Allegiant Ch16-17

Last time, this book has the same grasp of science as fucking Wither.

We’re on Tobias.

“I thought you might like an explanation for why I’m not dead,” he says.
“I thought about it,” I say. “They never let us see your body. It wouldn’t be that hard to fake a death if you never show the body.”
“Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.” Amar claps his hands together. “Well, I’ll just go, then, if you’re not curious. . . .”

It’s like the author knows no one gives a fuck and is taunting the reader. You have to care. You have to. It’s soooo clever.

The super-interesting elaboration is that “they”, these people, tried to save the divergent. Other survivors include Tori’s brother.

I mean, I’ll grant this story isn’t as bad with women as usual, but so Tori accomplished nothing at all. She’s motivated by a guy being fridged, except he survives and now she’s for-real dying and probably this’ll motivate him.

Since I’m really sure this is not a story that was fully planned in advance, this may be showing how longer stories tend to regress to a certain baseline. Even if someone deliberately tries to do something different at first, as the story goes along the twists will eventually end up back at the default.

Now that my eyes have adjusted to the light, I can see that the plants in this room were selected for beauty, not practicality—flowers and ivy and clusters of purple or red leaves. The only flowers I’ve ever seen are wildflowers, or apple blossoms in the Amity orchards. These are more extravagant than those, vibrant and complex, petals folded into petals. Whatever this place is, it has not needed to be as pragmatic as our city.

Yes, who could forget the pragmatism of one-dollar dresses and throwing used clothes out entirely. Of pet dogs. Of chicken rather than eggs.

Amar explains that instead of just having him disappear and reported dead, they rewrote someone’s memory to see him jump, then planted a body. So it’s pretty damn easy to get in and out, apparently. Tobias has no problem with casual mindrape and just spends a bit working through his anger at being tricked about his friend’s death.

“There’s nowhere better out there,” he says. “All the other cities—that’s where most of the country lives, in these big metropolitan areas, like our city—are dirty and dangerous, unless you know the right people. Here at least there’s clean water and food and safety.”

Okay, so:

They’re apparently not shipping resources into the city, since it’s super secret that they exist. Therefore, the city is self-sustaining. The city appears to have plenty to go around – the biggest complaint is not enough cars, and Abnegation managed to switch over to properly feeding the factionless without any major issue.

Amar adds that Marcus, apparently still not fucking dead, is going on trial tomorrow. I could not care less.

And now, Tris. She’s decided to check out this sculpture.

It is a huge slab of dark stone, square and rough, like the rocks at the bottom of the chasm. A large crack runs through the middle of it, and there are streaks of lighter rock near the edges. Suspended above the slab is a glass tank of the same dimensions, full of water. A light placed above the center of the tank shines through the water, refracting as it ripples. I hear a faint noise, a drop of water hitting the stone. It comes from a small tube running through the center of the tank. At first I think the tank is just leaking, but another drop falls, then a third, and a fourth, at the same interval. A few drops collect, and then disappear down a narrow channel in the stone.

And Zoe pops up to explain.

“It’s the symbol of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare,” she says. “The slab of stone is the problem we’re facing. The tank of water is our potential for changing that problem. And the drop of water is what we’re actually able to do, at any given time.”
I can’t help it—I laugh. “Not very encouraging, is it?”
She smiles. “That’s one way of looking at it. I prefer to look at it another way—which is that if they are persistent enough, even tiny drops of water, over time, can change the rock forever. And it will never change back.”
She points to the center of the slab, where there is a small impression, like a shallow bowl carved into the stone.
“That, for example, wasn’t there when they installed this thing.”
I nod, and watch the next drop fall. Even though I’m wary of the Bureau and everyone in it, I can feel the quiet hope of the sculpture working its way through me. It’s a practical symbol, communicating the patient attitude that has allowed the people here to stay for so long, watching and waiting. But I have to ask.
“Wouldn’t it be more effective to unleash the whole tank at once?” I imagine the wave of water colliding with the rock and spilling over the tile floor, collecting around my shoes. Doing a little at once can fix something, eventually, but I feel like when you believe that something is truly a problem, you throw everything you have at it, because you just can’t help yourself.
“Momentarily,” she says. “But then we wouldn’t have any water left to do anything else, and genetic damage isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved with one big charge.”

Also, if you pour the water all out at once, most of the force is wasted and that waste harms unrelated things. It’s funny that this would seem like the point of the metaphor and yet no one’s aware of it, instead choosing to work slowly solely in case they need to do something else.

Tris decides to worry that maybe this sculpture will convince people that it’s impossible to ever take big steps, so I guess it’ll turn out that restraint and sanity were the real mistake, which admittedly fits right in with science being evil. Also with the general lack of understanding about human nature and that a statue and mission statement will never stop people from thinking that what about doing something major this one time, wouldn’t that work?

Anyway, Zoe is actually here to say David said to come to the lab about her mom. Also, her paranoid flipout earlier was totally correct and she’s a reality TV star now.

A lot of the younger people think you’re downright heroic.”
“Oh, good,” I say, a sour taste in my mouth. “Heroism is what I was focused on. Not, you know, trying not to die.”

Right. YA, girls can’t be heroes, can’t want to be heroes, can only react. Even when they seem to do stuff that is objectively heroic, stuff that involves throwing themselves into danger, the idea they were being heroes is the highest insult.

Zoe stops. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make light of what you’ve been through.”

Luckily Zoe realizes how very wrong it was to suggest she did something on purpose instead of being forced into it and hating every unfeminine second of her unwilling “heroics”, so she apologizes for implying Tris was anything but a reactive victim.

What a great book this is! How wonderful it is that young girls can read stories about girls just like them: helpless no matter what they do.

“Do the colors of the uniforms mean anything?” I ask Zoe.
“Yes, actually. Dark blue means scientist or researcher, and green means support staff—they do maintenance, upkeep, things like that.”
“So they’re like the factionless.”
“No,” she says. “No, the dynamic is different here—everyone does what they can to support the mission. Everyone is valued and important.”

I’m betting this will turn out to be wrong and it’ll be one of those mouths of babes thing, but I’d really like it to be right, in that maintenance, especially under circumstances like this where mostly they’re observing, is actually pretty damn important.

“A lot of the support staff used to be in the experiment in Indianapolis

And already we see evidence for them being like the factionless. The janitors are from an experiment that presumably imploded.

Interestingly, she says it’s actually easier for them to integrate without the faction system, which also suggests that the faction system isn’t actually good overall, it just makes things look better on the surface.

Indianapolis apparently was the “control” in that it didn’t have factions. The other three are Saint Louis, Detroit, and Minneapolis. Detroit makes sense. Are the others blighted cityscapes that wouldn’t even notice the apocalypse too?

Apparently all the experiment cities are in the midwest, because space. That is indeed the midwest’s best quality.

“So in Indianapolis you just . . . corrected their genes and shoved them in a city somewhere? Without factions?”
“They had a complex system of rules, but . . . yes, that’s essentially what happened.”

That sounds like it’s just a straight up prison. Can’t imagine how cramming lots of people into a prison environment could possibly have had trouble.

“Genetically damaged people who have been conditioned by suffering and are not taught to live differently, as the factions would have taught them to, are very destructive.

Nothing to do with the prison part!

Also god is it nature or nurture? We know nurture does this already, so what does genetic “damage” matter?

That experiment failed quickly—within three generations. Chicago—your city—and the other cities that have factions have made it through much more than that.”

This is a bad reveal because all previous evidence pointed very firmly to three generations. It’s not shocking, since everyone already acted like the system had been running forever and it fits fine with how they reacted to the idea of an “ancestor”, it just comes off as the author having no idea she was writing something that seemed like it was three generations already.

The Bureau is different from most government agencies, because of the focused nature of our work and our contained, relatively remote location. We pass on knowledge and purpose to our children, instead of relying on appointments or hiring. I’ve been training for what I’m doing now for my entire life.”

That’s batshit.

Finally they meet David again.

I’ll need Natalie Wright’s file loaded on a portable screen. Can you do that?”
Wright? I think. Was that my mother’s real last name?

Speaking of not-so-shocking revelations, she had her dad’s last name and not her mom’s. (And while I give points for claiming that last names aren’t a big deal and it’s a toss-up if it’s the mom or dad’s, in practice we seem to only see the usual patrilineal setup where not knowing your mom’s “real” last name is pretty standard.) She didn’t even think about her mom’s entire side of the family until learning her mom used to be Dauntless.

He decides to transfer the files right then, thus giving him time to chat.

“Let me start by saying that your mother was a fantastic discovery. We located her almost by accident inside the damaged world, and her genes were nearly perfect.”


Let’s assume the idea is there literally a single murder gene, vain intellectual gene, etc. This is ludicrous so it fits in with the rest fine. In that case, her genes being “nearly perfect” would mean she’s got, say, one “damaged” gene for crazy virtue of her choice (Dauntless or Abnegation, probably Abnegation when the whole first book said over and over that Abnegation were brave), in which case people with less perfect genes have more than one damaged crazy virtue, but a lot of those seem to cancel out and even if they didn’t, they should produce actual divergents, people qualifying for more than one.

The alternate is that the bad genes are actually duplicates. They found the honesty gene, next to the murder gene or whatever, made fifty copies and stuffed those in, so now they produce fifty times the amount of honesty hormone. Luckily those aren’t as stable as regular genes, so there’s a high chance of deletion every generation. Tris’ mom would be someone with only a few copies left, very nearly the same as the original model human.

Incidentally, if they’re trying to do this genetics stuff, why not just test all babies or kindergartners? Just keep pulling the breeding stock you want from the general population. Why rely on stumbling over kids when you know it’s pretty much random when a “perfect” gene kid will pop up?

“We took her out of a bad situation and brought her here.

Also going on how much nurture trumps nature, her genes shouldn’t do her personally any good. If she was raised in a bad experimental zone or unregulated equivalent, she’d just as fucked in the head.

Her mom worked here for a while, then the previous Erudite leader started murdering divergent and she was sent in.

we sent Natalie in to investigate the situation and to stop the deaths.

So resounding failure then.

We never dreamed she would be in there for so long, of course, but she was useful—we had never thought about having an insider before

But you’re able to pop in, rewrite somebody’s memories and plant a dead body as business as usual.

Tris points out that the divergent kept dying, and David said that there were totally some that they got out instead, because David has a very low bar for success.

She wonders if her dad knew about this, then if her mom even ever loved her dad. That seems like a stretch – surely there were plenty of Abnegation guys she could’ve gone after. But it does seem reasonable for Tris herself to be worrying about this stuff when she feels like everything she’s known turns out to be a lie.

“When she first entered the city, it was as a Dauntless, because she already had tattoos and that would have been hard to explain to the natives. She was sixteen, but we said she was fifteen so she would have some time to adjust.

It seems like the bigger problem would be the part where she had no family and no one had ever seen her before. Really, it seems like the only chance you’d have to slip her in would be as a transfer.

Incidentally, I’d just like to point out that if they’d gone with my system of sending any divergent outside the gates, then in addition to all the other reasons that’s a good idea there’s the fact they could’ve pretended there was a sister divergent community that sent any non-divergents back to choose their faction, giving them an easy way to plant as many insiders as they wanted.

He decides he’s done talking and just hands her the computer book.

She’s then escorted back out by Matthew, who is some guy I don’t recall mattering, who then says he’s impressed she hasn’t flipped out yet. So, how is this supposed to work when they know that the divergents it produces will be hit by massive culture shock? Even if they’re saying nurture is minor compared to nature, they still get that the nurture in this case is still enough to make people flip out. Tris says she’s fine more because she doesn’t want to chat than because she actually is fine.

“Listen, one of the things my supervisor and I do is genetic testing,” Matthew says. “I was wondering if you and that other guy—Marcus Eaton’s son?—would mind coming in so that I can test your genes.”

This is so Gattaca, except for the part where Gattaca wasn’t crap.

“Curiosity.” He shrugs. “We haven’t gotten to test the genes of someone in such a late generation of the experiment before

I’d like to point out that there was absolutely nothing stopping them from setting up their experiment to include DNA testing. Given they can hack the cameras, they presumably have access to the files as well. All they’d need to do is tell the people inside to do it and they could actually see what was happening rather than having the entirety of the plan be “try to change people’s DNA again to unchange how it changed before but it may not show up at first or ever but if you see people who can hack brain videogames that is totally what we were going for”.

and you and Tobias seem to be somewhat . . . odd, in your manifestations of certain things.”

Because of course as soon as the author says divergence is normal we have to learn they’re special.

“You, for example, have displayed extraordinary serum resistance—most of the Divergent aren’t as capable of resisting serums as you are,” Matthew says. “And Tobias can resist simulations, but he doesn’t display some of the characteristics we’ve come to expect of the Divergent.

So…fitting perfectly into Dauntless and being really Dauntless at everything all the time is textbook divergent, and while being able to handle more than one faction, respecting all the virtues, seeing how different traits should overlap in healthy human beings and being happiest among the factionless is weird.

God this fucking book.


  1. Joe says:
    Apparently so long as you have the right genes being suicidally brave and violent is no longer a problem, it’s just normal human beings doing normal human things.
  2. GeniusLemur says:
    Is it just me or are we getting chapter after chapter of exposition dump, supplied entirely by the anti-science-yet-doesn’t-know-a-thing-about-it author’s ass?
    1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
      Well, if the author learnt a thing or two about science, she might have to admit it isn’t entirely based around the concept of “Evil progress, yay! Let’s do impossible things to people for poorly thought-out reasons!” And what would become of the plot then?
      1. Farla says:
        Let’s face it, the plot would still be a clusterfuck, it’d just be Evil Something Else.
  3. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    I’m going to save what little remains of my sanity by assuming that, when Natalie was inserted into Dauntless, the BGW folks also altered people’s memories so that she’d always been there, as with Buffy’s younger sister.

    Otherwise, I’d have to rant about how record-keeping is fundamental to the organization of civilization. At bare minimum, allocating food and living space should require knowing how many people are in each faction.

    If the author had some vague idea of frontier days and people drifting from town to town, changing identities for a fresh start… each town (or maybe county) had records of all sorts of things. It’s just that verifying claims against the records of the newcomer’s prior town was such a hassle that people bothered only when the stakes were especially high. (Plus town halls burned down at irregular intervals, making records spotty.) Dauntless should have caught Natalie the first time the count of people showing up for dinner was wrong.

    1. Farla says:
      I’m going to save what little remains of my sanity by assuming that, when Natalie was inserted into Dauntless, the BGW folks also altered people’s memories so that she’d always been there, as with Buffy’s younger sister.

      That doesn’t help! They say that’s what they did, but they’d need to rewrite all of Dauntless’ memories, half the teachers and possibly all the kids. All it takes is one person pointing out she wasn’t there before and the rest of them would realize their memories were oddly hazy beyond that they were sure they knew her. Plus they’re also surveillance central, so if they record anything, you have to tamper with that too.

      The real problem with the science vs magic memory alteration is that magic can know who needs their memories rewritten and only do just those people, keeping the changes to a minimum. Science has to get everyone that might notice just in case, and that’s way too many people.

      Oh, and Dauntless doesn’t have money, they use an account system that doles out credit points automatically. So at the least, they have a paper trail for all current members, even if they won’t let anyone else see it.

      1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
        *moment of horror at author apparently forgetting she posited an economic system*

        *scurries off to work on her own and write it all down just in case*

        1. Farla says:
          Don’t worry too much about making this sort of mistake. I’ve never seen a book with less of a grasp of continuity than this one.
  4. Betty Cross says:
    I didn’t buy the genetic stuff either. Reading this book, I found myself more and more wishing the factions had been religious sects, straight-up. Dauntless, worshippers of Thor. Erudite, 18th century style deists. Amity, goddess-worshippers. Abnegation, under a Vow of selfless Christian service, but not celibate. Candor, atheists, because if you can’t prove God exists, He doesn’t. And they’re militant about it, because believers are irrational. Damn, I need to write this.

    As Farla said, the factions are sort of like religions anyway.

    1. Farla says:
      Hm. I’m thinking maybe flip Erudite and Candor – deists was a popular choice for those struggling to figure out exactly how much God existed. Erudite would work as “if I can’t see it, it isn’t real” while Candor is into debate, so they should be better able to allow for the possibility. Though I could see Candor being more into Occam’s razor while Erudite only gets fussed about whatever they’re currently researching.

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