So I guess I’ll commend Meyer for finally going a few chapters in a row without it being the same scene split in two and just given a different chapter title. This is yet another chapter that is not a 2 second gap from the end of the last chapter. Small victories.
This chapter instead picks up with Wanderer whining about how she has to interact with people. Make that miniscule victories.
We always convened in the kitchen; I liked to help with the baking while I spoke. It gave me an excuse to pause before answering a difficult question, and somewhere to look when I didn’t want to meet anyone’s eyes. In my head, it seemed fitting; my words were sometimes upsetting, but my actions were always for their good.
Because you’re a martyr and we should all see how wonderful and caring you are and feel for the sacrifices you’ve had to make.
I didn’t want to admit that Jamie was right. Obviously, people didn’t like me. They couldn’t; I wasn’t one of them.
Yup, absolutely impossible for humans to like anything other than a member of their own species. The term ‘man’s best friend’ clearly is just referring to the importance of best friends, not the loyalty and companionship of a loving dog we bring into our families. There are certainly no pictures littering the internet of human beings willingly risking their lives to save cats, I mean, the ones you’ve seen those people are going to use those cats for food later right? And that parrot with the intellect of a school aged child that died while the whole internet mourned its passing? Just an act. People are totally incapable of even liking another species! The great Wanderer has said it so it must be true!
Jeb liked me, but Jeb was crazy.
I am really sick of her saying that the only reason Jeb likes her is either because he’s crazy or he’s plotting to kill her. She is a massively judgemental bitch who doesn’t deserve to be liked by Jeb or Jamie (she says just before this that Jamie only likes her because of irrational bonds to Melanie’s body, which does actually make sense but it’s still pretty horrible for her to assume that he’s incapable of making up his own mind after the initial shock wears off.)
“Could you hand me the soap, please, Wanda?” Trudy asked from my left.
An electric current ran through my body at the sound of my name spoken by a female voice.
I don’t get it. Is that supposed to mean something? Is that a bad thing? Or is she saying it’s weird that a woman would refer to her by name? Does she mean it was jarring because she didn’t expect it? I’ll go with that assumption. I guess I’ll give her that since it would have been the first time.
Heath, usually silent, letting Trudy and Geoffrey talk for him, was outspoken during these evenings.
How does she know these aren’t just Trudy and Geoffrey asking the questions if Heath is silent? I have no recollection of who any of these people are so I have no idea what their relationship is or why Heath would have them talk for him. Or how Wanderer would know that’s what he’s doing. It’s rather presumptuous on her part isn’t it?
I suspect this is Meyers attempt at giving character to the background characters and making the world seem more fleshed out, but I don’t really see the importance. We know there’s a lot of people there. If you want to try and give people character say what kinds of questions they asked, or how they looked incredibly nervous to ask. If you want to make a character too afraid to speak up say ‘Heath would grab Trudy’s shirt and whisper something in her ear excitedly, then she would jump in with a question.’ Because then we know that he’s engaged, but that he’s not asking the questions himself, through means other than just ‘Wanderer said so.’
She does say what one person was specifically interested in, the mechanics of things like ships and cryotanks and we’re thankfully spared the details. Another person asked how their society functions without money and she says it’s the same as the caves. Everyone does their work and everyone reaps the benefits. A communist utopia.
Communism works on paper, when you don’t factor in, you know, the people. But remember, the parasites feel all the same emotions we do. They’re hooked into our brains. They may have their own base instincts of kindness and empathy (though so far I have seen none of those things from Wanderer OR her fellow aliens. Remember when she was having a panic attack in the middle of the street and everyone just ignored her? Or when her class got all judgmental at her regarding the fire eater planet?) but they still have our desires for pretty things, and comfort, they still would feel jealousy and ambition. They would still feel all the things that makes communism more difficult in practice because not everyone wants the same things. Not everyone cares about the same things.
I would think this would be even more difficult for the souls since they’re not used to handling these emotions. We grow up in a society designed to temper our more basic urges, they come into a fully formed body, even the body of a child would still have had time to adjust to the onslaught of emotion that their new parasites wouldn’t have. It’s one thing to have the memories of the experiences it’s something else entirely to experience them first hand when you have no real context for how to deal with it. Especially if the first settlers came from the apparently emotionally void spiders.
In practice these parasites would be completely overwhelmed by our emotions and I would suspect the first few settlers, especially since from the sounds of it they infested adults which they’ve stated in this book is a lot harder, would have gone insane. Become gluttons for the pleasures of this planet. Or is self-control one of their base instincts as well? They say that they’ve never experienced the degree of lust we exhibit either. So maybe the whole parasite population would be riddled with venereal diseases and popping out babies all over the place too. Orgies in the streets!
Everyone was stuck here, as good as planted. My stories were something new, something to think about besides the usual–the same endlessly repeated sweaty chores, the same thirty-five faces, the same memories of other faces that brought the same grief with them, the same fear and the same despair that had long been familiar companions. And so the kitchen was always full for my casual lessons.
So, she understands the depression linked to their current existence. The pain associated with their lost loved ones. But she doesn’t understand why they fight back against the aliens? She can’t recognize that their displayed hostility is a reaction, not a base state? The fact that she can’t recognize that means she really doesn’t understand. She just thinks she does.
Aaaand now they start telling us about the dragonfly dolphins. Fuck.
“They look more like huge dragonflies than fish, right, Wanda?” Jamie almost always asked for corroboration, though he never waited for my answer. “They’re all leathery, though, with three, four, or five sets of wings, depending on how old they are, right? So they kind of fly through the water–it’s lighter than water here, less dense. They have five, seven, or nine legs, depending on which gender they are, right, Wanda? They have three different genders. They have really long hands with tough, strong fingers that can build all kinds of things. They make cities under the water out of hard plants that grow there, kind of like trees but not really. They aren’t as far along as we are, right, Wanda? Because they’ve never made a spaceship or, like, telephones for communication. Humans were more advanced.”
Point the first. Dolphins aren’t fish, they’re mammals. You can tell the difference between a sea faring mammal and a fish by multiple distinctions. They require air to breath instead of having gills, they have hair (though this is obviously difficult to tell unless you’re up close and personal) and they have tails that move up and down instead of side to side. There are lots more distinctions than that, but those are the obvious ones you can see without cutting them open or watching them give birth.
Second problem. So far they sound more dragony than the dragons, which I’ll remind you are made of jelly. Why the fuck are they called dolphins if they have absolutely no resemblance to them whatsoever? Because they live in water? There are lots of things that live in water. Flying fish have wings. There are flying squid that have ‘wings’ and multiple limbs.
Third problem. Water is water. If it’s actually water it’s the same density as it is on Earth. If it’s another chemical compound in liquid form it is not water. It’s just a liquid. This goes back to one of my most common problems with this book, words have meanings.
I will actually say that a non-binary gender system isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Gendered reproduction came about as a means to increase rates of survival by transmitting the genes of multiple individuals, rather than just reproducing the genes of one, to the next generation. This gives higher odds for survival because they can gain the best survival techniques from each parent and increase the odds of positive mutations occurring allowing for further adaptation. It also is what brought about social structure as a means to facilitate mating, which allowed for the transmission of information from one generation to another to gain even greater survival odds. So adding a third gene donour to the equation would simply give the spawn more potential DNA to incorporate and more potential survival mechanisms. …I hope that was clearer than mud.
Fourth issue. Why do they have legs? If they ‘fly’ through the water, why do they need legs? All sea creatures on Earth that have functional legs also have an exoskeleton which was not mentioned in the description. Some sea creatures like cephalopods (the aforementioned flying squid for example) have arms. Those are for grabbing and propulsion. There are some fish that have fins that function similar to arms and legs for digging tunnels. Legs are used for walking. Or kicking. What purpose do these multiple legs serve for these leathery freaks of nature? There are a few sea creatures that have nubby little limbs you could refer to as legs but their only purpose is grabbing on during sex so their partner can’t escape, but would the parasites infect a species that requires rape for procreation?
I must say the image I get in my mind of these creatures is really quite hideous. I’m picturing the base body of a manatee (he said they were leathery, you don’t get a much more leathery sea creature than a manatee) with rows and rows of dragonfly wings sprouting out of its back, an odd number of spindly insect legs sticking out its underside like a crab that had a limb yanked off, then these big muscly human-like arms and hands sticking out in front.
Someone with better photoshop skills than I needs to make that.
Well I’ve spent enough time talking about the ‘dolphins’. There’s a noise somewhere and Jamie runs off. Wanderer is startled, but Ian tells her he’ll be back so she should just keep talking.
Ian was sitting on the counter beside the oven–a hot seat that I wouldn’t have chosen–which made him close enough to reach out and touch my wrist. My arm flinched away from the unexpected contact, but I stayed where I was.
So, Ian is clearly flirting with her, and she is clearly not liking it. Is he a love interest? Or is this story going to get really dark? This could potentially get very interesting in a real hurry. Not that I think it will, but the set-up is certainly there.
Ian is very clearly trying to distract her from the fact that Jared and Kyle are back and her life is about to suck again. But Wanderer doesn’t figure that out because she’s dumb as a post and never bothered to ask around when they would be back so she could be prepared for it when it happened and no one bothered to tell her so she could prepare for it when it happened because everyone else hates her as much as I do. At least that’s the explanation I’m going with.
She starts talking about how the social structure of the dolphins work and I’m curious. She never WAS one of them, and they weren’t inhabited until into her tenure as a human, so how does she know so much detail about their lives? What they look like, how they function, how their family structures work… She knows way too much about them.
But whatever, she gets interrupted by a filthy Jared being escorted by Jeb and Jamie into the kitchen.
From the dirty figure came Jared’s voice–flat, perfectly devoid of any inflection. “What is the meaning of this, Jeb?”
‘What’s the meaning of this’? REALLY?! How cliché can you get? Might as well have him wearing a monocle that pops off his face when he says it.
And OF COURSE Melanie finally speaks again for the first time in multiple chapters. Because only Jared gives her the strength. Not her little surrogate son, just her man. Because no woman is complete without her man.
“Wanda is teaching us all about the universe,” Jamie babbled eagerly, somehow not catching on to Jared’s fury–he was too excited to pay attention, maybe.
“Wanda?” Jared repeated in a low voice that was almost a snarl.
I feel the same way Jared. Hence why I still call her Wanderer.
Anyway, Kyle flips out and starts marching towards her, but instead of paying attention to the immediate threat heading her way she keeps her eyes on Jared because she has the survival instincts of a rock.
Melanie’s love flowed through me like a lake bursting through a dam, distracting me even more from the enraged barbarian closing the distance quickly.
Again, where the hell was all this emotion and energy from Melanie when Jamie was around? ONLY for Jared does she seem to have the strength to overwhelm Wanderer.
Ian slid into my view, moving to place himself in front of me. I strained my neck to the side to keep my view of Jared clear.
ALL THAT’S GOING ON AND YOUR ONLY FUCKING CONCERN IS THAT YOU CAN SEE JARED?! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!
Kyle’s hand came back up, and a light shone out of it. He pointed it at Ian’s face, held it there for a moment. Ian didn’t flinch from the light.
“So, what, then?” Kyle demanded, putting the flashlight back in his pocket. “You’re not a parasite. How did it get to you?”
“Calm down, and we’ll tell you all about it.”
‘Tell me what happened!’ ‘Okay, I’ll tell you.’ ‘No!’ At least Wanderer isn’t the only one acting like a petulant child.
Actually the ‘no’ came from Jared. He’s decided to shoot Melanie in the face. Oh if only the book was only another chapter longer I could believe this was really how it ended…
Jeb says he doesn’t have the gun, so Jared intends to do it with his own two hands. Ian tries to get him to calm down, but Jeb clears his throat and clarifies that the rule he made was that whoever the body belonged to would get to make the decision. And since he believes Melanie is still alive, it’s still her body and thus, her decision.
OH WAIT. Sorry, you didn’t think something in this book would be that good a message do you? Nope, the decision isn’t Melanie’s or Jared’s, it’s Jamie’s! Because Jamie will give the answer Jeb decided he wants (he actually does say that later in the chapter, I’m not just assuming). Not because Jamie is her closest living blood relative and should have been brought into the decision making process right from the beginning, or should have been informed at any point that he may have to make an unpleasant call. Not because Jamie genuinely has the closest bond with both Melanie and Wanderer. This is just Jeb finding a loop hole in his own plan.
Also; this happens.
“Seems to me like there’s someone here with a claim just as strong as yours. Mebbe stronger.”
‘Mebbe’. Yup, that’s a word written in a real book.
All the joy had drained from Jamie’s face, leaving it pale and horrorstruck.
“You can’t, Jared,” he choked. “You wouldn’t. Wanda’s good. She’s my friend! And Mel! What about Mel? You can’t kill Mel! Please! You have to –” He broke off, his expression agonized.
I said in an earlier chapter, before we actually met Jamie, that at 14, Jamie should be mature enough to at least be brought in on the decision but this pretty clearly indicates that I was wrong. That’s the kind of thing I would expect from a 5 or 6 year old, not a teenager. Especially not one that’s had to spend his life the way that Jamie has. YES this would be hard on him. YES he would be incredibly upset. But, 1, we already know he kind of saw this coming since he agreed they shouldn’t tell Jared that she’d been sleeping in his bed, and 2, he’s seen what they do. He knows the pain he felt when he lost Melanie. The pain he felt at seeing her glowing eyes.
He knows why this is happening. He has had to watch this happen to his parents, to his friends, the random people on the street. He’s had to grow up living in caves and hiding from humanity because of these creatures and has grown up fearing them. He has grown close to this one but he shouldn’t be talking like this. He should be able to be firmer than this. He should have chased after Jared when he knew what was happening, yelled out when Jared asked for the gun. Spoke up when Jeb implied he had a say!
I closed my eyes again, trying to block the picture of the suffering boy from my mind. It was already almost impossible not to go to him. I locked my muscles in place, promising myself that it wouldn’t help him if I moved now.
Note that she’s steeling herself against her own urges to go to him, not Melanie’s.
And of course she makes an Et tu, Brutus? Reference in regards to the look Jared gives Jeb. And alludes to Judas. Because no one in more recent history has ever been betrayed, yes?
The unbearable tension lasted through another long minute, and then Jared shook Jamie’s fingers off his arm.
“Kyle,” Jared barked, turning and stalking out of the room.
Kyle gave his brother a parting grimace and followed.
Wait, what? Why? Why is Kyle following Jared’s orders here? He doesn’t want his own answers from his brother? Wasn’t he willing to kill Jared to get to her in an earlier chapter or three? Why is he all of a sudden a loyal soldier coming when he’s beckoned?
Melanie was just as aghast. My poor baby.
I told you it was a bad idea to tell him everything, I reminded her.
What will it do to him now, when we die?
It’s going to be terrible. He’ll be traumatized and scarred and devastated –
NOW she’s concerned. And anyway, he would have been all of those things either way. So just shut up.
“They’re just shocked, that’s all.” I recognized Trudy’s alto voice behind me. “Once we get a chance to explain, they’ll see reason.”
“See reason? Kyle?” someone hissed almost unintelligibly.
He had her at arm’s length and not only didn’t kill her, he left the room without touching her at the orders of someone who he’d threatened to kill to get to her before. So, yes?
“No,” I finally managed to choke out. “No. That’s not right. You shouldn’t fight with each other. You all belong here. You belong together. Not fighting, not because of me.”
I pulled Jamie’s arms from around my waist, holding his wrists when he tried to stop me.
“I just need a minute to myself,” I told him, ignoring all the stares I could feel on my face. “I need to be alone.” I turned my head to find Jeb. “And you should have a chance to discuss this without me listening. It’s not fair–having to discuss strategy in front of the enemy.”
First, she’s martyring herself AGAIN. Second, she’s saying they think of her as the enemy despite that they all just said that they would willingly risk their safety to protect her. She’s an ignorant, self centered bitch and I am sick and tired of her demonizing the people that care about her.
The chapter ends with her running off in the most emo huff ever and going back to the cave bubble.
I hate this book. That’s all I have to say.
Till next time. Check out The Llama’s take on this chapter as well.