Last time, seriously? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?
Tobias heads off to sulk in his old house at the empty Abnegation sector. He ponders mindwiping himself. I want him to die, so the suspense is really not working for me.
The experiment is over. Johanna successfully negotiated with the government—David’s superiors—to allow the former faction members to stay in the city, provided they are self-sufficient, submit to the government’s authority, and allow outsiders to come in and join them, making Chicago just another metropolitan area, like Milwaukee. The Bureau, once in charge of the experiment, will now keep order in Chicago’s city limits.
Well, they’re fucked.
As an American, I’m in favor of immigration. America does not have much of a culture to preserve, most of the threats to that culture come from other regions of Americans anyway, and besides, it’s huge enough it’s difficult for any group to cause major change. If we can’t absorb their children to teach them our ways of paying taxes, that’s on us, and it’s probably because we aren’t teaching any of the kids this any longer.
But! I also recognize that other places have problems with immigration that go beyond hating Mexicans because they’re marginally darker and don’t speak English. In this case, Chicago currently has a completely alien social system, AND we’re told that alien social system is required for it to function, AND it’s one of the only prosperous places in the country as well as the only one that doesn’t discriminate against GMO people. They’re in danger of being swamped with so many refugees they can’t even feed them, let alone keep the factions intact. I don’t know how many immigrants a faction can absorb per year without having too few of the old guard to prevent things from changing, but the fact Dauntless changed radically in just a few years without immigration suggests the factions are extraordinarily unstable.
Now, that’s fixable, to a degree, but even at best, you’re going to need some way of controlling the flow of immigrants. Let’s assume at minimum, they won’t allow more people in than Amity can feed. That’s still a torrent, but at least it’s not the entire country rushing into the one place there’s food and a semblance of order.
They could put greater emphasis on the manifestos, sort of like how America might be better if people bleating about the Constitution actually understood what the damn thing said. At the same time, they should also consider revising the manifestos if they can find levelheaded people to do so, because given no one knew what they were doing when they were set up, there’s probably some things that turned out to be wrong or just silly once put into practice, and other areas that slipped their mind entirely (again, much like the American Constitution). At the end, they should have something that they judge changes against – they should be able to do stuff that’s not in the manifesto, but they should be wary of changing more than one or two things at a time. (And they need enough inter-faction communication that other people can point out if they seem to be going off in a radical direction. I have no idea how to get them to care, but they need it. The big problem seems to be that they’re all small groups, and it’s easy for small groups to turn weird.)
And they could publicize those manifestos and aim for only those immigrants that want to come because what they read resonates with them. Al obviously did not work out well, but I thought it was noteworthy he’d read the Dauntless manifesto and been struck by the ideal there. If you can make it so a lot of the incoming people are already completely in favor of how you’re doing things, they’re unlikely to mess up the factions and might even serve to as a counterbalance to factions sliding away from their goal – imagine if a dozen people utterly believing in the Dauntless manifesto entered the faction each year, as opposed to one kid once who was half doing it because his parents said to.
Allowing kids within the city the sixth choice of leaving might also help stabilize things, since those who don’t quite fit any can now just go instead of trying to push the faction they end up as into something different. And if people outside come to think of the faction system as generally working, then you could get kids coming from Chicago and going to new cities to try to set up variant factions. Some of them may be worse, but others may be better, and spreading the faction system out will allow people to experiment more with what the best way of doing things is, as well as removing some immigration pressure from Chicago.
Basically, this would be a really, really good idea except for the agreement requiring they let outsiders in.
It will be the only metropolitan area in the country governed by people who don’t believe in genetic damage. A kind of paradise. Matthew told me he hopes people from the fringe will trickle in to fill all the empty spaces, and find there a life more prosperous than the one they left.
But I don’t think there’s going to be a “trickle” of people who want to go to a free food paradise that’s also the only place in America there’s no discrimination against them. And if you insist there is absolutely nothing genetically wrong with the GMO people, then the fact that the “people from the fringe” are vicious psychos proves that nurture is a bitch and it’s so impossible to get past their horrible lives of abuse and trauma that everyone else thought it was genetically coded into their brains.
I mean, god, Nita totally had a point, and yet when Tris is saying her plan is to mindwipe ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE, not specific targets, not even the “pure” as a whole, not even the “pure” and the GMO people who go along with it, but EVERYONE, she grins because the people she hates are included in the list of people who will suffer for it and that’s all she cares about.
That’s not how people should act! You could probably safely have a few people like Nita in your society so long as there’s enough others to prevent them from ever being in the position to make choices about who to kill and how irrelevant the collateral damage is, but you can’t have many. If the GMO people have a few fault points that can be handled by putting them in factions, then you don’t need to worry about Nita, she’ll be fine in Dauntless. But if the GMO thing is bullshit, then the immigrants will still be unstable verging on psychopathic. The factions don’t address that at all – the city is founded by mindwiped people specifically to remove the nurture element. If it’s all nurture, the factions won’t do much good.
In conclusion, this ends with blood and fire and a whole new wave of discrimination against the GMO people. Because look, we gave those people their own place and let them run it themselves and they blew it up, they’re practically animals and we need to lock them all up for their own good.
All that I want is to become someone new. In this case, Tobias Johnson, son of Evelyn Johnson. Tobias Johnson may have lived a dull and empty life, but he is at least a whole person, not this fragment of a person that I am, too damaged by pain to become anything useful.
The way people talk about memory serum in this book just makes no sense. I thought Peter actually was somewhat reasonable, in that he seemed to get that he wasn’t turning into a normal person but getting the chance to try again. Tobias, instead, is saying that memorywiped Tobias is a perfectly functional individual in his own right, and saying it even after seeing what memorywiping does to people.
Christina, for some reason, has followed him to intervene. And by intervene, I mean call him a coward. She then says that this isn’t what Tris would want and you know something about people being dead? What they want no longer matters, because they’re dead and can’t care any more. I can sort of see the honor their memory thing, but honoring her memory would be more like sacrificing himself for some goal, as Tris did so many times before, so that he can go follow her like she finally managed to follow her mom. I’m sure there’s plenty of worthy places for a suicide bombing, Tobias, just ask for a list.
“If you dare suggest that again,” I say, “I’ll—”
“You’ll what?” Christina shoves me back, hard. “Hurt me? You know, there’s a word for big, strong men who attack women, and it’s coward.”
In case you’d finally managed to block out all the “little girl” stuff from last book, here it is again!
Christina then says that loving people changes you and it’s sad to lose them but you shouldn’t forget them blah blah whatever.
“I know Zeke’s still weird around you,” she says, slinging an arm across my shoulders. “But I can be your friend in the meantime. We can even exchange bracelets if you want, like the Amity girls used to.”
I’m just going to register my sadness that it’s not “Amity kids” because gender norms are obviously more important than faction plus you’d have to be some sort of sissy to exchange cute friendship bracelets because real boys hate colors and god it would’ve been nice if the series hadn’t had gendered anything, wouldn’t it? It’s so well set up for that.
Finally, we move on to the epilogue, which takes place two and a half years after this. Somehow, Chicago is still standing, so I’ll assume they didn’t make any public announcement of the new GMO friendly city full of food but just quietly started letting people who wander in stay rather than mindwiping them.
Tire tracks are worn into the ground now, from the frequent coming and going of people from the fringe moving in and out, or people from the former Bureau compound commuting back and forth.
Because there’s no way it’d be just the fringe and scientists if anyone outside of the area knew.
The agreement, when I offered it to her more than two years ago, and when she made it again with Johanna shortly after, was that she would leave the city. Now, so much has changed in Chicago that I don’t see the harm in her coming back, and neither does she.
Holy shit I hope they ran this by Johanna you do not casually violate one of the terms of a peace agreement. And doesn’t Marcus still live there, seething that he’s not in charge, desperate to find any excuse to destabilize things so he can take over again?
We learn that there are no factions at all, because it’s YA fiction and by god we can’t suggest doing things differently than we do right now could be any sort of improvement. And it’s working, because again, current America good, all else evil, burn all attempts at progress to the ground.
Also, how did giving control of the place to the people who wanted factions and having the person running the factionless leave end up with no factions?
I take Evelyn to my apartment just north of the river. It’s on one of the lower floors, but through the abundant windows I can see a wide stretch of buildings. I was one of the first settlers in the new Chicago, so I got to choose where I lived.
And wasn’t his whole ultimatum that he wanted her to leave and be with him, but apparently she left and he stayed and fine, I can’t say I’m surprised that nothing follows anything but it’s still annoying each time it happens.
Sunlight winks in the windows of the building across the marshy river. Some of the former Bureau scientists are trying to restore the river and the lake to their former glory, but it will be a while. Change, like healing, takes time.
People are dying of starvation as we speak and you’re spending your time trying to make the view outside your window look cooler.
I’m done with guns.”
“That’s right. You’re using your words now,” Evelyn says, wrinkling her nose. “I don’t trust politicians, you know.”
They don’t even have politicians why does nothing make sense.
Apparently Marcus did leave the city for somewhere, and Tobias is just whatever, because obviously abuse is only bad because it’s happening to you and it’s totally fine if your abuser leaves to find new prey. It’s showing how he’s grown to not care about Marcus – so much he doesn’t even care about any of Marcus’ fresh victims! HOW WONDERFUL HEALING IS!
Evelyn gives me a strange, searching look, then crosses the room and opens the bag she left on the couch. She takes out an object made of blue glass. It looks like falling water, suspended in time.
I remember when she gave it to me. I was young, but not too young to realize that it was a forbidden object in the Abnegation faction, a useless and therefore a self-indulgent one. I asked her what purpose it served, and she told me, It doesn’t do anything obvious. But it might be able to do something in here. Then she touched her hand to her heart. Beautiful things sometimes do.
And we’re repeating all this again. See, this is what I mean by the fact I think the author likes Tobias better. It’s not that he’s more interesting, he’s boring as fuck, but she keeps repeating the same exact same boring as fuck stuff she’s written already as if it’s interesting to hear over and over again, and that’s an even stronger sign.
Oh, also Shauna now has a robotic exoskeleton so she can stand.
the train is coming. It charges toward us on the polished rails, then squeals as it slows to a stop in front of the platform. A head leans out the window of the first car, where the controls are—it’s Cara, her hair in a tight braid.
Why is Cara driving a train that somehow has brakes now? Because. Because factions are terrible and now everyone’s happy.
All of us have found new places. Cara and Caleb work in the laboratories at the compound, which are now a small segment of the Department of Agriculture that works to make agriculture more efficient, capable of feeding more people. Matthew works in psychiatric research somewhere in the city—the last time I asked him, he was studying something about memory. Christina works in an office that relocates people from the fringe who want to move into the city. Zeke and Amar are policemen, and George trains the police force—Dauntless jobs, I call them. And I’m assistant to one of our city’s representatives in government: Johanna Reyes.
So there we go. All is fine and perfect. Also, the last time I asked him, he was studying something about memory is absolutely going to be something Tobias will kick himself about in retrospect, assuming he escapes whatever horror Matthew unleashes to remember it at all. Seriously, just look at that line. Just look at the plot of this book. That will absolutely go somewhere horrible, probably seconds after we have our “happy ending” and we can’t see what else happens.
Anyway, a lot of babble about characters I really feel no investment in.
After Peter emerged from the memory serum haze, some of the sharper, harsher aspects of his personality returned, though not all of them. I lost touch with him after that. I don’t hate him anymore, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him.
So we see that the memory serum didn’t wipe the tendencies. It just wiped him learning those were wrong and the desire to be better. And naturally they all just let him go inflict himself on some new city without any knowledge of what he’s done or even the flimsy amount of stability their city has. Because remember, it only matters when it’s happening to you, and who cares how many eyes he stabs out in some other city?
Zeke for some reason thought mindwiped Peter would join the rebels, despite both being mindwiped, never having any investment in the GMO cause before anyway, and the rebellion being your standard high personal risk for possible benefit to everyone and otherwise bearing no resemblence whatsoever to Peter’s personality at any point in time. But they’re evil, and Peter was evil, and this shows they were wrong and he’s better now for not joining the evil people who want to overthrow a system designed to oppress them.
We end with him going on the zipline to face his fears.
“Hey.” Zeke puts his hands on my shoulders. “This isn’t about you, remember? It’s about her. Doing something she would have liked to do, something she would have been proud of you for doing. Right?”
The author now appears to have forgotten that she ever wrote Tris at all, because Tris never had the slightest interest in forcing Tobias into things he didn’t like and was impressed by his ability to overcome his fears when he needed to rather than just throwing himself headlong into everything.
“Yeah, sometimes life really sucks,” she says. “But you know what I’m holding on for?”
I raise my eyebrows.
She raises hers, too, mimicking me.
“The moments that don’t suck,” she says. “The trick is to notice them when they come around.”
Then she smiles, and I smile back, and we climb the stairs to the train platform side by side.
Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can’t escape that damage.
But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other.
Except for the girl this series was supposedly about, who just dies stupidly so you can learn a very special lesson about life.