The first thing I notice with a slight wince is that the third part of Breaking Dawn opens up with a quote by Orson Scott Card. Not only is it a very misanthropic quote that can be summed up as “if you’re in trouble, friends and family are just ballast,” it is also a quote by the only author who manages to be more right-wing than Terry Goodkind. (Ayn Rand is dead, she doesn’t count.) He’s also a homophobe.
Moving on. Bella starts off her stunning tale with her favourite literary device: the preface.
The preface is a shy creature, often seen in pre-World War II literature and the works of Stephenie Meyer. In recent years the living conditions of prefaces have changed rapidly, mainly due to the deforestation of the South American rainforest, and as a result today’s prefaces look and behave much more like an introduction by the author. The rare subspecies prefaceicus s. meyerensis hasn’t noticed that yet. This subspecies also features really atrocious writing. Although similar in intent, prefaceicus s. meyerensis is not to be confused with the prologue, which more commonly looks like an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details.
This particular preface is of the s. meyerensis type and once again demonstrates just how talented Stephenie is.
I was desperate for the precious one I guarded, but even to think of that was a lapse in attention I could not afford.
I’m trying to decide what I like best about that sentence. I think it’s “the precious one.” These words, just three of them, create an amazing amount of revulsion in me. I’m not quite sure what exactly it is that makes me want to hurl. Is it the atrocious attempt at imitating the flowery style of Brontë and Austen? Is it Stephenie’s feeble foray into making us believe that it might not be a baby that Bella is guarding? Or is she just dangerously desperate to hide the baby’s sex for a few more paragraphs? Is it maybe a cunning combination of all three? Whatever it is, I hereby motion that all pharmaceutical companies that produce emetics go forth and sue Stephenie Meyer for industrial espionage or whatever else will stick to her pale Mormon hide. It would be for the common good, trust me.
As I take a deep breath and try to dispel the preface from my mind, it occurs to me that a summary might be in order. Then I can get on with telling you what a crack-up Steph is.
What has happened to far in Breaking Dawn is that Bella has gotten married, honeymooned, domestically violated, impregnated and delivered of a healthy baby demon in just under a month. Now, with the
baby-vamp born, Bella is on her way to becoming a sparkly, beautiful vampire. Yay for her. The third part of the novel starts off with Bella living through the torment of the transformation. She does that for quite a while, by the way, feel free to skip the first twenty pages or so. You can also feel free to skip the first 361 pages, that will save you a lot of pain and you’ll get all the important stuff from this nifty summary, anyway.
After Bella is transformed and now, apparently, the most beautiful creature on God’s earth, her amazing, carefree, immortal, blood-thirsting forever-afterlife can begin in earnest. There’s only one little problem. Jacob Black, werewolf of her treacherous heart and general steroid-enhanced nuisance, has imprinted on her kid. In case any of you were wondering, Bella hasn’t got a secret teenage daughter stashed away somewhere… I am talking about the newborn baby. Please raise your hand now if you think this is gross. And yes, it is a daughter. And she’s called Renesmee. Gesundheit. She should be grateful, really, because the alternative would have been EJ. Edward Jacob. Not only do I detest people who give their kids only initials as first names, I also think that calling your kid after your two lovers deserves some sort of insanity award. So yes… the weremutt loves the baby-demon. How cute. Also Bella is actually, all things considered, quite cool about it all and thus the happy, shag-filled afterlife can commence.
Three months into their fuckathon Bella and Edward get an ungentle wake-up call. Through a series of misunderstandings, accidents and characters generally being most uncommunicative, the Volturi (royalty-like super vamps that are out to get Bells) have gotten wind of Renesmee. They think she’s an immortal child and… well… mhm… this is getting rather complicated. Immortal child = bad. Okay? Bells, Eddie, Pedo-Jake and the rest of the Cullen clan worry, misunderstand and despair for the next 300-odd pages. Alice seems to vanish from the face of the earth, causing everyone to call her a coward to her rapidly receding backside, but the reader cannot help but have this sneaking suspicion that she might have a plan after all. Bella meanwhile has plans of her own and seeks out J. Jenks, a lawyer from Seattle specialised in obtaining fake documents (for a price). Money is not an issue, but the page count is. In the end everyone gets what they want. J. Jenks gets sixty thousand dollars, Bella gets some mileage on her odometer and Stephenie gets a nice fifty-page subplot that leads nowhere.
Charlie – that’s Bella’s dad for those lucky innocents that haven’t read the books – gets introduced to the whole vampire/werewolf shtick and spectacularly fails to draw the right conclusions. We also get introduced to Stephenie’s collection of racial stereotypes (don’t worry, I’ll get back to that in a bit).
In the end the Volturi arrive, all set on ridding the world of the menace that is Bella Cullen, but sadly they fail due to the power of super-Bella.
And then everyone lives happily ever after. Forever.
Now. If that doesn’t sound horrible enough to you, you might be interested in what other issues I have with the novel. Let’s see… they are manifold and varied. Where to start?
There is a lot wrong with this last part of Breaking Dawn. I wonder if Stephenie ran out of strength at the end. I say this with less sarcasm than I would like to. Being a writer myself, I can certainly sympathise. Fact is that the last part of this gargantuan novel is far more flawed, more peppered with little inconsistencies, than the rest of the series. But enough of being all nice and understanding.
In the previous part of the Twilight Experiment I complained about Stephenie’s attitude towards the militant anti-abortion vamp Rosalie. I’m still complaining. The whole thing is beyond ridiculous and the character is so transparent that Mrs. Meyer might as well have called the book Abortion Is Bad with Especially If It Saves The Mother’s Life as a subtitle. Now, somewhere around page 440, we hear Bella speak of her new-found camaraderie with her procreation-obsessed sister. It’s not a character inconsistency per se, I realize that, but one would think that even someone as mentally challenged as Bella might have realized that it was all about the sweet, darling babe and that Rosalie wouldn’t have given the monetary equivalent of a wet fart if Bella had died giving birth. It’s slightly disturbing, really.
Speaking of the babe. Renesmee “Monster-spawn” Cullen matures at an unnatural pace. Two inches a day. Because having a pooing, slobbering infant around the house isn’t fun. Also, because infants in general are messy, Renesmee is aware. I am uncomfortably reminded of fan-fiction-esque things that I thought about when I was maybe eleven or twelve. Always the perfect couple – mommy, daddy and the sweet babe – but something would always happen to make the slobbering nuisance go away or grow up fast or something. And that’s just what happens here. Not only will the demon-spawn be a grown-up in just four years, she is also aware. She can talk at the age of a week, walk not much later and is, from day one, able to keep up semi-telepathic conversations with mommy and daddy. Oh… and the son-in-law question is also already sorted, thanks to the magic of werewolf imprinting. Neat, eh? It’s like Stephenie thinks that a perfect family has to have a perfect baby, but she’s also aware that baby means a lot of work and not so much sex.
Speaking of sex… they have a lot of it. Really. And with it comes a nice opportunity to nitpick. Page 446 gives us this beautiful sentence:
Our time on the island had been the epitome of my human life.
Bella refers to their “first time” during their honeymoon. Now… I stumbled across that. Thought “mhm, that sounds awkward.” So I look up “epitome”. I have this neat little program on my computer, Steph, I really recommend it. It’s called WordWeb. It tells me interesting things, such as what words mean. I need that, because I’m really a champion at mixing stuff up. Like jacuzzi and yakuza. Now, WordWeb tells me that an epitome is either “a standard or typical example” or “a brief abstract (as of an article or book).” So your honeymoon was average, Bells. That what you’re trying to say? Maybe not. To be fair I also check Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. Here I get the first two meanings plus “a person or thing that is the embodiment or a perfect example.” Now that’s closer, but (as my dad would say) still no flowerpot. It also sounds really wonky. Steph, if you wanted to go for a fancy word, you should have tried pinnacle or culmination (or cullenmination, I suppose). And use a bloody dictionary, please.
Moving on. A bit faster now, because if I stop to complain about every single wonky sentence we will still be here when the world comes to an end. And I don’t mean 2012.
Here’s a nice one. Breaking Dawn introduces us to a whole slew of new vampires. Vampires from Ireland, England, Egypt, Brazil, Romania and of course plenty from the good ol’ U.S. of A., the blood-sucking capital of the world. Not only does Stephenie dazzle us with an astonishing cornucopia of racial stereotypes, they also all come with fancy talents. So many beautiful things to complain about. Where to start… decisions, decisions… where to pounce first? Ahh… okay, racism it is.
Benjamin is from Egypt. So is Tia, his mate. Amun and Ebi are from Egypt too. Not only do I have to notice that they were favoured by Steph with nice, exotic names (not like poor Benji, who has to be content with sounding vaguely biblical), Amun is also a steadfast macho who doesn’t allow his wife an opinion of her own and who tries to subjugate poor Benji with his evil middle-eastern schemes of world domination, while Ebi never speaks a word and seems to mostly be interested in the dirt next to her feet. He also, and I am more or less quoting the book here “tries to form Benjamin into a secret weapon”. I can hear the words of mass destruction echo in the author’s mind. The Irish are inevitably red-haired and the Brit is a reserved, stuck-up asshole. The Amazonians are wild and have a vague homoerotic flavour to them that makes Bella uncomfortable. Finally, my favourites, are the Romanians. Not only is one of them called Vladimir (nudge, nudge) they also both insist on talking about their own, inevitably evil, schemes in hearing distance of everyone else, thus rendering them about as believable as panto villains. But what else can you expect from them shifty eastern types? They’re not like those nice American vampires, who are all well-behaved and don’t have any weird habits at all.
Racism: check. What about the fancy magic then? At one point in the novel… I forget the page but it’s when the first friendly (American) vamps arrive to take a look at the supposed immortal child Renesmee, we get introduced to the idea that Eddy and his sister Alice aren’t the only vampires with talents. Edward can hear other people’s thoughts. Alice can see the future. So far so good. Then we learn that there’s also Elezar, who can recognize other
vampires’ talents. And Kate, who can electro-shock by touching someone (eyebrows start going up). And Renata, who can project a shield. And Alec, who can make people blind. And Chelsea… at which point the narrative comes to a screeching halt, because I can’t even wait to hear what fancy thing Chelsea will pull out of her hat (she can break up personal relationships, it would seem), I slam the book closed to see if I accidentally picked up a novelization of Jersey Shore. I mean… Chelsea… seriously? Carlisle and Esme and Jasper and Aro, Caius, Marcus, Dimitri, Vladimir, Elezar and… wait for it… Chelsea. I see. And she can mind-fuck with who you like and whom you hate. Someone you knew in high school, Stephenie? Or… wait a sec… this isn’t Jersey Shore after all. It’s the magical land of Xanth, where everyone has his very own, unique magical talent. Next up is the vampire that can change the color of his pee. It’s a miracle that Piers Anthony hasn’t sued yet.
And of course Bella turns out to have the most magical, sparkly talent of all that will make the über-evil Volturi piss their pants (colourfully) and ultimately she (and only she) will save the whole fracking day. Because she is Super Bells, she who can project the Super Shield of Awesomeness to ward off all Evil and who will master this talent in mere days where others strive for centuries to get even the tiniest bit of control over their own gifts. Yes, indeed, that’s the way we roll, baby. And it’s not fan fiction at all, honest. (Did I mention that there’s also a vampire who can make wishes come true and one that can control the four elements? All true and all solid copyright lawsuits for Piers Anthony, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender and a whole bunch of other people.)
Time to take a deep breath. No, wait! There’s more to get exasperated about. Wildlife conservation issues. The vegetarian vampires of Forks don’t eat humans, which is rather nice of them I think, what with me being human and all that. Instead they drink animal blood. Only, apparently, carnivores are more tasty. More like human blood than, say, deer. And the bigger the carnivore the tastier the blood.
However, if it’s a matter of diet (and I don’t mean vampire diet but rather what the animal eats) then shouldn’t an omnivore be the most human-like in taste? After all we sort of are omnivores. What about pigs then, Eddie? It’s so close to human blood that it can even be used for transfusions. Sounds really yummy. What? Come again… carnivores are much cooler? Ah, I see. You should have said so in the first place. So it’s all about big-burly-hunter-machismo-feelings. Okay. Forget I said anything.
Edward likes mountain lion. So does Bella. Okay. Mountain lion, sounds scrumptious. Let’s do some math. When they go hunt deer in one scene, Bella eats three until she is sated. Now, although deer come in many varieties and flavours, I find that most deer species native to North America weigh a lot more than a mountain lion, and thus should have a lot more liquid in them. What about Emmett then? He likes male grizzly. He goes hunting at pretty much the same frequency as the other vampires. For comparison: the average weight of a male mountain lion is 62 kilos, that of a grown male grizzly is around 300 kilos. Maybe Emmett is like Jessica Biel and always leaves his plate half-full?
Also (scary music cue) both the grizzly and mountain lion populations are currently in decline… maybe it’s all more than just a story!
There is one last issue that I have with this book. On page 567 Stephenie takes a bloody sledgehammer to the glass filigree of our suspension of disbelief and smashes it to a gazillion tiny bits and pieces. Jacob, always a wellspring of joy anyway, asks rhetorically for a list of names of all the strange, foreign bloodsuckers that have invaded the house. And then there’s one of them tiny, little asterisk thingummys behind that. And I wonder… funny that, that almost looks like there’s going to be a footnote th… wait a minute. And I look down to see, lo and behold: a footnote. The first in over 2000 pages of Twilight. And no, it doesn’t point out that Jacob is an idiot, a true if somewhat superfluous observation to make at this point, no… it kindly reminds us that an index of names will be awaiting our convenience at the end of this novel. (And then Stephenie walks up to the tiny glass fragments and grinds them into a powder with the heel of her steel-capped army boots.)
And thus it ends. Bella and Edward and their little Renesmeh will live happily ever after. For a very long time, for as it turns out neither Jake nor
Renesmee will age as soon as the demon-child reaches physical maturity. We, the readers, are all left with vague thoughts of garlic, stakes and UV lamps and a strong desire to wash our eyes with lye. And our brains too, while we’re at it… now where did I put that bone saw? Stephenie has moved on to greener pastures, pastures involving body-snatching aliens and dragon planets and fire worlds. (I can already hear Anne McCaffrey and Jack Finney sharpening their copyright infringement stakes.) And if all that doesn’t work out, after all Stephenie’s got three kids that all want to go to college, she can always pick up Twilight again. She has, after all, left the backdoor wiiiiiiiiiiide open when she wrote that the Volturi are beaten… for now. And so we shiver, not in anticipation, but in fear.