Allegiant Ch19

Last time, Tobias emoed he wasn’t special! Today, Tris is sad she’s not special.

The difference is, she figures it just doesn’t matter or is wrong, while Tobias is in a tailspin.

It’s just a word for a particular sequence in my DNA, like a word for all people with brown eyes or blond hair.

Or a synonym possibly.

I leave the gene therapy room just as Nita is walking back to it.
“What did you say to him?” I say.
She’s pretty. Tall but not too tall, thin but not too thin, her skin rich with color.
“I just made sure he knew where he was going,” she says. “It’s a confusing place.”
“It certainly is.” I start toward—well, I don’t know where I’m going, but it’s away from Nita, the pretty girl who talks to my boyfriend when I’m not there.

Oh jesus christ. Love triangle wasn’t enough, we have to instantly head over to jealousy because all women are enemies and of course it’s their fault your boyfriend cheats on you.

Tris heads on to get to fly on a plane, which they apparently just do for no reason because once again, nothing about the resource level in this series will ever make an ounce of sense. Crumbling dystopia, infinite fuel.

The plane’s official purpose is spying.

“The fringe is a large, sort of chaotic place between Chicago and the nearest government-regulated metropolitan area, Milwaukee

So the US no longer exists and there’s just patches of unified government. That is stupid. That is really, really stupid. Governments like being governments.

Let’s just talk about this in terms of evolutionary fitness, because I think that best covers why this is an absolute. If a government was not interested in controlling areas, that means someone else will take over, because the government is not there to stop them. Humans are social. The natural state of humanity is not a screaming chaotic mass, it’s some form of social structure, be it an intricate network of favors or some guys with a big stick. Whatever organization takes over the area will, by definition, be one with an interest in taking over areas, which means they will want to take over more areas. And a government that isn’t interested in controlling areas is ones that isn’t all that motivated to retake areas or defend areas.

It is theoretically possible to get a government that has undergone some unhealthy changes and somehow hit “no expansion” while still being stubborn enough to refuse to give up what it dos have and so entrenched it can’t be wiped out by uprisings, but that’s an extremely temporary setup. Natural mutation (people entering and exiting positions within the organization, individuals changing their minds due to chance or the fact an uprising almost got them killed) will eventually mutate the government back to healthy wanting-to-be-in-charge, or its entrenchment advantage will be worn down over time and it’ll eventually fall to one of the upstarts. And apparently, this has all been going on for quite a while, so even assuming the government happened to start off unhealthy, it’s had ample time to adapt.

(Note this has nothing to do with corruption. It’s totally possible for a government to decide it’ll have real laws and healthy environments and public parks for one group of people and a poisoned wasteland that runs on bribery. The point is, some aspect of the government is in control in both places. The fringes could be to the cities as banana republics were to America, but they would not just be seething hives of anarchy.)

Obviously, the desire to control areas doesn’t mean successfully doing so, but the description here is clearly not that the government is currently struggling to regulate the area, they just flat-out ignore it and somehow no rival powers have set up shop or simply appeared.

I would like to ask what exactly is happening in the fringe, but Uriah and Christina sit in the seats next to me, and the moment is lost.

What the fuck? No! No it isn’t! Open your damn mouth and ask!

I see the compound, shaped like the picture of a neuron I once saw in my science textbook

What, really?

Coming up on the left side of the plane is some of the destruction caused by the Purity War, before the rebels resorted to biological warfare instead of explosives,” Zoe says.

“Rebel” means they were specifically fighting back against a government. What were they fighting back against? “Resorted” implies desperation.

I stand by my theory that it was the purity side trying to wipe them out and they were defending themselves.

“And now you’ll get a brief look at Chicago!” Zoe says. “You’ll see that some of the lake was drained so that we could build the fence

what

Okay so totally aside from if that’s fucking stupid, this is fucking terrible writing.

You may recall that I immediately latched onto the fact a great lake was gone as a sign something really major had gone down. It’s set up as a mystery and a sign of how different the world is now. Here, we get the answer, and it’s a disappointment – it’s just because some people did that to build a fence.

So either the author thinks answering mysteries with boring shit is acceptable writing, or she never even thought it was anything mysterious and just had to do it because she felt it was impossible to build a fence otherwise yet insisted it had to be Chicago and that building the fence on the part of Chicago in front of the lake wasn’t good enough either.

Peter asks how big the whole world is, and Zoe reels of the exact landmass because I guess this is a common question she has memorized the answer to.

“The land area of the planet is a little less than two hundred million square miles.

Which is not the actual land area of the planet. It’s 57,000,000 square miles. Interestingly, it’s 25,000,000 habitable square miles, so if the author factored in environmental degradation AND THEN ADDED A ZERO FOR NO REASON, we’d get just under 200,000,000 square miles.

More likely, this idiot and every idiot editor to follow googled “surface area of earth”, which is 197,000,000 square miles, and completely fucking missed the way each blurb went on to mention to the fact 70% of that was water.

So apparently instead of Wither’s accidentally the whole world, we accidentally several new whole worlds this time! I don’t know why we’re having problems at all. I mean, it’s still short of that figure that we’d need four extra Earths to provide everyone with an American lifestyle, but we’re clearly well on our way there. We just need to accidentally a few more new worlds and it’ll be mansions and mcdoubles for everyone!

In the same vein, wow was this a missed opportunity.

Soil degradation is not the sexy world-ending controversy that is rising sea levels. It’s merely a thing happening very fast everywhere and we can’t make it stop. Mine runoff is even less on the radar, but it’s happily ruining things as we speak.

Imagine if Zoe said, “The habitable land area of the planet is a little less than ten million square miles,” instead. And they still boggle at how unbelievably huge such a number is, even as the astute reader realizes how much larger the number should be. And we’d learn so much about the current state of the world outside the fence by if Zoe described it as a small number, showing they know how much they’ve lost and how precarious their position is becoming, or if she presented it as large and impressive, and we saw they don’t even remember how far things have fallen.

So much space. I wonder what it’s like in the places beyond ours; I wonder how people live there.

I wonder why she hasn’t bothered telling you other countries exist yet. They’ve only referenced the US but that figure makes it clear there’s definitely an Africa and Asia and all that – probably several, in fact.

And as I stare out at the land, I think that this, if nothing else, is compelling evidence for my parents’ God, that our world is so massive that it is completely out of our control, that we cannot possibly be as large as we feel.
So small as to be negligible.
It’s strange, but there’s something in that thought that makes me feel almost . . . free.

Uh. Okay.

While only mildly prone to this stuff myself, I could see this being a religious thing EXCEPT I HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT “YOUR PARENT’S GOD” IS BECAUSE YOU NEVER TOLD US REMEMBER?

Religious people, maybe somebody told you that being preachy is annoying, but it’s totally okay to talk about it when it’s relevant and that is way, way less annoying than dancing around the subject of what your god actually involves and just making constant references to your faith as if it’s the only one there is and everyone should already be familiar with it.

At least Tris then moves on to actually reading about her mom finally.

David keeps asking me to write down what I experienced. I think he expects it to be horrifying, maybe even wants it to be.

I think part of why I’m getting irritated by the book this time is it’s actually doing half of a very good job dropping hints. David wants her history to be a horrifying one? What comes to mind are slave narratives, how they had to emphasize each and every piece of it was the worst thing ever because the basic fact people were owned by other people hadn’t convinced everyone that they should stop doing it yet…and how I wonder how many of the readers were actually motivated to fix things and how many just wanted to wallow in it. When someone wants your story to be a dramatic horrorshow, there’s more than one reason that might be true but all of them are worrying.

But the other half of it is followthrough. And what we get here is Tris’ mom describing a horrifying life that she doesn’t think is such because she says it’s what everyone lived through, and the other two books and the half of this one we’ve already read proves that there will be never be any decent followthrough on anything ever.

My mom was in law enforcement; she was explosive and impossible to please. My dad was a teacher; he was pliable and supportive and useless.

And right here we see why factions were a solution – you don’t want to mix Dauntless and Amity. It has nothing to do with the faction lifestyle being an improvement on teaching people to be balanced individuals, it’s just some people can’t defend themselves from others.

I will say there’s one aspect the book’s holding up, which is at least it didn’t gender the aggressive/passive traits.

Although it’s only in the context of broken genes that the woman is aggressive and dad is passive so there’s a good chance the author’s actual thought process was closer to “the woman is beating the man in defiance of how things should go, this is the best illustration of why genetic engineering is evil!”

Anyway, one night there’s a fight and her mom murders her dad in what seems like a crime of passion, but it’s then followed by very calmly and non-passionately hiding the body in the backyard. Natalie runs off.

Where I grew up, tragedy is all over the place. Most of my friends’ parents drank themselves stupid or yelled too much or had stopped loving each other a long time ago, and that was just the way of things, no big deal.

Why were people even getting married? Why does no one get divorced? Which faction is alcoholism?

I knew that if I went anyplace official, like to another city, the government types would just make me go home to my mom

So now we know one thing about how the government works and it makes less sense than a second ago when we knew nothing about it. Divergent’s worldbuilding in a nutshell.

Therefore she goes to the fringe to hang out with the homeless.

living on scraps and burning old papers for warmth because the government can’t provide, since they’re spending all their resources trying to put us back together again, and have been for over a century after the war ripped us apart. Or they won’t provide. I don’t know.

You deliberately left government areas specifically to avoid the government and then immediately begin bitching that the government isn’t helping out enough there?

She sees a guy attacking a kid and attacks him to try to stop him, but kills him.

I got snatched by some guy in a van, some guy who looked like police. But he didn’t take me to the side of the road to shoot me and he didn’t take me to jail

Sadly, there is nothing explaining if she means both are things the police do or if she means people pretend to be police to collect people fo murdering. Presumably the first despite it not making much sense given she was so sure the police would just send her back to her murdering mother if she was found as a runaway.

We do learn jails do exist, though.

how my genes were cleaner than other people’s. He even showed me a map of my genes on a screen to prove it.

Screens people can’t understand are very convincing in this. Also still another horrible adjective has been connected to genes, and we didn’t even get clarification about how damaged/nondamaged is binary in the present when dealing with the people within the experiment, but on a gradient in the past with Tris’ mom.

But I killed a man just like my mother did. David says it’s okay because I didn’t mean to, and because he was about to kill that little kid. But I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t mean to kill my dad, either, so what difference does that make, meaning or not meaning to do something? Accident or on purpose, the result is the same, and that’s one fewer life than there should be in the world.

Or more briefly, girls can’t be heroes and ever mean to do anything. Girls recognize all violence is wrong and that their use of violence to save others shows only how horribly flawed they are. Accident, on purpose, for good reasons or evil, you are a girl and you are never, ever going to save the day and be a hero, only mistakenly credited as such.

4 Comments

  1. GeniusLemur says:
    Man, this is the latest of how many successive chapters of pure exposition dump?
    1. Betty Cross says:
      There’s a long stretch in the middle of Allegiant where people go places and do stuff and say stuff but nothing happens. I recall that it started around chapter 30 but I may be mistaken. Maybe this is where it starts. The point is, the middle of this book is very dull.
    2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
      All that info-dump… and yet I do not care about the answers.

      For instance, nothing was shown about Natalie in prior books that in any way hinted she was other than an Abnegation with Dauntless background (despite labeling her as Divergent), so I had no pent-up curiosity about her. The reveals don’t make me think “ah, what hidden depths!” so much as “damn retcons!”

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      1. Farla says:
        I think the flaw is in the author assuming the fresh retcon is a more interesting story. It makes it more special/sueish if she’s from outside the fence, but the actual backstory is more of a cliche and doesn’t even fit into her most badass moments – someone born Dauntless could easily revert to the headshot badass we saw, because she grew up in it. Someone dropped into Dauntless a few months before switching to Abnegation – no, not so much.
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