Twilight

The_twilight_saga_hardbackYes, that one.  I’m still reading my next submitted book and got bored, so here’s an easy one.

First off, no, this is not a “let’s bash on Meyers” post — not intentionally, but as you can see this one warranted a Bad, so any Meyers fans who wish to might want to go sharpen their pitchforks and light the torches.

There, now on to the review.

Frankly, the sparkling vampires?  Kudos points, really.  It’s new, and different.  I can’t think of anyone else who decided to tinker with the vampire mythos in quite that fashion before.  It could have been pretty good — in fact, after reading what is available of Midnight Sun, the first book of the Twilight saga rewritten from Edward’s point of view is … mediocre.  Could even be awesome, but for the fact that I really must say that Ms Meyers could stand to think a little harder about characterisation.

Back to the actually officially published work, though.  It’s bad.  Normally I won’t review a book I couldn’t finish, but in this case I will because I couldn’t finish it, not because it wasn’t my cup of tea, but rather because it was so badly written that I could not bring myself to complete it.  Watching the movie was … an improvement as it avoided the narration.

You are given a young lady, Ms Bella Swan, who … how should I put this?  By page two you just want to slap the stupid out of her.  The first pages are, I believe, trying to establish her as the sympathetic protagonist — the character you’re really rooting for and all that.  I’ve never wanted a POV character to shut the hell up more in my life.

Frankly the trouble is this:  she’s upset because she’s moved to Washington, a part of it that apparently rains more than the Noah story in The Bible out near Seattle.  And she thinks it’s cold.  Also, she apparently has some form of albinism that doesn’t impact her hair and eyes — plausible, I’ve heard of it in other mammals, just not humans.  She’s upset because she doesn’t want to be there, yet she is there voluntarily.  The reasoning might be more believable if it weren’t for the constant griping about having done this which seems to go “oh look at what a tragic self-sacrificing person I am … woe and angst”.  It’s artificial in the extreme.

I will be the first to defend nearly any character in the world, in original fiction, as not a Mary Sue.  Why?  Because Mary Sue syndrome is supposed to only infect fanfiction characters.  I’m often inclined to make an exception for Ms Swan.  Why?  The narrative says she’s plain, boring, ordinary, and exceedingly clumsy.  The narrative shows remarkably beautiful and drawing the attention of all of those around her, remarkable in being rather unique in her reactions to the vampires, and the clumsiness seems to amount to “oh, now might be a good time for her to fall down” rather than actually presenting a klutz (believe me, I live with one, she laughed at Bella’s “clumsiness” not identified and empathised with it).  As I understand it, even at the end of it all, when she becomes a vampire … forgive the pun, but she takes on every mark of a sparkly Sue except for being in original fiction.

Enough about the poor characterisation — Bella’s the best example, but the vamps get a little hard to swallow, too, just not as bad.

Plot.  Oh, so Romantic, yes?  No.  Romance is not, necessarily, roses and candy.  It doesn’t have to be starlit walks on the beach.  No.  Borderline abusiveness, stalking, a deep rooted possessiveness, and a powerful urge to murder someone … it’s not terribly romantic by most standards.  Gothic, sure.  Romantic, no.  Midnight Sun presents an interesting basis for a great Horror novel.  Twilight is just a sad attempt at wangst and dwama.

Oh, but bad writing can sometimes be overlooked if the story is good enough.  As I just said, nope, didn’t happen.  Repeatedly you want to scream to Ms Meyers that there’s these little things call reference libraries, and Wikipedia.  Prime example?  The baseball scene.  Many people hate this because “Vampires don’t play baseball!”  — bah, get over it, I think it’s cute.  Original idea, but oh no, no no no, Stephanie, love — if they’re so strong and fast that they have to wait for thunderstorms to play it … well, you might want to remember that ordinary human athletes are wont to breaking the ball with a good homer off a fast ball.  These vamps would need to have made bats out of good solid metal, probably not aluminium, but steel or titanium, or similar and they’d need to be using something on the order of an old cannonball.  And I’m pretty sure a baseball game, regardless of the tools in question, doesn’t much sound like thunder.  To say nothing of the fact that, as I recall, that corner of Seattle isn’t prone to thunderstroms, a mix of the sea and the mountains.  I know Hawai’i rarely does for those very reasons.

There’re some fascinating other signs that Ms Meyers didn’t get a lot out of her Biology, Physics, and other classes as a youth.  I wouldn’t comment on this, I’m a SF writer who loves things where starships are making banking turns and going “whoosh”, but the difference comes in the fact that physics ignored and discarded is a whole other universe from physics misunderstood.  The former … well, how few people ever watch Star Wars and think “that ain’t right” about the fighter-craft scenes over the death star?  In this case, science was set aside for the sake of excitement and you enjoy it.  In the latter case … there’s explanation, both in the novel and in later interviews by the author.  It’s painful.   It really is.

Really, many many points for originality with vampires enjoying baseball, and the myths about dying in the sun being wrong — oooh shiny!  Supernatural/paranormal/horroresque romance with a bit of Destiny Born in the Stars … what the Hell, it worked for ol’ Bill Shakespeare, I won’t knock it.  Sadly, though, Stephanie Meyer runs amok with these ideas in a way that would be right at home on fanfiction.net, and would very likely have been invaded by the Protectors of the Plot Continuum.

If you can stomach bad narrative and poor characterisation in favour of unique and interesting ideas, and can put aside all you ever learnt about physics and biology, then pick this up.  Otherwise, I’d say give it a pass.

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The Mine

TheMine1John A Heldt has done a fantastic job with this story.

Great characters, amazingly interesting plot, excellent mix of emotions, terrific sense of humour. It’s all here.

Frankly I had exactly three complaints about this novel:

  1. There is no TOC for the eReader to work with.  I suggest remembering to use your reader’s bookmark function whenever you have to walk away, I’ve yet to find a reader or app that doesn’t sometimes forget your place on the next load.  Better safe than sorry with a book this long.
  2. The chapter layout was very strange.  Mostly it was a lot of very short chapters, but now and then there’d be longer ones with scene breaks.  I’d chalk this up to a stylistic thing, but I couldn’t quite fathom a rhyme or reason to when it’d be a three page chapter, or a chapter with three three page scenes.  Too, I find lots of little chapters a distraction because when I hit chapter 35, I don’t like discovering I’m only something like a third of the way through the book.
  3. The story mostly takes place in 1941, and the history is very well researched.  Usually, when I thought that an anachronism had cropped up, it turned out it was truth if rather obscure and unexpected.  There is one blatant exception and one nitpicking one.  The former:  he has one character driving a shiny new Plymouth of a model that was not first produced until the year after WW2 ended, yet this story takes place in the half-year leading up to America‘s involvement in that particular chapter of history.  The nitpicking?  It’s 1941 and he referred to “saddle-shoes” – according to my fashion expert it’s an incorrect usage so common as to beg the question of just how much longer it’ll be incorrect; it’s peeking around the corners of linguistic drift.  All-in-all, big deal.

I especially loved the end, it left tears in my eyes.  This story, most assuredly, deserves an Awesome!  

Don’t believe me?  It’s us$2.99 on Amazon.  Go.  Take a look.  You’ve nothing to lose except the cost of a … is that even the cost of a laté anymore or have those hit $5?

UPDATE: It turns out that, despite my very desperately looking for a 1941 Plymouth Deluxe Special, because I’m a HUGE fan of 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s era cars I could not find anything anywhere that said the line existed prior to 1946, but the author has kindly send me information on that very year model of Plymouth.  A perfectly stunning car:  http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1941-plymouth-special-deluxe-convertible.htm

The saddle shoes comment – I will apologise if I give the impression John was not diligent in his historical research.  I mean, even the car thing could easily have been a mistake (glad to know it wasn’t, such a pretty thing!) and the saddleshoes is really not a profound difference either.  From what I can gather the shoes in question for the characters in question are often, and this is considered incorrect to Fashion People but is common usage for The Rest of Us, called saddleshoes.  There’s debate if they were called that in the 1940s or if, indeed, anything was called that back then.  My fashion sources do say that the shoes existed before the 50s, though when exactly isn’t given, but Good Girls didn’t wear them till the 50s/60s and that it refers specifically to the types of shoes you’ll see on the Bobby Socksers in a good movie set in the 1950s.  John kindly provided the source for his side of things “saddle shoes”, but even trying to confirm it with people who were teens in the era got mixed answers.  Lending to a belief that, possibly, it is a regional thing to some extent.  History is a slippery subject because truth is such a tricky and confusing thing.  Facts, even facts within living memory, are not always perfect.  I know someone who bought toys in middle Tennessee in the 1980s from a common department store that all accounts of say was never sold in America.  So … please, do not misunderstand me.  one fashion reference and one year make of a car should never condemn a historical novel – we all make mistakes, and in Mr Heldt’s case, he didn’t even do that, Goggle merely failed me.

Cheers.