Monday, October 12, 2009

A sane adult's review of the Twilight series

The heroine of Twilight, Bella, spends 90% of the narration and dialog navigating a love triangle between herself, a werewolf, and a vampire. She does this with copious pillowtalk that, to my 13 year-old daughter, sounds epic and dreamy. Bella second-guesses herself, doesn't realize she is in love with the competing lover until he forces himself on her and she has time to reflect on it. To sum up the pillowtalk of book 3, Eclipse:

Edward: "I'll wait for you to figure out what you want, but them werewolves is dangerous and you should stay away."
Bella: "Cool, but I'm going to hang with them anyway, because I'm mad at you for not having sex with me until we get married."

Jacob, after pinning Bella and kissing her roughly: "You like that, don't you, bitch?"
Bella: "No, damn it! How could you? Drive me home right now.... Actually, I liked it quite well; let's do that again before you go off to get injured in battle."

Edward: "Hey, if you want him instead, you know, knock yourself out."
Bella: "I don't know, you're both so big and strong, but you're in front of me right now, so I'm yours, bebbeh, as long as you promise to do me just before you turn me into a vampire."

There, with those adjustments, the book could be condensed to about the length of a short story, a novella at most. And here's the shocker: It would be fantastic. The mythology in this series is very impressive, much to my surprise. The characters are very close to psychological archetypes - Edward is an Arthurian knight, with a knight's noble love for the queen, just barely suppressing his manly urges, sacrificing all for the sake of duty and rightousness. Jacob is a Viking, fighting with his small group against stronger opponents with greater numbers, sure of the futility of his efforts, but valiantly fighting to his inevitable doom. Bella is the mystery of the void, a siren to the undead, immune to their magical powers, the pure being that both sides want to protect from the evils of the other. She is Thumbelina, smaller and weaker than the beings that fight over her, questing to find the right prince to marry so she can become Maia.

Beyond that, the backstories of the characters and their clans is rich and interesting. The werewolves are native Americans who were once "spirit warriors" who could spook enemies into giving up, and through misadventure (which I won't spoil too much, just in case), one of them loses his body and possesses a wolf, and through some hoodoo gets it to transform into a man. One of the vampires was involved in turf wars between warring factions, said wars put down by an overseeing group that works to prevent the public from learning of the existence of the undead. Newly made vampires are rich with the strength of their old human blood and tissue until it is all used up, and are ravenous and inconsolable until then. The werewolves are hive-mind telepaths when in wolf form, and are invisible to prescience. Most vampires have a single special talent, empathy, telepathy, prescience, etc., that can be used in combination to make interesting storylines.

If only. If only the focus of the books was the wonderful mythology and backstories, and not the love triangle and the pillowtalk. If only the significance of the "Third Wife" to the final battle wasn't foreshadowed so obviously earlier in the book. If only Bella's insightfulness actually sounded insightful - rather it was straightforward deduction that only those without any exposure to adventure stories couldn't see coming a mile away. If only the final denouement wasn't full of whine and fail.

The series is in some ways a travesty, specifically, the heroine is a terrible example for young girls. In other ways, it is artistic and fun, and written in an intelligent and enjoyable voice. The author can write good stories, and she can write good dialogue if it is unrelated to the main love triangle, and she has moments of pure genius - enough to make me gut through the entire book. The final product is only sad and lacking because the genius is overshadowed by what preteens would consider sophisticated romance. They may miss the subtlety and beauty of the mythology, and people like me really have no stomach for the bad attempt at romance and the insecurities and indecisiveness of the heroine.

Were it not for the obvious popularity of the series, I would declare this a book without an audience. As it stands, it is perfect for my daughter, who is brilliant in her own right, able to appreciate the side stories and the histories, and who is curious about romance, but not fully knowledgeable about it. (I hope.) It is also perfect for me, as I listened to the audiobook while driving, and was fully able to zone out during the mushy stuff and concentrate more on the road; and without having high expectations, I was thrilled when there was a real story in there behind the facade.

In other news

Liberty and I went back to the range with the Barretts over the weekend. I managed, after being sloppy and all over the place my first couple times at bat, to hit a headshot, one in the red, and one bullseye at 40 feet with a .357. Liberty hit the target in the throat and right in the bullseye her first two shots with a .44 - a gun that I found upsetting to shoot, taking home a sore hand with a bruised thumb. After two visits to the range, I'm gaining a little familiarity and comfort with handguns, and a lot of respect for marines and their ilk who can use iron sites to hit a can at 400 yards, and other insane feats of marksmanship.

After running through several targets and a couple hundred rounds, we took aim at Zombie Chuck here, where he took a couple in the teeth from the .44, but I'm not sure based on the injuries that he wouldn't have made it to bite one of us. The headshots just don't look clean enough. Bad gun for zombie hunting.

We also found a new favorite hangout if you've got money to burn and want some greasy food and good brew: Barley's. We tried a beer sampler including such fun items as the Nitro Russian Imperial Stout (thick, dark, and creamy; the caramel macchiato of beers), the Ali Ali Ale (hoppy, but not overly bitter), an IPA, and others I'm drawing a blank on. They also had some kick-ass bar food: onion rings, sausage rolls, pulled pork, and sauerkraut balls to complement the normal bar fare of wings and fries. Good place for a double-date -- hint, hint.

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