Bree Tanner: What Have We Learned?

On today’s thread about Bree Tanner, I’d like to read what you think we readers of this ‘Eclipse novella’ have learned about the story-line in Eclipse specifically or the Saga as a whole that we didn’t know before. Nothing fancy or profound, nothing “beneath the surface.” Just the narrative line facts, the plot points. Here are three things I picked up:(1) It seems bad-guy vampires, even the ones (especially the ones?) we’re meant to like, don’t care for cell phones or physical affection. The sexual modesty is something we’ll have to come back to. Does the absence of cellular phones strike anyone else as slightly bizarre? Or is that bit of anachronistic story-telling just a pointer that most of the story content is meant to be allegorical?

(2) Knowing that the Newborn Army is such a group of clueless losers makes me very glad that Mrs. Meyer didn’t find a way to incorporate this aspect of the story into Eclipse. It would have been very hard to take Bella’s worries about Edward-in-battle seriously if we’d been shown how pathetic a group of “dregs” they were.

(3) We meet Diego and Freaky Freddy, the latter of which twosome survives for another day (and Twilight sequel, I’m obliged to mention), neither of whom we knew before Bree Tanner was published.

I look forward to reading your surface story pick-ups in the comment boxes below — and to taking this story reading up a notch tomorrow. Yesterday’s Tanner post can be found here: Bree Tanner — First Critical Responses.


  1. (1) We see Riley as a much more deliberate deceiver, rather than merely being the one who was deceived.

    (2) We learn the mechanics of sticking vampires back together after they have been dismembered: just lick and stick. Oh, that handy vampire venom!

    (3) We learn that Jane et al did visit Victoria and Riley before the big showdown, as suggested by Edward’s sly comment at said showdown. And we learn Edward’s basis for making that somewhat inflammatory remark.

    (4) We learn that Meyer really has read Orson Scott Card from the way even her simpleminded (or singleminded) newbie vampires form toons. Or maybe Riley just read Card in his “first life” – after all, Bree has read (Shannon) Hale in her second.

    (4a) And we meet the leaders of the two toons, and their two 2ICs as well, if they can all be called that. Sorry, only read it in ebook format once so far, so I can’t remember all the names off the top of my head. Kevin sticks in my memory. Before this, we didn’t know there was any level of organisation in the newborn army. We didn’t know they were capable of thinking about anything other than blood, and where to get it.

    (5) They seem to kill a lot more people than I remember from Eclipse – Bree alone drinks blood from at least three victims in one night. Of course, if they stick to hiding their victims, and choosing “dregs”, most of these deaths would go unnoticed by officialdom. But still, with the rest of the newborns incapable of following Riley’s order, I would think there would be more newsworthy kills than the 40-odd I remember from Eclipse.

    (6) Most importantly, Bree is revealed as much more of a “mirror” of Bella than she was in the first book. We see how Bella might have made it as a vampire if she had been a book-loving, must-find-out-the-truth-at-all-costs homeless kid from Seattle who ran into a vampire called Riley and falls with terrible timing, for Diego, instead of a book-loving, must-find-out-the-truth-at-all-costs daughter of the Forks deputy, who stumbled into a vampire called Edward and falls (also with terrible timing) for Jacob. Is Bree short for “breeze”, as in “spirit-sister” do you think? Interesting how her name rhymes with “free” yet throughout the novel, she is shown to be anything but.

    And I know it isn’t surface level, John, but having recently visited Seattle (and the Olympic Peninsula, including Forks), I find it more interesting that Meyer set this whole newborn army development in Seattle, rather than, say, Olympia just to the south or Victoria, just over the Canadian border; given Seattle’s reputation as a smorgasboard city that takes all comers and loves to love the unusual and different, in religion as well as simple things like hair styles.

  2. Arabella Figg says

    I didn’t catch the lack of cell-phones; no iPods, Blackberrys, or e-books, either. We have stereos and videogames, but otherwise a pretty old-fashioned world.

    We also learn:

    Why it’s extremely rare for vampires to form friend or love relationships, why they’re so suspicious of each other, and how vicious to each other they are. Why, they have no regard for inhuman life! 😉

    That in Meyer’s 21st Century world there are no school counselors, Child Protective Services, or places for abused or homeless teens to go for help, food and shelter. The street is the only alternative.

    That Meyer uses old-fashioned names for all her characters, with traditional spelling. Not a Mickayluh in the bunch. Also, they seem to like a lot of noise.

    That “party down” is the newborn mantra, and lighters aren’t for musical kumbayah moment.

    That newborns are ignorant innocents who are vulnerable and easily manipulated. Also, they seem to be remarkably stupid. “Good vampires” like Bree, Diego and Fred seemed to carry their human personalities more into vampiredom.

    That vampires fear others who aren’t the Volturi, i.e. Riley fearing Victoria, even though he was probably stronger than she, being younger.

    That fearsome Victoria has a high, shrill, childlike voice (inviting amused comparison to the evil Doberman in the film UP).

    That Edward is describable as a redhead! Bronze is so five minutes ago.

    That Fred is sort of a reverse of Jasper in talent.

    That Riley is sort of an early Jasper figure. Although I think Jasper probably did a much better job, especially with his charismatic/mood altering gifts. Still, Jasper had a hundred years of putting up with newborns. What a pain.

    That vampires are indifferent to each others’ beauty. That in the sun, they can be compared to disco balls. I think Meyer was trying to give a better description of magnificence than “sparkling,” and the lame efforts of the films to capture this. Briliiant “disco ball”-like vampires…yeah, someone like that would definitley be god-like and noticeable!

    That a relatively small vampire group can take down an entire ferryful of people in minutes.

    The Volturi are quite the intimidating and powerful masterminds, but can’t see the newborn vampires for the trees.

    That a lot more went down in the meadow than we were privy to.

    Here’s something in light of Meyer’s Mormonism. The gentile was shown to be more righteous than the “priests.” Bree was “worthy” of being a Cullen.

    I know Bree was supposed to be a mirror for Bella, but I felt she was too much like Bella in personality and interest (I kept expecting her to read Austen). I hoped we’d see Bree as a more individualized human teen, vampirized in the story, and having to cope with the change and the “bad” side of it, as a reverse of Bella’s easy route. Instead we have only Bree’s mostly described hazy memories.

    I felt the book was too much tell and not show. It was only at the meadow that I found myself gripped by the story’s emotion, especially with Bree’s POV limited in vision and hearing. An interesting, although not widespread enough view for me into the newborn world (purely surface-oriented opinion).

  3. Arabella Figg says

    Oh, we also learn that when a vampire is burned to destruction that it feels like the burn of transformation; if a body part is pulled off it’s painful, and this can hapen a part at a time (separation pain and burn pain). That vamires use this method for torture and entertainment (soooo human!).

  4. Arabella Figg says

    And we learn more about vampire kissing: what it sounds like and feels like. Even though I understood that vampires felt like stone to humans, I didn’t know they felt like that to each other, as in their lips are hard and don’t conform, and make brushing sounds. “Wanna scrape lips, baby?” Ummmmm….

  5. I think it is interesting that you saw Fred as the reverse of Jasper, Arabella. I saw him as similar to the Volturi guard member who protects Aro. Doesn’t she repel people away from him? Of course, this is more in effect than in process – in process (from vague memory) she makes the person just forget why they were there so they wander away, doesn’t she?

    I was wondering if Bree was really able to make herself invisible, or if that was solely Fred’s reflected glory, so to speak. It seemed at times that, while Bree thought she was just hiding behind Fred, and she came to realise that he was hiding her deliberately, she might have had some talent in that direction herself. A kind of visual manifestation of the mind shielding talent that Bella manifests.

  6. Arabella Figg says

    Sharon, by saying that Fred was sort of a reverse of Jasper, I meant that Jasper was a charismatic who attracted people to him, and he used his mood-altering gift to accomplish that. Fred withdraws from others, making himself repulsive through revulsion, to the point of rendering himself invisible, to accomplish his goals. That this invisibility extends to someone close to him is an added wrinkle (and yes, similar to Bella’s shielding.

    Let’s say the lawn needs mowed. Jasper will lure you into mowing it for him through dazzling charisma, and make you feel happy about it by altering your mood. Invisible Fred, without a word and using nausea-inducing revulsion, drives you gagging out to the lawn; you’re so relieved and thankful for the fresh air that you decide to mow it to stay out of his way. Or something like that! 🙂

  7. Like it, Arabella.

  8. Elizabeth says

    Great comments! I think the point about Seattle’s diversity is crucial, Sharon, especially in the religious aspect, which I think I’ll hit on the other thread.
    Fred is also very interesting, not only due to his gift which has already generated some super discussion, but due to the fact that he is part of what I saw as a series of great salutes to other popular culture phenomena. Maybe it’s just because I have little people around, but when I see a big, good-looking blond guy in sinister circumstances, I’m looking for the dog, stoner, redhead, brain, and Mystery Machine. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought that if I hadn’t noticed some other homage moments as well. Here are the ones that really caught my eye: 1). In the first pages of the story, Bree is aggravated with the idiotic boys who are arguing over the best superhero. One supports Spiderman, the other the Hulk. This is great, not just because they are both genetic mutant superheroes (as opposed to aliens like Superman or really smart rich guys like Batman). More than that, though, we have a link back to Bella’s half joking suspicions that Edward’s unique qualities come from being bitten by a radioactive spider like Peter Parker aka Spiderman; and she and Edward have that great first moment (and several other great moments ) in Mr. Banner’s biology class on genetics. Bruce Banner is better known as the Hulk, of course. 2) When Bree goes to the bookstore, she grabs a group of books, as she is working through the Hs. In the recent film of I Am Legend, sole surviving human Dr. Richard Neville makes a his daily stop to the video store, where he grabs the next DVD on the shelf, explaining that he is “working through the Gs”; of course, when he’s not watching movies, he’s hanging out with his dog Sam (She’s a German Shepherd, not too wolfy) and studying the terrible disease that has wiped out most of humanity and turned most of the survivors into vampiric monsters. The setting of the first scene of Bree’s story is also quite reminiscent of Neville’s ruined NYC. 3) In another end-of-the world movie moment, the newborn army feasts on a ferry full of humans, a scene much like that in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds in which the alien death machines attack a ferry full of humans.
    Those are just the ones that I noticed and which I think may be intentional, like all the great sci-fi jokes in Independence Day. Also, since Meyer doesn’t like really yucky gore fests, these seem like the kind of films she’d enjoy and purposely honor in her story. Just my thoughts, of course, and I have more for later. I’ve been on the road, so I’m getting to the party late!

  9. Arabella Figg says

    Elizabeth, your #1 Spiderman/Banner connection is terrific, ditto the Meyer hat tips to SF films. I’m glad Meyer isn’t into being gore-riffic, because the first several pages of BT made me queasy.

    The newbie world of of BT is very much like the high school world of Twilight. In each story, our thoughtful, old-soul heroine is plunked down within the immature high school pecking order, with social warfare engaged in by her inferiors (or “children” as Edward would say). Riley could be Mike, Kristie could be Jessica, etc. But “Brella” remains an outsider, keeping to those like her: Diego, a stand-in for Jacob (who “illuminates” her), and Fred, a stand-in for removed protector Edward.

  10. Arabella Figg says

    And of course we have the the newborns training to fight the Cullens and wolfmen, who are training to fight them. Again, Jasper did a much better job with his newborns, as Riley’s newbies were easily defeated. It was pretty arrogant for Victoria to think she could cut through the Cullen swath in this way. I need a reread of BT.

  11. There are many insights into the vampire world, to be sure, as Stephenie promised. I realized that the Nomad vampires are actually homeless. Don’t know why I didn’t realize that before. Other than the Volturi and Cullens, all appear to be wanderers. Bummer.

    I hope to talk on this with John and Steve Walker in another upcoming podcast, but I also noticed the great deal of hellish imagery associated with Riley’s coven/congregation. This led me to see that Riley is a misleading priest figure, lying to his congregants to keep them under his control, spreading superstition and lies so that they won’t realize they have the potential to live as beings of light (with love again as a potential path to glory/divinization).

    So the questions arise, “Does the Creator know the truth? Is the Creator… wrong? Does the Creator assent to her priest/spokesman’s controlling lies and abuse?” And, of course, in any case, “what can/should be done about it?” How can you exercise your “free agency”/autonomy when you realize how ignorant and misled your religion truly is? I think with “Bree Tanner,” Meyer posits a remarkable allegory about what (not) to do when you realize your faith — or other beliefs — are untrue, in contrast with Bella’s finding a true path following the prophetic and godlike Carlisle. Remarkable.

    In this allegory, I believe that Freaky Fred reveals the repulsion the damned would feel in the presence of God (or more literally, the godly).

    I noticed further that, like the (LDS conception of the) devils themselves, the vampires resent human’s humanity, and their happy, mortal lives, which they have lost the opportunity to experience. Unlike Rosalie and Leah, however, they decide to lash out at as many humans as possible. So, the vampires thirst for human’s life-blood is revealed to be not nearly as benign as it was when seen from Bella’s point of view.

    Anyway, a few thoughts, fwiw.

  12. Arabella, it seemed to me that Victoria never cared about the defeat of the Cullens, but only hoped to work the newborns into such a frenzy that their sheer numbers would be enough to overwhelm the Cullens and get to Bella to kill her. She was pretty single minded. It was the Volturri who hoped for the destruction of the Cullens.

  13. Arabella Figg says

    As I understood it, Victoria wanted Bella as revenge for James, and I’m sure that revenge extended to the Cullens, who destroyed James. James wanted to kill Bella as revenge for losing Alice. The Volturi’s involvement heightened the stakes. While wiping the Cullens out maybe wasn’t Victoria’s original goal (New Moon), she certainly expected to have to take them down to get to Bella, thus the newborns. But please correct me if I’m wrong; I don’t have the books at hand right now.

  14. Elizabeth says

    I really like your comments, James! I was planning on posting some of my thoughts on the religious elements in BT on the other thread, but since we’re going there already, I’ll just jump in here. To me, the newborn army seemed very much like a cult, particularly the ones that prey on young people (there was one on the loose on my college campus in the early 1990s until the local news did an expose on them). This is very interesting, as many members of the general public see the LDS as a cult. In some ways, BT seems to be Meyer saying, “The Cullens/Mormons aren’t a cult; this is what a cult looks like!” Cults often follow several of the same patterns as the Riley/ Victoria army:
    1) Separation from loved ones. None of this bunch is able to achieve what Bella does, on-going communication with her human family after her transformation/conversion. Cults generally cut off members from their family and friends. While on the surface, this charge might be leveled at the Cullens, there is a fine difference between what Meyer presents as a real faith and its false duplicate. Though the Cullens with living family members at the time of their change (Rosalie and Emmett) never saw those families again, they already believed Rosalie and Emmett to be dead, or they may have had the chance, since Rosalie’s vigilante spree shows her capable of control fairly soon after her change.
    2) Absolute adherence to “truths” that are actually lies. (Like the great points about the misleading/misled priest.) The army is completely convinced that they will be fried to a crisp if they go out in the sun, but of course, this is not true. The Cullens are open, even joking, about the misconceptions about vampires, while the “cult” clings with desperation to its false teachings.
    3) No room for dissention. While the Cullens sometimes disagree with each other, and are amiable with others who do not share their outlook, the newborn army has no room for difference of opinion, much less the truth, leading to Riley’s murder of the truth-teller, Diego. Cult leaders never tolerate truth-tellers; even though Riley thinks highly of Diego, he must destroy him because he conflicts with the “creator” or cult leader, Victoria.
    4) Xenophobia. All cults operate from the “we’re all right and everyone else is out to get us, so they must be destroyed” assumption, just as Riley indoctrinates the army into believing that they are at risk from the Cullens. The Cullens, by contrast, only respond with violence when they are undoubtedly being attacked.
    5) Self destruction. Like so many dangerous cults, the newborn army is doomed. Its leader selfishly leads her followers, including the besotted Riley, to their doom without much thought for them as individuals. They are her tools, to lead or destroy as she will. How many accounts are there of such leaders who led their misguided groups to mass suicide or hopeless last stands against law enforcement?
    I do not claim to be an expert on cults, but, from general observation, Bree is just as much a victim as any young person lured in by a charismatic leader who promises great power, has the need to destroy unbelievers, and feeds on lies. Unfortunately, just when Bree is being de-programmed, she loses her chance at the “true” faith in Meyer’s world. Does Meyer use the cult model because it works narratively, or is it an implicit defense of her own faith that has sometimes been labeled a cult? Either or both possibilities are likely! (Boy, this is long! To quote Col Chamberlin in Gettysburg, “I didn’t mean to preach”!)

  15. Delighted to read your insightful and perceptive comments, Elizabeth!

    I agree that there is a definite cult vs. religion comparison going on, which for many readers, will most certainly work on the “we’re not a cult” level. I think yours is the dominant point re: Riley’s “kids.”

    I wonder though if Meyer is also reaching out to people in other — and from her POV, incorrect — faiths. How can they leave it (and thus, become available to join the LDS faith)? A key message: “Just leave, and hurry. Once you believe it to be untrustworthy, what are you waiting for?” I don’t think Meyer has left her faith, but if she has, that would be illuminating.

    One other point that I didn’t make above: Maybe my counting is off, yet Bree is very confused about how many vampires there are left (and vamps don’t confuse easily). Why? Because — I believe — that Diego did make it to the clearing. There is a line Bree says that underscores this. I’ll let you all figure that out for yourselves. It is perhaps the most tragic element of the book.

    Also, in trying to keep up with the many interviews available this week (at Twilight News Site, “news” is our middle name), I noticed this that relates to what drives vampires to become mass murderers versus vegetarian town doctors. This is a comment from Xavier Samuels,

    “Q: Xavier, what did you do to establish your presence in the film?

    “Xavier: There’s a lot of competition for who’s the most evil. I had a lot of conversations with David Slade about how to approach Riley and not delve into the clichés of the stereotypical vampire thing. We touched upon that he’s still got human blood pumping through his veins and he’s a tragic figure, in a way. He’s been manipulated, to a certain extent. That was coupled in. Also, he has this extreme hatred for humanity because that’s what he’s been deprived of. He’s extremely jealous, but he also has a heart. I just wanted to do justice to the complexity that Stephenie Meyer has created.”

  16. Arabella Figg says

    James and Elizabeth, I’ve really liked your insights. Another cult tactic is to control people through their bodies. In the 70’s, one blasphemous “Christian” cult drugged those they lured in (I knew someone who was rescued out). Another secular “training seminar” would deny meeting bodily needs–food, sleep, bathroom breaks (the group was the subject of much ridicule). Riley uses such tactics, using thirst and satiation to control his group.

    Not only does Riley isolate his cult in Plato’s cave, with no outside contact, he preys upon those who are “cast-off” and alone to begin with, who have serious trust issues which he exploits with paranoia.

  17. maggiemay says

    Arabella, what did you mean when you sid that James wanted to kill Bella as revenge for losing Alice? Am I missing something?

  18. maggiemay, it’s from the end of “Twilight.” James wanted to kill the human Alice because a caretaker at the asylum was a vampire who cared for her. The caretaker transformed Alice into a vamp before James could attack, so he killed the caretaker as revenge, leaving Alice alive. He apparently regretted his mercy later, and vainly claimed that since he’d lost out on the human Alice, he would make due with the human Bella. Again, this underscores the jealousy bad vampires have for humans (~ the resentment of the wicked for the righteous??).

    Or, maybe they’re all just grumpy because they’re really hungry:

  19. Arabella Figg says

    maggiemay, see Twilight, pages 446-448. True, James loves the thrill of the hunt and wants a fight with Edward, but he specifically ties this in to being cheated of Alice. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

  20. Maggiemay, at the end of Twilight (p390-1 in my copy) James reveals to Bella:

    “It was all for him, of course. … I would just like to rub it in, just a little bit. The answer was there all along, and I was so afraid Edward would see that and ruin my fun. It happened once, oh, ages ago. The one and only time my prey escaped me.
    “You see, the vampire who was so stupidly fond of this little victim made the choice that your Edward was too weak to make. When the old one knew I was after his little friend, he stole her from the asylum where he worked – I never will understand the obsession some vampires seem to form with you humans – and as soon as he freed her he made her safe. She didn’t even seem to notice the pain poor little creature. She’d been stuck in that black hole of a cell for so long. A hundred years earlier and she would have been burned at the stake for her visions. In the nineteen-twenties it was the asylum and the shock treatments. When she opened her eyes, strong with her fresh youth, it was like she’d never seen the sun before. The old vampire made her a strong new vampire, and there was no reason for me to touch her then.” He sighed. “I destroyed the old one in vengeance.”
    “Alice,” I breathed, astonished.
    “Yes, your little friend. I was surprised to see her in the clearing. So I guess her coven ought to be able to derive some comfort from this experience. I get you, but they get her. The one victim who escaped me, quite an honour, actually.
    “And she did smell so delicious. I still regret that I never got to taste …”

    I think what Arabella was saying was that James wanted to kill Bella because it would frustrate Edward, in the same way that taking Alice from her unnamed vampire-father would have frustrated him. Since James was unsuccessful in killing Alice, when he saw her there in a similar situation (another human with a vampire protector) his hunting instincts were aroused in the same way, but to an even larger extent. It fed his inner desire to hunt, and also his inner desire to steal from Alice’s family what he had been unable to steal from Alice’s vampire-father. (I hope that makes sense!)

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