The Twilight Experiment: Day 10

Turns out that a partial draft of Midnight Sun is available on Stephenie Meyer’s website. So yay for me and yay for the Twilight Experiment, because now there will be another installment of it.

For those of you who are wondering what a Midnight Sun might be and why I am bothering you with it: Midnight Sun is the unfinished, unpublished and utterly unholy fifth Twilight novel. It’s the story of Twilight, that is the first book only and not the entire series, told from the perspective of Edward Cullen.

In 2008 the partial draft was leaked online by some kind, far-seeing person and Stephenie has subsequently stopped working on the novel. I have been aware of the book for a while now, but the fact that Stephenie has since made the pdf available to the eager public had sort of slipped my attention. And I am bothering you with this now because Steph said in a 2008 interview that she will only resume working on the novel once she hasn’t heard anything on the internet about it for two years or more. So what I am actually doing is a great service to humanity as a whole, a philanthropic effort, a desperate attempt to save the world and life as we know it. Assuming that our two years of grace aren’t up yet, this review should keep us safe until June 2013… at least. (And who knows, maybe the world is going to end in 2012, that way our immortal souls will be saved for good.)

So… Midnight Sun: the story of Twilight as seen through the perfect diamond eyes of one Edward A. Cullen. Now, Edward is marginally less soppy than Bella, that’s a plus. On the minus side, he doesn’t just have an unfortunate affinity for turn-of-the-century romance novels… he was born in that time. So no relief there. Still, in the other Twilight books Edward is the only character who sometimes gets funny lines. And when I say funny I mean mildly amusing… when I say mildly amusing I mean raising a faint smile. When… it’s probably mostly the contrast with Bella that does it. In a sea of grey even the tiniest bit of colour will surely seem blindingly bright.

Anyway. I was curious about this one. The first Twilight novel has length issues. It may be the shortest of all of them in terms of pages, but like all its bigger siblings it seems to have too little plot to justify wasting such a huge amount of paper. If you think the camping scene from Harry Potter VII was long, I dare you to read even a single Twilight book, seriously. You don’t know what long means. But I’m getting sidetracked. Edward certainly seems like a better choice to narrate a story – if I had to pick a narrator for a future Twilight novel at gunpoint I would certainly pick him – but then again the question is also: why retell this story?

The obvious reason – which would be “monetary gain” – aside, I really can’t come up with anything. Bella does a depressingly good job of describing the minutiae of her everyday life when it’s her turn to narrate, so we don’t need Eddie to add anything to that. And he really doesn’t do much during Twilight besides being statuesque and endangering endangered species even further, does he now? Yeah… well. Not quite. Apparently Edward also spends quite a bit of his spare time being sorry for himself. He spends so much time doing that, actually, that he’s gotten very good at it. Then again, Edward is good at everything, so why am I surprised?

Midnight Sun in its present form is 264 pages. In terms of plot it’s about half of the book, I’d guess. It’s hard to tell. Bella’s viewpoint kind of speeds up at the end, when she gets hunted by James and things start spinning out of control, but I have the sneaking suspicion that if Stephenie had gotten to the end of that story with this draft, then Edward would have spent quite a bit of time telling us just how sorry and miserable he is right now, with Bells being kidnapped and all that. As I said: he’s very good at it.

What there is of Midnight Sun can roughly be divided in two parts: before the car accident and after. That merits some explaining, I think. There is a scene, in the first book, in which Bella almost gets hit by a car. The good outcome of the scene would have been for the car to hit and kill her, in which case the entire series would have ended at a soothing 48 pages. Enough to do some mental damage, but nothing too bad, just some light cerebral bleeding for those who read very attentively. As it is, Edward saves Bella by first pushing her out of harm’s way and then stopping the still-sliding car with his bare, perfect hands. That’s what happens in Twilight.

In Midnight Sun this scene takes place 59 pages in… and it opens up a whole new, kinky world for Edward. Where before his thoughts were centered mostly on how miserable, evil and ultimately doomed his entire existence is, with just a tiny sprinkling of “I am the big bad vampire” thrown in, it is now all about touching Bella. It’s like 100 years’ worth of 17-year-old boy hormones hit him when that car almost hits her. Bella’s waist. Bella’s skin. Bella’s cheek. How soft she is. How pretty she is. How perfectly she fits into his masculine, long, hard… arms. Yeah. I know. It doesn’t improve the book, really. A few dozen pages later we all heartily wish that he would go back to being whiney. Maybe Stephenie got a taste for this slightly more racy fare when she wrote the honeymoon scene in Breaking Dawn. I guess the next book will be called Naked Sunrise or maybe Pedophile Morning or possibly Arousing Aurora… great, now I feel sick.

The book ends in mid-narrative, which is okay, seeing that it is only a partial draft. For the same reason I am loath to nitpick at any individual sentences or dialogues. Partial draft. Partially daft too, but I shall assume in Stephenie’s favour that she might have ironed out some of the kinks in the editing process. So I’ll be good. No nitpicking. Honest. Well… okay. There might be one or two tiny little things that I would like to mention. Points of interest for the vampire enthusiasts among us, if you will.

Vampire biology is a fascinating subject, isn’t it? Breaking Dawn makes a big point about how female vampires can’t bear children and how male vampires can, in theory, mate with a human woman although it’s all a little tricky in practice. (Shudder.) And I wondered quite a bit about that. About… ehm… sperm, to be more specific. And about erectile dysfunction in the face of having… well… no blood circulation worth mentioning (having blood run down your esophagus doesn’t count, Steph).

Midnight Sun doesn’t answer any of these questions. If that’s a blessing or a curse is up to you to decide. There is, however, one speech, or rather internal monologue, of Edward’s that does shed some light on the matter. I mean, what am I to make of quotes like this one?

I gazed at her unconscious face, feeling this love for her settle into every portion of my stone body.

Or maybe this one?

My skin was stone and inhuman in shadow.

It seems to me that Stephenie is trying to suggest that Edward has basically had a full body erection for the last hundred years or so. Or not. I don’t know. The word “hard” is used 88 times in this manuscript, by the way.

The other vampire biology related thing that I always wondered about is the scene in which Edward gets a bit of pizza to show Bella that he theoretically could eat human food. As I was reading that the first time, from Bella’s viewpoint, I caught myself wondering… where does that go? Midnight Sun delivers the answer in all its unappetizing glory: he vomits it back up later, when Bella isn’t watching. Mhm… yummy. And I hear all the bulimic Twilight fans out there go: “See? Edward does it too. And he’s perfect.” (Disclaimer: I realise that bulimia isn’t something one should make fun of. And neither am I saying that anyone will actually become bulimic by reading this, seriously. But still… it’s kind of gross and kind of unhealthy, don’t you think?)

Short excursions into vampire mating habits and digestive processes aside, the book it what it is. It’s not worse than any of the other Twilight novels, neither is it better. What atrocious sentences there are shall be excused on the basis of this being a draft, not a finished novel. Whether Stephenie will ever finish Midnight Sun is doubtful; I for one can certainly understand her dismay at having the draft leaked onto the internet, and for now she seems to have found a new shiny in The Host and the subsequent novels of that series. So humanity can breathe more easily for now. If I remember to (and if the world doesn’t end next year), I’ll write another review of Midnight Sun in June 2013, just to be safe.

Oh… and in case you were getting worried: there’s one more installment of the Twilight Experiment to come. I got my hands on a copy of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Let’s see what that holds in store for us, shall we?

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 6

Bella. Bella Swan. Bells.

A woman described as pretty, but not stunning (by herself, so we might consider that to be an unreliable narrator; let’s face it, we all think we look amazingly ugly and some of us aren’t right). She is also not very bright, tends towards depression, is accident-prone, will happily jump off a cliff to see some sparkly afterimage of the guy who dumped her a year ago, has no discernible will or ambition of her own, and has all the backbone of a jellyfish.

What’s not to like?

An interesting question, for in the world of Twilight those that want to date Bella Swan are so many they have to draw numbers. Edward, who’s by anyone’s standards a control freak, might have some incentive to love biddable, uncreative, needy Bella. Fine. But what of Jacob Black? Okay, so they do have one thing in common: they’re both idiots. But besides that? He’s a year younger than her and while I can hear some people asking “how old is Jonas again?” I’d like to point out that when you’re sixteen and she’s seventeen that is a difference. With some few, lucky exceptions boys do mature slower than girls. Sad but true. But that is not my main problem – after all Bella is obviously slightly retarded, so that evens the age difference out again, I suppose. And I also won’t take any offence at the fact that she’s a wet blanket. That doesn’t seem to bother anyone else in the book, so why should it bother Jake?

No, my real problem with the Jake/Bella romance is that he is a werewolf. Now, don’t cry speciesist. I don’t have a problem with a werewolf dating a human. Go for it, make lots of weird babies (but only after you’re married, this it Twilight after all).  No, my problem is that werewolves imprint.

In Stephenie Meyer’s world werewolves have one true soulmate. One, and only one, person that is right for them. This bond will manifest the moment mutt and maiden are in each other’s presence for the first time, regardless of the age or the current marital status of either participant. So far so good. When this is first mentioned the whole subject is treated as a rarity. Sam Uley imprinted on Emily Young and that was it. No more imprintings expected in the near future. So Jacob thinks: well, in that case, I’d better get back to bothering Bells. Fine. Then, suddenly, imprints start hitting left and right, just like meteors in a Roland Emmerich movie, only more gooey. Which made me wonder a little at the probabilities involved in maybe ten or eleven werewolves all finding their soulmates in the same tiny area within a very limited time frame. Well, love travels at the speed of plot, to paraphrase Joe Straczynski, so I won’t argue.

But, and here’s the catch, if you were in Jacob’s shoes (wait, werewolves don’t wear shoes)… if you were in Jacob’s torn shorts, wouldn’t you stop and wonder? Leah Clearwater becomes a werewolf too. The subject of her rejection by Sam when he imprinted on his Emily is thoroughly discussed in the novel. Shouldn’t Jake maybe, just maybe, wonder if there is an Emily to his Jake out there somewhere? No, of course not, it’s more fun this way, says Stephenie, swatting at Jake’s subconscious with a rolled-up newspaper.

So on it goes. Jake wants Bella. Edward wants Bella. Bella wants it all. And we want some peace and quiet. Which we won’t get, not until those last two pesky movies are out. So we might as well move on with the plot.

For a while there’s not much to tell. The whole Bella/Edward/Jacob/everyone else/Jacob’s-future-soulmate mess aside the book could be rather thin, really. Someone has been stealing clothes from Bella’s room. The Cullens wonder why that might be. (She never dresses to match the wallpaper, so why would anyone want those rags? They’re not even Gucci!) We already know. Or are at least able to make some educated guesses. It’s Victoria, our Jack-in-the-box villain from the first book. She that doesn’t die. Vicky’s building up a vampire army, capable of flattening most of the continental U.S. should she wish it to, and she needs Bella’s couture to point said army in the right direction. See? Everyone wants a piece of Bella. Or several pieces, not necessarily still connected, in Victoria’s case. Why a clever girl like our Vicky would want to kill Bella instead of, say, take over the world, is anyone’s best guess. I just find it odd that a character whose singular personal trait seems to be “Hard to Kill (+15)” would go so far out of her way to attract the attention of the Volturi and willingly walk into a f***ing huge battle. Well, vampire lifestyle questions… who am I to second-guess them?

Yes… I was getting somewhere with that. Ah… the clothes thief. Since we have already established that no-one in his or her right mind would steal Bella’s clothing for fashion purposes, the Cullens wonder for quite a while why anyone would be nicking her knickers in the first place, and all the while the reader is screaming “it’s Victoria!” But the Cullens do not hear the reader and Stephenie has to come up with a very questionable explanation as to why their pet clairvoyant, Alice, can’t see what’s happening. Which is funny, by the way, because the book has already established that Alice can’t see werewolves for some obtuse reason or other and werewolves feature heavily in the denouement. So instead of saying that Alice can only see intent and that the vampire army (led by Victoria who is very clear on wanting to shish-kebab Bella on her sparkly vampire teeth) hasn’t made up its mind yet so she won’t be able to see where they are going until they get there, why not just say that it has to do with the weremutts? To make matters worse the whole clothes-thief/we’re-so-thick sub-plot seems to amount to little more in the end than an anti-clever little ruse to drive the wordcount up a little higher.

Finally, after more nonsense than anyone can take, Bella and Jake and Edward end up on a mountaintop in a tent, because someone thought that hiding from the vampire army in the middle of nowhere on top of a freezing mountain might be a spiffing idea. I won’t say anything about the… ah… beautiful scene in which a nearly naked Jacob saves a shivering Bella from freezing to death. There are some things one should not talk about.

I will, however, say a few words about the following scene, in which Edward is suddenly very keen on having a chat with Bells about their “top ten nights”. Luckily sex is not involved, that will have to wait for the next book, but their engagement is. And vroom, off goes Jacob into the forest with a mighty howl. Because, you see, Edward knew that our favourite puppy was still listening and he orchestrated all this so that Jake would hear about Eddie’s and Bella’s’ upcoming nuptials. Mind you, I am not forcibly interpreting any of this, he actually says so. And what does Bella do? She doesn’t smack him in the face, for one, which is probably a good thing seeing as she broke her wrist the last time she tried to hit one of her supernatural friends. She’s not even angry at him. Or disappointed. No. Far from it. She blames herself. Aha… I see. Mhm… why?

Bella, for some reason known only to herself, thinks that Edward is somehow infallible. Not only infallible, that is entirely the wrong word for it, but immaculate. He and everything he does, thinks and decides is always and unquestionably right. So when he tells her that she can’t visit Jacob on the reservation he’s not being unreasonable and jealous… Bella herself is being stupid and selfish and should be ashamed of even considering the option. Bad Bella! Sit! When he leaves her in the second book without much of an excuse or explanation it’s somehow, beyond doubt, her fault and he’s just being nice cause he’s, like, letting her know before he blows this joint. Bad, bad Bella! Roll Over! When he orchestrates a situation in which Bella’s best friend/lover/dog-of-choice overhears something extremely hurtful… wait for it… it’s Bella’s fault. Bad girl! Play dead! I don’t know if Edward’s overbearing controlfreakiness or Bella’s I-need-someone-to-tell-me-when-to-breathe-attitude nauseates me more, but I would assume it’s a combination of both. Of course I know where this tale of masochism and overlordship is leading – straight into wife-beating-land – but that’s, again, a tale for the next episode.

Well… Bella has been inconsiderate and evil enough to hurt Jacob and he runs off. After a while Edward takes it upon himself to fetch the dog back (in an ironic turn of events, I should say) and then sparky himself goes off-page to give our two love-birds some privacy.

Yes, you heard right, privacy from the man who can read minds. No… wait… don’t think about it too much, it will only make your head ache. (Question: If Edward reads the mind of someone who has a headache… ah, never mind.)

So, privacy, yes. Not too long after that Bella is sticking her tongue down Jacob’s throat in an amazing display of truly fucked up morals. Afterwards she feels bad and just for once I have to say: go for it, Bells! Unfortunately Edward doesn’t take the opportunity to dump her once he gets the good news fresh from Jake’s Technicolor memory, but we can’t have everything. What we get instead is a four (!) page long explanation of why Bella is the best thing since sliced bread had an illegitimate love-child with the internet. The conversation isn’t made any better by Bella’s frequent assertions that, surely, she is the scum of the earth and needs to be exterminated. We agree, Edward does not, and they almost have sex right then and there. But, alas, they aren’t married yet and just before the very fabric of the universe can be torn asunder by their dastardly deed Victoria shows up to eat Bella. Literally, not dirty-sex-joke-metaphorically.

A battle ensues, which really is nothing special, except that Bella once again almost manages to get everyone except Victoria killed by doing something monumentally stupid. As I said: nothing noteworthy happens. (But isn’t it just Bella’s and Edward’s darn luck, eh? They trek all the way out to the middle of nowhere and who do they meet? Victoria. Tsk tsk tsk… some people should never play the lottery, I guess.)

And that’s about it for Eclipse. There’s a funny scene at the end, but only because is says somewhere in the Book of Mormon that every novel needs to have one of those somewhere. Also Bella faints again, and once more no one seems to really care or mind that she did. I suppose that they’re used to it by now. Or maybe they’re all happy to get a few moments of peace between the endless bouts of wimpiness. Or maybe Carlisle has long since realized that she’s suffering from a bad case of eighteenthcenturyfemaleliterarycharacterism which will eventually turn out to be fatal (it always does!) and they don’t have the heart to tell the reader. Or maybe Stephenie just wanted to get in a joke about Alice being able to predict the length of her fainting spell down to the second… Far-fetched? Maybe, but it’s always a possibility.

Well… that’s it for now. I’ll be back soon with the final two parts of the Twilight Experiment as well as with a review of Twilight: Eclipse – now with more gratuitous werewolf nudity! over at Commentarium.