid). I'm a Kate fan already. Maybe she and Bella will start spending time alone for training, and then Bella will be frustrated by her inability to project, and Kate will be like “You need to get to know your body better,” and one thing will lead to another...

While Bella and Kate flirt, Edward and Cutty are talking about the Volturi. Edward's suspicions of their motives set off seemingly latent suspicions in Cutty, who then has a minor existential crisis about the work he did for the Volturi earlier in his life. Right there in the Cullen living room, dude? You've never thought about this before? Cutty talks about a pattern he's just now noticed: every hundred years or so, Aro would identify a vampire out in the world whose power he admired. Soon, that vampire's coven would get busted for something, but then Aro would always find a reason to pardon the one vampire he wanted for his team. Again: you just noticed this now?

“Come to think of it, Hitler seemed to pick on Jews, gays and gypsies more than other groups.”- Dr. Joseph Mengele

The other problem with this abrupt revelation is that it seems to presume the Volturi has done exactly what they're planning to do to the Cullens to other families. But we've always been lead to believe that the Cullens are the only other family, that other vampires travel in packs of two or three, that the size of the Cullen clan is part of the reason for the attack. None of that seems to be true anymore. “Once the coven was all but destroyed,” Edward says, “Aro would grant a pardon to one member.” When you read that, does it suggest to you that a coven being all but destroyed would mean “once they'd killed the other two vampires”?

Then there's this: Cutty mentions a vampire named Chelsea, who works for Aro and has the ability to break up and re-arrange the emotional bonds between vampires. That could lead to some sexy fun! (“Okay now Edward, you blow Jasper. Emmett, you just watch.”-Chelsea) But anyway, what she does is break the emotional bonds between the vampire Aro wants and his former family, and bond him to the Volturi instead. Hey, uh, can we call this Chelsea lady in to treat Jacob, maybe? But then Cutty clarifies that the sort of bonds the Cullens have formed are probably unbreakable—Chelsea wasn't able to break his bond with Carmen (though it's unclear whether or not she tried), and probably won't be able to break the Cullen's bond either.

So maybe you're asking: why are we even talking about Chelsea, then? She is brought up and then made irrelevant in the space of two pages. The reason is the explanation for why the Cullens' bonds are so strong. Are you ready for this? This is Cutty speaking:

"Abstaining from human blood makes us more civilized—lets us form true bonds of love."

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. There's a lot of noise in that sentence, but let's break it down to its core elements:

Abstaining lets us form true bonds of love.

DOES IT NOW? Message received, Stephenie. Kristen Stewart says Twilight doesn't force messages down its readers' throats. She's right; it just subliminally slips them in wherever it can. Yikes.

So anyway, who is Aro after? Edward thinks it's Alice, and they realize that is probably why she bailed. (Oh please tell me he caught up to her! How cool would it be if Alice was in the Volturi?) Cutty warns Edward that Aro probably wants him too, but Edward says he'd be too uncooperative and Aro knows it. But Cutty's like “What if they had Bella? Or what if it's Bella they want?” and then Edward is suddenly less cocky. “Was death the lesser concern?” Bella wonders. “Was it really capture we should fear?” I don't know, ask Osama Bin Laden am I right? USA USA USA! Sorry. (They're building a new health center on Maverick Square near where I live and on one of the I-beams right now someone wrote “Good Ridens Osama Bin Laden.”)

Finally, on the last page or so of this chapter, we start to see a way in which this plot line could be sort of interesting. “If the Volturi are abusing the trust all immortals have placed in them...” Carmen starts to say. “Does it matter?” Cutty says. “Who would believe it?” See? Now the Cullens are the One Guy Who Knows The Truth, that aliens have taken over the bodies of his neighbors, that an asteroid is going to hit earth, that a giant glacier is going to melt and destroy the Titanic II. They've got a government conspiracy they need to reveal, against all odds!

But I'm psyching myself up for one paragraph in a chapter that presents 20 different roads stretching out before us. At the end of this chapter, we have no more firm an idea of where we are going from here than we did before, it's just that our vague ideas are different ones. And the fact of the matter is, we're probably not going to go down any of those paths. We're going to hang out at Chez Cullen and wait for more vampires to show up. So uh, look forward to that?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BLOGGING BREAKING DAWN, pt. 36: The Pain From An Old Wound

At the end of the last chapter, Jacob sat with RNSM and answered her questions about what was happening at Chez Cullen these days, about Carlisle's vampire friends coming around and all that. Bella watched, annoyed. “Renesmee already understood only too clearly what was going on,” she complained. “Wasn't shielding her more important than answering her questions?” Twilight: answering the important questions about child-rearing since 2008!

Here's the other thing: much as I want to believe that Alice has bailed for totally selfish reasons (since that would be interesting and complicated), I'm already thinking that won't be the case. Here's what happens after Bella assures RNSM that whatever Alice is doing, it's the right thing:

The right thing for Alice anyway. I hated thinking of her that way, but how else could the situation be understood?

Right, because that is definitely something you say when you see only one way to understand a given situation. Hahahaha. “It's not as though Alice could have possibly been up to something else entirely that I just didn't see yet but would probably understand eventually!” Jesus.

Chapter 30: Irresistible

Bella, Edward, and RNSM return to the cottage that night, even though they have every flat surface in Chez Cullen available to them at the moment—what a waste. Bella's head is swimming with questions for Edward, but once they put the kid to bed he flies into full-on fuck mode (where has all your propriety gone, dear Edward?) which is how they spend the duration of the evening. It still pisses me off that a sentence like this

I didn't think of my questions for the rest of that night.

are what passes for erotic around here, but what can you do? Leave it to Bella, by the way, to be anal-(wait for it)-retentive about sexual desire: “I'd been planning on needing years to somewhat organize the overwhelming passion I felt for him physically,” she says. What, was she going to make a spreadsheet? But anyway, now she's realizing that all of this might end, so the suggestion is that she's just like “Put it in my ass! Put it in my ear!” and the two of them are just like, to the WINDOWWWW to the WALL, till venom drip down Edward's balls, etc.

Next day they get ready for the arrival of the Denali gang, wondering how they'll get the news about RNSM to them without causing a freakout. You know you've done a bad job writing a convincing novel when YOUR CHARACTERS wonder aloud how to make their lives seem plausible. Bella then asks Edward for fight training, which leads to a discussion of what the Volturi's strategic advantages are.

“Damn, I'm missing out on this conversation?”-Jasper Whitlock

We learn that Jane's brother Alec has an even scarier power than hers: he can cause “total sensory deprivation” on not one but dozens of vampires at a time. “You are utterly alone in the blackness,” Edward says. “You don't even feel it when they burn you.” Heavy. Bella realizes she's probably immune to that scary-ass shit though, and starts to plot how she could take little Alec out, if things come to blows. Oh god, now I hope there's a fight, just so in the movie I can see Kristen Stewart kick the head off a little kid—boot that thing into the trees like she's kicking a field goal, you know? If a book with a bunch of uncomfortable pro-life symbols (no matter what Stewart says) ends with the brutal murder of a 9-year old vampire (a fiftieth-trimester abortion, basically), that'll be enough of a wash for me. It's notable that Bella can talk about killing Alec and Jane without any hesitation, especially given something that comes up later, which we should maybe start calling the Volturi Question.

Are the Volturi evil or not? Evidence is mixed. They sure SEEMED scary the first time Bella encountered them, but in the end Aro was actually kind of friendly! When a few of the Volturi returned in Eclipse, they just kind of came off as assholes. And coming off as an asshole isn't a murder-worthy offense, is it? Now, sometimes it seems like S. Meyer is treating this ambiguity as, you know, ambiguous. When Bella finds out that Denali vamp Eleazar used to be a member of the Volturi she is shocked, but Edward rhetorically treats it as like, a stint in the army. The Volturi are “only alleged to be heinous and evil by the criminals,” he reminds her. But of course, he reminds her with a “twisted” smile on his face. Am I the only person who has difficulty sussing out how I'm supposed to feel about this?

So yeah, Alice apparently urged the family to talk to Eleazar because of his Volturi knowledge. Bella wonders how he ever got out of that gig, and Edward tells her that technically the Volturi is an all-volunteer army. “He wasn't one of their warriors,” he says.”He had a gift they found convenient.” Let me guess: really good accounting skills. No, actually Eleazar can apparently sense what other vampire powers are. Hey, that's nice, given that we still don't know what Bella's power is! Will he also be able to determine the make and model of her new car? Because that's another one we've left dangling! Eleazar met Carmen, who was a similarly compassionate vampire, and he went to Aro and was like “The game ain't in me no more. None of it.” And Aro was like, “Okay Eleazar, here's some money to start a gym.”
Edward decides to greet their visitors alone first, so as not to overwhelm them; Bella, RNSM, and Jacob wait at the dining room table around the corner. Sure, because that isn't weird. RNSM actually speaks a few words at the table, and doesn't even use her whole mind-meld thing at the table, and does all the dishes on a whole other level. What's weird about RNSM actually bothering to talk now is it's actually kind of affecting? She snuggles into Bella's neck and says “What if they don't like me?” and I was like awwwwww. And then she says “This is my fault,” and I was like DAWWWWWWWW!

Then the new folks show up, and this is where started to wonder if it's going to matter if I keep track of all these people. There's Tanya, Eleazar ("Cutty" from here on out, I'm sick of writing Eleazar out already), Carmen, and Kate. Kate and Tanya, remember, were the ones making all of those awkward spinster jokes at Bella's wedding. Nice ladies! Cutty's got it made though, right? Living in Alaska with three women, two of whom are desperately lonely? If he doesn't get a little four-way action, he at least gets to watch some stuff, I bet.

Anyway, Edward is really good at making his guests feel at ease. NOT!

“Is Carlisle all right?” a male voice asked anxiously. Eleazar.
“None of us is all right, Eleazar,” Edward said, and then he patted something, maybe Eleazar's shoulder. “But physically, Carlisle is fine.”
“Physically?” Tanya asked sharply. “What to you mean?”

JUST SPIT IT OUT EDWARD! T-T-T-T-TODAY JUNIOR! So Edward urges them to reserve judgment, then brings Bella and RNSM out, and all of them are like “REALLY!? REALLY!? REALLY!!!” and Edward is like “I told you to fucking wait.” Carmen is the first one to stop freaking out, and she ends up allowing RNSM to project some images into her head. It wins her over.

Renesmee grinned, clearly delighted with Carmen's acceptance, and touched Eleazar lightly on the forehead.
“Ay caray!” he spit, and jerked away from her.

Good instinct, Cutty. Eventually everybody takes a turn, and RNSM's little show easily gets everyone on her side. So it's this, basically:

Edward then explains the bizarre stakes of the rest of this book to them; when they realize that Irina caused all of it, they're overwhelmed with guilt and pledge to help fight and die if necessary. It's weird to me that RNSM can inspire such dedication in everyone. I mean, her? There's a moment that is supposed to be sort of like that “I serve at the pleasure of the President” scene from The West Wing when everybody says they're joining the Cullen's mission.

Kate flashed a grin back and then shrugged nonchalantly. “I'm in.”
“I, too, will do whatever I can to protect the child,” Carmen agreed. Then, as if she couldn't resist, she held her arms out toward Renesmee. “May I hold you,
bebe linda?”

I'm trying to figure out why this is happening. I mean, can you think of another time just seeing a baby inspired so much from so many people?
Oh fuck.