This chapter, as I’m sure you could guess by now, starts half a second after where the last one ended, and really really terribly.
Jared lunged forward, away from me. With a loud smacking sound, his fist hit Kyle’s face.
Kyle’s eyes rolled back in his head, and his mouth fell slack. The room was very quiet for a few seconds.
“Um,” Doc said in a mild voice, “medically speaking, I’m not sure that was the most helpful thing for his condition.”
“But I feel better,” Jared answered, sullen.
Doc smiled the tiniest smile. “Well, maybe a few more minutes of unconsciousness won’t kill him.”
Except it totally could kill him in real life. The LAST thing you want to do to a victim of severe head trauma, especially one that’s been out cold for a half an hour, is give them MORE HEAD TRAUMA THAT KNOCKS THEM BACK OUT! Especially since in real life it generally takes more than one blow to the head to actually knock someone out, otherwise boxing matches would be really fucking short and a lot less fun to watch.
When someone does go down in one punch it’s because either they were hit so hard they may never be able to speak properly again (that’s actually a serious concern with head trauma) or because they had already had so much other damage done to them it was the last straw blow. Which also could very easily end with either a fatality or at the very least lifelong disability. Take a look at boxers that actually survived past their 40’s. Or football stars. Or concussion patients. It can actually be pretty depressing.
As a doctor, Doc should know better. But that would make Jared look bad, and have something actually impactful happen. God forbid. So far the only person that’s had anything happen to them that wasn’t fixed pretty much immediately is poor Walter who’s still lying on his cot in a morphine induced sleep.
Jared keeps calling Wanderer ‘it’, and calls her out on lying, again, about what happened. Wanderer gets snippy and tells him he’s successfully annoyed her. She assures them all she is actually female. But the reason she gives is that she bears children.
This is not a good enough reason to claim she’s female. The female of a species is the one that produces ova/eggs. Period. Humans have decided to broaden this to cover gender identity, but since she specifically talked about biology, that’s all I’m going to talk about here. Bearing the young is irrelevant. And inaccurate given how she describes it works. If she doesn’t require the genetic input from another of her species to …spore…spawn? the young, she has no biological gender. She reproduces asexually, therefore gender is unnecessary. ‘She’ is genderless by her own provided definition, therefore ‘it’ is still technically accurate.
That stopped him short. I felt almost smug.
As you should, Melanie approved. He’s wrong, and he’s being a pig about it.
We girls have to stick together.
He’s actually NOT being a pig. She’s an ALIEN. How the hell was he supposed to know she actually DOES identify as female outside the context of her host body? She’s never even IMPLIED before that it bothered her to be called ‘it’ (not even in her head to give the reader insight into the idea that it bugs her, other than that it meant he didn’t acknowledge that Stryder was still in there). As far as he knew she was just calling herself female because she was wearing his girlfriend’s skin, something he has every right to take exception to. And he didn’t try and argue with her after she explained that that wasn’t what she was doing. He wasn’t even being dickish by calling her ‘it’ in the first place, since he just proved he really did think her gender was determined by her host body, not her own, making Wanderer herself genderless as far as he knew. And if you think he should have had the decency to ask, you do have to keep in mind he still can’t bring himself to actually sit and TALK to her at this point. The closest he’s come is when she punched him in the face. Not much opportunity for it to come up.
Also, I really hate that ‘girl power’ bullshit between these two. Especially since they fight on a fairly regular basis. And not in a friendly disagreement way. Wanderer is constantly cruel to Melanie, including everything that’s happened in the last hour as I’ve already gone over at length how cruel Wanderer is in regards to allowing Melanie any agency. But Melanie continues to support Wanderer as she has since Wanderer went on this stupid quest. It’s Stockholm Syndrome at its worst.
Wes (I don’t remember who he is, he’s just ‘Wes’… I have no idea if he was one of the raiders, one of the people who abandoned her when the raiders showed back up, or one of the people who supported her…) asks how their reproduction works, and Wanderer laughs about how he blushes realizing he just asked how they have sex. She says their reproduction isn’t as ‘elaborate’ as that, with an implication that a memory of Jared and Melanie having sex comes up. That means Melanie and Jared HAVE in fact had sex. This will be relevant in later chapters, and I will come back to it.
Get your mind out of the gutter.
It’s your mind, I reminded her.
Technically it is Wanderer’s neural impulses triggering Melanie’s brain to bring up those memories. BUT that’s not important here. What is important is the fact that it’s Melanie’s mind when it’s something bad.
They still waited. I frowned, but then I spoke. I’d started this. “The Mothers… divide. Every… cell, I guess you could call it, though our structure isn’t the same as yours, becomes a new soul. Each new soul has a little of the Mother’s memory, a piece of her that remains.”
Basically she explains that a parasite that reaches a certain age or something (she doesn’t make it clear how one becomes a mother, just that only a few of them can, or do, she wasn’t clear on that either). She does also confirm that this is asexual. Thus there are no males or females in her species, only those with the potential for asexual reproduction and those without. Which doesn’t make sense. Bees and ants and similar insects have a queen that gives birth and no one else can, yes, but they still have sex with multiple partners to increase genetic diversity and allow for increased possibility for survival. Without the genetic input of any other parasite, they’re simply cloning themselves over and over again with additional memories. No room for evolution or adaptation. That’s why pretty much all (if not all. I don’t think there are any but I don’t care enough to double check so I’m covering my ass) multi-cellular organisms reproduce sexually rather than asexually. So if one of the organisms has done better than others, it can reproduce with another organism that has been doing better, and pass on their combined traits to their children and increase their survival traits two fold by hopefully passing on the best genes of both parent. Simply passing on the same genes over and over again makes it easier for your predators to out evolve you and kick your ass or your environment to become to hostile to support your survival, leaving you a nominee for a Darwin Award.
The part about a piece of her memory going to each child is stupid. Really fucking stupid. So stupid I’m not even going to address it.
“When does that happen? Is there a catalyst?” Doc asked.
“It’s a choice. A voluntary choice,” I told him. “It’s the only way we ever willingly choose to die. A trade, for a new generation.”
She doesn’t have to say ‘a voluntary choice’ after saying it’s a choice. That’s pretty redundant. But if I were her I would just say it was complicated and not explain, since that justifiably scares the shit out of everyone in the room, most of whom are people who are on Kyle’s side since they weren’t around to get to know her.
“You could choose now, to divide all your cells, just like that?”
“Not quite just like that, but yes.”
“Is it complicated?”
“The decision is. The process is… painful.”
Why should that have surprised him so? Wasn’t it the same for his kind?
Men. Mel snorted.
Why the hell are they making this sound like a sexist response? Cell division isn’t a painful process. It’s something we’re all experiencing every second of every day. You’re experiencing it RIGHT NOW as you read this! There’s absolutely no reason at all that that should be painful. I would assume it’s very similar to how one fertilized egg turns into twins. One egg divides a few times, then splits off. It’s not painful, it’s pretty goddamn basic. And it’s NOTHING like human reproduction (despite my earlier comparison…) AT ALL. It hurts for HUMANS because YOU’RE SQUEEZING A BABY OUT OF A VERY SMALL OPENING! How the fuck were they supposed to make a correlation?!
Doc was stroking his chin, entranced. “I wonder what the evolutionary track would be… to produce a hive society with suiciding queens.…” He was lost on another plane of thought.
“Altruism,” Wes murmured.
“Hmm,” Doc said. “Yes, that.”
WHAT?! ALTRUISM?! DO YOU KNOW HOW EVOLUTION WORKS YOU DIPSHITS?! ALTRUISM ISN’T AN EVOLUTIONARY TRACK! In fact, it’s actually counterproductive in most species! Altruism develops as a RESULT of a social evolutionary track. It is something that helps form stronger bonds in a community, but if all the species was massively altruistic they’d all end up dead because it counters the instinct for self-preservation. It’s basically a side effect, not the disease. It’s not even altruism. Only ONE of out of thousands has to sacrifice to do this. So MOST of the species would never have to experience it, and thus do not have to be that ‘altruistic’. And even the ones that DO choose to do it, from what little I’ve managed to figure out, seem to only be able to after a very, VERY long life span and don’t have to do this until they don’t want to bother moving onto another host.
Even then though, if they can only die by accident or choice, and each mother produces ‘a million or so’ children, and there’s one mother for every five to ten thousand children… That’s a LOT of fucking aliens. That’s 1-200 mothers in every batch of children. Each with the potential of producing another million of the parasites, with another 1-200 with the potential to breed. If they decided to do that in the lifespan of 1 human host, they’d be up to 10-40 billion by the third generation. BILLION. With a B. For a scale reference humans are up to 7 billion.
“That’s just great,” someone said under his breath. “We’ve got a bloody queen mother alien living with us. She could blow into a million new buggers at any moment.”
“They couldn’t hurt you,” I told whoever it was, not opening my eyes. “Without host bodies, they would die quickly.” I winced, imagining the unimaginable grief. A million tiny, helpless souls, tiny silver babies, withering…
Grief? Who would grieve? You’d be ‘dead’ (technically speaking since it’s her cells just reverting to stem cells and branching off it’s less death than it is reverting to a spore state and then living on fairly literally in that state) and the humans sure as fuck wouldn’t care… Also, I really want to know how the hell they got into their first hosts. If the babies are helpless outside a host, they sure as hell can’t insert themselves, so they’re entirely dependent on someone else doing surgery on an unwilling host. I can’t imagine their first host species inserted them on purpose. Maybe they tried to eat them or something.
Of course right before she falls asleep, Walter wakes up. Because we have to be reminded once again how fucking selfless this goddamn idiot is when she ignores her tiredness and pain to hold his hand. Under normal circumstances I would find that touching, but I know that it ONLY happened because Meyer wants everyone to think that Wanderer is just the nicest most selfless being ever and I’m fucking sick of it! WE CAN LITERALLY READ HER THOUGHTS MEYER! WE KNOW SHE’S A FUCKING SELFISH BITCH!
I know some people say that actions matter most, it’s what you do, blah blah blah. No. No it’s not. Intentions matter more to me than actions. You can give all your money to charity and live in a cardboard box, and I’ll still think you’re a douchebag if I know you’re only do it because you want to feel like a smug asshole and talk about how much more charitable you are than me. The charity should still take your money, and shouldn’t give a shit why you’re doing it, but in terms of whether or not I think you’re a good person? Intention is EVERYTHING. Wanderer doesn’t do good deeds because she wants to do good deeds and genuinely wants to help everyone and loves them. She does it because she feels GUILTY. She feels like she HAS to do these things to make people accept her. All the while thinking about how much these people would murder her despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
Not to mention what I’ve already gone over about how her personal feelings outweigh ANYTHING Melanie wants 100% of the time. The ONLY time she allows Melanie ANY say over what they do is when she AGREES with her. She was going to kill Melanie instead of going into the desert until she fell in love with Jared. She ate and drank all their supplies to spite Melanie. She refused to give Melanie any ability to do or say anything when her family was around, even after they started to get evidence that they knew she was in there. She didn’t listen to Melanie about what to do to protect herself from Kyle. She didn’t listen to Melanie about what should happen to Kyle.
Even when Melanie makes an argument she can’t counter with some paranoid rationale, it’s literally ‘too bad, I’m in control.’ But we’re meant to side with Wanderer because it’s the perception of her being meekly selfless that’s kept them alive this long. Except it ISN’T. JEB kept them alive this long. Jeb PROVED that when he said that Jamie was her legal guardian instead of Jared so Jared couldn’t have her killed. And Jeb would have been even MORE likely to do that if he had known sooner that Stryder was in there, or if she’d just been nicer to him from the start instead of being a bitch and refusing to speak to him. Sure, hide it from Jared, but Jamie and Jeb could have been told a lot sooner with no ill effects, and there WAS evidence of that so I’m not just pointing that out with the benefit of hindsight.
Doc hushed the men who began to protest. “Wanda’s given up sleep and peace to help him through the pain. Her hands are bruised from holding his. What have you done for him?”
First: She didn’t do that intentionally. She wanted to see him before he died and he happened to mistake her for his wife. She got STUCK doing it. If Walter had mistaken any of them for his dead wife they probably would have done the same, so don’t be a presumptuous dick by adding that little ‘what did you do?’ dig. They COULDN’T have done that for him and it’s unfair to finish your statement with a guilt trip for something they couldn’t have done. It just makes you a massive asshole.
Second: I still don’t know how a man who is frail from dying of cancer could have bruised her hands. How fucking weak are her hands. I’ve slammed my hand in doors without bruising. I can’t imagine how a man whose bones are so brittle they break just from bearing his already very small amount of weight could POSSIBLY have the strength to bruise her no matter how strong the pain. You don’t get bruises just from holding someone for a really long time.
Doc sends the men that were carrying Kyle out of the room. Apparently none of them get a chance to say their last goodbye, but whatever. Jared, Jeb, Doc and Wanda are the only ones there for Walter’s final words of love to his wife. It’s a touching scene. There are a few things I could say about it, but since there are so few decent selections in this book and this one is the final words of a dying man, I’ll not be a pedantic dickhead and leave it alone.
When Walter passes, Doc puts her in a more comfortable position for her, and she starts to sob. Jared begrudgingly gives Doc permission to do something that’s unclear at first, but turns out to be giving her morphine. I would like to point out at this point that he said there was only enough morphine to euthanize Walter. Also that the amount of morphine that will kill you, knock you out, or just make you fuzzy/stop your pain, varies drastically from person to person based on your size and body chemistry, and being put under by medication requires incredibly strict observation including constant monitoring of your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, breathing, etc. to make sure you don’t DIE.
Not to mention the fact that as far as I can tell, the parasites are only connected to the neural network of the body, so it wouldn’t actually knock her out, just block her ability to control the body. She would still hear everything. …I think. It’s not terribly clear whether or not Wanderer thinks with Melanie’s brain or one in her own body. The fact that Melanie hears all her thoughts implies she’s thinking with Melanie’s brain, but the fact that she has memories of all her previous hosts and for her ‘children’ (clones, but our biological definitions) to carry forward, implies that she does think with her own brain, but then Melanie wouldn’t hear her thoughts, and I just made myself confused…
There’s a scene cut and Wanderer wakes up outside with Ian caressing her face. She doesn’t know she’s outside, that takes several paragraphs of pointless descriptions for her to figure out while anyone with half a brain knew the minute she mentioned stars.
Ian talks to her as though she should know what’s going on, despite the fact that she was out cold, but eventually she gets it out of him that they’re outside for Walter’s funeral. Jamie shows up and informs them that they aren’t waiting for her to get up and the funeral is already almost over. Something Ian should have already known since it’s not like they’re really far away, but he said specifically that they were waiting before Jamie came and said they weren’t. Apparently Meyer can’t even maintain continuity on the SAME PAGE.
She asks Jamie to take her to the burial spot. Something I think is nice of them to want to do, but pretty irresponsible. It may have been multiple chapters ago, but it was only 24 hours ago in universe, that the Seeker was flying overhead with binoculars searching for them. If she decides to come back again, she could easily notice that there’s a rectangular spot of upturned dirt that wasn’t there in her multiple previous fly overs. A more responsible burial would be to put his body in the rushing water or to bury him where they plant their crops, despite how morbid that feels to suggest.
Ian states that Doc gave her a LITTLE of the remaining morphine. I would like to point out that that was at first light. It’s now the middle of the night. How did a small amount of morphine knock her out for THAT long? You could argue that she was just tired and injured so she just didn’t wake up, but she spends the entire rest of this scene still suffering the fuzziness brought on by the drug. You know, like how you’d get if you were only given a little bit rather than being knocked out for a full day.
I frowned, disapproving. “Won’t someone else need the medicine more?”
And of COURSE she takes this moment to remind us she’s a FUCKING martyr. SHUT UP ALREADY! I really cannot express how much this annoys the piss out of me! THIS IS NOT HER BEING NICE, IT’S HER BEING SELF-DEPRICATING! THERE’S A MASSIVE DIFFERENCE!
I recognized Trudy’s voice.
“Walter always saw the bright side of things. He could see the bright side of a black hole. I’ll miss that.”
1: that’s a really terrible line.
2: there actually IS a bright side of a black hole. Just outside the blackest part, the radiation it gives off is actually visible. Not only that, but since time is relative to speed, there’s actually a ring around the black hole of everything it’s sucked into it, which includes light, that has since been destroyed, but appears frozen in time to everything outside of it because of how fast it was destroyed. So the bright side of a black hole is just the outer ring.
Kyle for some reason has a swollen eye. I assume that’s from Jared’s punch. When he speaks up he takes the chance to make a dig at Wanderer saying Walter’s death was the best any of them could have hoped for because he died human. Except for the fact that he spent his last few days in excruciating pain with no painkillers until his very last… hour? …Wait. The small dose of morphine knocked HER out for an ENTIRE DAY, but Walter was only knocked out a few minutes before Wanderer left for her bath. Even with the fight scene it couldn’t have been more than two hours that he was out before he woke up, and Doc had given HIM a PROPER dose. Oh whatever, I don’t care that much.
Jamie says something about how Walter wasn’t afraid to ‘believe’ that I don’t entirely understand. We were never given any evidence of a strong religious belief on his part, only a reference to a belief in an afterlife, something even people who are only lightly spiritual tend to think exists and certainly not something someone would be afraid to believe in. So is Jamie talking about how Walter believed Wanderer wasn’t a seeker? Or is this just generic funeral speeches that we’re just meant to accept that that was how he was?
Andy starts to get ready to shovel the rest of the dirt when Jamie points out that neither Wanderer nor Ian have spoken yet. Apparently everyone gets antsy about this, but I have no idea why since they tolerate her being right there, why would her actually speaking be any different? But whatever, Jeb says make it so, so Andy stops shoveling.
My first instinct was to wave Andy ahead and make Ian carry me away. This was human mourning, not mine.
Go fuck yourself. I’m tired of this bullshit.
But I did mourn. And I did have something to say.
At least she doesn’t pull that and make them force her to go up there. When she denies things and makes others force her to do them she can bypass her guilt by saying it’s their fault. She manipulates the people around her into giving her what she wants AND providing herself an out for her own belief system, while also having everyone reinforce how selfless she is. So I’m glad that for once she doesn’t do that. It’s a rare moment that probably won’t happen again.
Ian began speaking before I could.
“Walter was the best and brightest of what is human,” he said, and scattered his sand into the hole. It fell for a long time before I heard it hiss against the bottom.
…What the hell is that supposed to mean? ‘The best and brightest of what is human’? I don’t… I think it’s a passive aggressive reference to what he said in the last chapter of how Wanderer is human and Kyle isn’t, but I’m genuinely not sure. It’s so awkwardly worded.
It was absolutely silent in the starlit night. Even the wind was calm. I whispered, but I knew my voice carried to everyone.
“There was no hatred in your heart,” I whispered. “That you existed is proof that we were wrong. We had no right to take your world from you, Walter. I hope your fairytales are true. I hope you find your Gladdie.”
You know it’s kind of insulting for you to call the afterlife a fairytale. I don’t believe in it myself, but I would never call it a fairytale, especially not at a goddamn FUNERAL. Does Melanie’s brain not include knowledge of the word TACT?
At least she’s finally admitted that her species was wrong. Only took a few months of living among these people. And the death of someone. Someone who, while he did seem to be nice, was no nicer to her than Jamie, Jeb, or any of the other characters who were on her side whose names I long ago forgot. But she’s totally traumatized by his death! God I wish I could actually buy that… I don’t want to be this cynical, I really don’t. But come on. If anyone actually buys that this will actually change anything you clearly haven’t been reading my reviews.
After Ian takes her away from the grave, she mentions that the mat she was on was ‘out of place-not belonging’. Because we need EVEN MORE references to how she’s not human and doesn’t deserve to be among them and I’M GOING TO FUCKING STAB SOMETHING IF SHE DOESN’T GIVE THIS A FUCKING REST!
Doc comes by to give her a check-up. Outside in the desert in the middle of the night after a funeral. She says she thinks she can walk. She’s still hazy from the morphine, and her leg injury was severe enough that if she tried to put all her weight on that leg she would fall down. Since I hate her, I support her trying to walk. But no one else does so instead he shines a flashlight in her eyes. Because shining a flashlight in the desert at night with someone potentially looking for you is totally smart. But whatever, the only purpose for this is that Doc flinches at her shiny eyes and Ian doesn’t because Meyer wants the reader to know that Ian wuvs her. Gag me.
Wanderer says she doesn’t like the effect of the medication and she’d prefer just being in pain. This makes Ian and Doc both wince because they have to put her out again. Because of COURSE they still have enough morphine to INSTANTLY put her under! ‘Cuz that’s how morphine works.
Apparently everyone else was only tolerating her presence at the funeral because it was promised she would be drugged going in and out so she couldn’t figure out how to leave. This makes her panic and look at Ian as though he betrayed her. Because it’s totally his fault and they didn’t just explain a fairly reasonable reason to do this to you, they’re truly awful and betrayed your trust somehow. And then Doc sticks her with the needle and says sorry and she’s out like a light.
Chapter’s over. Thank fuck. I hated this one less than I hated the last few, but only thanks to that one page where Walter passes away. Everything else was just as bad as everything else I’ve been bitching about this whole time.
Till next time! Check out The Llama’s recap of this chapter too!
P.S: I looked it up. Morphine when injected intravenously will only have an analgesic (painkiller) effect for 3-4 hours. Not the full day that Wanderer was out. And it doesn’t actually knock you out. At least not on its own in any dosage that’s actually safe for someone to take. It makes you drowsy and most people will fall asleep, but that’s not the same thing. And it sure as fuck isn’t instantaneous.