Last time, we might actually get to see what’s outside rather than another thirty chapters of staying here!
We jump to Tobias.
“Wait,” I say. “Let’s go somewhere.”
“Go somewhere? But . . .”
“Just for a little while.” I tug her toward the corner of the building. At night I can almost see what the water looked like when it filled the empty canal, dark and patterned with moonlit ripples. “You’re with me, remember? They’re not going to arrest you.”
So he’s trying to seem like the dutiful son so hard he pretend breaks up with Tris, but it’s totally fine to be found violating curfew with the girl he supposedly broke up with.
Tris is still torn up about her brother’s death, which admittedly is understandable, especially because she was raised not to personally hold grudges.
“My parents would want me to save him, though.” Her eyes open and lift to the sky. “They would say it’s selfish to let someone die just because they wronged you. Forgive, forgive, forgive.”
Therefore, Tobias promises to rescue her brother because flouting justice when it’s your relative isn’t selfish at all.
They kiss more.
Again, we change chapters without changing POV. Now he’s back at Dauntless HQ where apparently the fear sim’s still running and he decides to do fear landscape yet again. First is heights. Second claustrophobia. In the third, he finds he’s turned into Marcus, and in the fourth he watches Tris die. Eh. The author is too attached to the “four” business – his fears changing should mean the numbers do. If she’s so attached to him having fewest fears, then she could’ve dumped off heights down to still a terror but no longer one of his all-consuming ones.
Then he goes to get Caleb.
I put my hand on his gun and push it away from my arm. “Don’t point that thing at me. I’m here on Evelyn’s orders. I’m going to see a prisoner.”
“I didn’t hear about any after-hours visits today.”
I drop my voice low, so he feels like he’s hearing a secret. “That’s because she didn’t want it on the record.”
Just in case we don’t get it, the other guard lets him through as if this is ordinary, then Tobias thinks this has probably happened before, then Tobias tells Zeke that he’s sure that this has probably happened before. Never mind that she has every reason to want to publicly execute these people and it would, if anything, just solidify her rule.
I do like to hit people—I like the explosion of power and energy, and the feeling that I am untouchable because I can hurt people. But I hate that part of myself
He does it to give Zeke an excuse for how Tobias got away. It should be pointed out that, a couple minutes ago, he told Caleb that he was here to kill him early just so Caleb would try to run so Tobias could punch him in the face. Tobias doesn’t seem aware of that. Zeke then asks him to watch out for Uriah’s drinking, and Tobias tells us about how this is because Zeke and Uriah are so close but uh, so Cara’s hand-picked team includes both a psychopath AND an alcoholic, really?
Then they hug goodbye, then he drags Caleb off. Caleb observes that Tobias is clearly planning to go somewhere.
“Is my sister going?”
The question awakes inside me an animal rage that won’t be satisfied by sharp words or insults. It will only be satisfied by smacking his ear hard with the flat of my hand. He winces and hunches his shoulders, preparing for a second strike.
I wonder if that’s what I looked like when my father did it to me.
So instead he yells at Caleb that Caleb is a horrible human being who no longer has a sister. He then drags him along and onto a train.
Tris stands inside the car, wearing a small, crooked smile. Her black jacket is zipped up to her throat, framing her face in darkness. She grabs my collar and pulls me in for a kiss. As she pulls away, she says, “I always loved watching you do that.”
“Is this what you had planned?” Caleb demands from behind me. “For her to be here when you kill me? That’s—”
“Kill him?” Tris asks me, not looking at her brother.
“Yeah, I let him think he was being taken to his execution,” I say, loud enough that he can hear. “You know, sort of like he did to you in Erudite headquarters.”
No one tells Tobias that, regardless of how deserved he thinks this is, it was stupid because Caleb could’ve made other escape attempts. There’s a slight chance he could’ve actually gotten away and a higher chance he’d have alerted someone else in the process.
He looks frightened, but not as frightened as I thought he would be. I feel like I understand, then, the way he ranks things in his mind: his life, first; his comfort in a world of his own making, second; and somewhere after that, the lives of the people he is supposed to love.
So we’ve solidly removed the possibility anyone would legitimately think they had to stay within the city.
We then go to Tris. They’ve gone to the fence.
It’s stupid to miss a thing when there are so many people to miss instead, but I miss this train already, and all the others that carried me through the city, my city, after I was brave enough to ride them.
I think part of the problem is that Tris is divergent because it’s special and what the terrible plot is about, but she was never made as anything but Dauntless. Her only problem with them is that they’ve, well, diverged from their founding intentions.
Hey, you know what’d fix everything?
There’s no divergent. After X years of no violence, they were supposed to leave and teach others to be like them. Tris claims that there’s no more crime, no more murder. The Abnegation decide it’s time to tell everyone the truth, and Jeanine, not being from the selflessness and self-sacrifice faction, is not a fan of heading out to find the psychopaths depicted in that video. The safest, most pragmatic thing to do is stay where they are and hope the rest of humanity self-destructs, so obviously you should…murder and zombify everyone who stands in your way. Maybe if we didn’t spend all our time of DIVERGENTS OMG we’d have time for people to say that Abnegation was an important check on Erudite because they tend to think up cool ideas first and consider if they’re good ideas second, if at all. Science has a wonderful history of implimenting policies that, in retrospect, we agree were actually really terrible, just on the basis they’d invented this new shiny thing.
Tobias, suspicious, swaps the intended injection for himself and Tris for colored water, which is why they’re awake. Tris’ mom is not Dauntless pretending to be Abnegation, she legitimately chose to go to Abnegation and lived a happy life there, just as Johanna was happy as Amity but still retained her Candor training. Tobias’ dead friend angst can be covered just fine by the fact current Dauntless is a meatgrinder.
And so, the Erudite takeover fails, the truth comes out, but in the process they have to wonder if they’re actually a stable, good society or if the downward spiral into the horrors they saw is inevitable. Meanwhile, the factionless are understandably not thrilled with the idea the “perfect society” is one run on their suffering. They hate the outsiders for creating this and they oppose anyone keeping the system going. And this explains why Evelyn is pushed to make a coup so quickly – the faction system has just gained a boost of legitimacy, so it’s now or never, and she’s determined to keep tight control because she knows the factions aren’t happy with the change.
Tris, of course, likes the faction system. There’s some things she might change, but they let you find your ideal place and surround yourself with other people who feel the same! Tobias, in contrast, just feels hemmed in by them. He doesn’t like any of the extremes. He wants to help others but not be forced into it, he likes peace without being forced to be helpless, he likes honesty but doesn’t want to be forced to tell everything to everyone… He’s ordinary.
Anyway. They jump off and Tobias has to chase Caleb down again. They tell Caleb he’s stupid for thinking he can escape.
“Four’s fast. Not as fast as me, but definitely faster than a Nose like you.”
Christina laughs. “A what?”
“Nose.” Uriah touches the side of his nose. “It’s a play on words. „Knows’ with a „K,’ knowledge, Erudite . . . get it? It’s like Stiff.”
I guess someone pointed out how dumb it was to only have one slur, but it’s much too late to pretend otherwise.
Tori walks a few feet in front of us, and from the back, in the dark, she reminds me of Evelyn, her limbs lean and wiry, her shoulders back, so sure of herself it’s almost frightening.
I’m now curious where Tori’s alignment will end up.
She is eager to leave, to escape this place where her brother was murdered and she rose to prominence only to be thwarted by a factionless woman who wasn’t supposed to be alive.
Huh. “Thwarted”. Not looking good.
She is so far ahead that when the shots go off, I only see her flashlight fall, not her body.
Ah, there we go.
I can’t run into the night. I need light. I sprint in the direction of Tori’s body—of her fallen flashlight.
Seriously, Tris, how the hell did you score Erudite?
And Tris overcomes her gun phobia enough to manage to shoot one of the shooters but can’t handle her running in darkness phobia so she takes off with the flashlight. She then finds a truck with headlights, because no one fucking understands how light works in a gunfight.
Tobias sits on the hood of the other truck, his arm soaked with blood. Cara stands in front of him with a first aid kit. Caleb and Peter sit on the grass a few feet away.
So we continue our trend of the most annoying characters having the same plot armor as the main characters.
Next chapter we go to Tobias.
a series of long, low buildings lit by blue emergency lamps.
“What are those?” Tris says.
“The other greenhouses,” Johanna says. “They don’t require much manpower, but we grow and raise things in large quantities there—animals, raw material for fabric, wheat, and so on.”
Their panes glow in the starlight, obscuring the treasures I imagine to be inside them, small plants with berries dangling from their branches, rows of potato plants buried in the earth.
Tobias clearly doesn’t understand what low manpower high quantity means (hint: not berry crops), where fabric comes from, or what animals are.
“You don’t show them to visitors,” I say. “We never saw them.”
“Amity keeps a number of secrets,” Johanna says, and she sounds proud.
This makes no sense so I think it’s like the bit about how we’ve now got other slurs, someone pointed out a problem. This time it was the fact the lazy hippies couldn’t have kept people fed with how they were running the farm. This actually works not-terribly – we can say that yes, the apple-picking work really was Abnegation’s job and that’s why it was rotting in the fields, Amity was full up on handling the rest of their duties. Apples are a great crop for storing if you’re low tech, but they’re high tech, in which case apples are less healthy than plenty of other healthy stuff and less tasty than plenty of other yummy stuff, plus they’re low in calories. We even see this reflected in how dried apple slices are something Abnegation makes to give as treats to the factionless – clearly, not a staple food for anybody, so when the world’s coming down about your ears, it’s easy to ignore.
(Still doesn’t fix the fact the apples were weeks past harvesting if you can smell them rotting and yet the coup attempt was hours earlier when Tris arrives, so upheaval can’t have been a factor in it. But it almost works, and that’s a damn lot better than the universe-hopping mess of last book.)
The road ahead of us is long and straight, marked with cracks and swollen patches. Alongside it are gnarled trees, broken lampposts, old power lines. Every so often, there is an isolated square of sidewalk with weeds forcing their way through the concrete, or a pile of rotting wood, a collapsed dwelling.
The more time I spend thinking about this landscape that every Dauntless patrol was told was normal, the more I see an old city rising up around me, the buildings lower than the ones we left behind, but just as numerous. An old city that was transformed into empty land for the Amity to farm. In other words, an old city that was razed, burned to cinders, and crushed into the ground, even the roads disappearing, the earth left to run wild over the wreckage.
I think she’s referring to the suburbs. Which is actually clever in that she shouldn’t know the concept of one so she’d just say it’s a city. (Wait, he. Tobias’ section. Hard to remember when their only distinction is how they relate to other people.)
Doesn’t fit with how there seems to be a big empty zone in the area between the city and Amity farms, but conceivably, they could’ve leveled that too to keep anyone from asking questions.
No fence or wall marks the divide between the Amity compound and the outer world, but I remember monitoring the Dauntless patrols from the control room, making sure they didn’t go farther than the limit, which is marked by a series of signs with Xs on them. The patrols were structured so that the trucks would run out of gas if they went too far, a delicate system of checks and balances that preserved our safety and theirs—and, I now realize, the secret the Abnegation kept.
You guys carefully calculated fuel so no one could escape and only after the secret was rubbed inn your face do you realize there was maybe some secret-keeping going on?
Johanna explains that anyone who did manage to get too far got mindwiped.
“Every faction has a serum,” Johanna says. “The Dauntless serum gives hallucinated realities, Candor’s gives the truth, Amity’s gives peace, Erudite’s gives death—” At this, Tris visibly shudders, but Johanna continues as if it didn’t happen. “And Abnegation’s resets memory.”
God, this is so stupid. I mean, Dauntless doesn’t have a serum, Erudite obviously made the simulation serums for them, and they were used in the aptitude test thingy everyone goes through. Amity almost certainly doesn’t make their own either given they never tried flooding the water supply with it (though it is possible it’s just super hard to manufacture, but the fact they accidentally gave Tris a mega dose suggests it’s a regulated substance for them, not a labor-intensive one, as does the way they seemed to have no interest in figuring out ways to be more effective producing it.) And you don’t need a serum to produce death. It’s called poison, you idiots, there’s a hell of a lot of them.
Still, it’s the kind of stupid hat-wearing faction stuff of the first book, and not contradicting words said a sentence ago like the second book, so, okay! We can speculate from this that each faction was directly given to the factions, along with some way of manufacturing it that only works on a small scale. This explains how Erudite had to bargain with Candor for their serum. Dauntless and Erudite are the ones with the greatest interest in innovation, so Erudite painstakingly reverse-engineered Dauntless serum until they understood how it worked and could produce their own versions. This also explains how the serums all seem gamebreaking – the founders intended them to be strictly limited in application, so of course hacking them goes hand in hand with the near destruction of their society.
This also opens up another aspect of the stay/go debate: the founders definitely have higher tech, because they knew how all this stuff worked and then took away most of that knowledge. While the outsiders have presumably been continuing their scientific developments at a standard pace, Erudite has been hobbled and spent most of that time trying to work backward just to get to a similar scientific understanding as the founders started with generations back. The outsiders almost certainly have technological superiority, which is an argument for staying away. On the other hand, it’s also really unlikely the factions will be able to catch up anytime soon and the gap is probably widening as we speak. In that case, the best bet might be to reestablish contact now, while they’re only somewhat behind and there’s a chance of still beating the outsiders in a fight, and/or maybe try to grab as much scientific knowledge as possible to get back on an even footing. If the outsiders are really dangerous, attacking an isolated area, getting access to modern technology, then retreating back with it to try to build up a higher level of technology in time to defend themselves might be the only chance of surviving.
“The Amity are charged with administering the Abnegation serum to anyone who goes out past the limit
But it’s still “Abnegation” serum despite it being handled by Amity, because hats.
There is something deeply wrong with taking a person’s memories—even though I know it was necessary to keep our city safe for as long as it needed to be, I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Take a person’s memories, and you change who they are.
Also there’s no actual evidence it was necessary. So there’s that. It seems like many to all Abnegation adults knew the truth without it being necessary to mindwipe them every time. Worse, we know from the first book that Abnegation hates all the other factions and think they’re scum and only Abnegation are good people, so they absolutely would just assume that any Abnegation could handle the truth without the slightest problem but every other faction member needs to have even the hint of it completely erased from their inferior brains.
I see something up ahead of us, in the light of early morning, and grab Tris’s hand.
“Look,” I say.
And end the chapter. Seriously?
The next chapter returns us to Tris, who, unlike her stupid boyfriend, actually tells us about the “something” they are lookign at.
THE WORLD BEYOND ours is full of roads and dark buildings and collapsing power lines.
There is no life in it, as far as I can see; no movement, no sound but the wind and my own footsteps.
It’s like the landscape is an interrupted sentence, one side dangling in the air, unfinished, and the other, a completely different subject. On our side of that sentence is empty land, grass and stretches of road. On the other side are two concrete walls with half a dozen sets of train tracks between them. Up ahead, there is a concrete bridge built across the walls, and framing the tracks are buildings, wood and brick and glass, their windows dark, trees growing around them, so wild their branches have grown together.
A sign on the right says 90.
Ooh, post-apoc! We can’t really say what this means yet, though – could be that the original-society buffer zone is larger than the bulldozed zone, as makes sense given bulldozing is extra work.
The Amity guys then turn the trucks around and head back, because Amity are boring. The book reminds us they’re planning to run the rebellion but they’re Amity so the rebellion will also be boring. Hell, the Dauntless/Factionless vs Erudite, the three most interesting factions, was still kind of boring.
So they start off following the train tracks, and Tris sees that the tracks seem to be higher tech, and observes the trains are full of benches instead of being things you jump onto at a run.
The concrete walls alone hold my attention
Tris’ first brush with graffiti?
—they are covered with strange pictures
Tris’ first brush with graffiti!
of people with skin so smooth they hardly look like people anymore, or colorful bottles with shampoo or conditioner or vitamins or unfamiliar substances inside them, words I don’t understand, “vodka” and “Coca-Cola” and “energy drink.” The colors and shapes and words and pictures are so garish, so abundant, that they are mesmerizing.
Oh, Tris’ first brush with ads.
It’s hard to figure out quite why I find this so disappointing. Well, for one thing, graffiti is just such a good example of expression. It’s the polar opposite of the corporate ads here – it’s mostly amateur and largely ugly, but there’s such an honesty to it. It bypasses any gatekeepers and generally stands in deliberate opposition to them. And going on this, it would tell us who these people are far better than just telling us about ads. What does this paragraph tell us? That at some point, the outside world was ours with ads and such, which we already knew, and Tris isn’t familiar with ads and such, which we already knew. At most, it tells us that this can’t be taking place a thousand years in the future, and even that’s not too clear – maybe we invent indestructible billboards in the next decade, so the fact the ads are similar to our current day wouldn’t mean anything.
And it all gets back to how there’s no real rebellion in our dystopias, is there?
I never read many cyberpunk books. Pretty sure none of the few I did were classics and probably all of them were third-rate knockoffs. Certainly none of them were particularly good. But even the knockoffs were set in a world with freedom. No one was doing anything particularly useful with that freedom, and it was a messy freedom fraught with dangers, but it was theirs, and the organizations trying to stifle that were the enemy.
This book doesn’t even say the stifling is right. It’s written in a world where there’s nothing there to stifle. No graffiti artist scrawled across the perfect ads. What rebellions are allowed at all are organized ones with a quarter of their population marching lockstep in service.
These books we’re seeing are even worse than just the surface treatment of rebellions being as bad or worse than the original. What they’re really saying is that there are no rebellions. Not the kind actual people could ever take part in. There are only huge organizations. You can pick which you support, and that’s the end of it.
A truck drives over.
“Hello,” she says, and smiles nervously. “My name is Zoe. This is Amar.”
She jerks her head to the side to indicate the driver, who has gotten out of the truck too.
“Amar is dead,” Tobias says.
“No, I’m not. Come on, Four,” Amar says.
“We work for the same organization that founded your city,” Zoe says as she glares at Amar. “The same organization Edith Prior came from.
Well, I guess the slow disappointment of what no graffiti means has kind of helped numb me to this new disappointment. This is punishment for liking how the worldbuilding was for a minute and for speculating on what they’d find, isn’t it? So the answer is the people were watching all along. No question of first contact. No worries about how they’re to go about their mission of changing the society outside, or concerns about if those people are dangerous.
Can’t think of any real questions at all. I guess that’s why Amar’s thrown in, the author knows on some level that this isn’t a shocking reveal but just the removal of all the shocking reveals people might’ve enjoyed, so she’s dangling the question of how Amar’s alive. But who cares? Obviously he successfully escaped the city when the divergent crackdown became obvious and they reported him dead because no one’s supposed to think too much about what’s outside.
Motherfucker. I should have remembered people were saying this book was the worst one and realized it meant things would have to nosedive soon.
Zoe shows Tris a photo of her mom, which includes Zoe as well. The book is really trying to get me to ask questions, but so fine, Zoe is also an escapee like Amar, presumably a Dauntless one which hey, actually makes sense given they’re the ones with the best chance to successfully get out. Plus if she’s divergent, the divergent purge seems worst there so extra pressure for the Dauntless to try to escape.
“Think we should trust them?” Tobias says to me in a low voice.
Zoe doesn’t look like a liar, and she doesn’t sound like one either. And if she knows who I am, and knew how to find us here, it’s probably because she has some form of access to the city, which means she is probably telling the truth about being with the group that Edith Prior came from. And then there’s Amar, who is watching every movement Tobias makes.
“We came out here because we wanted to find these people,” I say. “We have to trust someone, don’t we? Or else we’re just walking around in a wasteland, possibly starving to death.”
I don’t see why any of this is about trust. Like Tris said, they wanted to find out what was up. They’ve found it. Zoe isn’t asking if they’re okay with being disarmed and blindfolded first.
Also, there’s already the best buddy of Tobias standing right there giving a thumbs’ up.
They go on a bit more about if it’s safe and can Zoe be trusted and whatever. Then they go.