This is probably going to be a short one today. Not because the chapter was short, or, you know, good, but because it’s just dull. Especially after the note chapter 8 ended on, some glimmers of quality, this chapter is a massive let down. Just not in any especially interesting ways. On the initial read through of this one I actually found my eyes glazing over and I tried to skip entire sections… The reread to write this was even harder.
The gist of this chapter is more driving, more waffly emoness, and more flashbacks. Only instead of the flashbacks being better written and more emotional, they’re just as bad as the rest of the book has been so far with no positive aspects to cling to for hope.
I have to admit I was actually genuinely disappointed. While I’m sure you gathered from my post about chapter 8 there was a lot wrong with it, the bits that were done well were very effective and it had left me hoping that maybe the book would start to get tolerable from that point and it would just be the overarching plot I would have a problem with. But, then I read chapter 9… My god it was almost literally painful. So let me share my pain with you all dear readers.
Wanderer speeds along the highway, preparing herself for all the insults she’ll apparently get when she drops this host body. I don’t think I have to talk yet again about how this species is supposed to be all love and happiness do I? Yeah, we’ve covered that enough to see the problem here, so I’ll just move on.
I tried to stay clear of the red canyon in her head, but I was there, too. No matter how hard I tried to see the cars zooming beside me, the shuttles gliding in toward the port, the few, fine clouds drifting overhead, I couldn’t pull completely free of her dreams.
I memorized Jared’s face from a thousand different angles. I watched Jamie shoot up in a sudden growth spurt, always skin and bones. My arms ached for them both–no, the feeling was sharper than an ache, blade-edged and violent. It was intolerable. I had to get out.
I drove almost blindly along the narrow two-lane freeway.
She does say there are cars on the road. She said in the last chapter she’s not a terribly experienced driver, and she’s taking her hands off the wheel to reach out, and driving without seeing the road. The only reason this doesn’t end with a car accident is because killing her would end the book and my torture.
During this scene she also mentions that she’s reading a map sprawled out on the passenger seat. Why the hell isn’t she using GPS? They have intergalatic space travel, and all our technology (I think this is from 2009 or 2010…) so we know for certain that they have GPS, yet she’s reading a paper map. While she’s driving without pulling over. But I already harped on how unsafe a driver is, I’m going to stick with the technology complaint. Is she a Luddite space fairing alien? Or does she just have a death wish?
Soon I would reach a little pit stop at a place called Picacho Peak.
I’m going to show how much of a lame geek I am and admit that I can only read that as Pikachu Peak. Don’t assume that makes me young though, because I am way too old to be able to justify being a fan of Pokemon. I just am. Don’t judge me, it let me laugh at something in this book I will cling to that! Especially considering they repeat the name of the place ad nauseum in this chapter. Wanderer mentions the name three times on this page alone, Melanie says it a few times, everyone says it.
Apparently this particular place triggers something for Melanie but Wanderer doesn’t know what so she hits the accelerator seeing if it causes any more reaction to be in the place instead of just near it. Of course it does, but Wanderer can’t get it out of her, and as a means of distraction, Melanie starts remembering Jared again, because of course we have to have another flashback.
“You look like a dryad hidden here in the trees,” he whispers in my ear. “One of them. So beautiful that you must be fictional.”
‘One of them.’ What does that mean in this context? A dryad? That seems an awkward thing to say. He calls her a dryad, then calls her a dryad again? This whole thing is just awful dialogue. Every single thing that comes out of anyone’s mouth in this chapter is nothing any real person would actually say. Just say what he said out loud to yourself. Without the ‘he whispers in my ear’ part. How silly does that sound?!
Apparently this flashback is right before she abandons her lover and her brother for the sake of finding someone she doesn’t know for certain exists. Because of course that makes sense right? Definitely. Look, I’m all for family bonds, and she tries to justify this later in the chapter, but in that situation, she’s walking away from the man she loves and not only the only family she knows for certain she has left, but also leaving him without any family if she doesn’t come back. She is risking abandoning her brother. She is the closest thing to a mother he has, and has been for years, and she’s walking away on the off chance that her cousin may be uninfected somewhere far away. It’s ridiculous! This is what gets people killed in zombie movies!
“You and I won’t lose each other,” he promises. “I will always find you again.” Being Jared, he cannot be completely serious for more than a heartbeat or two. “No matter how well you hide. I’m unstoppable at hide-and-seek.”
Lamest joke ever. He’s 29 at this point in the story by the way. Just felt the need to point that out. I concede that bad humour is better than just letting the sadness settle in, I just really hate this joke. Jared still fails to suck. I await the coming disappointment.
Anyway. Apparently they’re so comfortable raiding now that they turn on the tv for the weather. Melanie bitches a little about how their version of the news is just how everything is warm and fuzzy everywhere, but I actually have to point out that while that’s not entertaining, it would certainly make people less likely to hate the world as much as we all do. It certainly isn’t the main reason we’ve all become cynical bastards but it is a contributing factor. I’m not a big fan of sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the bad parts of the world, but the problem is the news presents negative stories from all over the world now. You start to get a skewed view of how much awful there is in the world. Three murder stories in one night! Your brain doesn’t process that that was from one city in Canada, a city in Florida and a city Illinois. You process the information as though all three murders happened right where you live, and that murderers are everywhere!
…I got sidetracked. God this chapter is boring. I can’t even stay on point.
My political rant was more interesting. Can I talk about that for 3000 words instead? No? I have to finish the book? Dammit…
Anyway, the reason they bring up that they had the tv on is because that’s where Melanie saw her cousin. Apparently she was in the background of a news report walking suspiciously. Melanie thinks this means she’s not an alien parasite, and that she has to go find her. Because of course she does.
And I have to go alone. Sharon will run from anyone but me–well, she will run from me, too, but maybe she will pause long enough for me to explain. I am sure I know her secret place.
“And you?” I ask him in a thick voice. I’m not sure I can physically bear this looming goodbye. “Will you be safe?”
“Neither heaven nor hell can keep me apart from you, Melanie.”
This is supposed to be a big tear jerker moment. It gets Wanderer crying, it’s definitely meant to make us cry. I certainly felt no urge to cry at the end of Chapter 8, but I did feel emotion towards it. This though? Not a thing. Not sure whether that says something about me or the writing. Probably the writing. It’s just too much. It’s trying too hard to me. Every word of this is just screaming unnecessary melodrama. He could at least go with her to Chicago. Be there as a quick get-away for her. There’s justification why she has to enter the secret place without him, but certainly no justification for him to not be close by. But if they were smart then we wouldn’t have a book, so contrived scenario leading to poorly written sap is what we’re stuck with.
After a short cut to Wanderer crying Melanie switches fast track to a goodbye to Jamie, who at 13 is cuddling up under Melanie’s arm. When I was 13 and scared, even if there was someone I was willing to tell about it, which was pretty damn rare including both my mother and my big sister, I certainly wouldn’t have curled up under their arms.
Mind you, you can argue that he’s grown up in extenuating circumstances, but considering that that was when he was younger, and he had to struggle for survival, go hungry, count on a 15 year old girl for food, shelter and protection in a world that wanted to hunt him down and destroy his very existence, there is not a chance in hell that this is how this kid would turn out. He watched his mother and father leave and then their bodies came back without them. He saw that. He saw his sister trying so hard to be strong for him while clearly terrified and probably sickly from stress and malnourishment, trying to stay strong to give him some consistency and strength. He would have known she was being strong for him, and the world was an awful place. He would be bitter. He would feel he had to be strong too. He would never let her do this. He would be more than just a little scared. Later in this chapter she explains what happened to her parents. This is exactly what happened to them. They left to see relatives and came back as parasites. He would be angry at her for even suggesting this. And she’s terrible for putting him through it.
After that, which was also poorly written and full of garbage dialogue, she jumps right to the memory of after she gets found out. She’s scrawling a note on a piece of paper. She’s telling Jared she loves him and Jamie and to not go back to the cabin because her selfish disregard for her little brother made their home of the last several years unsafe taking away his mother-figure and his home, and his safety all in one swoop. I think this technically makes Melanie a worse person than Wanderer. Wanderer is still more obnoxious though so I think I still hate her more.
Wanderer yells at Melanie to fuck off. She tells her that she’s got no choice but to kill Melanie despite that Melanie has successfully made her love Jared and Jamie. Melanie says she has another option. Apparently the little flashes of ‘lines’ she was seeing were a road map that she’d given Jared but neither of them knew what it meant. Melanie didn’t put it together until they saw Pikachu Peak though, which is why it seemed so important.
Melanie very dumbly gives Wanderer the map. This is stupid, because they fucking hate each other. She has no reason to trust Wanderer with this information except desperation. I know the story obviously supports this decision but come on. They’ve been at each other’s throats since the parasite was inserted! She was literally on her way to kill Melanie! Literally! She told about Jamie! She told about everything! Melanie gives up their location on the hope that this alien who hates her and has given up every bit of information she’s gotten so far to the Seeker on the off chance that Wanderer might use the information for good instead of to hunt them down and convert them all. No, not convert them sorry, murder them because no more adult hosts are being offered. They’ll all just be slaughtered.
Without Wanderer agreeing to anything at all, Melanie not only gives her the memory of the lines, but where they came from. Apparently crazy Uncle Jeb Stryder was a survivalist and knew the aliens were out there. The entire rest of the chapter is basically just flashbacks to various points in Melanie’s life from just before she goes to Chicago to back when she was little. It reveals how she lost her parents to the aliens, her mother went first, then Jeb came by and gave them a family album with a bunch of seemingly random lines drawn all over it. He insists that Melanie follow the lines and that they’ll hold a place for her there.
This sounds like it should be kind of interesting doesn’t it? Compelling drama, high emotions, intrigue! That would require this book to be well written. I assure you we are not that lucky.
Honestly there’s just nothing there worth talking about… She says ‘Uncle Jeb’ way too many times, she finds multiple ways to refer to her family as nut jobs (that’s one of them) over and over again. There’s nothing so bad I feel I have to point it out, definitely nothing so compelling I feel I have to point it out. It’s just boring. Which is depressing because this should be a tense chapter. It should be compelling! This is where Melanie convinces Wanderer to side with her! To ignore her loyalty to the parasite overminds (I have no idea how their species society functions at all.) This is where Wanderer chooses love and companionship over loyalty and respect while also choosing to risk her own life as there’s a good chance they would kill her on sight! It shouldn’t be boring!
Apparently Pikachu Peak is where her family’s ranch is and her dad once told her it was ‘the beginning’ and her crazy uncle told her the lines start at the beginning, so yay riddles. I don’t know what the lines are. I know he drew them on the family album and the beginning is the only clue he gave her. How the hell Jared is supposed to have figured this out without her I have no idea, but Melanie says he must have because he’s smarter than she is. Except being smarter than you doesn’t help solve a puzzle when you don’t have all the pieces. I give up questioning the logic this book follows because of course he’ll have figured it out and anyone that believes he may not have has clearly not been reading the same book as me.
Melanie does actually realize she’s an idiot, and Wanderer says ‘well duh, of course I’m going to tell on you. Moron.’
“Yes,” I mused aloud. “I have to do my duty.”
Why? she murmured, almost sleepily. What happiness will it bring you?
I didn’t want to argue with her, so I said nothing.
Of course it’s just that she doesn’t want to argue. Not that she doesn’t have an answer! She’s perfect you guys! She’s just trying to avoid a fight that’s all. She would get so much joy from ratting out the people she’s been forced to love!
Actually seeing how she’s been forced to love them against her will, and it would get rid of Melanie and Seeker, and allow her to move on to a less emotional host where she wouldn’t feel depressed over the loss of emotion because that loss covers sadness, she would probably be a lot happier ratting them out than she would be helping them, but you know, that’s logic. That’s not a thing that exists in this universe.
The last page and a half is just her struggling with what to do.
And we all know how it ends so I don’t care. At all. But there is one more thing I care enough about to bring up.
My first language, the true language of the soul that was spoken only on our planet of origin, had no word for betrayal or traitor. Or even loyalty –because without the existence of an opposite, the concept had no meaning.
This is something of a pet peeve of mine. The idea that terms generally considered opposite to each other cannot exist without their ‘opposite’. It’s not true. You can be loyal without the possibility of betraying someone. Just like you can be good without the possibility of being evil. I’ll try my best to explain. If everyone in this species is friendly, they can still have specific loyalties. Say, one pair of the parasites are the best of friends! They like everyone else, but when all’s said and done, if presented with the choice of saving only one of two people in a fire, for whatever reason there’s only the time/opportunity to save one, they’d likely choose their bestest friend. That is loyalty. Choosing to save the other would not necessarily be a betrayal. Hell, just them being good little worker bees is loyalty to their species. The concept still has meaning. It may not be as important, but it still means something. It doesn’t need the concept of betrayal to exist. Only to be important. We have lots of words for things that aren’t important. Lots of concepts that aren’t important.
I would even argue that it’s still important! ‘You are a good and loyal friend! You always pick me for your team in soccer practice! You are always there for me when I need you! You put the needs of the species above your own!’ That last one was obviously a dig on Wanderer who is betraying her species for her own desires, justifying it by feeling like she’s betraying Jamie and Jared who she has no responsibility towards.
Have I pointed out recently that I hate Wanderer? Remember, she’s still not yet admitted that her species does anything wrong. She’s continued to state that she believes her species deserves the planets they take over. She states she believes that this is her body, not Melanie’s. She still hates Melanie! She believes her species is good and wonderful and doing what’s right. And she’s betraying them because she fell in love with people she’s never met who are sure to want her dead. This is supposed to be the choice that’s the right one, and yeah, from our perspective it is. But from hers it should be morally repugnant. In terms of showing her character it makes her look awful.
So much shorter this chapter than last… Sorry about that. This chapter was just boring as the desert Wanderer describes four times. Because it was so relevant the first time she had to repeat it a few more. Hopefully chapter 10 has something worth talking about. Till then I leave you with one last gif!
Don’t forget to check out The Llama’s take on this chapter!