The Twilight Experiment: Day 9

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.

The Twilight Experiment: Day 8

I’ve suffered from Twilight-related writer’s block recently. I believe it can be argued that my own ability to put words onto a page has been severely compromised by Stephenie’s very incompetence to do so. Mhm… that is actually a good theory. I’ve got a better one, though: it’s all Jacob’s fault.

Part two of Breaking Dawn is told from the point of view of Jake “thick-as-a-brick” Black, and while I have read a lot of stories featuring stupid, annoying and insufferable characters in my life, Jake really takes the crown in that category without even breaking a sweat. I have this sneaking suspicion that I might have been able to finish the second part of Breaking Down months ago if it had been narrated by, say, Hitler or Genghis Khan or maybe, maybe, even Edward. But Jacob… really? I’ve seldomly encountered a less appealing character in my life. Jake is seventeen and behaves like a five-year-old, no doubt an intentional ploy of Stephenie’s to emphasise just how different were-cuddle and diamond-fang are. Doesn’t really help with making the character more endearing, Steph.

He persists in molesting poor Bella (please consider how bad it has to be for me to call Bells “poor”) and all that despite knowing that she doesn’t want puppy-love and that his potential soulmate is likely to be hiding just around the next corner (cowering in fear, I’d wager). And to add insult to injury I also constantly see Taylor “The Anabolic Steroid” Lautner’s moronic grin whenever I think of the character. Sigh. So can you blame me for trying to avoid the second part of Baking Prawn? Can you??

Anyway. As we all remember part one, narrated from the point of view of Bella Swan (aka The Willingly Abused One), featured Bella’s and Edward’s wedding, honeymoon, sex, feathers and a whole lot of wife-beating (but it’s cool, really, Bella likes it that way). Oh… and Bells got knocked up. What fun.

And what does Jake do while Edward is busy transforming Bells into a symphony in blue? Sharpening his teeth. Or claws. Pick one. He is, not entirely mistakenly, under the impression that Bella will either come back from her honeymoon with a nice new set of fangs and a sparkly disposition, or not at all. Depending on how hungry Eddie gets after sex. So he worries and waits and comes up with a dozen different ways of hunting vampire. Since I find Edward only marginally less boring that Jake, the thought seems almost pleasant.

As it is, Bells comes back and appears to still be alive. Sort of. Maybe. Hard to tell. Better go and check.

She’s alive, but to Jake’s dismay also slightly pregnant. Or a lot, considering that she claimed to be a virgin just a few weeks ago. That leaves us with three possibilities: Immaculate conception (quick, let’s start a religion), a lie (only she’s sort of too stupid to lie) and… *cue dramatic music* unnatural conception. Indeed the fetus, or thing as the baby-daddy lovingly calls it, seems to be growing at an unbelievable pace, probably because it wants to get away from Bella asap. And if Bella breaks a little with all the hurrying that’s going on, then who cares, eh? Bella doesn’t. Were-cuddle cares, which brings Edwardicide right back on the menu, at least as far as the cuddle is concerned.

Edward has a different plan, though. And what a plan it is. Masterful, I would call it, if I weren’t too busy weeping. “How about,” he says, “we talk her into getting an abortion. And then, Jake my friend, you can knock her up instead of me. That’s not gross at all, right?” You must see, abortion is evil, especially if done for paltry and selfish reasons such as saving the mother’s life. It follows that abortionists also endorse adultery, prostitution, second-row parking and possibly sodomy (difficult to tell when werewolves are concerned). The point is moot, since Bells almost has a miscarriage when Jacob confronts her with hubby’s clever plan, but Stephenie is still proud that she mentioned it.

With a vague sense of disgust I turn the page. Edward’s execution has been delayed for now, maybe Jake is hoping that Sparkly can still talk Bells into a little doggy-style action. The rest of the werewolf pack, lead by Sam Uley, are slightly less cool with the whole rapidly-growing-abomination-business and vow to kill the baby right now. Better safe than sorry. Not born yet you say? We’d better kill mom too then. Easier that way. Also she slept with a vampire, that’s unhygienic. Ultimately this leads to Jake splitting off from the rest of the pack to form his own mini-pack. Some sort of Vampire-BF-Club. There’s only two of them, in case you wondered. Jake and Seth (do I smell an instant promotion to pack leader’s second?). All this is possible, and I can’t really be bothered to go back and look up if this was mentioned before at any point, because apparently Jake should be the true alpha. All in the genes, as it turns out, because his grand-doggy was higher up in the social pecking order than Sam’s grand-doggy. Which means that as soon as the two have a disagreement, say about who gets to kill whose girlfriend, just add water and voila: instant alpha. Apparently it isn’t enough that Jake is three meters tall, shoots laser beams from his eyes and turns into a giant telepathic wolf… he has to be the Führer. Ever read any fan fiction, Steph? Or maybe I’m being unfair here… I hear some fanfic is quite nice.

Things progress at a leisurely pace from here onwards, which means that nothing really happens for the next 150 pages or so. Jake and Seth, later to be joined by Leah Clearwater, camp out in the woods near Casa Cullen. Edward is cranky because he sort of knocked Bells up with a killer fetus. Rosalie would rip said fetus out of Bella without a moment’s hesitation if she could be sure that the thing would survive while the mother wouldn’t. Carlisle is kind. Alice is spunky. Emmett is dumb. Nothing strange happening at all. Okay, so Bella starts drinking blood, because that’s the only thing that the baby can process, but who cares. Blood. Mixed pickles. Where’s the difference? (Well… it all depends on whether or not there are onions in the pickle.)

The Rosalie situation bears some thinking about though. I’m not quite sure what the book is trying to say here. Abortion is bad. Okay, that seems obvious enough. Abortion is bad, but try not to be too happy that the mommy is going to croak? Maybe. Edward can read minds (what is it with bad fan fiction and telepathy, btw? Anne McCaffrey does that too). He seems to indicate several times that he is well aware of the fact that Rosie wouldn’t be too bothered if Bella didn’t make it. He disapproves, not only of the pregnancy, but also of Rosalie’s callousness. Edward is clearly meant to be wrong about the abortion issue, and will as a matter of fact see the error of his ways in just a few pages, but what about his thoughts on Rosie? He is, after all, the infallible, sparkly He-vampire of Righteousness. Can he be wrong on both counts? The vibe that I get from Stephenie on the matter is that Rosie is a Bad Girl for not caring about Bells enough, but surely she only deserves a little slap on the wrist for that, because it’s all for the good of the baby really.

And I won’t even go into the whole killing the mother for the sake of the unborn child thing here. I comprehend that Bella wants to have the baby no matter what, even if it means her death. I’m also aware that in sparkly-vampire-land she just needs a few gallons of vampire venom and she’ll be right as rain. In real-people-land things are a little different, however.

As it is with most things, pregnancies included, they sooner or later come to an end. With Bells and her demon-baby this happens just a four or five days into the second part of Raking Lawn. With immaculate timing she moves in the wrong way at the wrong time and… her spine breaks and… oh sod it… whatever… she goes into labour. Her timing is further perfected by the fact that Carlisle, who is as we all remember a doctor, is out that day. Killing some endangered species for elevenses, no doubt. Just paragaphs before Edward has made telepathic (*sigh*) contact with the demon-child and is now totally pro-pregnancy, yay, let’s all kill Bella together! Which makes him the ideal volunteer for gnawing through Bella’s abdomen. (That’s right! Three applications of eating-someone-out in one book… astounding, Steph, really.)

As it turns out the demon-baby-uterus is made from demon-baby-vampire-skin and can thus only be cut by really sharp demon-vampire-sparkly-teeth. Funny thing, that: I always thought the uterus was a mommy-thing and not a baby-thing. Biology… go figure. In any case this means that Edward will literally (and trust me, I wish I was joking) have to open her belly with his teeth. Images I did not want in my mind, #143: Edward nibbling at Bella’s blood-splattered, pregnant belly button.

The baby is, of course, delivered without problem and Bella also makes it, sort of. By the time this segment of Quaking Fawn ends she is already well on her way to sparkly, vampire deadness. It’s what she wanted, so who am I to argue?

Jake is downstairs and will, in the course of the next few pages, make a wonderful discovery of his own. That’s all in the next part, of course, so I won’t spoil it now. That will be Bella’s narration again, so don’t any of you worry your pretty little heads about whether she’s going to make it or not. And I didn’t think I would say this, but I kind of look forward to reading her whiney voice. And there’s some really nice things that I am looking forward to talking about. Wildlife conservation issues, racial stereotyping and pedophilia, to name a few. But all that and more in the next part of the Twilight Experiment and the final part of Faking Yawn (I wish; the yawns were all 100% real).