Eclipse: Dastardly Dueling Dirtbags Dully Debate Deserving Dopey Distressed Damsel

While reading Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, I expressed my annoyance to my sister that Meyer repeatedly avoided having any interesting conflict come up except for an easily-resolved issue towards the end, and how all the vampire slaying has happened offscreen. My sister told me that if I wanted to see action, Eclipse would be the book for it, apparently meant as the action-packed climax to the series.

To be fair, she was telling the truth; it is in Eclipse that that flirty but elusive creature known as Conflict is finally dragged kicking and screaming from whatever sordid bolt hole she hides in until most of Meyer’s books are mostly done and forced to deliver. Unfortunately, this is Meyer-level action, so my expectations were not high and therefore completely unsurprised with the results. This combined with the banal and stupid love story that Twilight is really about ultimately means I can safely declare Eclipse could be more accurately titled Padding. There is nothing in this book to justify it being a work in itself; for the most part, Eclipse is simply tying up the many loose ends New Moon left hanging in ways that could have been done in New Moon if Meyer hadn’t wasted so much space on Bella wallowing in self-pity. It also, of course, drags out the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob to wring every last drop out of the non-existent romantic drama Meyer appears to believe surrounds her foregone conclusion. We all know from the outset that Jacob has no chance in hell of changing Bella’s mind, so this book is primarily to wrap up the troubles with Victoria the previous book mentioned but did nothing with and to yank Jacob’s chain as often and as hard as possible.

As you might remember from the last review, New Moon left off with Bella reuniting with Edward after spending months on end being a whiny self-pitying wreck and leading Jacob on mercilessly. It is decided that Bella is becoming a vampire, but she’s still trying to wriggle the circumstances so that Edward will change her and do so quickly. Edward, meanwhile, insists she has to marry him before he’ll do it, otherwise she’s going to be waiting a while. Apparently, however, Bella is distressed by the idea of marrying at 18 right after graduating from high school, but not by giving up her mortal life and being stuck with the Cullens for the rest of eternity with no take-backs at 18 right after graduating from high school. The irony of fearing a completely token, reversible form of commitment while pushing relentlessly for a much more binding one appears to be completely lost on Bella. Now nearly done with High School, Bella demonstrates her complete lack of goals or ambitions besides turning into a vampire and getting Edward in the sack by continuing to dismiss the idea of going to college; she fills out some applications to keep Charlie and Edward happy, but the matter is clearly of no importance to her. She’s a little more concerned about trying to patch up her now extremely strained relationship with Jacob due to Edward’s return.

I mentioned in my New Moon review that Jacob was a pretty amiable character when he wasn’t in hostile “new werewolf” phase. That’s been chucked out the window in this book; Jacob is every bit as much of a sullen, unlikable jerk as Edward and Bella. Part of this is justifiable distress that his best friend is throwing her life away to join the undead mortal enemies of Jacob and his pack, but Jacob is made to act in a much more possessive, irritable, and arrogant way than his fairly lighthearted and easygoing self from the previous two books. I privately suspect Meyer’s indulging in a bit of character assassination here; realizing she made Jacob way cooler than Edward in the last book, she now drags a once-decent character down to Edward’s level to make our gloomy disco ball “hero” look good.

Victoria, Bella’s non-romantic stalker from the last two books, is up to her usual offscreen shenanigans as before, but it’s actually going somewhere in this book; having been repeatedly driven off by Jacob and his clan, Victoria is going around biting people to build up an army of berserker “newborn” vampires to even the playing field. As with most interesting elements of Twilight, this will only pay off rather disappointingly much later in the book. Before then, we are treated to Bella’s ongoing stagnant lust with Edward and her regulation to “human trophy” status in the escalating dick measuring contest between Jacob and Edward. The vampire and werewolf square off repeatedly, trading racial slurs in a way you really couldn’t get away with if you replaced “dog” and “bloodsucker” with, shall we say, “redskin” and “cracker” or some of the more colorful racial epithets polite society has left behind. Edward constantly invades Jacob’s mind and talks down to him much like he does with everyone else, and Jacob regularly tries to pick a fight with Edward. The rivalry is so heated I sometimes wonder if they’re really going at it so hard because they both “love” Bella that much or if they’re mostly pursuing her affections so fiercely just to spite each other. Bella, for her part, mainly meanders around hoping they’ll make up somehow but not really making much of an effort to make them get along.

Jacob may be taking a major hike in the Dirtbag Mountains this book, but his competition is Edward Cullen, who owns a winter home and three ski resorts there. So Edward naturally takes his creepy, controlling behavior up a notch to deal with a romantic rival that can actually pose a threat to him in any way. He forbids Bella from seeing Jacob, allegedly for her own protection, but to enforce this, he sabotages her car to keep her at home, has Alice kidnap Bella while he’s off hunting, and generally behaves like such a creepy, jealous ass that I still kept taking Jacob’s side when he commented that Edward’s behavior is inexcusable, but Bella keeps forgiving him.

Despite Edward’s attempts to keep her away from the werewolves at all costs, Bella is eventually able to convince him to cut the crap and let her come out to the reservation freely, so we get to learn a bit more about the werewolves and some of the rules concerning them. The biggest part of this is a campfire origin story for the clan’s powers that indicates that unlike normal werewolves, the powers of Jacob’s tribe are inherited rather than acquired traits passed down from Native Americans with magical powers that formed a connection with wolves. There’s also a bit about how werewolves and vampires first became enemies, including mention that a human woman wounded herself to distract a vampire so that the werewolves could kill it. Gee, a human woman unable to help in any other way wounding herself so that her love could defeat a female vampire out for vengeance? I’m sure THIS won’t come up at the climax of the book.

Subtle, Meyer. Really subtle.

From what we learn of werewolves from this book, it appears that Meyer is a big fan of an “all of the good stuff, none of the weaknesses” thing for her monsters; werewolves are not ordinary people with a curse passed on by biting and clawing but humans with the ability to turn into a bigass wolf and an unusually high body temperature. Also, they rapidly age to about 25 when they become werewolves and don’t age at all while they continue to shapeshift. Bella again shows us her childish fear of aging by throwing a massive hissy fit that only she has to worry about getting older. Because being a creature whose very existence defies the laws of nature is such a picnic compared to the idea of actually growing up, am I right?

Unfortunately, Meyer had to do SOMETHING that limited my opinion of Meyerwolves being infinitely superior to Meyerpires by loading in the creepy with “imprinting”. Imprinting, Jacob informs us through Bella, is when a werewolf sees the woman ideally suited to bearing his children and passing on the werewolf-ness to carry on the line of primal badassery and hopefully make it stronger. Instantly, and with no objections allowed, the unfortunate werewolf is promptly mind-slaved into single-minded obsession with this woman. Did he have a steady girlfriend and happy relationship before? Was he quite content with single life? Too bad, says imprinting, start making puppies with this girl. Being brainwashed into a relationship based on the best chances of stronger werewolves resulting is already pretty damn creepy, especially since the book seems to present the unfortunate victims as happy with their situation, but Imprinting gets worse when we find out it isn’t particularly discriminatory about its target. Quil imprints on a toddler, and will therefore be the perfect babysitter and big brother figure until she turns 18. Bella shows more sense than she usually does by finding this rather creepy, but somehow Jacob talks her out of being icked out that Quil has been mind-slaved into utter devotion to a two year old with the understanding that when she’s legal, his instincts will compel him to try and get her in the sack. No such luck with me, as I felt rather ill after reading this chapter. As far as the girl’s standpoint on imprinting goes, Jacob just comments “it’s hard for a girl to resist that level of devotion”. Meyer never exactly goes into what happens if the girl is adamantly against being with her imprinted werewolf (for example, a girl not thinking of the werewolf in a sexual way because he’s been like family to her SINCE SHE WAS TWO) or the sexual orientation of the werewolf and his intended don’t exactly match up. Simple devotion isn’t enough to justify sexual involvement for some people, and as Emily’s facial scars indicate, saying “no” to an imprinted werewolf is apparently quite dangerous. For a book hailed as a modern great romance by its fanbase, the Twilight series has some extremely disturbing ideas about love and courtship. Meyer has single-handedly ruined love at first sight forever.

Once Bella can see him alone, Jacob seems to waffle a little on whether he’s willing to commit to 24/7 jerkiness like Edward and Bella, and seems to show a little bit of his old, likable self when Edward’s not around. Until, of course, Jacob reaches the peak of Dirtbag Mountain and starts spouting off pseudo-stalker/rapist lines like “you love me, you just won’t admit it” and forces a kiss on Bella, who breaks a hand hitting him away. Apparently one creepy possessive stalker is enough for Bella, so she sticks with the one who is also offering her the chance to be a beautiful 18-year-old spoiled brat until the sun explodes and never work a day in her life.

After a while of Edward and Jacob one-upping each other in creepy, abusive courtship of Bella, we finally get to something more interesting as the much more likable side characters get to do their thing. We find out a little more about Rosalie and Jasper in this book; Rosalie was raped and murdered by her fiancé and his friends shortly before her wedding, and after Carlisle saved her, went on a bloody revenge vaguely reminiscent of Kill Bill. Jasper reveals that he was once a total badass that learned to fight in vampire gang wars in the South. Both of these backstories, like with Carlisle’s, are much more interesting than Bella and Edward’s story, but I’m pretty much resigned to every minor character being more interesting than those two by this point. The primary point of this information is that Jasper has dealt with plans like Victoria’s before, and so knows how to fight against gangs of newborn vampires.

The Cullens, who want to protect Bella at least partially so Edward won’t turn into a suicidal twatburger again, make a temporary alliance with the werewolves, who are obligated to protect Bella from vampires no matter how big a dope she is, so Jasper starts training both of them to deal with Victoria’s little army. This is one of the few times Edward is not far and away the most nauseatingly perfect person in everything Bella observes, and it was nice to see Chagrin McSparklepants unable to outfight Jasper even with his psychic cheating. However, there’s still the issue of what to do about Bella, and it’s decided that while Bella’s scent can be used to lure the newborns into a trap, Bella herself should not be there for the war (Bella missing all the good stuff because she’s utterly useless? Gee, there’s a shock) and the Cullens decide Bella should hide out on a mountain until it’s all over.

Before the fighting starts, of course, we still need to have some more pointless meandering around, so Bella keeps trying to renegotiate the issue of becoming a vampire vs. marriage with Edward. As I said, this is one of the only things they ever talk about besides how much they love each other, but then Bella decides to up her daily dose of stupid and asks Edward if he’ll have sex with her before he turns her into a vampire.

…I really don’t even know where to start with that, but let’s just go from what we’ve learned about vampires. One, vampires are cold, rock-hard, and extremely strong, so I’m having a hard time imagining something less erotic than losing one’s virginity to a rock popsicle with excessive force behind it. Two, it’s been mentioned that vampire hearts don’t beat; that means they have no circulation of blood in their bodies, which means that Edward couldn’t get an erection if he tried. That’s simple biology. Three, it’s been mentioned that a vampire’s fluids are replaced with the same venom that their bites inject when they fully change. That said, taking a load of venom to the most sensitive and vulnerable area of her body makes it seem like Bella’s asking for an extremely uncomfortable deflowering followed by a nightmarishly painful vampire transformation with no biting needed. Even Edward is taken aback by Bella’s desire have sex before she becomes a vampire, and points out that he is likely to hurt or possibly kill her, but since this is the way to get what he wants and have Bella marry him right away, he consents.

What a caring fellow.

For some reason, despite having Alice’s perfect weather prediction abilities, Bella hides out on the mountain during a frigid storm and starts to develop hypothermia because nobody brought along any additional heating to make sure the storm doesn’t kill her before the vampires do. Jacob, always ready to take whatever scraps he’s offered, follows the Boy Scout handbook and makes use of his body heat to save Bella. In a rather funny reversal of their ordinary situations, Edward gets a taste of his own medicine as Jacob rubs his superiority in Edward’s face instead of the other way around. As Bella drifts off, the two have some guy talk that would be considered bonding if it wasn’t them sniping at each other passive-aggressively and discussing how much they’d like to kill each other over Bella.

Edward, never one to suffer a defeat gracefully, takes the title as Reigning King Dirtbag of this book by manipulating Bella into discussing their incoming wedding just as Jacob is leaving for the battle, to Jacob’s intense dismay. Bella is for some reason horrified at herself and not at the guy who just brought it up to dick with Jacob, and tries to get Jacob to listen to her apologies. Jacob loudly considers suicide in battle to take himself out of the picture, and Bella tries to get him to stay by begging him to kiss her and admitting that yes, she loves him too.

Not enough to break it off with Edward, of course, but it makes Jacob happy, anyway.

Edward finds out about this moment and indicates that this was Jacob showing that he can fight just as dirty if that’s how Edward wants to play, but that might just be his massive jealousy talking. I’m still not sure if it’s jealousy that Jacob made progress with Bella, or that he’s jealous he didn’t think of fake suicide threats to toy with Bella’s devotion first.

Thankfully, the Dirtbag Contest is called to a halt as the fighting begins and Jabob heads off to fight the newborns, leaving the young werewolf Seth behind to help protect Bella. Victoria and her new right-hand man, a newborn vampire named Riley, come to the mountain to get Bella instead of fighting with the rest of their gang, and the first vampire fight Bella’s been around for starts.

Unfortunately, Victoria vs. Edward falls into the familiar “blurryvision” technique of Bella’s inferior human eyes being unable to follow it. We do get some action from Seth proving quite capable for his youth and kicking Riley’s ass, but Bella gets worried that Victoria is going to be too much for Seth and Edward and so fulfills the obvious foreshadowing by injuring herself to distract Victoria, just like the woman from the myth. Edward decapitates Victoria and burns her, and we find out that the Cullen/Werewolf alliance cleaned up down below without any trouble at all, unsurprising since the cool members of the Cullen clan and the werewolves were down there. Jacob was wounded, but this turns out to be a minor inconvenience despite Bella angsting over it. One of the newborn vampires, a girl named Bree, apparently decided not to fight, but this plot thread goes nowhere as the Volturi, who have been sitting on their asses watching this play out, send in a hit squad to rip Bree apart before departing as suddenly as they came.

In the conclusion, Bella visits Jacob, who points out correctly that Edward is being rather manipulative and that he would have been a much healthier choice for her if Edward hadn’t been in the picture. Bella accepts this and acknowledges that Jacob is her soul-mate, but Edward’s apparently on a tier above that. So she lets Edward put a ring on her finger and gets ready to get married and kiss mortal life goodbye as Jacob transforms into a wolf and runs off on his own, trying to bury his own humanity to deal with the loss.

I do not think New Moon and Eclipse needed to be two individual books. Eclipse was a ton of padding and stretching out the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob way longer than it had to be. I think if Meyer had cut back on Bella’s whining and some of the more pointlessly circular conversations with Edward and Jacob, she could’ve just had New Moon and Eclipse be a single, much more cohesive book and had the series as a more compact trilogy. Still, this is a book on its own, so I feel obligated to discuss its merits and lack thereof.

Character-wise, this book is once again only OK. Jacob lost a lot of his likeability once he had to compete with Edward for Bella’s affections, but we got a decent substitute with Seth Clearwater, who’s a good-natured kid that doesn’t buy into the mutual racism between vampires and werewolves and is just having a good time being a werewolf. Jasper really took the spotlight here for me by having a cool backstory and actually being something of a badass rather than a whiny prick like Edward. Not to mention he’s shagging Alice, which immediately indicates to me he’s the only man with good taste in women we’ve seen so far. He shows love and concern with Alice without it being as over-the-top and obsessive as most other romances in this story, and ultimately he’s one of Eclipse’s few redeeming features. He and Alice are probably the best characters and best couple in this series, although I still like Emmett for not taking the rampant melodrama seriously like everyone else. My respect for werewolves as a species dropped a bit with the introduction of Imprinting, but I guess they can’t really help it, so they’re still pretty decent overall.

I really didn’t think drawing out the love triangle central to this book was a good idea, however, as I didn’t really care who won or like any of the people involved. Jacob, Edward, and Bella are all arrogant, emotionally manipulative jerks who make each other miserable, to the point that I don’t so much root for any of them as hope they all die in a fire for being so irritating. Bella’s rampant self-pity, Edward’s creepy overprotective jealousy, and Jacob’s persistent refusal to take no for an answer means that all three characters are very unappealing to me. Am I expected to care that one emotionally manipulative smug asshole triumphed over another, often through underhanded means that made him look like the much bigger dick? I’m just not seeing it. Screw Team Edward and Team Jacob, I’m declaring for Team Kill It With Fire.

After reading this book, one might be excused for feeling a sense of relief. This must have been the worst, you might be justified in thinking. Even if Breaking Dawn is terrible, it’s a complete story in and of itself and brings this crap to a conclusion. It can’t be worse than Eclipse.

I too once thought as you did.

One Response to “Eclipse: Dastardly Dueling Dirtbags Dully Debate Deserving Dopey Distressed Damsel”

  1. .Alumina says:

    Accurately hilarious.
    Extra points for the awesome alliteration. <3 ~

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