Allegiant Ch23-24

Last time, the author really doesn’t know where she’s going with this, but she figures if she just keeps writing she’ll think of something.

Today, more of that!

We’re with Tobias, who’s getting a note from Nita because LOVE TRIANGLE.

The top of a flask peeks out from beneath Uriah’s pillow. I pinch it between my fingers and carry it toward the door, where I slide it under the pillow on one of the empty cots. I haven’t been looking after him as well as I promised Zeke I would.

Also I guess Uriah’s alcoholic powers let him summon alcohol anywhere.

We then get Tobias informing us out of the blue that his dad only cut his hair when he was young and Tobias always ended up nicked because his dad was careless, which is the polar opposite of the scene she wrote in Transfer because nothing is consistent. Nothing.

He meets up with Nita in some fancy dark wood and chandelier area, where there’s bronze panels of names.

“The generations are matrilineal. That’s why Jeanine’s records said Tris was ‘second generation’—because her mother came from outside the city. I’m not sure how Jeanine knew that, but I guess we’ll never find out.”

In any other book I’d say of course we would, but here, never seems likely. Odds are this is the author speaking through the character to say she didn’t think that through and can’t spare the time to find an explanation. All for the shittiest foreshadowing ever because I spent all three books sure there’d only been three generations and one was the founders and just saw that scene as confirming it.

But anyway, hey, matrilineal that actually makes sense wow.

Wait though, if they’re going matrilineal why didn’t they have kids inherit the mom’s name? They’re already programming everything about the founders’ lives, and that’d make recordkeeping easier.

Nita informs us that they also track birth and choice faction to track “genes” and yet again, it would really help if they could decide if how these genes work. Can you have five different broken genes, can you only have one kind of broken gene?

Oh, also Evilyn’s starting faction was Erudite because of fucking course it was.

Nita then explains she’s here to say she only said that stuff about limitations before to test him, so she knew he was worthy to join yet another resistance group. How will this one turn out to be evil?

“There are a lot of secrets in this place,” she says. “One of them is that, to them, a GD is expendable.

“The crimes they have committed against people like us are serious,” Nita says. “And hidden. I can show you evidence, but that will have to come later. For now, what I can tell you is that we’re working against the Bureau, for good reasons, and we want you with us.”

So I guess it’ll turn out their reasons are secretly evil, somehow, or else that their reasons are totally valid but they’re wrong because they want to be in charge instead. Fifty-fifty.

She goes on to explain that also right now she needs him to be a bodyguard on some excursion, and in the process she can prove what she just said. Also, no Tris. He reminds us that keeping secrets has just led to problems.

“I’m not saying she isn’t trustworthy. It’s just that she doesn’t have the skill set we need

“You know, her skillset. It’s like your skillset, but better. That skillset. Don’t need it.”

She claims the issue is that the “pure” doing the experiments are way into sunk-cost fallacy and will go nuts at the idea it was a time waste. It seems a lot more likely that they’re just straight up oppressing the “impure”. Then Nita claims that telling Tris will mean forcing her to become part of the conspiracy, which she says is totally different from how she’s giving him a choice to be part of the conspiracy by telling him, and Tobias thinks that sounds legit.

They head into the sewers, naturally, and she starts chatting about his fear of shooting a woman and he explains how it’s not someone he knows. This at least is passingly consistent with when he explained this exact same thing in the ebook. This is how not to do sidestories, everyone. He explains how he is a special snowflake because only he fears he could be a bad person. Nita wonders what her own fear landscape would be. Come to think of it, Matthew is pro-Erudite, Nita pro-Dauntless. Unless we get some new characters soon, this is sort of like how in Harry Potter only two of the houses ever actually mattered and it’s all a tug of war between the two.

They get in a truck and head out and they see a deer which is apparently a thing that he’s never seen before.

“Sort of beautiful, aren’t they?” she says. “Before I came here I’d never seen a deer.”

This could possibly make sense for her, in that her area seems to have been much more restricted, but makes no sense for his community which had vast empty areas and delicious gardens. If the environment isn’t totally borked, the Amity should’ve been under siege by deer and the Dauntless patrols would’ve seen them all the time.

Between this and Hunger Games, I wonder if authors just can’t shake the idea that deer look harmless so they must be the first to go in the event of stress, as opposed to being giant, pretty vermin.

The Dauntless taught initiates how to throw knives even before the changes to initiation that Max made before I joined them. I never liked it, because it seemed like a way to encourage the Dauntless flair for theatrics, rather than a useful skill.

So, I’ve talked about Erfworld before and how the author is doing stuff that really doesn’t seem like the best idea. Another more recent Erfworld thing is that sometimes the author will do a prose page between comic pages. They’re honestly pretty good at that writing, but there’s plenty of fans who are there to read a comic, not a novel, so the author compromised by making the prose sections totally optional for understanding the story. So if you don’t like them, there’s no problem skipping them! Now everyone’s happy, right?

Well, not really. It means the prose sections end up repeating chunks of the comic section, since they can’t be a full scene, and the new information you do get comes prelabeled as irrelevant to the larger narrative. All that’s left are a couple side details.

I feel like something similar is going on with the ebooks, although it probably wasn’t as deliberately planned out. They’re optional sidestories, so not everyone’s going to read them. Because not everyone’s going to read them, any important information needs to be repeated in the main story. Because any important information needs to be repeated in the main story, there’s even less reason to read them in the first place.

This is compounded by the fact the author of this series obviously did not have a series worth of books in her, let alone leftovers for ebooks. It’s possible to do the optional sidestories thing if you have enough of a grasp of your world that there are bits of it existing you didn’t have time for in the original story, but a meticulously detailed world that the author barely scratched the surface of in the main series could not be farther from this series if you strapped jetpacks onto it. Worse, she really can’t write any characters other than Tris, but the main series is already following Tris around, so the side stories have to be about someone else even though no one else can carry a story.

In retrospect, we should’ve been able to see this coming from the point she rewrote a scene from another character’s viewpoint. She just does not have anything else to say, so of course she’d end up repeating almost word for word what she wrote last time. Never mind that Tris has actually used this skill to her advantage, or that they’re currently in a situation where they have only knives on hand – by god, Tobias thought this once and he will keep repeating it every time anyone makes the mistake of mentioning knives.

To further my point about being out of ideas, the characters then chat for several more lines on the subject of how Tobias can use a knife because he learned it in Dauntless. The worst part about all this is she’s already familiar with Dauntless, so it’s exposition that all people including the reader already know.

Tobias asks why people live on the fringe, and Nita explains that now genetic testing has replaced skin color in determining who are your poorer police punching bags.

you name it, it’s a problem, and has been since the Purity War, over a century ago.

“Prior to which I assume the police never unfairly targeted a particular group more often.”

No, it’s actually kind of funny. She literally lists off a quick summary of why it sucks to be darker skinned in America, then says now it’s terrible because it’s on the basis of who’s a GMO. Like this all wasn’t already an issue before? Is it wrong because sometimes broken gene people have blue eyes and look like real people?

Speaking of levels of peopleness, a guard:

His size, his deftness with the weapon, his scarred and dusty appearance—they are all supposed to intimidate me. But his eyes are like that deer’s eyes, large and wary and curious.

Fun fact: deer are basically blind.

He doesn’t have a low-pitched voice, and so Tobias explains he just knows this guy would be gentle if only things were different, but As it is, I see that he isn’t gentle, doesn’t even know what that means. and I’m not entirely sure what that means. I mean, if you’re so deep in hypotheticals you’re talking about someone who doesn’t even entertain the possibility as being definitely that thing under different circumstances, how the hell could you tell?

I find myself thinking that something important is lost if this man has been forced to deny his own nature.

So instead I’m going to ignore the non-reasons the book gave and assume that the Amity are really low testosterone, so most of the men have noticeably higher voices and Tobias like most factioners has learned to associate the two subconsciously. It’d make sense for the other factions to feel a protectiveness toward the one faction that can’t defend itself, at least if they weren’t all assholes who hated each other, so Tobias instinctively feeling upset for this guy’s sake as soon as he talks with an Amity “accent” would work.

Come to think of it, you’d expect Amity genes to be getting selected against and mostly extinct by now. For them to still be around at any level, these areas must either be far less violent than everything points to, or that violence must be mostly mutual rather than aimed at the weaker members. Maybe they’ve got an advantage in being better at caring for their children, or their niceness means they’re less targeted and better able to pick up a spouse.

Anyway, Nita leads them in and they meet the future uprising leaders. There’s a redhead woman and a dark man. They inform Tobias that the US currently only gets as far as the midwest. The reasoning is vague:

“The terrain was too difficult to navigate and the cities too spread out for it to be sensible to live there after the war. Now it’s wild country.”

But living in slums around the edges of cities is just fine.

Nita tells him to go out and guard while she talks about important uprising stuff, and Tobias goes out to see that a fight he saw on the way in has resolved with one person dead.

“Here, there’s a chance that if you die, someone will care. Like Rafi, or one of the other leaders,” the guard says. “In the cities, if you get killed, definitely no one will give a damn, not if you’re a GD. The worst crime I’ve ever seen a GP get charged with for killing a GD was „manslaughter.’ Bullshit.”
“Manslaughter?”
“It means the crime is deemed an accident,” Rafi’s smooth, lilting voice says behind me. “Or at least not as severe as, say, first-degree murder. Officially, of course, we’re all to be treated the same, yes? But that is rarely put into practice.”

While here, you get knifed to death in the street in front of Rafi’s house while Rafi’s guard looks on and there’s no trial whatsoever, which is better obviously than someone getting manslaughter.

As we walk back to the truck, I hear screams again, but this time they are the screams of a child.

Our heroes again do nothing. Tobias just wants to get out of there already. He asks again why people stay.

“I’ve only been to a city that wasn’t an experiment once,” Nita says. “There’s electricity, but it’s on a ration system—each family only gets so many hours a day. Same with water. And there’s a lot of crime, which is blamed on genetic damage. There are police, too, but they can only do so much.”

So, how resource intensive are the experiments? And why do you have to bribe people with feeding their families, instead of people wanting out of their lives of deprivation?

And why exactly are things so fucked? Erudite has good enough solar panels they can run cars, so there’s our electricity problems solved. If the local water’s polluted, that could be harder to deal with, but if the local area is toxic, why not head for the west and set up new cities there?

I wanted them to meet you, to put a face on the people inside the faction experiments. Mary used to be suspicious that people like you were actually colluding with the government, which of course isn’t true.

Hey, tempting fate words! Maybe it’ll turn out Jeanine was in contact.

This is actually a pretty good point of division. The scientists obviously don’t view those in the experiment as actual human beings, but those inside still have better lives than many outside, so it’s easy to see how there’d be resentment, doubly so when most people must have no idea just what’s going on inside the experiments.

She adds that Rafi has proof the government lied about history.

“The Bureau talks about this golden age of humanity before the genetic manipulations in which everyone was genetically pure and everything was peaceful,” Nita says. “But Rafi showed me old photographs of war.”
I wait a beat. “So?”
“So?” Nita demands, incredulous. “If genetically pure people caused war and total devastation in the past at the same magnitude that genetically damaged people supposedly do now, then what’s the basis for thinking that we need to spend so many resources and so much time working to correct genetic damage? What’s the use of the experiments at all, except to convince the right people that the government is doing something to make all our lives better, even though it’s not?”

Well, that’s underwhelming.

That there was war does not mean that it was automatically at the same magnitude. If people actually do have genetic differences making them more murdery, and admittedly this whole setting is jello so I have no fucking clue if they do or not, then that is legitimately a problem. Un-murderying them would be helpful and reduce the general crime and misery level.

And also, god really, war? That’s what the author’s going with? That’s so painfully hackneyed. How about the part where the white people hated on the black people just like the “pure” hate on the “damaged” now? The fact your current social dynamics so closely mirror that other time people were acting on absolutely no basis at all is a much better argument that maybe the “damaged” don’t have anything wrong with them in the first place and this is just the “pure” showing that humans are pretty awful naturally.

a lie has changed the struggle, a lie has shifted priorities forever. Instead of working against the poverty or crime that have run rampant over this country, these people have chosen to work against genetic damage.
“Why? Why spend so much time and energy fighting something that isn’t really a problem?” I demand, suddenly frustrated.

I declare it canon that Tobias is genetically Candor. He just doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of things not being true if a person said it really sincerely, and there is no other explanation for that.

Nita gives him a quick background about how the pure/impure thing is a great way to control a population, but it was probably a wide combination of factors because social things always are. Please don’t go love triangle on me, Nita, I’m really enjoying how you seem to have a basic grasp of reasoning.

They head back and Tobias drowns in the guilt of not telling sleeping Tris everything about his life.

Next chapter, the awake but still oblivious Tris asks is Christina is now together with Uriah of the magic alcohol powers, but nope.

“Besides,” she says, “not every friendship turns into a romance. I haven’t tried to kiss you yet.”
I laugh. “True.”

So gay people appear to 1) exist 2)and the main characters know this 3) without prejudice. They just don’t factor into the story, kind of like how Tris claims last names can be from either parent but all the ones on camera are your standard setup of the dad’s name.

Background non-homophobia. That may be the best we’ve seen so far. (Damn you for dropping the ball on this, Exalted novels!) I think for progressive intent, the Graceling books win with a gay couple who aren’t miserable, but like so much in Graceling, the execution shot itself in the foot then fell off a cliff to be eaten by sharks because there was absolutely no need to dance around actually mentioning it.

Tris continues to Just Know the whole thing genetics thing is bullshit.

“I’m not saying your genes aren’t different,” I say. “I’m just saying that doesn’t mean one set is damaged and one set isn’t. The genes for blue eyes and brown eyes are different too, but are blue eyes ‘damaged’? It’s like they just arbitrarily decided that one kind of DNA was bad and the other was good.”

Yes, they are.

I like how this illustrates you can make anything sound stupid by adding “arbitrarily” to it. Tris is told that the “damaged” attempted to either blow up the world for the lulz or coldly genocide all other life, and what she gets from this is that somebody just said one was bad for no reason.

“Based on the evidence that GD behavior was worse,” Christina points out.

AHEM. “No, they didn’t, they did it based on…” is the correct statement. You can’t follow someone’s statement that something was arbitrary by saying it was based on evidence without directly contradicting that it was arbitrary! That’s why what Tris said was so ridiculous.

Tris then argues that there could be a million reasons why it looks like the GMO people’s behavior is worse.

The problem here is that we’re not presented with any reason for the prejudice to start. The backstory we’re given is that everyone thought GMO people were the kinder braver smarter honester future, right up until they started murdering all non-GMO people. You can’t say that maybe it’s just the slum-living that’s making them violent if they only got shoved into slums due to all the violence.

I’m assuming we’re going to find out that there’s more to it than the official history, but this isn’t a “more to it” situation, this is an “everything you heard was total bullshit with no bearing on reality whatsoever” situation. The only way the GMO people could be basically normal and products of their environment is if they were being discriminated against since day one, in which case none of the events we’re told are true. That kind of narrative timewasting does seem like the sort of thing the author would do, unfortunately.

“But don’t you think a bunch of smart people like these Bureau scientists could figure out the cause of bad behavior?”

Another flaw in all this is that Erudite are smarter. For all the talk of “damaged” genes, they’re actually doing exactly what they were meant to. They supposedly have bad side effects, but whether Erudite are currently blending baby cocktails for the longevity benefits or aren’t because that’d be wrong, everyone agrees the smartness part worked fine. There should be no problem putting them all in a lab to work on the problem, maybe with some non-Erdute oversight to make sure no baby cocktails happen.

So, the fact there are “pure” who think the Erudite are cool but no actual Erudite so far on payroll should be a sign their data isn’t good enough to convince the supergeniuses.

Tris does not make this argument, probably because it’s based more around reasoning. She prefers:

I think that no matter how smart, people usually see what they’re already looking for, that’s all.”

NO! That’s not what smart means!

Smart people can still make this mistake, but stupid people make it more because this is a stupid mistake. It is one of our inherent human flaws that smartness helps you work around.

Now, an actual valid concern here is that a smart person who does fall into this trap would be that much more convincing to everyone else than a dumb person, so, one delusional Erudite might have a really good chance of convincing a lot of regular-smart scientists and could easily get a place like this going and armed with enough data and “everyone knows” to armor it against anyone questioning its validity.

This is also still avoiding the origin. If Tris would say something about how the history sounds like bunk (it does, after all) she’d have a point in questioning things, but you have to figure out why people were initially looking for proof the GMO are fucked in the head to start the cycle of people validating their beliefs by cherrypicking data.

Then Tris says it’s evil because it makes you treat people worse. I think the book might be trying to say something about how profiling people is wrong, but this is sort of like the vampires being AIDS or whatever, people with AIDS aren’t amoral blood-sucking murderers who didn’t have the decency to die properly the first time and need a stake through the heart to fix it. If the GMO prejudice is true, then treating them differently is like treating the guy who hears voices that tell him to kill differently – they actually are a danger to others, they actually do need different treatment and it actually would be really great if we could fix it. If the GMO prejudice isn’t true, then the problem is it’s not true rather than how you might act if it was.

Then Tobias arrives and confesses and Tris is just upset because Nita is pretty and Tobias is all but I haven’t even got to the part I’m trying to apologize for who cares what she looks like there’s this whole pure gene conspiracy!!1!

As he speaks, I feel suspicion toward Nita building inside me

Motherfuck.

We end with Tobias saying Tris should come with him to see the proof. Somehow this will all end in us learning yet again that rebelling against oppression is bad and also the oppressed people just want to take your stuff and destroy your way of life.

12 Comments

  1. GeniusLemur says:
    “he was worthy to join yet another resistance group.”
    We’re at chapter 23 in the last book. Isn’t it a little late to be introducing new factions?
    1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
      It’s also late to be raining down new characters on us. If we were going to get a completely new cast, unveiling the secret should have been the end of book 1, then going beyond the wall should have happened at the middle of book 2. The second viewpoint, if there has to be one, should be a person still in Chicago, keeping us up on actions we might care about.
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      1. GeniusLemur says:
        And if there’s a third book, it should be something other than a 10 megaton exposition bomb. (With all the exposition redundant, irrelevant, or pseudoscience anyway)
        1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
          *cosign!*

          I’m not a fan of exposition dumps, but to the extent that we’ve got to be told things in lumps, that’s for the midway point of book 1 (when we’re engaged in and curious about the world, so we’ll tolerate being “told” some background) and roughly the 20% and 60% points of book 2 (to clarify and set up new twists, plus readers are tolerant of some “we just gotta do this to get there” in the middle books of trilogies).

          Book 3 should be characters really coming into their own on agency to resolve problems we already care about.

          (I’ve probably just described an outline that only works for a certain kind of adventure/bildungsroman, but since that’s what I’m trying to write, works for me.)

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          1. Farla says:
            Also, end stage exposition tends to invalidate everything that came before. A proper twist has to be a few details that change what you thought you knew. A dissertation on how actually the real real real secret history of everything was Z instead just makes all the leadup seem like a waste of time.

            Right now we’re getting buried in the most boring of exposition, the kind that has nothing to do with any of the previous plot.

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      2. Farla says:
        I don’t think that’s the problem. You could do it if each book was meant to be telling a contained storyline, so we need new people to go with the new problems each time.

        Book 1: Tris goes to Dauntless, meets Dauntless characters.
        Book 2: Tris meets new people in the process of forming an anti-Erudite coalition beyond just Dauntless.
        Book 3: Erudite solved, Tris ventures out to meet new people.

        The reason it doesn’t work here is that this series isn’t self-contained and also will not let go of old characters for some reason, so the cast already feels like it’s bloated to capacity.

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    2. Farla says:
      This book has an ungodly number of chapters, so it’s not even half over.

      The bigger problem is that there’s been so much nothing getting in the way of introducing them earlier.

      1. GeniusLemur says:
        I have a sneaking suspicion the thing getting in the way of introducing them earlier is the author not knowing she needed another subplot to pad things out until now.
  2. actonthat says:
    I can’t tell if the author was trying to make a point about racial discriminiation being bad and just bungled it (that Nita is presumably latina and also GMO kind of supports this) or if they didn’t realize how Hitler all this was and it’s ignorance.

    I’m not sure which way is worse, honestly. The whole thing is so uncomfortable.

    1. Farla says:
      I’m almost sure they are, because some of the language is so on the nose.

      Worse, I think it being tied to “both sides are equally culpable” is not an unintended consequence but the author doing a ~fair and balanced~ on discrimination.

  3. Siobhan says:
    How Amity managed to survive thus far: they’re basically hippies, with the same principles applied to sexual experimentation. They may also reproduce to the same extent as those in third world countries, because the death rate is so high that they need a LOT of kids to ensure they have at least two per family to continue the Amity line. Part of the reason they don’t produce enough food is because they’re all at it like rabbits.

    It’s a theory. I’m trying to ignore all the emo bullshit and the fact that they repeat themselves over and over. It killed me reading it, and it kills me now.

    1. Farla says:
      How Amity managed to survive thus far: they’re basically hippies, with the same principles applied to sexual experimentation.

      But sexual experimentation would lower how often sex led to successful reproduction! It’s the people doing it in missionary position day after day that will be winning the baby war.

      More seriously, Amity can’t protect their children from violence, nor can they properly provide for them because they can’t take from others or even defend what they have. The others are probably killing some of their kids by abuse, but the other ones sometimes get fed. Amity kids without a non-Amity parent should always die.

      It seems like under sufficient amounts of abuse Amity can end up capable of violence, if Tobias was right in guessing that random guy was one, but it’s hard to believe they could possibly be handling it better than one of the types that hadn’t been purposefully handicapped in self-defense.

      Maybe all the other factions end up too violent from the stress, and Amity end up surviving because they aren’t actually picking fights. But they just seem like such easy prey it’s hard to see them regularly lasting long enough to have the nonviolence beaten out of them.

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