Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book revue: Breaking Dawn!!

I know, I know, what's a book review doing on the VIDEO Revue blog? I can justify this for three reasons:
1.) The first book in the series is being turned into a movie
2.) Breaking Dawn has caused the biggest debate for SM's fans since Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward (though that's mostly over now...R Pattz ftw!)
3.) It's my blog.

Warning: The following section contains MAJOR SPOILERS. If you plan on reading Breaking Dawn in the future, stop now. Here is me, at my rambling-est.

Breaking Dawn breaks all of the rules. It departs very strongly from the first three books in the series. Fans either love this, or they hate it. Stephenie spent three books building up all of the conflict and (sexual) tension, and has one book to resolve all of the issues. This is probably why BD clocks in at over 750 pages (Short attention span? Check out my fanfiction, "Breaking Dawn Condensed"). Things move in Breaking Dawn. They move really quickly. For example, by page 85, Bella and Edward are on their honeymoon. Sorry, Team Jacob, the wedding really happens! And, yes, they (ahem) consummate their marriage. If the "morning after" scene isn't proof enough for you, Bella's "mysterious illness" definitely is. Yes, kiddies, when a woman and a vampire love each other very much, they produce a baby! A rapidly growing, soul-sucking, half-human-half-vampire.

When Bella announced she was pregnant, I had to put the book down in shock. Usually, once I start reading, I can't stop. The last time I put a book down in shock was during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when I read, "Lord Voldemort had returned." It sent chills down my spine, and I had to stop reading to catch my breath.

Unfortunately, discovering that Bella was pregnant was more of a "Huh?" reaction. And I had to catch my breath because I was laughing so hard. I'd like to believe that Stephenie has never been to Fanfiction.net, or at least not recently, because every time you turn around, you see ten more new, badly written "pregnant Bella" stories. Everyone knows that vampires can't have children! Ah, but that only applies to vampire women, Bella swiftly concludes. Becoming a vampire freezes you in time, and women's bodies need to change in order to carry a child. But apparently, since men are never too old to knock somebody up, they can impregnate human women. Of course, nobody knew this before because vampire+human=dead human (unless vampire=Edward).

And that's when things get really strange.

Stephenie breaks another unspoken Twilight-saga rule, and changes the book's narrator from Bella to Jacob (Bella's werewolf almost-love-interest). Jacob and Edward become unwilling allies as they endeavor to save the woman they both love from the evil demon baby. For her part, our heroine is yet again hell-bent on killing herself to save someone (in this case, the baby). When Jacob sarcastically suggests that the fetus needs blood, the other vampires conclude not only that Jacob is exactly right, but that Bella must drink it. I'm sorry, but what's wrong with hooking her up to an IV? Bella (who, up until this point in the series, gagged at the sight of blood) begins chugging the stuff like it's Diet Coke.

Bella knows that her options, if she lives to carry the demon thing to full term, are to either die or become a vampire. But since she's been hoping for vampirism since Book 1, she figures everything will work out all right, even with the "birth" happening like that scene from "Alien." You know, with the thing in the guy's stomach? Yeah, that one. Don't think an epidural will do much for that.

The day before her scheduled "V-section" (vampire C-section), evil demon baby decides to come out early. The birth, as predicted, is deadly. Bella's last human words are to bestow upon her daughter the unfortunate name of...Renesmee. (Note to expectant parents: Do not combine the grandparents' names to create a wonderful new name for your child. It's just weird.) I was honestly convinced that Stephenie had just killed Bella (even though she'd gone three books without killing a major character). As Jacob runs from the room, intent on killing the badly-named demon child, I'm sure Team Edward broke another unspoken rule and rooted for Jacob. But, yet again, everything works out: Not only does Edward's emergency transformation successfully turn Bella into a vampire, Jacob immediately imprints on evil-demon-thing. (Imprinting, for the non-Twilighters, is a concept invented for Stephenie's werewolves. It's basically discovering your soulmate, and--since her werewolves don't age--is acceptable even with an age difference. At this point, Jacob's feelings for Renesmee are nothing but paternal.)

In the next chapter, we're back to Bella's perspective, as she describes the pain of her transformation and opens her vampire eyes for the first time. The "inspired by bad fanfiction" theme continues as Bella discovers that she is nearly immune to the scent of human blood. Not exactly immune, but she's got super-self-control. Oh, and super libido. Never fear, the book stays strictly PG-13; while there's plenty of "before" and plenty of "after" there is no "during."

Bella thinks her life is pretty great, which of course means everything's about to go to hell. Psychic-vampire Alice sees that the Volturi are coming to kill the Cullens. Bella's perfect life seems about to be over. But wait! There's still hope! They have time to gather a large company of other vampires, who are willing to stand with the Cullens (though, of course, they're hoping it won't come to a fight). There are quite a few chapters with the vampire cavalry. I like them; Stephenie gets a good bit of character development in there, and I can imagine shoot-off stories for several characters.

We also meet a man named J. Jenks, who is the Cullens' personal forger. Alice, in a final cryptic message before disappearing to save herself from the coming apocalypse, told Bella to find J. This is so Bella can get "papers" for her daughter and ex-boyfriend-slash-daughter's-soulmate in case they don't die. J's an interesting character, but in my opinion Steph could've cut this entire section out. As it turns out, the fake passports are never needed.

To make a long story short, Bella saves the day. She uses her vampire superpower (shielding) to protect her family and friends from the Volturi's mental attacks. The Volturi, faced with the prospect of their first fair fight in a few millennia, conclude that it's really better to just let the Cullens alone. And then they all live happily ever after, along with Alice, who didn't really betray them (long story, and this review is too long already).

Halfway through BD, I was convinced that I would hate it. But I ended up loving it; Stephenie redeems herself in the end, and her epic Gothic fairy tale has a fairy tale ending. I guess I'm just a sucker for happy endings. Despite all of the strangeness and grossness (and this book is stranger and grosser than the first three combined) Stephenie is a good-hearted person. Her books are primarily hopeful. She takes the un-original concept of "pregnant Bella" in an entirely original direction (I completely expected Renesmee to be an evil demon baby, a la "Jasmine" from Angel). I didn't know what to expect from Breaking Dawn but I certainly didn't expect anything that happened. Stephenie has said that she was unfamiliar with the vampire genre when she began writing. I, for one, think this is a brilliant idea. It proves that you really can take the "vampire" concept anywhere you want to.

It is infinitely harder to end a series than to begin one. The ending must meet the readers' expectations, but at the same time leave them not wanting more. Essentially, the final book is the writer's chance to go all out. This means different things to different people. For JK Rowling, the final book was her chance to kill off a different character in every chapter. Douglas Adams needed three "final" books to his Hitchhiker's trilogy, and the FINAL final book ended with an apocalypse. Stephenie used her final book to open up a whole new world of strangeness, which fans either find too strange or see as a transition to another series (which she's hinted at). I hate predictable books; BD is anything but. It is a bewildering but ultimately satisfying conclusion to the Twilight saga.

Except for Renesmee. I still hate that name.

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