We’re going to do the comment as I read method again today because after the struggle I had to get through chapter 9 twice, I’m just not willing to do that again. Let’s hope beyond empirical evidence that this chapter will be decent. At the very least it’s shorter.
We start this chapter with evidence that if Wanderer ever needed to knock over a bank she wouldn’t get through the doors before getting arrested for suspicious behaviour. She hasn’t even done anything wrong yet but she hides behind a shelf when someone comes into the store she’s apparently stopped in.
The palms of my hands felt cold under a thin sheen of sweat, though the small room was quite hot. The wide windows let in too much sun for the loud and laboring air-conditioning unit to keep up.
…Small room? It’s a convenience store. They may not always be huge, and often they’re cramped, but ‘small’ isn’t really a descriptor I would use for a room bigger than my living room. But I’m nitpicking already. Let’s focus on the fact that they mastered interstellar space travel but they can’t make a fully functional air conditioner. I guess that goes with the fact that they don’t use GPS, they still use our small commuter planes, and nothing about them at all so far has seemed technologically advanced. They have ‘medicine that stops bleeding’ but so do we. They have cryo chambers, so do we. They have road maps, we have GPS! I’m still stuck on that bit from the last chapter…
Which one? I demanded.
The bigger one, she told me.
I grabbed the larger pack of the two available, a canvas sling that looked well able to hold more than I could carry. Then I walked around the corner to where the bottled water was shelved.
This comes immediately after the last thing I quoted. There is nothing before this that indicates what the hell they’re talking about. Which one what? Canvas sling? What the hell is a canvas sling? A quick trip to Google tells me that that is one of those ugly little backpacks people take to the beach that aren’t terribly practical for anything that isn’t small and/or soft.
She couldn’t just say backpack? Handbag? Shoulder bag? Beach bag? Laundry bag? Anything other than ‘canvas sling’? In a regular backpack the weight of the bottled water they’re clearly about to steal for reasons I can’t understand, would be dispersed over large padded shoulder straps with padding to protect your back from the bottles smacking back and forth with the motion of you running which I assume they will do after they’re done stealing everything. In the hideous little piece of fabric they grabbed, the weight will be carried by tiny little straps that will dig into her shoulder, and the bottles will hit her as she moves. A garbage bag would have been a better choice.
We can carry three gallons, she decided. That gives us three days to find them.
A gallon of water a day? Really? Does her rental car not have air conditioning to help her cool off? A gallon a day seems like a lot to sit in a car. I know it’s the desert, but, air conditioned car! Oh look, Google tells me an average adult female needs approximately 2.2 litres of water a day in a temperate climate. There’s about 3.8 litres in a gallon. It took me 5 seconds to find that out. Just goes to show how much effort Meyer put into research.
I took a deep breath, trying to tell myself that I wasn’t going along with this. I was simply trying to get more coordinates from her, that was all. When I had the whole story, I would find someone–a different Seeker, maybe, one less repulsive than the one assigned to me–and pass the information along. I was just being thorough, I promised myself.
Remember how ‘souls’ don’t lie? Apparently that doesn’t include ‘to themselves’.
My awkward attempt to lie to myself was so pathetic that Melanie didn’t pay any attention to it, felt no worry at all. It must be too late for me, as the Seeker had warned. Maybe I should have taken the shuttle.
Oh look she even admits it’s a lie. Her sucking at it seems to be the only acknowledgement of the fact that this goes against her very nature as a self-aware being.
You’re basically just reading the entire chapter along with me so far by the way. I have only left out the first 4 lines. I almost feel like I should go back and find something in those first 4 lines to point out just because I’m a completionist. I’ll spare you. I have more nitpicks to do on the rest of the chapter, there’s no need to go backwards!
Too late? I wish! Melanie grumbled. I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. I can’t even raise my hand! Her thought was a moan of frustration.
She’s confusing the pronouns here. She says ‘I can’t make you do anything’, but then refers to it as her own hand. Does she think of the body as hers or Wanderers? Oh man I almost tricked myself into thinking I cared for a second…
Despite Melanie’s little outburst, Wanderer describes her as seeming to have just accepted this as a blip. A minor interruption to her life that she just had to tolerate. She says this as the narrator, not thinking it at Melanie, yet Melanie apparently snorts at it. This raises serious questions about how the hell Melanie doesn’t know as much about Wanderer as Wanderer does about Melanie. Or even more since Wanderer wouldn’t have been prepared to try and block out memories. She should at the very least have known that Wanderer was going to kill her instead of having to ask. This is going to be recurring plot hole isn’t it? Just going to work however it needs to work at the time? Do I even need to ask that question?
Wanderer picks up a flat of water and nearly falls down because it was bigger than she expected. I thought she grabbed the backpack to put water in it. And that they were only going to carry 3 gallons. She says it’s the biggest flat of water. The ones I usually see in stores, the average sized ones not large, are 16 bottles of water, 900ml bottles. That’s about 4 gallons, not 3. Also; not that heavy. Certainly not ‘fall down because the weight is too much’ heavy. Awkward as hell to carry, but since she’s just going to the car, she’ll live. And if she’s going for a bigger case of water, then, well that’s a lot more than 3 gallons and more than Melanie told her to take so she’d just be stupid. Still also not fall over levels of heavy though.
Melanie yells at Wanderer for letting them get out of shape. There’s yet another change in the pronoun usage here as Melanie refers to it as ‘their’ body. So it has been Melanie’s, Wanderer’s, and now it’s both. Make up your mind!
Wanderer is amused that Melanie actually called her by name, so she caves and carries the heavy case of water instead of the smaller one. She has to be told how to lift the water. WHY?! WHY IS HOW MUCH INFORMATION SHE GETS FROM MELANIE’S BRAIN CONTEXTUAL?! She should not have had to have been told that if Melanie would do it naturally! It would work by muscle memory, it would be as innate as the ability to walk! If she was in the body of someone who wasn’t used to doing manual labour it would have to be told to her, but Melanie has spent the last 5 years or so carrying heavy loads long distances!
I struggled with the flat of water, wondering how far I could possibly be expected to carry it. I managed to get it to the front register, at least. With great relief, I edged its weight onto the counter. I put the bag on top of the water, and then added a box of granola bars, a roll of doughnuts, and a bag of chips from the closest display.
A roll of donuts? What the hell is a roll of donuts?
Aaand now Melanie refers to her back as Wanderer’s. Apparently she will be carrying that water in the backpack. And just… no dammit. Just no. PHYSICS. I refuse to believe that a healthy person can go from being in great shape, carrying heavy loads while walking and running long distances, to not even being able to carry a case of water 5 feet to the cash register in only a few months just by not exercising regularly. I refuse to believe that Melanie doesn’t care about the well being of her spine (she says it’s Wanderer’s back because Wanderer buys stuff she doesn’t need and Melanie says it will be too heavy to carry and she’ll hurt herself, but when Wanderer protests, Melanie says it’s her back.) I refuse to accept that they intended to carry a flat of water heavy enough for her to have to struggle to lift it high enough to get it on the counter in a backpack through the desert for 3 days. And lastly I refuse to accept that they think a flat of water that big is going to fit in a canvas bag! This is not a video game! It doesn’t open to a pocket dimension so you can hold infinite stuff! There is a finite amount of space inside that bag and it is less than the size of those bottles! Hell, a large proper backpack would probably be mostly full from them, especially if the bottles are an odd shape!
Honestly this whole section pisses me off to no end. She keeps talking about the cashier, and how she took everything to the counter. The man talks to her. No prices are quoted, no money changes hands. There’s a short conversation followed by Wanderer taking everything and leaving. I don’t know if Meyer just chose not to mention the money changing hands, despite going into depth about everything else, or if they don’t charge for things. But if they don’t charge for things, why is there a cashier? Why would you choose to be a cashier if you choose your calling? I’ve been a cashier, I know some people do it by choice, but the vast majority of them only do it because it’s the best job they can get. If there’s no money and no need for a cashier, and you can be whatever you want to be, why would you ever choose to be a cashier? Meyer must have just chose to leave that part out… right? Please? I’m going to learn they don’t use money soon aren’t I?
You’re all very creepy, she told me acidly. Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to talk to strangers?
I felt a deep tug of guilt as I answered. There are no strangers among my kind.
The class filed out slowly, many of the students taking a minute to chat with one another as they gathered their things. What Kathy had said about friendships ran through my head, but I felt no desire to join any of them. They were strangers.
That quote is from the awful chapter where she blathers on about the fire tasters.
Now that I’ve got that little consistency problem out of the way, why was the exchange creepy? It was basic small talk most people engage in with a cashier. She was getting a lot of water, a map, a backpack and some food. He asked if she was going hiking. She said the mountains are beautiful. He asked if she needed directions, she said she’d find it on her own. That’s creepy? That’s talking to strangers? I’ve had more in depth conversations with my cat. I’ve had lots more in depth conversations with cashiers, cleaners, random people in the airport, random people at the bus stop… It’s hardly creepy. Local convenience store clerks often have great advice on places to go actually.
Back to the quote though, why is Wanderer feeling guilt? I don’t see what would make her feel guilty here. Is it that she feels bad for deceiving the man? Because none of what she said was a lie. Does she feel guilty saying there are no strangers among her people while not being forthcoming? That makes the most sense so that’s probably not it. Maybe it’s that she feels guilty for being weird in the eyes of her host. That seems to fit with the dumbassery in this book.
I can’t get used to not paying for things, she said, changing the subject. What’s the point of scanning them?
Inventory, of course. Is he supposed to remember everything we took when he needs to order more? Besides, what’s the point of money when everyone is perfectly honest? I paused, feeling the guilt again so strongly that it was an actual pain. Everyone but me, of course.
Oh god where do I start with this…
Okay, first point. I guess this answers why there’s a cashier. He’s not a cashier, he’s an inventory clerk. I still don’t understand why one would actively choose that career path when they can be anything they want to be, but to each his own I suppose. Maybe he really likes arranging shelves.
Second point. Why can’t he just stock the shelves and then order more when something appears to be getting low? If this is as small a store as she claims at the start that should be fairly easy to do. Scanning everything that comes in and out I suppose is rather efficient, but if you didn’t have that part you would only have to check on the store two or three times a day and then put in an order at the end of the day based on what appears to be low. Or have a scanner on the way out the door. Anything removed from the store, a scanner at the door registers the RFID tag. We can do that now with our technology if we really wanted to, but it costs more than the theft it would prevent is worth. But if they don’t use money, convenience would be more of an issue than cost analysis.
Third point. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!
MONEY DOES NOT EXIST JUST BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE DICKS GODDAMMIT! Money is a matter of simplicity. You put a value on your goods and services. In a barter system anyone looking to buy your goods or services from you would have to provide you with equivalent goods or services. It’s much simpler to have a currency based system. No need to carry around a cart full of corn every time you need to hire someone to fix your engine. We put value on our goods not because we don’t trust that others will provide us what we need in exchange, but because we worked our asses off for those goods or services dammit! If someone else wants it we expect to be compensated for our hard work! It’s how the human brain works. This is some serious communist bullshit right here.
Can the world exist without a concept of equivalent exchange? Sure could! If the species loses the emotions of pride, jealousy, ambition, dominance, anger, fear…
Wanderer gets all emo that she’s not honest, unlike the rest of the species. Except, again, nothing she said was a lie. Not one word. She isn’t even hiding anything. She’s just feeling guilty because Meyer thinks the inner conflict makes a better story. It doesn’t. I might have been able to care if it was one scene of her genuinely struggling after showing her strength of character, but Meyer hasn’t shown us any character of her except that she already goes against everything her species stands for all the time anyway. She’s constantly going back and forth about everything. It’s just a constant barrage of ‘oh we’re all so good but I’m different and special but I want to be like them but I want to be different and special oh woe is me!’ and I just do not give a fuck. She’s not showing signs of a character arc, she’s just repeating a mantra. She’s not going to grow, she’s not going to change, she’s just going to decide love is better than the prosperity of her entire species because wuv! I hate ‘the power of love’ stories. I really really do. Love does not conquer all. Love makes you stupid. It makes you make mistakes like trusting the parasite that’s invaded your brain with the information on where to hunt down and murder your loved ones in a desperate attempt to get back to them. But let’s get back to this chapter shall we?
Okay, apparently she is taking the car. What was the concern then about carrying everything and hurting her back? I’m so confused by this book…
One of the people working in the store, the store that was super small and doesn’t have use of currency exchange with few customers who would never dream of messing up the displays, because clearly two employees is necessary in that environment, comes out to help her with her things. He carry’s the bag with the donuts instead of the water. Gentlemanly. Melanie gets all freaked out by the niceness again, Wanderer gets guilty that everyone is so nice again. Mel tells her to look at the map till he goes away, Wanderer genuinely tries to figure out where the hell they are going.
They go over the lines and survey the area until they find something that fits the squiggles, the only thing of which that seems to make sense is the cartographic symbol for mountains. Everything else is just random squiggles. They find mountains, which the man in the store had already pointed to, and Melanie is apparently so happy she sings her joy.
I shook my head, bending over the map again. The mountain ridge was so far in the distance I couldn’t guess at the miles between us and it. There was no way I was walking out of this parking lot and into the empty desert unless I had no other option.
Let’s be rational, I suggested, tracing my finger along a thin ribbon on the map, an unnamed road that connected to the freeway a few miles east and then continued in the general direction of the range.
Sure, she agreed complacently. The faster the better.
We found the unpaved road easily. It was just a pale scar of flat dirt through the sparse shrubbery, barely wide enough for one vehicle.
Okay, no, seriously, are they walking or taking the car? I still have no idea. She says there’s no way she’s walking out of the parking lot unless she absolutely has to, but she HAS A CAR! And she is clearly aware of that fact since that’s how she leaves the parking lot!
They continue driving for the time being. Wanderer is happy to be away from people she has to lie to, Melanie is happy to be away from people. She starts saying the names of the various types of cacti. I’m left to wonder if she learned this growing up or if Meyer is claiming she somehow learned this while on the run.
For a moment, I allowed myself to see the prison that was life without a body. To be carried inside but unable to influence the shape around you. To be trapped. To have no choices.
Isn’t that what being in a cryochamber would be like? She’s referring to empathy for Melanie, but really that’s exactly what the chambers they transport each other around in would be… They’re at the whim of whoever is in possession of their container and have no voice with which to express themselves and no control over where or how their container moves.
Melanie and Wanderer bond over their hatred of Seeker. Much like how I bond with Seeker over our mutual dislike of Wanderer and Melanie. They picture her getting pissy when they don’t show up in Tucson, heading back to San Diego to see if it was just a ploy to get away from her for a day, then her panic as she realized Wanderer was nowhere to be found. Except then she goes back to being emo about what she would do long term, still trying to convince herself she’ll eventually go back to her real life.
Look, a dry wash. It’s wide enough for the car–let’s follow it, Melanie insisted.
I’m not sure we’re supposed to go that way yet.
It will be dark soon and we’ll have to stop. You’re wasting time! She was silently shouting in her frustration.
Or saving time, if I’m right. Besides, it’s my time, isn’t it?
She didn’t answer in words. She seemed to stretch inside my mind, reaching back toward the convenient wash.
I don’t understand this exchange. I don’t care enough to Google what a dry wash is, but I’m confused enough to point it out. Contextually I would have to assume that a dry wash is a dried up riverbed. I’ll go with that. But why are they arguing about where to go? They have the same directions, but Melanie has more information. She should be the more reliable one in this scenario. Oh but wait, Wanderer is the special one in this book, so she’s going to be perfect and infallible. Alien Jesus, saving the humans from their weaknesses of impatience and dishonesty, and…not talking to strangers…
The last page of the chapter is spent with them bickering over what to do next. It ends with them trying to sleep in the car, but the seat doesn’t recline very far and Wanderer is too dumb to think about crawling into the back seat. It seems that the shocks on the car aren’t good for driving through the desert and that’s why there was all that talk about walking. But they could just drive slower and get to keep the air conditioning. Save water and energy, at least until the gas runs out. Or the battery. Or whatever it is that they fuel their supposedly greener cars with. Except there was no mention of anything. Hydrogen maybe? It’ll probably turn out to be gas because Meyer will have forgotten by now that they mentioned they stopped raping the planet.
I could have talked about a lot more, but I feel like all my complaints are the same. Wanderer is dumb. Wanderer is a bitch. Melanie should be dumber. Melanie is a bitch. The aliens are dicks. If my reviews start to shrink too much I’ll start squeezing two chapters in per post. There’s 60 chapters in this book and we’re only on chapter 10, it might help my sanity to do that anyway. We’ll see how it goes.
Till next time!
Don’t forget to check out The Llama’s take on this chapter too!