Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Moon (Part II of the Twilight Review Series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Fantasy, or "Teen Paranormal Romance"
Original Pub. Date: 2006

To catch up with Twilight before reading this review, see Part I of the series.

I wouldn't say that New Moon, the second book of the Twilight series, was actually the most boring read of my life. It wasn't quite a page-turner on the level of Carl D. Meyer's 2000 thriller Matrix Analysis and Applied Linear Algebra, but it did contain slightly more action than Karl Marx's Das Kapital*; New Moon has at least two chapters worth of plot to fill out its 563 pages.

During pages 1 through 358 inclusive, 1) Edward goes away so that Bella can have a normal human life without him, 2) Victoria (an evil vampire) is hunting Bella, and 3) Bella's stereotype-Native American friend Jacob turns into a werewolf. Since point 2 was already established in the first book, that one doesn't count. That leaves us with "Edward goes away" and "Jacob is a werewolf." The first had to happen, or else New Moon would have been precisely the same as Twilight. The third was painfully obvious in the first book when Jacob told Bella all about the legends of his ancestors turning into wolves to fight vampires. I guess I have to count it, though, because if I don't, this book really has no purpose at all. Wait, hang on a second . . .

Then, on page 359, Bella jumps off a cliff into the ocean because she has hallucinations of Edward's voice telling her to be careful when she does something dangerous.** This makes complete and total sense from both psychological and narrative perspectives, as I'm sure we can all agree.

After many dull pages of Jacob rescuing Bella from the water, Edward's sister Alice shows up on page 378. Apparently, Edward found out Bella had jumped off a cliff but didn't know she survived (you don't need to know how this happened; trust me, you're happier this way), and decided to go to Italy (?) where there's a nest of ancient vampires who run a city, though no one notices this (!?), who bring in groups of tourists to feed upon, which no one notices (!??!), and step out into the sunlight, thus revealing himself as a vampire (wait, couldn't he just be some asshole in glitter makeup?), and thus induce the ancient vampires to come and kill him. In public, where you'd think that a gang of glittery dudes in monk robes mobbing some shiny American teenager and ripping him limb from limb might add somewhat to the conspicuousness of the situation's oddity. Or not. OK, guess they know best and all.

On page 452, Bella stops Edward from running out into the sunlight. Not coincidentally, the back-of-book spoiler quote also appears on page 452***, aka the first page on which something finally fucking happens.

Then there's some nonsense with the Italian vampires, who tell Edward and Alice that they have to turn Bella into a vampire, because she knows too much.

But wait, you say, doesn't that mean that she gets turned into a vampire and therefore, something really exciting happens? Hell no. They just talk about it, because this is a Twilight book. Get with the program.

On page 476, we finally learn something more about Bella beyond her tendency to probe the depths of her own navel. Turns out, like Edward with his mind-reading and Alice with her ability to see the future, Bella has a special special gift of her own: no one else's abilities work on her. Yep, she's such a black hole of talent that she's not just useless herself, she is the cause of uselessness in others: she makes other people less cool just by being in their presence.**** I can't say that came as a huge surprise.

The remaining 87 pages contain nothing but Edward and Bella being reunited, sitting and talking about being reunited, discussing the implications of their reunion (primarily, that they are reunited), and occasionally walking somewhere while reunited and talking about how united, re- or otherwise, they are. It's not boring at all.

To sum up the plot: charitably, let's allow Edward's departure 20 pages, Jacob's big reveal 20 pages, Bella's cliff experience 10, the rescue of Edward from his own poor planning another 10, and the Italian vampires yet another 20. These are pages on which things actually happen that living, sane people who are awake and not in a coma or mentally deficient might conceivably want to read about. So what about the other 483?

Simply put:
After Edward's departure, Bella shuts down, shunning her friends and going through the motions of her life. It's, like, so sad. She feels, like, like she has a big gaping hole in her chest, a hole that, through constant repetition, becomes both suggestive in kind of a perverted way and gross in an I'm-now-regretting-picturing-that sort of way.

The hole is introduced on page 118:

It was a crippling thing, this sensation that a huge hole had been punched through my chest, excising my most vital organs and leaving ragged, unhealed gashes around the edges that continued to throb and bleed despite the passage of time. Rationally, I knew my lungs must still be intact, yet I gasped for air and my head spun like my efforts yielded me nothing. My heart must have been beating, too, but I couldn't hear the sound of my pulse in my ears; my hands felt blue with cold. I curled inward, hugging my ribs to hold myself together. I scrambled for my numbness, my denial, but it [sic] evaded me.

So, she knew rationally (??) that her lungs must still be intact. OK. Her heart was also beating, that's good, but I'm a little concerned that Bella (or Meyer) thinks that one could hear one's pulse with an organ other than the ears. Or maybe Bella typically hears with some other organ, like a kidney, and that was one of the excised vitals? Can hands feel blue? Oh, God, I'm so confused. Either that, or this is the worst description of a terrible mushroom trip I've ever read.

Ready for the rest of the ragged hole montage?

But what if this hole never got any better? If the raw edges never healed? (124)

The hole came back, the way it always did when I was away from Jacob, but it didn't throb so badly around the edges. (193)

The pain twisted in familiar patterns through my body, the jagged hole ripping me open from the inside out, but it was second place, background music to the chaos of my thoughts. (267)

I'd thought Jake had been healing the hole in me -- or at least plugging it up, keeping it from hurting me so much. I'd been wrong. He'd just been carving out his own hole, so that I was now riddled through like Swiss cheese. (273)

And that is where the metaphor officially took a turn for the wrong, wrong, wrong, and just kept getting wronger:

The hole -- holes now -- were already aching, so why not? (276)

I twitched as the pain lashed around the edges of the hole. (347)

I could feel the ghost of the hole, waiting to rip itself wide again as soon as he disappeared. (507)

That's by no means a complete listing of Bella's holes, simply the ones on pages I marked as particularly noteworthy while reading.

Along with the holes, the unused 483 pages of the book contained a few more gems. If you read my previous review, you may recall that Bella had some problems with with undefined things that were stronger than butterflies in her stomach. In New Moon, the butterflies get serious:

Butterflies assaulted my stomach as I thought about turning my head. (376)

And eyes are unwilling:

I glanced at him, ripping my unwilling eyes off the Mercedes. (379)

And, last but not least, this quote from page 558, which perfectly sums up the whole New Moon experience:

"Never," I whispered, still locked in Edward's eyes.
Jacob made a gagging sound.

One and a quarter stars.

Coming soon in the blockbuster Indiscriminate Reader Twilight Review Series: a comparative analysis of Twilight vs. Fifty Shades of Grey and reviews of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. In other news, I'm drinking more than usual.

* New Moon doesn't contain the phrase "means of production," either, which gives it a small edge. Then again, no one moans about their stupid boyfriend in Das Kapital. Maybe I'll call it a wash.

** This is a minor quibble, compared to other quibble-worthy material in the book, but I kept thinking throughout New Moon that it would turn out that Edward really was talking in her head, since he's actually psychic and you know, that might be kind of marginally cool? But no. It really was all a hallucination, because they're so in love that she knows what his voice sounds like or something? Dude. By that logic, my dentist, Morgan Freeman, and the guy who does the Jack in the Box commercials are all my true loves.

*** Alert readers may recall that Twilight's spoiler quote was on page 195. This book is therefore 257 pages more pointless than the first, which seems about right to me.

**** Twilight itself functions in the same way. Don't believe me?

See? Not even James Dean could pull this off.

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