I swear to god somehow these chapters are getting progressively worse while also having less and less actually happen. This chapter is Wanderer talking to her comforter, Kathy. That’s it. We aren’t even treated to the drive over, or nervous waiting in the reception area, she’s already there and they’re already talking, and it ends without her leaving, so this entire chapter is even more exposition. Months have passed in the book’s time frame, and rather than getting even the most basic snippets of her daily life by the fifth. Fucking. Chapter. We get more goddamn exposition ‘dialogue’. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
MOST of the chapter is exposition about what she’s been doing for the last few months that Meyer skipped over. So instead of having a chapter that spanned those few months, saying what job she took on, actually meeting her boss she talks about fondly in this chapter, actually experiencing some of the spite between Melanie and Wanderer and how it’s affected her enough to get her so bothered by its progression that she would be so beaten down by this point… Nope, we just get the one occurrence that was the last chapter, and then everything else is throwaway dialogue.
This is a problem. This is a problem because I already explained that I don’t like these characters. I already think Wanderer is weak, pathetic, mean-spirited, and not at all special like all the other characters keep telling us she is but without any kind of buildup leading to her break down, without a better picture of who she is when she isn’t being hypersensitive all we have to go on is what we’ve seen, and all we’ve seen is how hypersensitive she is. She looks like she can’t handle a dream that to us does not seem scary or depressing. In fact it was useful to her as she got important information and all she has to do is occasionally tolerate a mean voice in her head that tells her she sucks. So, you know, what most people go through as teenagers.
Which brings me to another problem with this book; if ‘strong emotions’ and ‘rebellion’ are enough to cause Wanderer issues, and they’re constantly assuring us she’s the strongest of all the parasites, how the fuck did they ever infect any teenagers? And I’m not just being snarky there, that’s a serious question. Hormones are at an all-time high and the point you’re at in the brain’s development is what causes all the emo crap and hyper rebellion. The whole Romeo and Juliet ‘I’ll die for you, love of my life I only met last week!’ powerful emotions are not just teens being stupid and inexperienced, they actually, genuinely feel that strongly. If strong emotions are enough to cause so much problem, teenagers are the cure to this parasite.
This chapter got me so riled up I managed to go four paragraphs without actually talking about this chapter… So the chapter starts with Wanderer literally half in the Comforter’s office. She’s coming off as incredibly immature for one of the longest lived of the alien parasites by not wanting to talk to the Comforter because she thinks it makes her weak. Since every ‘soul’ is assigned a Comforter, she’s basically saying every other member of her species is weaker than she is, and that she’s pathetic for having to stoop to their level. Remember; this species is all loving and peaceful, but apparently egotistical and judgemental is A-Okay!
We’re still only on line two of this chapter. This is gonna be a long one so settle in…
She talks again about how it’s getting easier to read facial expressions and I’m reminded of previous rants about bears and spiders and bats that I won’t go into again, and other rants about how if she has all the memories of a human adult it should all be as natural to her as English. I won’t rehash it again, just reminding you of it because Meyer feels the need to bash this information into every chapter because clearly we need constant reminders of how alien humans are to Wanderer even after having months to acclimate.
She describes a smile as:
She smiled, just a tiny movement at the corners of her mouth.
And just, no. It’s not a ‘tiny movement’. It’s a fairly significant one, and a more drastic change in facial features than is even possible for a bear, bat, spider, flower, or weed with no fucking mouth at all so shut the fuck up you horrible goddamn character.
Do you see what I mean about how she doesn’t come off as experienced? If Wanderer were a new ‘soul’, maybe I would let all this stuff slide, hey, it’s a drastic difference from just the see weed right? But after 8 other planets and 8 other species, she should be used to things changing by now. Everything would be so drastically different from one of those races to the next that when things are drastically different again these things should not seem so strange to her. They should not take as much adjustment as they seem to.
Anyway, the reason she’s even mentioning the facial expressions again is so Wanderer can point out that the smile isn’t just ‘I am a welcoming host’, it’s amusement at Wanderer being stupid. Well, she says:
I could see that the Comforter found my reluctance a bit amusing.
Which is basically the same thing. At least in Wanderer’s mind anyway, because she’s full of self-doubt and anger at having to even be here in the first place she thinks the whole world is mocking her for it rather than just accepting that therapy is a natural part of their existence as a species since they have to deal with a variety of new things every time they switch to a different body let alone a different species. Each different body would come with a whole new set of memories and experiences and challenges.
It’s not like buying a new car. You’re gaining or losing whole senses and decades worth of memories and experiences. In some cases, the worry of being caught (though it’s implied in this chapter that Wanderer has never been anywhere before it’s been fully taken over. Further adding to my ever growing pile of evidence that Wanderer isn’t special, she’s just gotten lucky and never actually had to face any hardship before, so the fairly modest struggle of having to deal with anything that didn’t go perfect for the first time is too much for her, which seems to be the alien parasite version of ‘first world problems’) would be potentially traumatizing. Needing a therapist is not admission of failure or weakness. Needing a therapy session for every little thing that goes wrong would be a bit much, but getting some advice to help you adjust to the new emotions? Perfectly acceptable. Getting some help when the voices in your head won’t stop telling you they hate you to the point where you’re having nightmares and breaking down into tears? I don’t think anyone in their right mind would ever see that as a bad thing.
How are we not even past the first page yet? I’m going to try and not rant about every line, I swear… it’s just so very difficult not to.
She describes the room in such a way that I have absolutely no idea what the hell the room looks like but I feel like I’m supposed to.
With a quiet sigh of resignation, I walked into the small brightly colored room and took my usual seat–the puffy red one, the one farthest from where she sat.
First of all, ‘usual’ seat, implies she’s been there a lot, but the rest of the chapter mentions her skipping appointments and having barely been there at all. ‘Preferred’ would have been a better word choice. But that’s a nitpick and there’s so many nits to pick I should have let it slide. And since this is pre-written text I could have, but chose to subject you to it anyway. Second of all, that’s literally the only description of the room we get. Is this an office? Is it just a room full of chairs? Why is there multiple chairs in a small room designed for one on one therapy sessions? Do the aliens have group therapy? Wouldn’t that be better in a more open room? Where the fuck are all the commas?
There is a legitimate reason I took the time to point all that out. I’m not just intentionally wasting your time. It comes up later.
To avoid her gaze, I stared through the open windows at the clouds scuttling past the sun. The faint tang of ocean brine blew softly through the room.
If you’re confused as to why I’m pointing this part out, just read it out loud and keep in mind this is a first person narrative. You do that while I move onto the next nitpick.
We find out Wanderer is a teacher of some kind and she uses her students as an excuse to avoid doing things she doesn’t want to do. Which would make perfect sense and give depth to a character, if she were human. As an alien parasite that’s supposed to be above all that and super strong and still ‘winning’ over her human host, trying her hardest to not give in to those pesky negative emotions that only humans feel, especially one with so much experience who’s been alive for, as we find out in this chapter as well, several centuries, she should be above that. But, nope, it’s all her students fault she missed her last appointment, but hey, she left a note! Meyer should stick to writing teenagers.
She was attractive for an older woman, as humans went.
‘As humans went’. God. Yes. We get it. She’s a fucking alien. WE KNOW. THIS IS THE FIFTH FUCKING CHAPTER MEYER. WE. GET. IT.
So much of her behaviour seems so childish to me. She’s apologizing and acting all guilty like a 5 year old caught with their hand in the cookie jar, but also still being petulant about it as though she felt she deserved the fucking cookie. This is not how centuries old adults act! And no, you can’t excuse it as her not being used to the emotions, because, first of all, she was a fucking bear once. A bear. And second of all, she’s plugged into an adult human brain. She has access to all the motor skills, all the language and the memory of all the context surrounding the language necessary to understand it, all the memories of all the context surrounding emotions and how to read other people, she’s not relearning these things. It’s not like sticking a toddlers brain in an adult body and expecting them to just figure it out, she has a lifetime of memories to access and the only ones Melanie is keeping from her are the ones surrounding key facts that might get her loved ones caught, not important information on how to be human. So no, she doesn’t get the ‘omg it’s so new’ excuse. It’s been months, parasite. Grow up.
I feel like I’m repeating myself now but I am progressing through the chapter at least, I’m on page three now. Do I sound angry yet? Because this shit gets worse.
“That’s all right. I understand. It’s difficult for you to come here. You wish so much that it wasn’t necessary. It’s never been necessary for you before. This frightens you.”
I stared down at the wooden floor. “Yes, Comforter.”
“I know I’ve asked you to call me Kathy.”
She feels guilt for feeling fear. Her entire species has to seek the help of ‘Comforters’ from time to time. Mental health is apparently not shamed in their species like it is in ours, since every single person is assigned a therapist at ‘birth’ (new host). There should be no reason for her to feel guilt. None. This requires her to have taken pride in the fact that she’s never had to get help before. But that would require her to think she’s better than everyone else who has had to seek help before. Oh my god I am repeating myself. Look, this stupid parasite claims she’s better than us, then continuously proves how pathetically not at all better than us she is. It makes her not alien at all, and very hateable. She’s the bitch at your work who looks smug for having never being late to work while you walk in 5 minutes passed 9 feeling like crap after your grandma died last week and your mom called you at 2 in the morning crying.
But then she makes it worse by not even being willing to show the woman the courtesy of using her fucking name until forced to. She does kind of excuse this rudeness by making it sound like it’s the fact that it’s a human name that’s so disagreeable to her, but that just raises a whole slew of other new/old questions. They don’t seem to have actual names that stick with them from body to body. They don’t have a native tongue. They can’t communicate without a host body. There is absolutely NO REASON WHAT SO EVER for her to think human names are so awful other than that she hates humans. Which makes her a racist. Specist? Bigot. Our main character everyone!
She laughed lightly. “You are not at ease with human names yet, are you, Wanderer?”
“No. To be honest, it seems… like a surrender.”
Remember, it was perfectly normal for Kevin to keep his bat name. It was perfectly normal for Kevin to have a bat name. But with humans it makes them dirty surrender monkeys. Because humans are the worst species ever.
I looked up to see her nod slowly. “Well, I can understand why you, especially, would feel that way.”
Really? ‘Cuz I can’t. Mind filling us in Kathy? No? You’re not gonna do that? Well fuck.
Look. I get it. Melanie is being a pain in Wanderers ass and she feels like she has to stay strong to ‘win’ against her. But how is that so much harder than the parasites whose lives were at risk? How is ‘you, especially’ an appropriate phrase to use in this scenario? I understand why she would be cranky. I can even see a little depression and angst. But to make it sound like she’s waging her own private war inside her head and that gives her a right to write off the entire human race as a bunch of violent pricks because the one whose body she fucking stole justifiably hates her is a bit much.
Oh right, that wasn’t there because Wanderer is actually doing anything special, it’s there because Meyer wants you to know she’s special without having to ever actually let you see why that’s true. Because if she did want us to see it rather than just being able to make it true by having people say so, instead of getting the 6th (counting the prologue) straight chapter in a row of exposition, we’d have gotten to spend some time with Wanderer actually living her life instead of jump cutting to a fucking therapy session.
“Let’s talk about something easier for a moment,” Kathy suggested. “Do you continue to enjoy your Calling?”
“I do.” This was easier. “I’ve begun a new semester. I wondered if it would get tiresome, repeating the same material, but so far it doesn’t. Having new ears makes the stories new again.”
Really? Really? Oh you better believe I’m angry and spiteful enough to reread an entire fucking chapter just to find the line that makes this stupid.
With my last species’ language of thought, it would have been impossible to lie, even had we wanted to. However, anchored as we were, we told ourselves stories to alleviate the boredom. Storytelling was the most honored of all talents, for it benefited everyone.
Sometimes, fact mixed with fiction so thoroughly that, though no lies were told, it was hard to remember what was strictly true.
Chapter two. We find out in this chapter that she was a see weed for centuries. All see weeds talk to each other by a shared neural connection. They cannot lie because whatever they think is immediately known by the entire species. They tell the same stories over and over and over again to the point where they’ve told it so many times they don’t know what’s true anymore. But a second semester as a college professor might get dull!
Oh god finally something I can gloss over. Apparently Kathy and Wanderers boss are ‘partners’ (their host bodies were married and they just stuck together afterwards) and he talks about her. Says she’s the most requested professor on the campus. Whoop-di-shit. Wanderer wants to know if they intend to live a second life on Earth or move on to another planet but isn’t willing to ask because it might mean she’ll have to answer another question she doesn’t like so she keeps her mouth shut. Now I just wish there was a way to get this story narrated by someone else instead too. Her boss’ name is Curt. It’s irrelevant but it doesn’t make me angry, so, yay.
“I enjoy teaching,” I said instead. “It’s somewhat related to my Calling with the See Weeds, so that makes it easier than something unfamiliar. I’m indebted to Curt for requesting me.”
The Calling’s don’t make sense to me. When they talked about them before it was with Kevin. It seems to be just another word for ‘job’, but the word itself implies something they were ‘meant’ to do. Meaning, each parasite would be born/hatched/excreted/whatever and they would take some kind of test and then all of their lives they would be guided by their assigned case workers (Healer, Seeker, Comforter, these aliens have a very convenient built in support system far as I can see) into the closest their new planet/species has to their ‘calling’. But the way she describes it above, yeah, it’s just a job. Also; how is it a ‘calling’ to tell stories in the species where all they can do is tell stories?
“They’re lucky to have you.” Kathy smiled warmly. “Do you know how rare it is for a Professor of History to have experienced even two planets in the curriculum? Yet you’ve lived a term on almost all of them. And the Origin, to boot! There isn’t a school on this planet that wouldn’t love to steal you away from us. Curt plots ways to keep you busy so you have no time to consider moving.”
“Honorary Professor,” I corrected her.
What the fuck do you care about the distinguishing between ‘professor’ and ‘honorary professor’? No, really, what? What in the name of the almighty spaghetti monster in the sky do aliens care about our nomenclature? They certainly don’t care about our definition of ‘calling’ or ‘soul’. She’s not teaching physics, she’s teaching the history of all the planets she’s been living on. She’s the expert. She’s experienced the history she’s teaching first hand. WHY DOES THE CLARIFICATION MATTER TO HER OR MORE IMPORTANTLY TO US?!
There’s a certain rule all good authors should follow. If it’s not important to the story, don’t include it. If it doesn’t further the plot it should build character. If it doesn’t help build the world the book is taking place in and it doesn’t serve the plot it’s just pointless fluff and no one gives a shit.
That last quote was also more reminding us how ‘oh so special!’ she is by repeating stuff we’ve heard in the prologue, the first chapter, the second chapter, and the third chapter. The fourth chapter is the only one that did not remind us of how special she is for having been on so many planets.
I promise I’m trying to speed this along, we’re not even a third done this chapter yet…
Kathy smiled and then took a deep breath, her smile fading. “You haven’t been to see me in so long, I was wondering if your problems were resolving themselves. But then it occurred to me that perhaps the reason for your absence was that they were getting worse.”
I stared down at my hands and said nothing.
Fourth time she’s looked down/away to avoid talking about her problems. Fourth page of the chapter. These are the avoidance tactics you see from children. By teaching about her experiences on other planets she’s cemented the knowledge that what they learn and experience on other planets stays with them, they just have to find new ways to word it in their new language. So she’s lived eight life times, supposedly all longer than the average human life span, the most recent being whole centuries long, on eight different planets, as eight different species. And yet she is still less mature than some human children. I really hate this character. I really, really do.
Anyway, she gives me a brief moment of hope that maybe the host body isn’t white so this story at least seems a little less racist (Seeker, the established bad guy, is still the only non-white character at this point) by talking about how her skin tone is rather dark, but she dashes the hope by the end of the chapter
My hands were light brown–a tan that never faded whether I spent time in the sun or not.
*insert fairly significant information here we’ll get back to in a moment*
And… this was my body. I was used to the feel of it. I liked the way the muscles moved over the bones, the bend of the joints and the pull of the tendons. I knew the reflection in the mirror. The sun-browned skin, the high, sharp bones of my face, the short silk cap of mahogany hair, the muddy green brown hazel of my eyes–this was me.
So her skin is brown no matter whether she’s been tanning or not, but don’t worry kids, she’s still white, she’s just perma-tanned. No need to panic. Also; ‘silk cap’ of hair? Really? And seriously, it is not your body. You STOLE it. It’s MELANIE’S body. I don’t like her either but I like her a lot more than I like you and your whiny self righteousness.
Back to that significant middle bit. Prepare for more long winded nerd rage.
Wanderer asks Kathy why she goes by Kathy instead of something more ‘alien’ (see: white interpretation of Native American). She asks if it was to feel more ‘at one’ with her host body. Kathy laughs like that would be a ridiculous reason to do that, which comes off as a little judgmental, but, hey, she’s laughing at Wanderer. I support that.
“Heavens, no, Wanderer. Haven’t I told you this? Hmm. Maybe not, since it’s not my job to talk, but to listen. Most of the souls I speak with don’t need as much encouragement as you do.”
Just adding to the evidence that the race is pro-therapy, it’s just Wanderer that thinks she’s better than they are.
Kathy talks about how she was one of the first alien arrivals, that her and her husband Curt lived among the humans having dinner parties and inserting aliens into their brains while they were drunk. This raises so many questions I know will never get answered like how the hell were they doing surgery in their home with multiple party guests without getting caught? How did people never catch on?! ‘Robert and Jane went to Kathy’s party last week and you know, they’ve been acting strange ever since. A lot nicer than usual, but, also a little paranoid don’t you think?’ ‘And I don’t remember Robert having that scar on his neck, or either of them having shiny eyes.’ ‘Come to think of it, Kathy has shiny eyes too doesn’t she?’ ‘I asked her about that once. She get kind of nervous. Said it was some kind of cataract…’ ‘You know, I don’t think I’ll be going to Kathy’s next get together.’
Ever hear of the Uncanny Valley effect? It’s where something (specifically robots, but the principle applies) is so close to perfect in mimicking human behaviour that people get the creeps from it, generally without being able to explain why. Wanderer wanted to know what good instinct was. It has its uses.
“Curt and I had to pretend to be our hosts for several years. Even after we’d settled the immediate area, you never knew when a human might be near. So Kathy just became who I was. Besides, the translation of my former name was fourteen words long and did not shorten prettily.” She grinned.
Note she says ‘former’ name, not ‘my normal name’ or ‘my soul name’, just her last one. Still say Wanderer is just racist.
I’d had no idea that this soft, cozy woman had been a part of the front line. It took me a minute to process that. I stared at her, surprised and suddenly more respectful. I’d never taken Comforters very seriously–never had a need before now. They were for those who struggled, for the weak, and it shamed me to be here. Knowing Kathy’s history made me feel slightly less awkward with her. She understood strength.
NOPE. I AM NOT CREATIVE ENOUGH TO COME UP WITH CURSE WORDS STRONG ENOUGH TO RESPOND TO THAT PARAGRAPH.
Ignoring the most rage inducing portions that I’ve actually already covered a couple of times in this excessively long review because this judgmental bitch wants to make damn sure you understand how much of a failure you are if you need to talk to someone when your life sucks, there’s other, slightly less rage inducing problems with that paragraph. Like the fact that they’re a supposedly peaceful race trying to covertly intersperse themselves into the population. Why would the fact that she’s ‘soft’ and ‘cozy’ be a shock? How many times do I have to point out that this is supposedly not Wanderer’s first rodeo before Meyer stops writing her like a newb? Who are you more likely to let your guard down around? The friendly therapist who makes you feel at ease or the cold glarey seeker bitch from chapter three?
They were not going to fucking war. They didn’t come down here with tanks and machine guns. Why would what anyone looked like matter at all? They just had to be smart. …I figured out why Wanderer wasn’t on the front lines.
This question was more pointed, and Kathy grasped that at once. She shifted in her seat, pulling her legs up and folding them under her.
Remember earlier when I said I’d brought up the lack of clarity on what the room looked like for a better reason than just pointless nitpicking? Yeah, me neither, that was like, 6 pages in Word ago… Dear god I wish that was an exaggeration. Anyway, this was why. I hadn’t anticipated this going this long when I wrote that part. When I first read the chapter and got to this part, I’d been picturing the room as an office. I pictured Kathy sitting behind a desk in a big comfy office chair complete with arms. So when I read that passage I imagined her lifting herself up off the chair, suspended in the air as she tucks her legs under her. It was one of the few things in the chapter that amused me instead of making me angry so fuck it I’m pointing it out. I still have no idea what the room actually looks like or what kind of chair anyone is sitting in. It says further down that there’s an arm on Wanderers chair, so my image could be accurate!
“In so many millennia, the humans never did figure love out. How much is physical, how much in the mind? How much accident and how much fate? Why did perfect matches crumble and impossible couples thrive? I don’t know the answers any better than they did. Love simply is where it is. My host loved Curt’s host, and that love did not die when the ownership of the minds changed.”
I’m going to be completely honest and admit I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. It implies that humans are strange for having not figured love out. But then it implies that no one has figured love out. So why say ‘the humans never…’ why not just say ‘no one has ever’? The mind and body are linked. Pain is technically all in your head too, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. How can a species that takes over the minds of others talk about the ‘fate’ of the love of the species whose bodies they’re stealing with a straight face?! Perfect is boring, struggles offer opportunity for bonding and growing as people and as a couple. These are not questions we don’t know the answers to. ‘Love’ is not an alien concept. It’s biology. It’s sociology. It’s psychology. Sciences that we humans have already got a decent grasp on. Is it complicated? Your damn right it is. But those are not the hard questions.
And yeah, no, not a big surprise the host bodies kept being attracted to one another. It’s mostly physical cues that draw people together. You’re more likely to be attracted to people with different immune systems than you so your offspring have a better chance of survival. Your body knows this by the scent cues you don’t consciously pick up on. You’re also more attracted to physical characteristics that seem desirable (which varies from person to person based on more variables than I’m willing to even consider listing here). The fact that those cues would still be present, combined with familiarity, comfort, friendship, etc, Kathy and Curt are probably a wonderful couple who genuinely love and respect each other.
…Can we read their story instead? No, seriously, they had to struggle with adapting to a new species they had no prior information about with no one around to help them but each other as they try and blend in among the humans. Fighting for survival and the progress of their species, they struggle with moral quandaries of what to do to their kind coworkers they grow to respect but must inevitably bring into the collective, essentially killing them. All the while this ‘couple’ who were together for convenience and support, find themselves confronted with emotions stronger than any they’d felt before, beyond the kinship their species knew. Never knowing from one day to the next if they’d be discovered and hunted down like animals.
I might actually enjoy that book. Wanderers biggest struggle is will Melanie call her a mean name again over the next jump cut. Kathy and Curt’s story might actually have some tension to it.
Alright, fuck it, there’s still a whole half of the chapter left I’m skimming the rest of this shit. I don’t care how angry it makes me.
Wanderer talks about how ‘strong’ Melanie is, how she ‘grieves’ for Jared (not her little brother who just got ratted out in the last chapter though. No mention of him at all. Apparently he’s not important.) Kathy tells her it’s okay to cry, Wanderer says it isn’t, Kathy says how no one would blame her for giving up and switching to a new body, Wanderer uses the suggestion to get Melanie twisted into a knot. This is actually a pretty significant conversation basically discussing whether or not suicide is socially acceptable if life is shitty enough. Wanderer already thinks you’re pathetic for needing to talk to people, where do you think she stands on suicide? Melanie says to just do it, to make her death official, Wanderer mocks her for feeling fear as she says that. Because facing death while feeling fear of it even though you know for a fact your only other option is to watch an alien steal your face while you sit helpless to so much as wiggle a pinky to stop her, is totally cowardly and ridiculous and totally means she wouldn’t have the guts to toss herself down an elevator shaft again right?
There’s so much subtext there I could rant for another 10 pages but I’m pretty sure I wasted my rage on the first 4 pages of this book and burnt out by the time I got to this point. Plus I think this review has already overstayed its welcome and I hear this isn’t as bad as the next couple of chapters get, so I call it quits. Maybe the Llama talked more about that last stretch, give her review a read.
Overall, I hate Wanderer more than I have ever hated the main character of any other book I have ever read, I still hate Melanie, Kathy and Curt seem to be pretty decent for body snatching aliens. Someone who understands science and psychology write their story and pass it along.
Until next time!
PS: A message to Wanderer from me: