Allegiant Ch38-Ch40

Last time on Allegiant, something happened I guess? Maybe? I can’t remember. It’s all a blur of dissatisfaction and endless exposition.

So far Tris was immune to the new version of the serum we created—it had no effect whatsoever. It’s very strange that a person’s genes would make them so resistant to mind manipulation of any kind.”
“Maybe it’s not her genes,” I say, shrugging. I switch feet. “Maybe it’s some kind of superhuman stubbornness.”

Caleb knows that Tris’ brain structure itself is unusual, and that Jeanine hypothesized it was the cause.

In their group, they have three regular GMO people, one GMO with the “serum resistance” add-on, and Tris. They also have access to Matthew, who’s a non-GMO. They should be comparing brain scans to see if Tris’ brain has any unique structures that probably aren’t shared by the main population.

Actually no, they should skip all this and test on Matthew, who’s got the same brain they’re trying to target.

Tris then comes and tells them the scientists’ plan.

They’re similar, Cara and Tris, two women sharpened by loss. The difference is that Cara’s pain has made her certain of everything, and Tris has guarded her uncertainty, protected it, despite all she’s been through. She still approaches everything with a question instead of an answer.

Don’t find this convincing based on what we were shown, but sure, that’d have been an interesting distinction between the two. Maybe the author just means that Erudite’s ability to quantify uncertainty counts as certainty because fuck intelligence, while Tris’ gut-based decisions count as uncertainty because they’re not reasoned despite the way she commits to them.

“Maybe we should import a new group of scientists,” Cara says, sighing. “And discard the old ones.”
Tris’s face twists, and she touches a hand to her forehead, as if rubbing out some brief and inconvenient pain. “No,” she says. “We don’t even need to do that.”

See, the solution was always mindwiping, it was just mindwiping the right people! Obviously the people inside the fence are real people. It’s outsiders that aren’t real people and should have their personhood destroyed for great justice.

“Reset the Bureau, and reprogram them without the propaganda, without the disdain for GDs. Then they’ll never risk the memories of the people in the experiments again. The danger will be gone forever.”

“Or until it builds back up over the next few generations due to being part of a society that feels this way, and we have to completely mindwipe them again to fix one single aspect I disagree with. No biggie, though, they’re just outsiders. Also, there’s a really good chance that if they don’t reset the experiments, the whole program will be closed and they’ll leave to die in the slums instead. Best plan.”

Tobias points out that this plan is literally committing the same atrocity to prevent them from committing a terrible atrocity, and Tris is all they’re lucky I’m not going to kill them because These people have no regard for human life in what I don’t think was intended to be continuing the parallel.

Once again, all this would work so much better if any of the setting had been properly developed. If we knew the factions could run their society fine if the scientists would just let them, then this would actually be a sort of sick justice – they keep resetting the experiments to try to remove a problem when the real problem is actually in their own society and the problem was failing to reset that. But currently, we know that if they aren’t there to keep the powderkegs that are GMO societies stable, the funding for the whole thing vanishes, and the faction system was, at least as far as we can tell right now, actually the best thing for them. Maybe someone will be able to claw up the funding they use to try to integrate the people back into society, but it’s unlikely (especially when the labs themselves used to absorb lots of the people as workers). At a guess, most/all of Amity will die, the surviving Abnegation probably die trying to protect them early on, large chunks of Candor will die while they try to learn to keep quiet or lie for their own safety, Erudite will probably survive and blend in then start building pipe bombs and trying to wipe out the society that thinks it’s so much better than them, and Dauntless, well fed, well trained Dauntless? They’ll carve a bloody path through the slums and turn it into their new kingdom, possibly followed by the slums being bombed to bloody rubble by the army.

And getting the slums bombed and killing everybody is the better scenario, because Dauntless can recruit. They won’t have their fear sims, but we saw they managed to cram in plenty of pain and fear into the section of their initiation that didn’t use fear sims, so I don’t think that’ll even slow them down. They’ll take the best fighters, torture them, then keep the ones who are still functional killers at the end of it, and then they’ll start expanding. It’s not like they’d have any lack of fresh material, and we know the Dauntless were already on this trajectory before, they’re not going to get better when thrown out into a world to starve or kill. Either we end up with a society of two governments, the original one and the new rulers of the fringe areas, or the Erudite form a partnership and the two restart the civil war.

This should be the stakes they’re looking at. We’ve been told over and over that the government will pull funding if anything goes wrong and that life inside the cities is far better than life outside it, plus GMO people are able to function normally there. Yet all that’s come to is the guy in charge mentioning it once or twice with Tris monologues at us about what a dickhead he is for caring about keeping the experiments running.

Next chapter we’re back at Tris again. There’s really no reason the last chapter couldn’t have been Tris. Whole book, really.

Matthew explains that the serum targets explicit memories, like your name, where you grew up, your first teacher’s name, and leaves implicit memories—like how to speak or tie your shoes or ride a bicycle—untouched.”

Which sounds like it doesn’t actually erase any prejudices, just the justification you have for them. Given we still don’t even know if the justifications for how they treat GMO people are true, and we know the outside world is ready to hand them a justifications for why we treat GMO people like this booklet as soon as they poke their heads out, this doesn’t seem like it’ll do anything about the problem.

Now, mindwiping them then bringing in Erudites from the city to make up part of the population and keep pushing the idea GMO people are different rather than inferior would probably work, but I’m pretty sure the faction as a whole is still evil because intelligence, so.

And indeed the book then is all “Cara and Matthew are talking Erudite smart talk UGH WHY DID WE LET THEM NEAR EACH OTHER”.

“Inevitably, some important memories will be lost,” Matthew says. “But if we have a record of people’s scientific discoveries or histories, they can relearn them in the hazy period after their memories are erased. People are very pliable then.”

So also, there’s a good chance they won’t even be good scientists at the end of this.

I’m starting to feel more understanding toward the viewpoint this is kind of worse than killing them, especially with the “pliable” making it sound like the implicit memories don’t cover much of their personality. The benefits are just that they’ll get to keep the scientist workforce, but now it’ll be brainwashed to obey them. Murdering them and bringing in the Erudites at least isn’t viewing people as commodities like this.

people tend to be disoriented for a few days after being reset, which means they’ll be easier to control.” Matthew sits, and spins in his chair once. “We can just give them a new history class. One that teaches facts rather than propaganda.”

They don’t have any facts, of course. Tris wants to use the slideshow she saw of the ancient war, the thing they don’t know anything about beyond that it’s pictures of a bad thing that look old, and if anyone knows if the GMO people are actually meaningfully different or not, we haven’t heard it, which means none of the group knows.

But erasing everything about a person then sitting them down and telling them what you want them to think isn’t propaganda if they do it.

They then go to Nita to find out what she knows about breaking into the serum vault.

Tobias again expresses unease with the part where they’re doing exactly the same thing as the other people. Tris says they have no better option and the scientists were the ones who decided to act first, which are both good justifications, except she specifically means they gave Jeanine the attack sim so this is justice, not that it’s fair to say that they’re the ones who insisted on mindwiping so they’re the ones that get mindwiped.

I sigh. “It’s not a perfect situation. But when you have to choose between two bad options, you pick the one that saves the people you love and believe in most. You just do. Okay?”

No, Tris. You pick the one that saves the most people, not the ones you love best. This is why “greater good” is actually a really important concept for our modern society, because people don’t actually care about “most people” but “the people you love”, which means society ends up a bunch of small groups all screwing each other over for slight benefit to their own people.

Valid reasons to decide to kill the scientists over the experimental subjects might be just that the scientists are a small group about to wipe out however many people are living in the various experiments. The fact that the scientists have been regularly mindwiping people as their solution to everything, or that the scientists have a callous disregard for life in general (maybe have the plan be to mindwipe, then round up the factionless and kill the non-divergent, since the society doesn’t need factionless to restart) does make it sort of fitting to use their own system against them.

But the fact your friends are in one group is an evil reason. Love doesn’t make it non-evil, it just makes is sad that caring about people means you’re willing to hurt so many other people.

Speaking of, Christina then arrives to save that Uriah’s braindead, and she’s begged them to keep him on life support anyway, which they evilly would only do for a couple more days, even though right this minute people are dying of starvation in the slums.

Tris says that oh no, if they want his family to mourn his loss, they have to hurry because soon they’ll forget about him and…this…would be bad, I guess?

“We have to go in,” he says. “Matthew said we could inoculate people against the memory serum, right? So we’ll go in, inoculate Uriah’s family just in case, and take them back to the compound to say good-bye to him. We have to do it tomorrow, though, or we’ll be too late.” He pauses. “And you can inoculate your family too, Christina. I should be the one who tells Zeke and Hana, anyway.”

This is why it’s evil. There’s no reason some people deserve to be saved more than others, and splitting their focus to try to save a couple people for sure makes it that more likely they’ll fail their other attempt to save everyone.

It is understandable to feel this way, it’s sympathetic, but it’s still wrong.

There’s a lot of chatter that doesn’t matter, and finally Tris sets out to talk to Nita, getting in on the basis of her heroics.

Nita jerks to attention—as much as she can, anyway. Half her body is encased in plaster, and one of her hands is cuffed to the bed, as if she could escape even if she wanted to. Her hair is messy, knotted, but of course, she’s still pretty.

God, fuck this book.

Nita doesn’t like Tris either, Tris explains she’s planning her own attack, Nita explains the death serum is somehow magic and can get through any form of hazmat suit to kill you anyway, and she tells Tris what she needs to know about blowing the doors up. In return, Tris says she’s going to erase everybody’s minds, because she apparently thinks highly enough of Nita to trust her with this plan without the slightest worry that Nita might try to use it to bargain, but still thinks Nita is an evil boyfriend stealer.

Then we go to Tobias, who’s been busy tricking Amar into taking them into the city without telling him what’s really going on. This reminds me of the only real suspense I feel, which is will the gay minor characters survive or die tragically? On the one hand, the last one sure died and the author generally likes killing minor characters with no impact, but on the other, I’m not sure the author’s paying enough attention to remember to kill them.

Well, suspense is too strong of a word. Mild curiosity. It’s just more than I feel about anything else.

Also, he tries to talk to Cara about feelings, specifically all those feelings people are about to have at him when he tells them Uriah died. I’d really like to think the book is trying to make some sort of point here, but it also just had someone explain that Dauntless + Erudite = sadist. She talks very reasonably about how it feels to lose a family member, and what she appreciated hearing from Tris (confess without making excuses). She doesn’t say anything about how it might be different when talking to Dauntless rather than Erudite, but the two groups seem to get along pretty well, and I’m inclined to take it as her knowing that they work similarly in this respect. She also thinks to tell Tobias that she understands his own feelings and that his feelings of guilt don’t mean he’s really to blame.

Then Amar comes by with a memory serum antidote in case the memory serum virus is used early while they’re in the city. No one even considers the possibility that the higher-ups are regularly inoculated just to be safe. They all inject themselves except for Peter, possibly because one of the editors yelled at the author about why the fuck he was still here and she tried to do something with him to justify that.

Then Christina comes to point out to Tobias that their plan sucks. Completely ignoring the whole morality of mindwiping people for the crime of intending to mindwipe people, there’s the fact that the mindwiping is an attempt to stop a civil war. She’s not saying Plan Mindwipe All The People We Know is the better option, but that they need to have some sort of plan for stopping the civil war themselves afterward.

Tobias is just all bitchy that his parents are both jerks and Christina makes a halfhearted effort to say he can’t want them like dead before being like yep okay point but what about everyone else who doesn’t hate their families? She also points out this whole mess is basically one of your parents against the other one,” Christina says. “Isn’t there something you can say to them that will stop them from trying to kill each other?” because again, abused wife is just as evil and just as culpable, just as the factionless are just as evil as their oppressors and have no valid points.

What Tobias takes from this is that wait, while obviously saving people from the memory serum reset is good, and obviously doing so by erasing other people is bad, so what if he killed both his parents and then used the resulting flesh puppets to make new parents?

It’s the same technique we’re using to heal the compound. I could use it to heal them.

The instant he thinks of a way this can benefit him, he declares the mindwipe of all those other people to be totally healing, totally. The only unfortunate thing is he doesn’t think he’ll have time to mindwipe both, so he’ll have to pick who he functionally kills, and because this book continues to be incredibly horrible, he has no idea which. Also:

If one of them doesn’t have all the baggage they currently have, maybe the two of them can negotiate a peace agreement or something.”

Also, maybe once Mommy doesn’t remember Daddy beats her, she’ll come back and Tobias will have both parents again, yay!

You know, in Order of the Stick, one of the characters is really childlike and was raised by a single mom. When he meets his dad, he’s thrilled and we further learn that he wishes for his parents to remarry and be one big happy family,, and there’s this great sequence where they’re having a huge wedding to remarry and he stops and starts to point out that this doesn’t make sense. He wants it to make sense, he wishes it would, but he knows now that his mom had good reasons to divorce his father, and nothing about that has changed. Just because he wanted to have a father doesn’t mean the one he has was good, and just because he wishes his family would’ve stayed together doesn’t make his mom wrong for splitting it up. It’s a childish, selfish wish.

When the comic relief character of a comedy webcomic has a better emotional IQ than one of the POV characters in a supposedly serious novel, something has gone horribly wrong.

18 Comments

  1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
    See, I think the reason Tris doing this feels so icky to me is because I have no emotional involvement in what’s motivating her, because I don’t really understand it. I don’t understand what the scientists are trying to achieve, or why Tris and her boyfriend are hanging around instead of going “Well, this is all very screwy and disturbing. Laters!” and vamoosing the hell out of there like many a teenager would. How can so much exposition have happened and left personal motivation so unclear? I’m not convinced that Tris has an especially active social conscience or believes in her own capacity to change things for the better, or even believes in her ability to restore the status quo, so why is she bothering?

    It really feels like she’s just doing stuff because stuff needs to happen because book, and she’s doing it semi-angrily so it seems like she’s emotionally invested when she isn’t. And I can deal with that when she’s doing neutral things like being exposisted to, but this is pretty evil. And a writer can usually have their character do evil things and retain some degree of sympathy if the character’s emotions and motivation are all up in the reader’s face, but this is not that. Which lends itself to the obvious that conclusion we aren’t supposed to notice this is evil, or even morally dubious. Yay Tris! Pre-emptive brain-wiping for everybody!

    And that icks me out. Sorry for the spiel; I really wanted to work out why this was making me go “Ewh, no!” instead of “Lolwhut?”

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    1. Tina says:
      I completely agree with your spiel, and you’re spot on with your critique. Everything the characters do in this book is very contrived, but it’s especially obvious in this situation. None of these decisions make sense, nor are they believable or in-character. I don’t buy that Tris would suggest such a thing, let alone set out to implement it. It makes no sense, and it’s fantastically unnecessary because there are so many better ways to solve the problem – which, by the way, is a really stupid problem. I truly could not get invested in this conflict as such a traumatic and urgent thing that needs to be resolved because the whole matter is just so dumb. The whole situation is just an obvious contrivance by the author to create an excuse to carry out a certain resolution that happens. It doesn’t work. It’s too obviously fake.
    2. Farla says:
      I’m not convinced that Tris has an especially active social conscience or believes in her own capacity to change things for the better, or even believes in her ability to restore the status quo, so why is she bothering?

      Now that you mention it… I think Tris did feel that way, very strongly. In Divergent, she’s disturbed by how Dauntless is currently and wants the old Dauntless back, and then she tries to stop the attack on Abnegation and free the Dauntless. She also wants Tobias to get revenge on his father. But then Insurgent is nothing but running in circles, and the new head of Abnegation will be Marcus who everyone just keeps accepting as leader despite Tobias exposing him while under truth serum, her attempts to find allies crash and burn as the leaders of the factions are more interested in safety, and the Dauntless end up as allies of convenience with the factionless ready to completely annihilate another faction, and then the factionless inevitably turn on them.

      It’d make sense for her to come out of all this with her faith in things deeply shaken. She’s learned that things have been bad for a lot longer than she realized, so she can no longer dream of bringing back the way things should be, and the factionless’ attempt to do new things is accomplished with treachery and held onto at gunpoint.

      But stuff needs to happen, so the author just has her keep doing stuff anyway and stops trying to give it any basis in characterization.

      1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
        See, that makes me sad, because activist/change-the-world kids in YA is my own personal ‘Why isn’t there more of this? Why can’t I even find some of it?’ I want stories where urban-fantasy protagonists hand out pamphlets about the supernatural threat, and high-fantasy protagonists who want to be rulers because they have plans to implement fairer taxes, and dystopian protagonists who have worked out what better system they’ll replace the oppressive government with. (But I suppose this is all too close to ambition, by which sin fell the angels, clearly no one can want to make the world a better place without being Satan.) If Tris had a realisation and became determined to create a better status quo for everybody I would be so pleased.

        Alas, it seems for most YA we’re stuck on the Katniss quo where the universe rearranges itself around the protagonist while pretending she is somehow important, and ends with her cuddling her boyfriend somewhere far away from all that nasty “politics” and “actually being important.” These books seem to be removed from that model, but not by far enough. Sigh. Maybe in ten years someone will write something like what I want.

  2. 7th Y says:
    Yay, OOTS reference! Love OOTS, maybe you should review it sometime on your comic reviews.

    More on topic thought, I searched for interviews with the author, and I found a reason on why Marcus is not dead yet! She stated that she tried to kill him, but couldn’t find a way to make it work (This interview I found is old, from before Allegiant, so I don’t know if it holds water for the last book.). She also stated in the same interview that she had trouble getting in Marcus’ head, and when she tried all she got was “MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA EVIL MONOLOGUE” so that might explain some more too.

    In another interview, this one full of spoilers (spoilers that I won’t talk about here), she states that she has trouble telling Tris and Tobias narration appart. She said something about Tobias using more metaphors while Tris is more to the point, but I don’t know how well it holds, and I am still too gobsmacked by the fact she can’t tell them appart much, since seriously, in the first book they being different has kinda the whole point.

    Anyway, here it is, hope it clarifies a little bit on some of the maybe rethorical questions you keep asking (Found nothing on Peter, sorry.)

    1. actonthat says:
      That someone let her go on record talking about what a terrible writer she is astounds me. Does her publisher not have PR people? Not that it ended up mattering, I guess.
      1. Farla says:
        Maybe they think it looks good for authors to be humble?

        Maybe they just don’t think anyone reading these books is in the position to know that’s bad writing.

    2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
      she had trouble getting in Marcus’ head, and when
      she tried all she got was “MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA EVIL MONOLOGUE”

      Once upon a time, that would have meant the characterization
      needed fixing. *sigh*

      Have Marcus, who’s supposedly Divergent, feel simultaneously oppressed and superior, which he handled by making a personal power-grab as Abnegation leader through playing off each faction’s blind spots.

      Have Evelyn, as a true Abnegation, have responded to his lyin’, cheatin’ behavior by going even more passively selfless Abnegation-y, which frustrates Marcus but doesn’t reform him. He beats her because he feels it’s his only way to have power over her (which as an Abnegation, he shouldn’t
      want anyway, but as a Divergent, he believes he deserves power).

      Outside Abnegation, without pressure to be selfless, Evelyn
      becomes a more stable person and develops leadership, though she blames the faction system for everything that went wrong with her life (with reason, since being a good Abnegation got her abused).

      Tobias sees this – and also sees his mother revert to her
      old behaviors around his father – so he knows leaving was the healthy thing for her to do even while he resents her doing it. He can angst in a conflicted way about that. This would fit thematically with Dauntless rotting from within – do a few bad apples mean the faction system is inherently flawed because it’s too easy for them to damage their one-hat colleagues?

      ETA: This would have to be handled carefully to not imply that abused women are “asking for it” — but at least Evelyn wouldn’t be evil for refusing to stay abused.

      1. Farla says:
        Once upon a time, that would have meant the characterization needed fixing.

        It’s not even the characterization! It’s a repeat of whatever shit-generating process she went through where writing from Tobias’ viewpoint turned him into a totally different character. It’s like she has no idea why anyone but her viewpoint character does anything, and when she tries to get into their heads, she doesn’t even look at how they’ve been acting up until that point but makes up a whole new character.

        I’d actually argue Marcus thinks he’s not – or at least wasn’t – a proper Abnegation, because he seems to think Tobias is divergent too and obsesses over fixing it and hiding it. Or maybe he’s the sort of narcissist who thinks only he can handle it. I think it’s telling that his response to accusations he beats his wife is that he needed to keep discipline in the house, not “No, the whore is lying because she hates me!” like any sane asshole would’ve gone with.

        At any rate, I’m almost certain he was beating his wife for not living up to whatever standard of behavior he thought Abnegation should have. And as you say, the proper Abnegation response to that is just further meekness.

        It makes sense his divergentness helped him take over. If we go on the mirror neuron bit, then divergents make the best inter-faction diplomats. (I’d suspect Johanna is similarly divergent – the two factions that don’t seek power should end up with divergents at the top, while the other three pick their leaders by who’s the greatest exemplar of it.)

        It’d have been a great counter to the statement that the factions produce more stable individuals – that would mean that attempting to “fix” people who were doing fine in the faction system had actually created the abuse, and remind everyone that “stable” and “happy” don’t have to overlap. Maybe compare it to the factionless, since the book insisted on doing that creepy thing of saying the real problem was feeding the factionless, and how a system that only works by hurting people is not a system you want. The problem isn’t Evelyn leaving Abnegation for the factionless, and the problem isn’t feeding the factionless so they’re not dying off meekly, the problem is the abuse that’s pushing people into the factionless in the first place.

    3. Farla says:
      OOTS is good, so it’s harder to review and I don’t want to spoil all the twists for people. I might use it to discuss a particular topic sometime, though.

      I found a reason on why Marcus is not dead yet! She stated that she tried to kill him, but couldn’t find a way to make it work

      Okay, so as my rants showed, there were so many times where he should’ve died off camera.

      One of the problems writers can have is being too rigid in their thinking. My guess now is that she thought she should kill him, had an idea how, then found she could never get him into position for that exact death, and ended up focusing on setting up the particularly scene over the fact all she was actually trying to do was get rid of him. I think maybe Tobias was supposed to kill him – it’s what Tris expects in the first book and the only reason she gives for not killing Marcus himself.

  3. Wright of Void says:
    The fact that the scientists have been regularly mindwiping people as their solution to everything, or that the scientists have a callous disregard for life in general (maybe have the plan be to mindwipe, then round up the factionless and kill the non-divergent, since the society doesn’t need factionless to restart).

    I think you lost your train of thought here.

  4. Tina says:
    The story just completely fell apart in these chapters. So, this whole memory wipe thing is gross and evil and the worst thing that can happen to a person and poo-poo on the Bureau peeps for wanting to do such a thing to a mass population. Solution! Do the exact same thing to them! This is totally not hypocritical and equally evil because we don’t care about the peeps in the Bureau, and we do care about the peeps in the city, and we have to worry about the people we care about regardless of what happens to everyone else. So basically, Tris’s version of “greater good” actually means “her own good.” And I’m supposed to root for her why, now?

    And all this might carry a bit more weight if it were actually their only option and only recourse of action, but it wasn’t. They made absolutely no attempt to think of something else, literally anything else, that didn’t involve doing something they are fully aware is reprehensible and, by the way, meant someone had to fucking DIE. Seriously, they come up with one idea, one way to do it, and learn this one specific plan will mean walking into a death trap, and still they make no attempt to do ANYTHING else when they had a good two-day headstart? Really? That is just not believable. At all. No one is that stupid, and more to the point of believability, these characters aren’t that stupid. This entire situation is completely contrived, and whatever point the author tried to assert with the end result of this story is completely canceled out by its utter inauthenticity. Fail.

    1. Farla says:
      and still they make no attempt to do ANYTHING else when they had a good two-day headstart? Really?

      Well, technically they think up a solution to the civil war problem that was pushing the scientists toward the memorywipe business and even manage to pull that off before the deadline, which should’ve renders the whole thing moot. Then they proceed with suicide and mindwiping anyway.

  5. Betty Cross says:
    The Infodump dead zone is drawing to a close. Soon the ending Roth wanted to have will appear, whether the middle of the book makes sense or not.
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    1. actonthat says:
      I have no idea why, but this cracked me up.
    2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
      In my head, your post is delivered in sonorous tones of portent, rather like a movie trailer voice-over. (“In a world where the plot has ceased to make sense, two characters who’ve ceased to be distinguishable face their toughest contrived choices yet.”)
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    3. Farla says:
      Soon the ending Roth wanted to have will appear, whether the middle of the book makes sense or not.

      There’s no need to be so specific. “Soon what Roth wants to happen will happen, regardless of if what came before made sense.” is the entire goddamn book.

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