Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
Meyer: I have this random character who is so obscure and receives so little airtime that if you've only read the original novel once you won't even remember her. But I'd really like to tell her story.
Publisher: Oh, so you'd like to finish her story for all the fanatic readers who obsess over every little character and wonder what happened next?
Meyer: Well, no. Because I killed her off at the end of the few pages that she appears in. So there is no "next." I want to tell her story that led up to her death.
Publisher: You mean, give her personal history so that we understand better how she came to make the choices that led to her tragic end?
Meyer: Sort of. Actually, I don't care about her personal history that much. Mostly I'm just going to focus on the couple of days leading up to the death scene. You know, the scene that readers are already familiar with so they know it won't end well for this character. And I'll be sure and introduce a lot of new characters too so that the reader is even less invested in what's going on.
Publisher: I see. And you really think that people are going to buy this novel?
Meyer: Well, it's not a novel exactly. Really, it's just a teeny little indulgence. I could easily just publish it online as a treat to my die-hard fans, but why not try to make a few bucks by piggy-backing onto the success of my previous series? Go with the black, red, and white color scheme and you've pretty much covered my kids' college tuition right there!
Any other author wouldn't be taken seriously, let alone granted a nice hardbound publication of their little pet project. But any other author wouldn't be Stephenie Meyer, with printing houses falling all over themselves to publish her next work, even if it's just last week's grocery list. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy reading The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. It was short and fast-paced and I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon. But I'm afraid Meyer's fame has made her lazy and as long as it's so easy to coast on her previous success, she doesn't have any reason to work at developing her potential as a writer. (Potential which, while it exists, is still very rough.)
But back to Bree. We first meet Bree Tanner at the end of Eclipse after the fight between the Cullens and Victoria's army. Bree is a newborn vampire who apparently doesn't want to fight and surrenders to Carlisle. But when the Volturi come on the scene, they don't honor the surrender and she is quickly disposed of. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner shows us her life in the few days preceding the battle. We see what it's like to be a newborn vampire and her chaotic and fearful life in the growing army, including more gore than we get in the other books. And then we see the battle play out from her perspective, offering additional insights into the scene we first saw in Eclipse. But, you know, it ends the same way.
Because of the brevity and knowing the ending in advance, it was hard to feel very invested in Bree or any of the other characters. It was interesting to see her as a newborn because I felt like Meyer really shied away from that when Bella became a vampire. But it was interesting from a "gee whiz" standpoint, not because it really added anything. And it was kind of hard to feel attached to a character who kills innocent victims and drinks their blood. Okay, but here's a funny thing. In all the original novels Edward is referred to as having this unusual bronze-colored hair. That's one of his defining features, right? So when Bree starts talking about this redhead at the end, at first I didn't know who she was talking about. And when I realized it was Edward, I wanted to laugh. Doesn't Stephenie Meyer know that redheaded males are considered the least attractive people in just about every culture? Shouldn't she know better than to downgrade her leading man's status like that? So that was confusing and distracting and just a little bit weird. I'm really not sure what that was all about.
But there you go. Another vampire tale, and quite frankly, I'm hoping that she'll try her hand at something else for a while. No harm in that since we know the publishers will be lining up to print whatever she wants!