The Best Superhero Story Isn’t A Comic Book (or a Film)

TL;DR: It’s actually this, an online serial novel entitled “Worm”.

Taylor Herbert is your average ordinary high school girl. By day, she gets picked on by the mean girls. By night she’s a superhero.

Okay, so not so average ordinary.

Under the alias Skitter, Taylor basically smashes her way through a whole host of villains, making Squirrel Girl and Superman look like elementary school dodgeball players. And she does this with only two powers: 1) she senses all bugs (insects, spiders, worms, &c) within several hundred feet and 2) she can control the bugs she senses within the same radius.

The whole thing is a massive (and I do mean massive) deconstruction of the entire superhero genre. It hits all the standard notes: worldwide superhero league, supervillain prison, a team of incredibly dangerous supervillains, existential monsters that make enemies like Doomsday and Galactus look like tutorial bosses, a multiverse….

But I really shouldn’t say too much, because there are a ton of twists and turns to the story. Suffice to say that this novel takes all those common superhero elements and delves into why they exist at all: where did these superpowers come from? Why are those with superpowers so prone to voilence — either causing it as supervillains or fighting crime as superheroes?

Worm also has hands down the best superpowers in the genre, considering not only just the powers themselves, but the changes to a person’s mind and body that such powers would require. Taylor, for example, gains a huge boost to her ability to multitask to compensate for her need to constantly micromanage the army of bugs under her control.

The author also adds two useful categories for superpowers: Tinkers and Thinkers. Thinkers are supers with great mental powers, such as telepathy and prescience, but also things like super-analysis. One character, Tattletale, is basically Sherlock Holmes. Tinkers, then, have access to advanced technologies so far advanced that no one else is able to even repair the things they build. So in this world, people like Iron Man and Batman are justified in not mass producing their great inventions simply because they can’t.

I should warn that this story gets really dark. Lots of characters die, some in very horrible ways. There’s also quite a bit of cussing and a little sexual content.

That being said, if this post hadn’t already thoroughly implied as much, I very much suggest reading this. It’s amazing and beautiful, and is more than just a good superhero story but a good story in general. The thought put into this is phenomenal.

In case you missed the top, click

here

to read.

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The Twilight Review, Part 6

And now for the post you’ve all been waiting for.

Bella

There is a term in literature for a character who has a perfect life and is a perfect person. When that character is female, the character is called a “Mary Sue”. Consider this description of Bella: she has loving parents who stereotypically don’t understand her, she’s incredibly smart and intelligent, everyone at school loves her, and she’s dating the boy of her dreams. There’s only one drawback: she’s clumsy (but only in gym and when she thinks about it). Despite all this, Bella hates her life, hates her school, and cries in her car after what I would have considered a rather successful (albeit awkward) first day of school. Her life is fine, but she seems to have some pent-up hate against it for some reason.

Compounding on this, though, is Steph’s poor skills at characterization. As I stated in part four of this review, traits must be shown, not told. We are told rather consistently that she’s smart, and shown once or twice, but her character seems to contradict that completely. I would expect an intelligent person to be less controlled by her emotions, and act more logically, or at least think things out. Instead, we get pages and pages on how beautiful Edward is, and how much he “dazzles” her.

I suppose, though, that one could argue that how quickly she figures out Edward’s not human points to her intelligence. And to some degree, it does. But only his demonstration of his super speed when he saves her from Tyler’s car. I know I would be questioning him about it as much as she would.

However, I wouldn’t come to the same conclusions as she does. Almost immediately, she guesses he’s some kind of Marvel superhero. It’s almost as if she wants him to be supernatural.

A word on urban fantasy. In this genre, the main character is thrust into some underground society of mythological figures. However, it usually takes a bit for the character to accept that what he/she has seen as fiction for most of his/her life really exists. For example Neo, from The Matrix, even after waking up in the real world and then being introduced to the Matrix, still has trouble handling reality. Percy, from Percy Jackson and the Olympians, doesn’t accept the existence of Greek myths until it’s all explained to him by Chiron and Dionysus – after he’s discovered his best friend has goat legs, his teacher turns into a fury, his other teacher gives him a ballpoint pen sword, and he kills a minotaur. In Harry Potter, Harry doesn’t accept that his parents are wizards and that he is too, until Hagrid zaps a pig tail on Dudley and explains Harry’s family history. I like to compare it to converting to a different religion, often because the worlds of urban fantasy so contrasts with the general understanding of how the world operates.

What about Bella, though? How much does it take her to accept that vampires exist? What does she encounter with the supernatural?

Well, just a super-fast movement from Edward (not very convincing), a ghost story involving the Cullens (mildly convincing), and some comments that might be stretched into creating a theory that Edward can read minds (not convincing). Hardly anything compared to Percy or Neo, or even Harry. At least these three see hard evidence for the supernatural world. It’s almost as if Bella wants there to be a supernatural world, since she’s so insistent on her “superpowers” theory after Edward saves her from the car wreck. Plus, I don’t know how she gets “vampire” from all this. The only thing pointing to a classic vampire is Jacob’s story. And, of course, I don’t know how she even theorizes that Edward can read minds.

A word on character flaws. Clumsiness is a poor excuse for a character flaw. First of all, it’s rather cliché. Second, it has absolutely no relevance to the plot. Consider Harry Potter: he’s rather mediocre, but this allows his strengths – his friends and his unique talents – to shine. Percy Jackson is impulsive and not very scholarly, and this gets him in trouble. Or, since Twilight is a romance novel, think about Lizzy Bennet. Her prejudice is what keeps her from finding love in Mr. Darcy. Emma’s folly as a matchmaker causes most of the conflict in her story. And that’s really the difference between these memorable characters and Bella. Their flaws help define them, and affect the movement of the plot. That’s just not true with Bella.

What I think her real character flaw is, is the control her emotions have over her behavior, even more than Edward. At least his love for Bella makes him try to be a better person. Bella goes from hating cloudy days because she prefers the sunlight reminiscent of Forks, to loving cloudy days because it means she can be with Edward. And then her favorite color becomes dependent on the color of his eyes.

Speaking of eye color, Bella keeps track for weeks and weeks on Edward’s. Now, I understand that it would be natural to be suspicious of someone because they have an odd eye color (as in this case), but I once tried to keep track of my friend’s eye color, and I only succeeded for three or four days. Perhaps I had too much else on my mind, unlike Bella, who seems only to have Edward on hers.

Sometimes, Bella’s emotions make her downright dangerous. Especially to herself. As I mentioned in part two of this review, she takes off a neck brace after the car accident. Later, when she’s tired, she takes cold medicine in order to fall asleep. Yes – instead of doing what she did last time (heavy metal slamming into her ears), or trying something safer, she takes unnecessary drugs to make her fall asleep. I’m surprised the overdose didn’t kill her. (Granted, this could just be liquid medicine, but even so, that sets an awful precedent).

Bella also seems to have a problem when dealing with people. You want to know how Jacob Black even enters the love triangle? Because Bella flirts with him in order to get him to tell her a local ghost story, about how his grandfather made a treaty with the Cullens. While packing to run to Phoenix, she concocts the perfect plan to get Charlie to “let her go”: tell him she hates his guts. She even uses Renee’s parting words. What a low blow. Has she considered telling him the truth? And if that’s not possible, why not just announce she’ll be gone? Perhaps on a camping trip with the Cullens. It just annoys me that Bella parts with Charlie in the most hurtful way possible. I bet he cried afterward.

But it wasn’t until Bella was lying in the hospital for the second time that I realized the awful truth: neither Bella or Edward learned a single thing, or grew at all, over the course of the novel. This is a problem, because there was quite a bit of room for growth. Bella is still too pretentious to think she needs to be in the hospital, and Edward wants to leave Bella to protect her, still. I know that this is the first part of a series, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of growth. Katniss Everdeen suffers from PTSD following the first game, and develops a reluctant relationship with Peeta. Harry Potter obtains the Philosopher’s Stone and learns the value of friendship, courage, and love. Percy Jackson becomes a confident, hardened warrior. Lizzy Bennet abandons her prejudice and finds she can love the humbled Mr. Darcy. Bella Swan … finds out she really does like Forks?

So that’s Twilight. I’m supposed to get to the rest of the series, but I’ve realized I have about 1,500 pages to go, and the first 500 in Twilight were rather difficult to slog through. So don’t expect anything soon. In the meantime, I’ll be putting up plenty of short fiction, so please stop by and enjoy it.

The Twilight Review, Part 5

Part two of characterization. Friday, we’ll delve into the real meat of Twilight – Bella. Next week Tuesday I’ll start posting some short stories.

Edward

I think Edward is Spider-Man. Why? Let’s compare the two. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, changing his genetic structure to enhance his physiology. He then develops muscles, but is probably pale because of all the time he spends out of the sunlight. Additionally, he likes this one girl, Mary Jane, but doesn’t want to get with her in case his heroics lead to her capture or death.

Edward, on the other hand, is bitten by a vampire, changing his genetic structure to enhance his physiology and mental capabilities. He then develops muscles, and is excessively pale, on a level comparable with albinos. Additionally, he likes this one girl, Mary Sue – I mean, Bella – but doesn’t want to get with her in case his nature leads to her capture or death.

Also, Bella’s first theory on how Edward got his “superpowers” is that he is Peter Parker.

The main difference between these two is that Pete goes around the city saving lives, fights devious supervillains, and eventually decides to date Mary Jane anyway.

Meanwhile, Edward hangs out with his family at a local high school, doesn’t want to be a monster, and has the option of turning his girlfriend into a vampire like himself. Seriously, that meme – Edward Cullen: could use time immortal to research cancer, goes to high school a billion times and seduces a 17 year old girl – rings rather poignantly.

Quite honestly though, he doesn’t quite “seduce” Bella, at least not intentionally (but more on that when we get to Miss Mary Sue later). I mean, how can you seduce anyone you incessantly tell is crazy, dumb, or dangerous?

Additionally, there are some confusing logistical scenes in this book, but none compared to Edward’s feelings for Bella. Essentially, he tells her that “I want to be friends with you, but you shouldn’t be friends with me”. What? I wasn’t aware friendship was a one-way relationship.

Edward seems to be largely guided by his emotions. I think this is supposed to go with the fact that he’s physically a perpetual teenager, but he’s about a hundred years old. He should have grown up somewhat in all that time (especially since he spends his days playing piano, listening to music, and learning new languages, although this latter one is never delved into at all). But no, he continues to drive recklessly and let his heart decide what to do when Bella is on the line.

Seriously. After James threatens Bella, she, Edward, Emmett, and Alice take off in the Jeep. Edward, able to see what James was thinking, obstinately insists the only way to save Bella is to run as fast as possible. How rational. Especially compared to Emmett’s plan to kill James (which is what happens anyway – and what Edward eventually resigns himself to). But I would think Edward would be the first to realize that the only way to beat him would be to fight him head on.

Aside from the creepiness of watching Bella while she sleeps (more on that later), he’s just a bad role model. After carrying Bella piggyback through a forest fast enough to make her sick, he later insists they do it again. In the meadow, he shows off his powers and abilities to her, basically telling her how weak she is compared to him. I thought that speech was the villain’s job. It’s like a soldier saying to his girlfriend, “You see this gun? I could kill you with it if I wanted to.” That’s not someone I would want to date, or even be friends with.

Part 6 here.

The Twilight Review, Part 4

Characterization!

Most of my grievances with Twilight lie in the area of characterization. Which is why I’m splitting this section up into segments. In the first, I’ll discuss Steph’s characterization in general. Introduce some of the more minor characters you’ve never heard of, and probably never will. Wednesday will be all about Bella, followed by Edward on Friday.

A word on character development: show, don’t tell, and show early. If, for example, we’re told a character may be an artist, that’s something we need to learn soon after she’s introduced, rather than a couple of chapters before the climax. Seriously, I don’t know how good of an artist Alice is. I’d expect her to be talented, if Bella can recognize a scene from her visions, but that’s only an assumption. Maybe Alice is just adequate, or bad. But show us early!

This is the unfortunate trend with the entire Cullen clan, though. None of them are significantly characterized until at least chapter fifteen, and even then Emmett and Rosalie are relegated to stereotypical jovial jock and jealous beauty queen, respectively. And the Cullens are the most important characters in the series!

Speaking of the Cullens, despite the fact I kinda like Carlisle, I have a serious issue with him. Specifically, his propensity to disregard free will. He turns people into vampires without consideration for what they really want. Consider Esme, who was killed through suicide. Do you really think she’d want to come back, even as an overpowered vampmeyer? Please, Carlisle, let them choose whether to die or to become a monster.

At the beginning of the novel, Meyer introduced three characters: Bella, her mother Renee, and her father Charlie. I found I liked Bella’s parents much more than I liked Bella. Part of this might be due to the presentation of the characters. Almost from the beginning of the story, Bella is complaining about Forks. I think the only time she displays positive emotion is when she is comforting her mother in the airport, and when she thanks her dad for getting her a truck. Meanwhile, Renee is presented as a mother bird who wants to keep a close eye on her chick, and Charlie is presented as a poor, lonely man excited to have his long-lost daughter come to live with him.

However, by chapter two, most of this positive representation evaporates when Steph depicts an angry email from Bella’s mom, revealing a terribly overprotective side to the character.

Charlie’s character took a similar turn for the worse. Apparently, after sixteen years of living by himself, the only thing he can took is bacon and eggs. So, naturally, Bella begins cooking. And apparently, she’s a great cook, which leads to an odd arrangement between the two of them: Bella cooks the meals and buys the food and washes the dishes. In other words, she acts as a housewife.

By page 12, Bella arrives for her first day of school. Here, we are introduced to fifteen new characters. Don’t worry, though, only eleven will be mentioned by name at a later point, only nine play some part in the plot, and seven are the Cullens. All in all, that’s a total of eighteen characters introduced over the course of the chapter. I think the only book I’ve heard of that could beat that number might be Game of Thrones.

In fact, most of the characters in the novel are rather gratuitous. Consider the car wreck scene. Initially, Steph introduces us to three students: Mike, Eric, and Jessica. However, who is the one to nearly kill Bella? Tyler. Who had no previous characterization or introduction, and surprises us even more than his uncontrollable car. Additionally, Eric fades to nothing soon afterward, and Mike and Jessica are relegated to a sub subplot.

Even worse, Steph tries to show us other characters from Bella’s school, who have little more characterization than Tyler or Eric. Angela is a tall, quiet, nerdy girl who seems only to exist in the book to make Bella look compassionate. Lauren exists only to antagonize Bella when the guy she likes, Eric, falls for Bella. Fortunately, by chapter thirteen, most of these characters have faded to nothing, and receive a brief note in passing in the epilogue. I guess my biggest question about them is why Steph bothered to include them in the first place.

I think though, that all this leaves out room for characterizing the really important people in the novel, namely, the Cullens. As I mentioned, Emmett, Rosalie, and even Esme are relegated to stereotypes; Carlisle isn’t characterized much, except as the wise leader of the group; Jasper just sits around quietly and wanders around with Alice. Alice is the only other Cullen to have a personality, besides Edward. I actually kind of like her – because she’s realistic, and rather bubbly.

And then, of course, there’s the bad vampmeyers. Laurent (the “olive-skinned one”, which apparently means he’s black), turns out not to be so evil. Victoria is only described as feral. It’s a good thing that James’s characterization makes up for the lack of it in the other two (that seems to be a thing with vampmeyer groups). He actually seems smart, with his strategy to get Bella. However, he’s described as physically “normal”, which seems to once again contradict the idea of the vampire (see part one of this review).

Largely, all these characters seem only to exist to complement the main characters. At least they are heavily characterized. However, I don’t know if you’d necessarily like them once you get to know them…

Part 5 here.

The Twilight Review, Part 3

Okay, I lied. I completely forgot to post my analysis of Steph’s writing style. That was supposed to be Part 2, but it must have gotten lost amidst preparations for the upcoming family reunion, and everything that implicates. So characterization will have to wait until Monday, which is rather convenient, because I have a lot to say about that topic, and it just seems to work better if I can keep all that over the course of one week. Anyway, here’s the review of Steph’s style.

Style

I am fairly certain Steph is a teacher. All her sentences sound like they were copied out of a middle school grammar textbook. While I have nothing against grammatically correct sentences, they often come at the cost of something even more important: flow. Most middle school grammar textbook sentences lacked flow, and that was part of the reason they sounded dumb. Or else, of course, they did flow, but that only made them sound worse. Consider that the story begins with this sentence: “My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.” While it flows very well, the prepositional phrase is completely irrelevant. Why should we care the windows were rolled down?

The dialogue is even worse, for the same reasons. Consider the following sentence:

“We must head them off at the pass!” Tom said swiftly.

Compare that to this:

“We must head them off at the pass!” said Tom swiftly.

I challenge anyone reading Twilight to find an example of either of this in any of the books. Seriously. Every piece of dialogue is almost exactly like the first example. Now, it may not seem like a big difference, but add in about five or six additional replies from other characters, who are all named, and if there isn’t any diversity, it gets old fast. (And dialogue that doesn’t include identifying the speaker doesn’t count – I’m talking about all the “he said” “said she” parts of the dialogue. Fortunately, Steph didn’t add those to everything anyone said.) While reading, the dialogue had been just grating on me. It felt dumb. It wasn’t until I came to Chapter 22 when I realized how bland it was – just due to this issue.

Also, based on the word choice, I would not have known this was meant for pre-teens. There were multiple occasions, spaced about every fifty pages or so, when someone would use a word that just felt out of place – generally because it was such high vocabulary. If you’re writing a book that uses words a 12th grade AP Lit. graduate doesn’t understand, you’ve got problems. It’s stuff like this that has me convinced Steph is a teacher. Additionally, quite a few words didn’t fit their connotation. Consider this sentence: “He shook his head indulgently” (pg. 273). Yes, I understand (sorta) what she’s trying to say here, but it still confuses me.

But not only is the word choice bad – the subject choice is too. During many parts of the story, Steph devolved into a diary mode, mentioning the petty things that happened to Bella in school, which usually had little relevance on the plot. One thing a writer must never state is, “The rest of the week was uneventful” (pg 37), especially when the writer goes into detail about that week immediately afterward. This section of the story had several paragraphs and sentences that were not conducive to the plot and would have been better left unmentioned, like how her gym class or Trig class went. Granted, Harry Potter often had swaths of text on how his school year was going – but we actually cared there. Partially because he wasn’t necessarily very good at his school work. The reason I never cared for Bella’s Trig class was because it was seldom mentioned, and she was depicted as doing outstanding in school. Like it was a breeze for her. Furthermore, whenever a specific class was mentioned in Harry Potter, what he learned that day had some relevance to the plot. In Twilight, classes are at best used as a meeting ground between a couple characters, like Bella and Edward, or Bella and Jessica, or Bella and Mike.

I would like to state that there is no “Preface” in this book. According to the dictionary, a preface is “a preliminary statement in a book by the book’s author or editor, setting forth its purpose and scope, expressing acknowledgment of assistance from others, etc.” The page entitled “Preface” is a teaser. It contains a passage about Bella standing opposite some “hunter” (presumably a vampire) about to kill her, while she reflects how she doesn’t want to die this way, but she feels it is worth it.

This scene never takes place in the main story. There is never any situation that even suggests something like the “preface” occurs. Perhaps it is intended to be a scene from a later book in the series, but then I would ask why it was included in the wrong book.

But it’s not just the “preface” that has title issues. The chapter names are equally bad. They either mention something only briefly discussed in the chapter (Carlisle is only mentioned in the very beginning of Chp. 16), or else is a phrase or word used by one of the characters in a conversation (Mind over Matter, Impasse, Open Book, etc.). Other chapters give a very vague concept of what is included in them (Invitations, Complications). Only a few actually give a good idea of what will happen in the chapter, like The Cullens. Meyer seems to have taken a leaf out of JK Rowling’s books with the special letter fonts, but she seems to have missed the more important leaves about good chapter titles. Consider the following: “Diagon Alley”, “The Potions Master”, “Quidditch”, “The Man with Two Faces”. Each quickly describes precisely what will happen in each chapter, without spoiling the plot.

Part 4 here.

The Twilight Review, Part 2

The second part of the Twilight review. Part 3 on Friday, where I’ll discuss Steph’s characterization. But now, how about the plot:

The first and most painfully obvious problem with the plot is Bella’s reason for coming to Forks. She incessantly thinks about how much she hates it, and so it is honestly confusing to wonder why she is there at all. It isn’t until fifty pages it (during chapter two), that she explains herself.

Later, in chapter three, Bella almost gets in a car crash, when Edward miraculously saves her, showing off his vampiric super-speed (more on that later). I immediately found myself perturbed by two problems with the plot. First, Bella is completely unharmed by the wreck. Yes, I’m aware Edward got in between to rescue her, but I still find it hard to believe that she came out unscathed. She even has a neckbrace on!

Second, Bella acts as though she she wasn’t hurt. This wouldn’t be so bad, except she goes so far as to take off the neckbrace. There’s a fine line between thinking you’re fine and being stupid, and Bella crossed it. Especially because she merely feels fine – for all she knows, taking off that neckbrace could kill her. Additionally, I don’t know any teenagers that, after almost being in a wreck, would think they were fine. The shock of almost being in a wreck should make a teen compliant enough to trust the doctors and to not do stupid things like Bella does here.

Later, she has a love-triangle dream. While dreaming she is in the woods, Jacob warns her to flee from something, and then turns into a wolf (lol), whereupon Edward appears, baring fangs. Despite its obvious relevance to the plot, it too was unnecessary, because it was too relevant to the plot, basically laying it all out.

Speaking of love-triangles, though, there are precisely four in this novel. Four. Even worse is that they all revolve around Bella. First, and most obvious, is the Edward Bella Jacob triangle. This is the best, and deepest, of the four. The other one, that works as a sort of sub subplot, is the triangle between Bella, Jessica, and Mike. Yeah. Jessica likes Mike, who likes Bella. The other two are one between Bella, Eric, and Lauren, and one about Tyler’s obsession with the girl he almost hit with his car. Granted, the last two don’t play out much, except to give Bella a couple villains in school, but they ultimately add nothing to anything.

The plot of the first half of the story is rather slow. I understand that there is little action in a romance novel – I’ve read Pride and Prejudice (and Zombies), and I’ve seen most of the films made from Jane Austen’s novels, as well as a few other romance films. But in those, they never waste any scenes, and they don’t bring in characters that turn out to be worth nothing to the plot. Unlike Twilight.

The chapter that brings the slowness of the plot, or the bad pacing, was “The Game”. In the last bit of the chapter before that, the Cullens had been talking about playing baseball. But so little of this chapter actually contains baseball. Only about two pages. And all that eventually degenerates into Meyer telling us how it finished. Come on! Esme was telling us how vicious the Cullens can get over a game! I want to see how intense this family can get! But instead, the most intense parts are just glossed over!

Now, I do understand the need to put Billy’s (Jacob’s dad) warning about the Cullens in somewhere (that is, if Bella had cared), and give the Blacks another scene, and that this chapter was probably the best place for it to be – long enough after their last visit, but still before the conflict hits – but it just seems a bit contrived, especially since it’s right in between two scenes with the Cullens.

The only bit of the plot that impressed me was James’ (the evil tracker vampmeyer) plan to capture Bella. But then he just blew it. I understand the need to monologue, to explain one’s genius plan to someone who will get it, but right before one carries out that plan? The most memorable monologue for me was Ozymandias’ in Watchmen. After telling Rorschach and Nite Owl his plans, the great superhero then reveals that he’s already enacted them.

James, however, despite his low view of Bella, explains his entire plot to her, and then partially records it on video. All the while, Monty Python is shouting “Get on with it!”, especially since he only thinks of Bella as food, and hardly as some equal confidante.

Additionally, the idea that James was once after Alice seemed almost too coincidental, to the point of contrivance. Anyway, why would anyone want to kill someone able to see the future? It seems as though Meyer thinks it necessary to explain everyone’s origins, especially those with the most mysterious beginnings. Some things don’t need to be explained, particularly if it’s unimportant to the plot.

Anyway, I’m not convinced James is dead. Jimmy Blevins has more evidence toward his demise than James the vampmeyer. At least he had a gunshot or two. All James had was perhaps an implied decapitation. Yet we never even see his body. All we have is Edward’s word.

Part 3 here.

Twilight Review, Part 1

I’ll be issuing parts of my review of this…novel…over the course of the next couple weeks, mostly because I have far too much to say about this 118,000 word, 500 page work to sum everything up in one post. Part 2 is due for Wednesday. Enjoy!

In a novel, there are four major things to consider when discussing how good the novel is. First is premise, the background of the story and how it fits into the writing. Second is style, how it was written. Thrid is plot, what happens in the story. Fourth is characterization, how the characters feel. And Stephanie Meyer (how about we call her Steph?) has plenty of failures in all four.

Premise

The fourth page of the book contains a passage from Genesis, Gen. 2:17, creating the symbolism with the cover of “the forbidden fruit”. Meyer seems to be trying to equate Edward with the “forbidden fruit”, which seems rather silly.

The idea of the forbidden fruit is something that is seductive, but damning. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil tastes good, but it causes death. Meanwhile, Edward Cullen is seductive, and good for Bella Swan. There is no way Bella would end up in Hell for going with Edward. I don’t understand how this symbolism is supposed to work.

Anyway, that has little relevance on the novel. What does, is that in a single scene, Meyer destroys a thousand years of vampire tradition. Granted, she still keeps the whole “vampires = sex” symbolism, but she’s added so much to it that they’re unrecognizable. Dracula could never sparkle in the sunlight, nor did he have super speed or super strength.

Effectively, Meyer has turned the traditional vampire into a god. Think about the Greek gods: they were super-people, with super-strength and other capabilities, they had powers unique to each individual, and they demanded sacrifice from humans. Sounds like Meyer’s vampires.

It also sounds like Mormon symbolism, with the whole “after you die, you get your own planet” stuff. But I’m not particularly familiar with Mormon symbolism, so I’ll pass on this point (mostly).

Additionally, why do the vampires even need these superpowers? Isn’t their seductive charm enough? (Well, not all the vampires are seductive, but that’s a different issue. Of course, Alice is a vampire, and she’s been described as “elfin”. That doesn’t seem particularly vampiric or alluring).

Well, most vampires don’t actually have alluring features. The bad vampires are the evil-looking ones, the ones with plain features. They have “sinister” burgundy red eyes, rather than the beautiful gold of the Cullens. Why on earth does Meyer distinguish their diet with their eye color? It’s like saying my hair is brown because I eat chocolate. Anyway, it seems counter-intuitive that the vampires that eat humans are the ugly or “sinister” ones, rather than the vampires that have no interest in harming humanity.

Adding to the whole “vampires are gods” thread is the idea of just how invulnerable these creatures are. They can’t be killed great heights, they can’t starve to death, and they don’t need to breathe. It seems as if Meyer has been trying to make the vampires slightly scientific, but giving them superpowers, and telling us they don’t need to eat or sleep or breathe throws it back into fantasy land. Way back. I don’t know how she expects us to believe that they don’t need any form of sustenance to survive.

In fact, this separates normal vampires from the ones in Twilight so much, that a new term must be used to describe the vampires in this book. I think “vampmeyers” would be a good one.

A famous writer once said that you must allow a writer one premise per story, and see how he or she works it. Any more, and you are free to criticize. Meyer’s unquestionable premise is vampmeyers. On top of that, however, she has a couple shaky premises.

The biggest is the vampire super-powers – specifically, the Cullens’ powers. I can accept that there are prophetesses in a world with vampires, and that a person’s amazing empathy might be amplified as a vampmeyer into telepathy, or his charisma might be amplified into the ability to influence and feel emotions.

What I cannot condone is Bella’s mind-shield. I can accept a human prophetess, but a mind-shield borders on poor writing. Not even Edward or Jasper are described as having their powers as humans. So why does Bella? It just seems to be a poor plot device to force Edward and Bella to operate as a normal couple, and single her out for him.

Bella’s personality and solitude from society is another premise I can’t buy. When she lived in Phoenix, she never had a single friend, or at least none worth mentioning or contacting from Forks. Furthermore, when she gets to Forks, she makes friends with a group of girls (on day one), and every boy in school falls in love with her.

My brain cannot conceive how this kind of thing would be possible, unless she had a major personality shift between Phoenix and Forks (which she doesn’t – at least, until she meets Edward, but more on that later).

Part 2 here.