Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Corner: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

1/3 Really Good Book, 2/3 Why Does This Exist?

This book has had me at a loss for several years now.  I've heard so many negative things about it that kept me away, yet at the same time, people whose opinions I respect all say that it was a perfectly fine or even "good" series of books.  Two of my friends, fellow authors, actually love the series highly.  So here I've been all these years, unable to reconcile this conflicting information.  How can such smart and highly creative people love something so bad?  I knew even back then when the Twilight craze was at its peak that I'd be reading the first book of the series one day to appraise it firsthand.  Here's that review.

Twilight is a mixed bag, that's for sure.  After struggling through the first 25% of the book, I was certain that I would be giving it a 1 star by the end.  That feeling stretched on well past the halfway point of the book.  This is mainly due to the spotlight here being on Edward and Bella's dull, slow, tease of a relationship if you could even call it that because it was mostly just Bella being desperate for the attention and affection of male model Edward Cullen whose appearance she couldn't go more than one paragraph commenting on.

So, we get to the major problem with the book, the two main characters.  Boring Bella, Bland Edward, and their unappealing romance.

The premise is ridiculous from the start and immediately puts me in opposition of Edward and the romance that the book presents.  Why would a person over 100 years old want to spend their time as a teenage student?  College I could understand, but the thinly explained reasons for his enrollment in high school just do not add up.  Doesn't matter if he looks like a teen, spending so much time amongst teens is just creepy and creating and maintaining that farce would be more complicated than less, one would think.  And then you must ask why would that 100-year-old be interested in a 17-year-old young woman?  Edward is supposedly cultured and well-traveled, so why Bella?

The book gives a few explanations, but they don't really do much to help me root for Edward.  First is the fact that Bella has an old soul in a figurative sense.  If it were literal I could give it a pass, but it's more personality based.  That's told to us rather than shown, because Bella oftentimes comes off as the single-minded petulant teen that she is. The second reason is that Edward is drawn to her gothic looks (tall, pale, raven-haired) and the third reason is that he (and many other vamps) are attracted by her scent which is revealed by the bad guy at the end to be a unique floral scent.  I'm sure later down the line, it'll be revealed that Edward and Bella are soulmates or something like that, because for now the reasoning for their pairing and how extreme Bella's feelings for Edward are feels flimsy.

Bella's attraction to Edward appears to be nothing but shallow and surface level, which is proven in how all she talks about is Edward's physical appearance.  It's especially egregious in the first half of the book, but it barely lets up towards the end.  It doesn't help that Stephenie Meyer's descriptions are often inelegant and redundant.  Bella often takes the time to describe Edwards clothes, cars, and the Cullens' expensive possessions in great detail giving the impression that she's largely interested in image and status above all.  Worse than all that is the fact that it is a plain case of insta-love.  Bella is more-or-less head-over-heels for Edward as soon as she sees him.  She covets him before she even knows him.  She aches for his attention before they even introduce themselves to one another and for the most part their relationship stays this one-sidedly obsessive until Edward reveals his feelings, then it becomes two-sidedly obsessive and even more creepy.

An excerpt of an Edward and Bella conversation:
"I was curious about you."
"You spied on me?" But somehow, I couldn't infuse my voice with the proper outrage. I was flattered.
"What else is there to do at night?"
"How often?"
"I come here almost every night."

In that excerpt, Edward basically admitted that he breaks into her house on a nightly basis and watches her sleep.  This was just after they'd started dating.  I thought Edward was a creep before, but this put him over the edge.  I'm not saying that Twilight needs to feature moral characters doing things in a way I deem right, but I am saying that this makes me not like Edward and or this romance.  The fact that Bella finds this flattering is just weird, but I digress. I already knew they were two weirdos and that's fine.  I just don't want to read about them and so I struggled with the first 300 or so pages of the book, often putting it down for more entertaining affairs.

The Turnaround

Stuff starts getting interesting in chapter 13 when we finally get around to some in-universe vampire lore and cool tidbits surrounding that.  We also get some glimpses into Edward's past and how he was made.  The boring romance stuff takes over again until chapter 15 and that's when the book really takes off for me, especially when the Cullens are introduced.  It essentially took 312 pages to get to the good part of the book.

The Cullens are a breath of fresh air to what was so far a book filled with cardboard characters--from Edward, Bella, all the way to the nondescript supporting cast of bland humans.  The Cullens injected life into the book and the personalities and backstories of Carlisle and his family weren't earth shatteringly unique, but they were interesting to read. That may be due to the plainness of the other characters which help the Cullen family stand out more.

From there we get a superpowered baseball game during a thunderstorm that's predicted from the psychic vamp, Alice and we are introduced to a villain who brings some actual tension and stakes to an otherwise mundane book.

The end of the book was suspenseful and packed full of dangerous consequences as the villain, a vampiric hunter with a hard-on for Bella, put the group, especially Bella herself through their paces.  The weakest part of the end was the fact that we didn't see the actual rescue because Bella was unconscious.  As quickly as the danger hit its peak, it was instantly resolved because the heroine couldn't witness it.  I think a quick Edward POV would've done wonders here, but I digress.  After so much fun, I didn't even mind the refocus on Edward and Bella's romance.  After such stakes, it suddenly felt a little more interesting to me.

My final thought is that even if I was a big fan of books in the romance genre (there are some I really liked), I could not forgive those first 312 pages of this book.  Those pages exemplify what most people who haven't read the book think of Twilight.  I say that because I was one of those people and I did think those things.  Now that I've read this book, I can see why well-read people say it's good.  Certainly, the last 186 pages were.

As far as scoring goes, I've been all over the map with this book.  The first 312 pages were worthy of a 1 star, but the last 186 deserved much higher.  I was tempted to give it a 3 overall, but then dropped it to 2.5 due to the weaknesses of the first part.  After some deliberation about the ending, which also had its flaws, this one sits at a solid 2 for me especially when I consider the multitude of amateur errors that Mrs. Meyer and her editor have overlooked.  If the book literally started from page 312, I'd score it at a 3.5 even without the context given from previous chapters.

All that said.  I am interested to see where the series goes and may at some point continue it.  For now, I have a ton of books that I can't wait to read.  Twilight by Stephenie Meyer proved to be a surprise for me and that deserves some credit.

The Good

+Vamp lore and consequences are interesting.

+Edward's backstory is kind of interesting.

+Chapter 15 was good with its spotlight on Carlisle and the Cullen family.  He and Edward vaguely remind me of Joshua York, a character from a better vampire book called Fevre Dream.

+Chapter 16 was also really good with history, mood, and a good length.  Didn't even mind Edward and Bella here.

+Every chapter after 15 was enjoyable.

+A viable and fitting threat as the villain.

+The Cullens

The Bad

-No real mystery throughout the start of the book.  Everything is either spelled out or easy to figure out.

-The supernatural parts feel tacked on for the first half of the book.  It all takes a backseat to the "romance" aka Bella's thirst.

-Instead of feeling supernatural, the book often feels like a teen superhero book.  You could easily call these vamps mutants and this would be an X-Men soap opera.

-Despite just getting to know Bella, Edward divulges vital secrets to her that could put his family and his very kind in danger if revealed.  He even tells her how many vampires there are and where they can be located.

-Missed opportunity with the off-screen rescue.

The Cringe-inducing

-Book would flow better without the constant descriptions of Edward's appearance and how he constantly takes Bella's breath away with his every action and how he electrifies her with every look.

-Unimaginable repeated metaphors like in chapter 13 when Bella says Edward is "like stone" about 6 different times.

-Bella's vapidness.

-Edward's reasons for stalking Bella to Seattle are tenuous at best and seem to be inserted to glaze over a plot hole.  His stalking method was also creepily elaborate.

-The stalking gets even worse when Edward breaks into Bella's house and spies on her during while she's sleeping.  To top it all off, she's flattered by it.

-During their isolated trip to the forest, Edward still wasn't sure he could control himself around Bella as he later admits to her.  So, he essentially puts her life in danger to prove a point to himself.

-Bella's intense thirst.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Dragon Ball Fanboy Finally Loves Dragon Ball Super ... Why?

If you're new to the blog, then you probably won't know about my "A Dragon Ball Fanboy vs. Akira Toriyama and Toei" posts, of which I have many.  You can find them with a simple google search.  Those posts are usually directed at Dragon Ball Super's many missteps and missed opportunities.  But lately, I've found myself enjoying Super more and more, but why is that?  Well that's just what I'm here to explain.

By Rondon2020

It started with the Future Trunks/Goku Black arc.  The darker tonal shift to the series was awesome starting from Trunks' very first appearance. Black was a formidible and epic villain that I loved to hate with the most complex motivations of any DB villain to date, and it was nice to get another hero character other than Goku and Vegeta who was reasonably useful in combat.  That's all it took for me to stop skipping episodes and entire arcs of the show (Golden Frieza and Pontefidoodoo arcs).  Now the Goku Black arc did still have plenty of plot holes and face palm moments mostly to do with Trunks' new Gary-Stu tendencies, some time travel spamming, and those last three or so episodes of the arc, but overall I must say that I enjoyed myself immensely.

I've always thought that Super's slice-of-life episodes were the best thing going for it since the beginning and so I enjoyed those 9 weeks of "filler", but what surprises me is that the run up to the Tournament of Power is just as good and there seems to be a consensus that Super is hype as hell right now and why is that?  It's the sub-characters stupid!  I imagined I was saying that to Toriyama san (respectfully of course) and Toei's staff.

By: M-A-N42

First off the new characters are still pretty cool.  I think Toriyama san has always had a way of introducing new characters that get you invested just from their appearance alone.  The Trio of Terrors was a very interesting addition with some cool abilities.  Then there are the many many new gods introduced and characters like Toppo and Jiren, but again Toriyama is good at hyping new characters up.  Just look at the Supreme Kai and Kibito when they were introduced.  But what really shocked me was their treatment of Buu and Gohan in those skirmish matches, which was much better than Piccolo's treatment in the U6 tournament arc.  The fights were amazing to see and gave me much hope for the Tournament of Power until I heard they only had 48 hours to prepare.

But then we get some great episodes of Goku recruiting his 10 man team.  He starts with his best friend Krillin and Krillin's powerful wife, #18.  We are also taught the rules of the tournament, which will involve more strategic thinking and cooperation over brute force.  This gives weaker though more experienced characters like Krillin a chance to actually contribute in the upcoming tournament and not only that but Krillin is shown to have powered up significantly as well as developed powerful new techniques.  Where the hell was this development all along?  I love it!  They even put a nice bow on Krillin's overall arc.  His weakness was all in his mind.  His PTSD from getting killed by the likes of Tambourine, Frieza, and Majin Buu placed mental blocks on him and diminished his fighting spirit which limited his power all these years.  It was great to see him break those limits and stand toe to toe with Goku.  There's some controversy with him clashing beams with Super Saiyan Blue Goku but it's well documented that Goku was holding back in this fight.  Krillin's strong as hell, but he's not at that level ... yet.

The next big surprise we get comes from Buu who in two hours has transformed and gotten a lot stronger.  This was kinda silly and reminded me that the 48 hour limit was pretty dumb.  I like that the characters are getting stronger but feel they could've done this a lot more organically, like having them train before big events like this comes up, you know, so that they can reasonably keep up.  It's not like the Earth is at a loss for planet destroying bad guys.  You'd think they'd all prepare more.

Buu aside, we got another HUGE surprise in the form of Android 17 who's debut in Super was by far the most hype debut in the show since Future Trunks showed up and bodied Mecha Frieza.  #17, now stoic and pessimistic, is a nature lover.  A cool fan interpretation of this is that he became this way due to 16's influence.  Anyways, 17 bodies a bunch of heavily armed poachers and we see that he can pull his punches well due to those poachers not exploding into a fine red mist.  Goku recruits him, #17 isn't interested and then they fight.  To my and millions of other people's utter surprise #17 bodies Super Saiyan Goku.  He Smash Brothers punches him all the way above the clouds where a hurt Goku powers up to SSB and they continue their fight.  Goku uses Kamehameha, #17 uses that broken Barrier of his and effortlessly blocks the beam.

The blast explodes and #17 flies out the smoke to clash with Goku and we learn that both have been holding back their full power.  Just like that, #17 is a power player in the series again.  Amazing!  There's a lot of questions with the scaling at the moment, but I don't even care.  We have useful characters in the show, other than Goku and Vegeta and I freaking love it!  It can't get any better than that right?  I'm sure that my hype must go downhill from here, this is usually where they mess things up.


Two words: Episode 88.  Great episode.  This episode was good for so many reasons.  #1, it was a well written training episode between Piccolo and Gohan that gave a big spotlight to both characters, developed them, and set them up to be useful in the future.  #2, it fixed many of the issues the hardcore fans had with power scaling because now we know just how strong both Piccolo and Gohan are when before they were utter enigmas due to inconsistencies in previous arcs and movies.  #3, it has moments for other characters like Krillin, #18, Marron, Vegeta, Bulma, Trunks, Goten, Beerus, Whis, Cabba, and two new characters.

So right off the bat the episode began with training and to my surprise my favorite character, Piccolo, who's been treated like such trash lately is actually giving Gohan a hard time and Piccolo STILL HAS HIS WEIGHTS ON.  We cut to #18 vs Krillin and get some confirmation that Krillin is still below her, which probably means that he is below Super Saiyan tier, unless #18 got a lot stronger.  We get back to Piccolo and Gohan and see that Piccolo has greatly improved in strength sense the last few times we saw him fight.  He's trashing normal Super Saiyan Gohan and putting up a stellar fight against Super Saiyan level 2, but here we also get some really good development of Gohan.  Piccolo, wise mentor that he is, gives Gohan some advice that was really in-depth and insightful.  This showed me that Toriyama or possibly the writers at Toei really do know these characters, their flaws, and their weaknesses.  The show felt more real then than it has in a really long time.
Piccolo's advice pushes Gohan to evoke his inner warrior and Gohan unleashes his power in one large burst that parts the clouds and sends Twilight glitter all over.

Gohan has his hair bang back and his hair is black and guess what?  He's stronger than he's ever been.  He and Piccolo go all out and this ultimate version of Gohan casually chops off Piccolo's arm.  Piccolo, clever fighter that he is, takes the opportunity to trick Gohan into letting his guard down and blasts him in the back with his severed arm, an ability we have never seen from him.

Piccolo regrows his arm ... and they continue fighting until nightfall.  Incredible!  Piccolo, who was terrified of Fat Buu and Super Buu just a few years earlier, is training with someone who is leagues above both of them in power.  

It truly is a great day to be a Dragon Ball fan!  Then Piccolo tells this ultimate Gohan that his power can rise even higher and they agree to train some more and develop some team attacks.  Just WOW!

This is what's been missing this entire time since the Androids saga, maybe even before.  I think this is the best that the sub-characters have been treated, for some of them since Dragon Ball.  Next episode looks to do more of the same and with the recently released spoilers of Super Episode 90, it looks like Super shows no signs of stopping this amazing streak of sub-character development.  If there is one thing that makes Dragon Ball what it is, it's the characters, and when time and care is put into developing the majority of the fan favorites, it makes for a much more enjoyable show for all.  Now we all have something to look forward to every week and I love it.  Til next time Dragon Ball fans.