The question llama and I found gifs…
So yeah, that cautious optimism from the end of the prologue? Fuck it. Chapter one strips all that away with contradictions, confusion, piss poor writing, and all the rage inducing pseudo-science. I’m seriously questioning my own sanity for taking this on, and we’re only on the first chapter.
It starts with the parasite talking about how she’d been warned that this was going to suck, but Fords mentioned in the prologue that the souls had no senses of their own outside their host body, so did they extract her from her last host knowing this was where she would end up and telling her while she was still in that body? I had assumed until this point that they stayed in a host body until it died, and then they were transferred into the first available body. So if the consciousness of the host is destroyed when the parasite is attached, removing the parasite would kill it. So they murdered her previous host body to put her into this one… why? Why did she need to be in this body specifically? Is this body important? Is it the leader of some human resistance and they want to put this particular soul in it because she’s some kind of cunning spy whose skills are centered around infiltration and extermination? Is she a peace negotiator? Is she Batman? We’re still on the first sentence of the chapter so let’s move on…
She describes the language of her host body in the following way:
“The language I found myself using was odd, but it made sense. Choppy, boxy, blind, and linear. Impossibly crippled in comparison to many I’d used, yet still it managed to find fluidity and expression. Sometimes beauty. My language now. My native tongue.”
Where to begin with this? How can it be all of those things?! I understand what Meyers is trying to do here. She’s trying to establish the alien as an alien trying to understand the intricacies of humanity while trying to make it sound poetic and exotic in its crudeness, but she’s just contradicting herself. It’s like she just selected adjectives at random from the thesaurus for ‘clumsy’. She’s trying too fucking hard. Also, it’s not your native tongue you fucking parasite! It’s your HOST’S native tongue! Your native tongue would be the first language you’d ever learned, which given the list of bodies you’d inhabited I’m going to guess was ‘pheromones’.
She then mentions that it’s her species’ ‘most basic instinct’ to latch onto the ‘center of thought’. So what the hell did she latch to in the flower? And I’m pretty sure spiders don’t have conscious thought, just basic instincts and physical reactions to external stimuli independent of anything but the nerve clusters required to sense the stimuli and move, kind of like how your hand will move off a burning stove before your brain actually registers what happened. So what exactly would be the center of thought in a spider? And thinking about it, how small are these things that they can inhabit a spider and a flower?!
…Moving on. The parasite talks about how she feels the sedation wearing off and ‘lucidity returning’. I’m going to assume Meyers hasn’t been sedated in a while. I don’t know about you, but the last time I was sedated, which was only a month ago and I was only out for 4 hours where I imagine this host body has probably been out for a few days, when I woke up, ‘lucidity’ didn’t really return so much. Not for a while. I woke up, and, I dunno, I remember being able to hear… I eventually started to feel pain, and eventually started to figure out what the things I was hearing were (people were apparently talking about me right in front of me. It was very rude.) but it took a lot longer than the description here implies. I was semi-conscious for a good half hour, and even after that I was still groggy for the next hour or so, which was all before I was even on any pain medication so it wasn’t just that. This makes it sound like as soon as you open your eyes your senses and consciousness return within a minute or two. Perhaps Meyers is just failing to accurately portray time, but I suspect it’s more to do with her getting her ideas of how this should work from movies where everyone looks sexy after waking up from being drugged.
In the same paragraph is one of my biggest problems with this chapter. The alien describes how she braces herself for the ‘first memory’ which is apparently the ‘last memory’ of the host, “the memory of the end.” its own death. But here’s the problem with that. The host body isn’t dead. So either the parasite is wrong to call it a memory, because it’s actually what the body is going through as the parasite destroys the last vestiges of the consciousness section of her brain, which would be something I imagine all souls would get, and thus this whole ‘brace yourself for something horrible’ shtick would be a little melodramatic, or they don’t consider anything that happens to the host body after it comes into their possession as being ‘alive’. Which I suppose would be a way for them to justify considering themselves empathetic and kind while killing people.
But neither of those things work, because one, she keeps calling everything the host body experiences as she waits for its consciousness to die as ‘memories’ as though they aren’t currently happening, including emotions and physical sensations, but the ‘memory’ she seems to be referring to is still the moment of the ‘accident’ that got the body in this position in the first place. So, the final memory is both the dying thoughts of the host body as the parasite sucks away its consciousness, AND the last thing that happened to it before it was captured. WHICH DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. WORDS HAVE MEANINGS MEYERS! And the alien downloaded every memory of this body, and the entirety of the body’s knowledge of the English language; it would fucking know what a goddamn memory is. She doesn’t just get to use whatever words she wants because she’s an alien; she fucking speaks English now!
She uses ‘memory’ for things that aren’t memories a lot in this chapter. It caused me to stop reading a lot. It took me several hours to read this seven page chapter.
She mentions that the emotions of the host body are incredibly overwhelming and stronger than anything else she’d felt in any other host body. Why? I mentioned before that spiders function more on instinct which is a crude evolutionary precursor to emotions, more than actual thought. Wouldn’t being controlled pretty much purely by base reactions be stronger than human fear which we can actually control? Do bats, who raise their children and live in colonies, not experience powerful fear and aggression? Ever piss off a mama bear? Nope, ‘cuz if you had, you’d be fucking dead. Did Meyers not do any research and just pick past host bodies that she figured people wouldn’t know much about the biology of? I’m going to keep coming back to that list. I’ll stop bringing it up when she stops contradicting it.
The parasite talks about the sensations the body is feeling, and it includes a lot of pain. Apparently Deep Throat isn’t as good a healer as the book claimed, because if he had healed her body as well as he claimed there the body wouldn’t be in pain. Oh, you say, but what about that wound he inflicted to insert the parasite! Ah hah, I say back to the empty air that’s talking to me, the parasite specifies the pain is in the limbs. Plural. All the limbs are in pain. If they waited till the body was healed, the limbs wouldn’t hurt. Sedation doesn’t cause pain.
APPARENTLY none of her previous host bodies had a sense of smell. According to Stephanie Meyers, bats and bears don’t have a sense of smell. Words cannot describe the emotion I felt when I read that.
She describes the memory of the ‘accident’ the host body had as though she could actually feel the physical sensations of it, but I think that’s a serious misunderstanding of how memories work. First of all, if the parasite has already downloaded the body’s understanding of the language, it should already have ALL of her memories and thus wouldn’t be being bombarded with the most recent one, so she’s not actually experiencing the final memories of the host body she’s experiencing the still alive host body processing what happened to her. Which would be a memory that the parasite had already downloaded and thus would already be familiar with and not be surprised or overwhelmed by. I suppose you could argue that the speech centers of the brain are separate from the cognitive centers, but if the parasite latches onto the cerebral cortex (which practically speaking makes no sense, they should latch to the medulla, the parts of the brain that control movement, autonomic processes like the pumping of the heart and breathing, and basically everything you need to actually LIVE. Taking over the cognitive center of the brain would not give them control over mobility. The body would continue to function independent of the wishes of the parasite, becoming a zombie. I suppose it doesn’t say that they don’t just start there and take over the entire nervous system from there, but the implication seems to be that the center of your being is the cognitive center, when really that’s just window dressing… The body functions with or without that part of your brain. You can literally lobotomize that entire section of the brain and you’re still not dead. In fact, if not the ENTIRE cortex is removed, you could even compensate and still live a relatively normal life. In order for the parasites to have all of your memories, they would have to leave all of that intact, which means YOU are still intact, which means you can still THINK, you just have no control. So in essence, all of the ‘souls’ would have to coexist with their host body’s existing sense of being. You would be trapped, able to see and feel everything, and words would be coming out of your mouth but they wouldn’t be yours… THAT WOULD BE A MUCH BETTER BOOK!
…Sidetracked there for a second, anyway, what the hell was I trying to say? Oh yeah, the parasite describes human limbs as clumsy and that’s demonstrably not true. Especially compared to the LACK of limbs of a flower, and the animals that lack, you know, hands. Try doing surgery as a BEAR. Humans developed dextrous hands and limbs specifically for (or because of at least) sophisticated tool use. They are NOT clumsy.
She goes on to describe the memories and emotions of the host being so powerful they take control of the brain back from the alien for a moment. What? Do I have to rant about how the brain works again? She then describes herself as being ‘sucked into’ the memory, but if the memory detached her, how would that work? I would think that this would mean that the parasite wasn’t ‘detached’ it just didn’t anticipate the strength of the emotions, was caught off guard, and couldn’t react fast enough to stop the host brain from thinking its thoughts and she got caught up in a vivid and painful memory of being chased by… people who seem to be concerned for her safety and who are trying to stop her from committing suicide. Terrifying. I assume that’s going to be explained later.
“A high, shrill keening pierced my ears and pulsed in my head. The sound scraped through my airways. There was a weak pain in my throat.
Screaming, my body explained. You’re screaming.”
She apparently doesn’t understand the concept of screaming. Remember the list? Bats? Do you understand the problem here?
It’s after that that she FINALLY realizes that things that are happening right now aren’t memories. Apparently the part where she says ‘screaming’ isn’t the parasite realizing it, it’s the host explaining it. Again, she’s hooked into the ‘center of thought’ she has access to the entire knowledge base of the host body, she should already know what screaming is. But oooo the host body isn’t dead! We already knew that. Fords explained that. That seems to be the way this works. They don’t take over DEAD bodies, that’s why he had to HEAL HER before inserting the ‘soul’. Unless the parasite erases all aspects of personality from the host body’s brain, which would remove access to memories, and stop them from being able to blend in at the start of the invasion, you cannot take away the brain’s ability to think without destroying it and your ability to use it to its full capacity.
The chapter goes on to describe the memory of the ‘accident’, which is the host throwing herself down an elevator shaft so they can’t implant an alien parasite in her brain. Worked out great! But it brings me back to what I was trying to explain earlier before I went into a neurobiology lesson; why is she living out this final memory? If she downloads all the memories backwards, starting with the most recent, she would lack the context necessary to make any sense of the information. If it’s just because the memory is so recent, so it has the strongest neural pathway connections and thus automatically triggers in the soul when the connection is formed, that doesn’t work because that wouldn’t be the most recent memory of the host body. In fact, chances are after falling down an elevator shaft she probably wouldn’t remember much of that at all. But either way, the time in between that it would take for her to heal, all of which she spent unconscious, even if she did remember it, it would be fuzzy. She wouldn’t remember sensations and specifics, the feeling of her limbs flailing in the air… Chances are she would remember running, and maybe jumping, and then, nothing. In more or less those vague terms. That’s assuming the landing didn’t cause a concussion, which is pretty unlikely. But, back to the point, it still doesn’t make sense to actually refer to that as a memory. The parasite isn’t just sorting through the hosts memories, most recent to oldest like going through files in a cabinet, she’s experiencing the thoughts of the host brain, which, just regaining consciousness after a trauma, would be trying to make sense of everything it’s currently experiencing through the context of the last thing it remembers happening. But that wouldn’t be new. The soul would experience that with every new host body, and she’s already had 7. She should not be surprised or overwhelmed by any of this.
Through all of this, not once does someone come up and ask if she’s okay or needs help or if anything’s wrong. She screamed, and no one came to see if the body hadn’t been healed properly. No one decided to check to make sure there was nothing wrong. So either they left her alone despite knowing this would be hard on her, making them heartless despite their earlier description, or this is all normal, which means this isn’t especially hard, and the prologue was still lying.
Throughout all of this, she keeps saying things like ‘my language’ and ‘my body’. In ways that are emphasising that she is adjusting to being this person, but it comes off as naiveté. Which would make sense if this was her first body. She shouldn’t have to keep reminding herself that this is her body though by number 7. She should just understand that whatever body she’s in is her body and the adjustment would be less philosophical and more ‘man, I miss having wings…’ She then goes on to talk about the memory fading to blackness, and then a rush of a new memory fills the spot.
“But this was not the same memory. This was a memory within a memory–a final memory, like a last gasp of air–yet, somehow, even stronger than the first.
The blackness took all but this: a face.
The face was as alien to me as the faceless serpentine tentacles of my last host body would be to this new body.”
This part finally talks about her last body, and my first reaction was ‘so is that a see weed?’ But it doesn’t clarify. At least not in this chapter. But the ‘face’ is of course the most handsome man ever. And despite speaking English, she doesn’t know what eyebrows are. I promise I won’t rant again about how the brain works… Meyers doesn’t make it easy to stick to that promise, so I’m just going to say that this alien is an idiot, the man is square jawed without a beard, and everything about him is light brown. Doesn’t really strike me as the description that would make a lot of girls swoon, but what do I know?
She goes on to describe how generic human faces are compared to one another, how little variety there is between individuals, and again I am brought back to that fucking list. She says humans are all varying shades of brown. Have you ever seen a purple bear? Yeah, there are black bears and polar bears, but those aren’t variations between individuals, they’re differences between subspecies. Individuals have very little variation. Humans at least do different things with their hair and clothes and men can shape their beards, and some people wear glasses and tattoos and such. The most variation between bats in a colony is even LESS distinct variations in shapes and sizes than in humans, and the same goes for bears. Spiders, depending on the subspecies, might have variations in spots or stripes, but those would be relatively minor as well, and many flowers are exact CLONES of each other. Meyer did no science research at all for this science fiction book.
“There were small lines around the eyes, and her memories told me the lines were from smiling and squinting into sunlight.”
So she can access the memories that explain wrinkles, but not screaming, eyebrows, the definition of the word ‘memory’, the man’s name, the fact that he’s a man not an it, or the fact that the host body wasn’t dead when she was put in it. REALLY hard to keep that promise right about now…
Oh yeah and she describes him as beautiful. I’ve noticed this is a recurring word. I suspect it’s a theme that will continue and piss me off.
The body somehow manages to steal back the memory of the man and hide it from the parasite, which makes no sense at all. You cannot hide memories from something plugged into your brain. It’s not possible. I would give Meyer the benefit of the doubt and say maybe the group that the host body came from has a parasite there feeding them information about how to retain control and trick the parasites, but honestly at this point she’s given me no reason to believe there will be anything SMART in this book.
The parasite starts talking to herself, or the voice in her head at least (technically she would be the voice in the hosts head, but this is told from the perspective of the parasite, so from that vantage point…) and she doesn’t seem very happy about it. She acts as though the host should just go away when she takes over and how DARE it try and keep its own body now that it belongs to the parasite! Yup, compassionate and loving race!
So, now that my review is three times the word count of the chapter let’s wrap this up shall we? This chapter fucking sucked. All the possibilities I thought were there from the prologue would not fit in this book because clearly the author doesn’t care about making this book coherent or scientifically literate. I can stomach pseudo-science in my science fiction, you need it to make most of it work, but it has to at least sound like it makes sense and not completely contradict pretty easily understood concepts like that bats and bears have fucking noses. I hate this book already. There are 60 fucking chapters, and we’re only on chapter ONE! What have I gotten myself into?