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Pump Six and Other Stories
Paolo Bacigalupi


Twilight - Stephenie Meyer, Stephenie Meyer So there is absolutely nothing earthshattering about this book. First person POV, a teenage girl who's new in town, who falls in love with the mysterious boy in the back of the classroom, who turns out to be a good vampire, who is terrified he's going to kill her, and she cares not a whit, because she! is! in! love! C'mon. You know you've read this novel before.

I mean, I picked this book up half a hundred times because it looked awesome, and then I would read the back. "About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him - and I didn't know how dominant that part might be - that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."

PAIN, y'all. PHYSICAL PAIN. Why would I want to read about this seventeen year old who is convinced, like all good seventeen year olds, that she is MADLY and IRREVOCABLY in love with someone on LITTLE TO NO ACQUAINTANCE. Apparently I am lacking certain romantic genes, because that does not say "tru luv 4eva" to me; that says "raging hormones bound to end horribly."

But I slipped and fell and found myself with a copy of the book in my hand, and I couldn't resist. Large print, lots of pages, large bottle of wine by my side - hey, it could happen to you, too. And I found myself thoroughly engaged. Bella, the narrator, suffers from many of the egregious Mary Sue qualities (funny eyes/hair/skin that she thinks is/are weird that everyone else mysteriously finds attractive,
nickname, everyone immediately loves her, etc.), but underneath all that was, for at least the first half of the book, a real and engaging teenager.

She's just decided to move in with her dad because her recently-remarried mom has stayed home with her while her new husband travels with his minor league ball team, and Bella can see how hard that is on her mom and makes a decision to fix it. She and her dad have a slightly awkward relationship. She does not bask in her newfound male attention but genuinely seems awkward and nervous and uncomfortable. She's got a little more flesh on her, textually speaking, than an L.J. Smith or Christopher Pike heroine.

Then. Of course. She falls in love. Oh, it starts out well enough and in line with everything else - this guy treats her like she's plague-ridden, so she's pissed. She doesn't even know him and he's decided she's gross? Oooh, snap. The transition from dislike to tentative friendship/early stages of flirtation/infatuation is really well handled, I think.

It's just when she decides she's "unconditionally, irrevocably in love" that the spoonful of sugar starts sticking in my throat. I fully believe that Bella really, really means it when she goes on her undying love declarations. I just have a harder time when I'm also supposed to believe in that undying love. She's seventeen,
goes from arguing with him to thinking he smells nice to thinking he is the greatest thing since Thin Mints in, like, two and a half weeks, and I'm supposed to believe that they are MFEO truluv4eva for reals, y'all? I'm sorry, no. I need some sort of fabulous soul bond/mystical union/supernatural matchmaking device in order to accept that.

What I can't decide is if the author is deliberately omitting the SMD (supernatural matchmaking device) and making this a case of hormones ringing true, or if the SMD is coming in future books (dude, I'd even accept some sort of prophecy or destiny or something), or if what weak justification she's already provided (they...smell really good to each other, and in Edward's case, she smells really, really
delicious to him. when tasty snack started =ing MFEO, I was not informed, or maybe hormones are telling them they're MFEO, except hormones are pronounced "pheromones"), or if I'm horribly wrong and the author really does take it all desperately seriously, as seriously as Bella does.

I mean, she explicitly makes the comparison to Romeo and Juliet and how Bella thinks that Romeo is the most romantic guy, like, ever. I just can't tell if the author is taking the piss with that (Edward does object to R+J's most perfect romance, like, ever, given Romeo's fickleness and rash decisions to go around whacking Juliet's kinsmen right after the wedding, which just makes me like him even more), or
if she really does think R+J is the romanticest thing ever.

Because oy. Bella's already on to Edward to get him to turn her into a "good" vampire so they can be together forever, and he's dead set (no pun intended) that she live a "normal" life, but she's terrified of being old, and I really start to think that the author might be serious.

It was exactly the fear I had when I first picked up the book, but really, the first establishing bit of Bella as a character, combined with the story for the vampire family saves it, and I'm desperate to get my hands on the next two books currently sitting at home in an amazon box.

Because, see, they're interesting. Yes, they're a little broad-brush right now, and yes, they hit several of your traditional young adult horror vampirey tropes, but I feel like there's more there. Edward is the oldest of the "children" of the family, having been turned during the flu epidemic of 1918 by their "father," who was accidentally turned in the 1600s. They've got a family of Lenores, who don't drink human blood, and they set up homes through the years (as opposed to their nomadic, human-drinking brethren), sometimes as adults, sometimes as parents with adopted
kids. I think the author does a pretty decent job of making Edward (Our Hero) actually seem almost a hundred years old in his seventeen year old form and not just a seventeen year old trapped in a seventeen year old's body.

Still, though, the rest of the family is fascinating to me - the priest/doctor who decided to be an ethical vampire, the girl with visions of the future who has no memory of being human, the eternally devoted couple who sometimes are married, sometimes just high schoolers dating, the family who plays baseball together but only during thunderstorms, because they hit the ball hard enough to sound like thunder. I guess the best way I know how to describe them is a
group of characters I would love to read individual stories about.

Yes, it's silly. Bella keeps losing her brain, and the author freely admits to being inspired by the idea of a girl in a meadow with a vampire who sparkled in sunlight (I could not make this up if I tried), but they're a delightful kind of escapism, and I'm eager to read the next one. Though I do dread the whole "why won't you turn me into a vampire? I wanna!" plotline. Oy.