Divergent Ch39, Conclusion + Next Time On

Last time on Dauntless, remember when suicide was wrong? I miss those days.

Tris’ bid to opt out of her life doesn’t go through, though, because her boyfriend finally manages to fight off the simulation…somehow, something something power of divergent love. Although earlier Tris was shutting down debate with the fact every second they waited was another dead Abnegation member, now they nuzzle rather than doing anything useful. Eventually, Tris remembers she had other goals in time for Tobias to check the monitors and type in a command not to kill her brother, who they’ve found. Then they turn the simulation off.

And then the Dauntless move. Their heads turn from side to side, and they drop their guns, and their mouths move like they’re shouting, and they shove each other, and some of them sink to their knees, holding their heads and rocking back and forth, back and forth.

Eh, they should be fine because murdering lots of innocent people is just a fear and it’s good to overcome fears.

I scan the screens, one by one, looking for one that shows the Abnegation sector of the city. There is only one—it’s at the far end of the room, on the bottom. The Dauntless on that screen are firing at one another, shoving one another, screaming—chaos. Black-clothed men and women drop to the ground. People sprint in every direction.

Truly making these guys their military was the best idea they ever had.

They make their way out into the Dauntless chaos. Tris finds Caleb.

Over Caleb’s shoulder, I see Tobias stop in the middle of a footstep. His entire body goes rigid as his eyes focus on Marcus. In the rush to destroy the simulation, I forgot to warn him.
Marcus walks up to Tobias and wraps his arms around his son. Tobias stays frozen, his arms at his sides and his face blank. I watch his Adam’s apple bob up and down and his eyes lift to the ceiling.
“Son,” sighs Marcus.

Truly, Marcus is the most Dauntless of them all. Tris tells him to get the fuck away, Marcus acts hurt but Tris helpfully informs us it looks fake, Tris announces to her brother that the Erudite got a couple things right and also she’d totally murder this guy but she knows her boyfriend deserves to do that instead. This would mean more if we hadn’t just established Tris is now fine with murdering anyone outside of her family and boyfriend.

Her brother raises the question of Candor’s reaction.

I don’t know how Candor will respond to the attack. They wouldn’t side with the Erudite—they would never do something that underhanded. But they may not fight the Erudite either.

Of course they will. Erudite has mind control powers, they’ll just mindcontrol everyone else. It’d be one thing if the Erudites just used the Dauntless, but step two is to mindcontrol the Abnegation remnants into compliance, and next they’ll be trying to dig the escapees out of Amity presumably by killing and mindcontrolling Amity.

Which is why this is so dumb. They’d have been much better served to focus on the peaceful aspects of their takeover and bank on Amity’s support – Abnegation is unarmed and don’t know jack about fighting, and Erudite doesn’t care about Dauntless losses, so they could’ve marched in and mass injected Abnegation. That’d also give a plausible motivation for being so concerned about the serum working on divergent brains.

I will not feel safe as long as Peter and Marcus are with us. I try not to look at them, but I feel their presence like I would feel a blanket over my face. The cruelty of fate is that I must travel with the people I hate when the people I love are dead
behind me.

That’s not fate, that’s you being stupid and taking your dad with you rather than Marcus. If Marcus made it to the control room alive, it was possible he could have reasoned with Tobias or just walked by him. If Marcus didn’t make it, eh. But no, you deliberately chose to use your own dad as the meat shield.

She wonders about Christina and Tori, if they’re even still alive in the chaos.

I wish I knew.
At the same time, I hope I never find out. If she is still alive, Christina will find Will’s body. And if she sees me again, her Candor-trained eyes will see that I am the one who killed him, I know it. I know it and the guilt strangles me and crushes me, so I have to forget it.

So it’s just better Christina dies and doesn’t bug you about the part where you went out of your way to ensure you killed your friend.

Caleb sits across from me, and Tobias sits next to me, forming a barrier between my body and Marcus and Peter.

It’s just all kinds of selfishness today from Tris.

The train turns, and I see the city behind us. It will get smaller and smaller until we see where the tracks end, the forests and fields I last saw when I was too young to appreciate them.

So yeah, this appears to be confirming there’s no plant life within Chicago.

She and Tobias confess they’re in love as if it’s some big revelation.

I reach into my pocket and take out the hard drive that contains the simulation data. I turn it in my hands, letting it catch the fading light and reflect it. Marcus’s eyes cling greedily to the movement. Not safe, I think. Not quite.

JUST

SHOOT

HIM

Tris then appropriates the suffering of the factionless to say that having your faction in temporary chaos is exactly like systemic inescapable oppression.

I have no home, no path, and no certainty. I am no longer Tris, the selfless, or Tris, the brave.
I suppose that now, I must become more than either.

Or you could go back to Dauntless and help them clean up and explain what happened. But no, that’s our ending, because DRAMA.

So…..here we are.

I still can’t believe there was no twist. Erudite’s claims are met again and again with how dare you mean jerks say that! as if that’s considered a rebuttal, then the one thing we can verify is true, but they’re still evil. They’re evil in precisely the unjustified way her grumbling bigot dad says.

I mean, I can sort of see how you could say doing it the usual way would be predictable, but this is one of those things where it’s like that for a reason, and the reason is the other way really, really does not work. There were plenty of ways this could’ve played out.

Say Abnegation overall is running the government properly but individuals are getting away with a lot of shit personally and Abnegation covers that up, so Erudite doesn’t trust them and when their initial reports on individuals are dismissed, they start casting doubt on everything. Or Tris realizes midway through that Erudite is totally right, only to realize Erudite’s revolution that they’ve been pushed to by her old faction’s insanity will tear apart their society and cause even more damage – maybe something like Hunger Games’ claim that the human population is so low that further fighting will be the death of everyone. Erudite taking out Abnegation would cause the remaining factions to attack each other as they try to come to a new consensus and that’s what’d destroy them. Or if we want something more black and white, Abnegation could’ve been so sure only they could lead, that only they can be trusted with power, that only they know what everyone else needs, that attacking them will trigger some horrible failsafe mechanism and kill everyone so they won’t have to live under the abuses of people who value prosperity.

And as to the execution, I’m just going to repeat that they should’ve have found out about the war plans if they weren’t going to bother acting on the knowledge and they shouldn’t have had the long delay after the injection. Have Tris worrying that Erudite will court Dauntless for a coup, have them decide there’s no way the Dauntless rank and file would do that yet and she’ll have plenty of time to try to change things from the inside plus if she gets a job with the leaders she’ll have advance warning and can go tell Abnegation if things ever do get that bad. Then the injection happens and Tris realizes what’s going on when she pushes her way out of the dreamworld. Now the plot doesn’t rely on people figuring stuff out but not doing anything!

Anyway. I know the faction system gets a lot of flack but I think as a whole the world really works in the same way, say, Paranoia’s setting does.

In the gaps, there’s the sense that something incredibly horrible has happened. This group came from somewhere else, somewhere even worse, and they don’t even know what happened to Chicago. The first people here would have seen the world end.

They didn’t handle it well. The few survivors of the group started to fight over what caused it because preventing it from happening again was all they could think about, and ultimately five groups emerged. If you look at their behavior through this lens, the faction-job connection makes sense. The original people still had the same associations we’d have for the traits, so even if what caused the fall was dishonesty or ignorance, they could agree that selfless politicians would be a good compromise until the real solution could be found.

This also explains why the only other belief system we’ve seen is from Tris’ mom, that evil is inherent in humanity and nothing can fight it. Those were the two original positions – that it was a flaw that could be rooted out if only it was identified, verses that it’s inherent and nothing can stop their slide into extinction. In this context, the manic intensity of the faction system makes much more sense. It was that or give up and die, so they threw themselves into it. It’s quite possible the reason we see no evidence of a no-faction group dating back to the formation is that they committed mass suicide and any people left went over to a faction as the only thing that offered hope.

That might also be why Candor and Amity so far seem the least extreme factions – Candor’s honesty means any attempt to harm others would be known in advance, and Amity is built directly around never harming anyone. Both of those let people cope with what happened without requiring extreme changes. Dauntless, Erudite and Abnegation, however, are all outward looking. Dauntless seeks something to defeat through strength, Erudite to change things for good, and Abnegation has simply set themselves against normal human behavior so much that it requires constant effort to keep their faction running.

And once you look at the basic setup as a fucked up coping mechanism, the fact nothing else makes sense starts to make sense!

“What’s outside the city?” The founders didn’t like this question. The original adults who came here are dead, but their kids remember you don’t talk about this. They talk around it as much as possible because it’s something they don’t want to think about.

“Why is electricity still running to unused areas?” They didn’t understand the grid originally and found they liked the lights anyway – see also why they’re trying to keep the empty buildings in their own areas from falling down. The founders knew what a city was supposed to look like and living in the broken remains of one depressed them, so they liked to pretend otherwise. This brings us to:

“Are they resource strapped or not?” Not. They’re not post-scarcity but I think they’re functionally close between population size, avaliable raw materials and their apparently high level of technology. The 24/7 trains aren’t an issue. They show no signs at all of stresses from a high population besides the lack of concern for individual life, and that can be explained by the mix of nihilism and surplus capacity meaning they don’t need people. The road problems are simply that Abnegation insists on doing all public works projects themselves and doesn’t have the pull to force other factions to help out anyway. (The car complaints may well be just that the roads can’t take more traffic but Abnegation doesn’t have the manpower to fix them faster, so they’re trying to minimize use instead. That also better illustrates the problems in putting the selfless faction in charge.) The factionless are hungry and dressed in rags because they’re hated. The factions can’t agree on which flaw is evil and caused the disaster, but anyone factionless has all the flaws so they must have the evil one. The factionless are sinners and people who invite calamity. That’s why Erudite was willing to go to great lengths to keep the faction they hated alive while viewing all of the factionless as a waste.

“Why do the factionless have important jobs then?” They don’t. The trains must be automated and the buses likely can’t go very fast, so they can’t use them for suicide attacks. Abnegation may occasionally give them pity jobs in construction, or maybe they’re used for fixing stuff like roads that go through their sector, but they’re untouchables and you don’t want them involved in any large capacity. And they can’t do anything without oversight, because they’re full of whatever sin caused the collapse, which is why they spend so much time sitting around the factionless section rather than fixing it. This is also why their kids are banned from the faction system as well. They might be tainted and destroy the city.

“Why lights-out at midnight?” Some component of the disaster involved bombing, or surviviors were afraid that might come next to finish them off. (Maybe the last message of the government was a warning to cut the lights.) Originally the power probably went out at twilight. As the old guard died off, no disaster came and there was no sign of any life at all out there, people started to keep the lights on at night for practical reasons, slowly extending the period you’d have streetlights but keeping the prohibition on any light at all past that point.

At this point in the story, few people even remember what was happening originally, which is why we come in right as things start to fall apart. The aftermath of a war makes people extremely interested in peace, so they could have an enormous falling out and yet five different types of fanatics were still more interested in preventing a second war than their own obsessions, so they simply didn’t fight. Their children and grandchildren have no such experiences and the basic setup of society encouraged fighting, so it’s inevitable it’d happen by the third generation. Tris makes no reference to grandparents and her mother’s mother must be dead by now to have shown no interest in Tris.

This is also the only way we can make sense of divergence being everything at once. Divergents AREN’T perfectly suited for a bunch of different factions, they do things like Tris sacrificing herself to save the girl then not to save the guy. Back before Jeanine made the test as a binary videogame, the kids would take some normal personality test with lots of different questions, and kids who didn’t show any clear tendency were divergent and, like the factionless, feared because they didn’t seem able to reject any single personality sin. This might be the genesis of the mantra about how the test doesn’t matter – parents didn’t want their kids kicked into the sinner’s compound or forced into a different faction.

The reason the simulations don’t work right on them is the Erudites have built the tests around assuming everyone will act in one of five ways every time, and the reason Jeanine was obsessed with fixing it instead of just shooting a few extra people is because defeating divergence is like defeating original sin. If she can create something that’ll control the divergence, her faction will have proven that ignorance was the true flaw in humanity. The simulation hacking Tris manages is really just her taking advantage of the simulation’s inevitable glitches and means nothing beyond that.

But it’d be better to just cut the divergence thing entirely and have Tris be Dauntless. She and Tobias cut the microchip out because they’re suspicious of why Erudite needs to track their movements, as there’s nothing more metal than carving open your own neck, only to be shocked when it turns out it had nothing to do with tracking and oh shit, it’s like only one group being the smart ones leaves you really vulnerable to this sort of thing. All of the plot works better if Tris is just torn between her love of Dauntless culture and her love of Abnegation’s people, and how she’s left Abnegation at such a vulnerable point but then on the other hand maybe her rosy view of the faction was never true.

(Ideally though I’d like an ending that doesn’t involve mind control and a quick solution – something more like Erudite sway the Dauntless to help in a coup, and Tris cuts it short at the last second by revealing some new information that Abnegation was hiding that, while not justifying Abnegation, prove Erudite’s plans are a terrible idea. For example, the disaster involved some sort of horrible disease and that’s why Abnegation has opposed every suggestion of sending out scouts beyond the known borders. Abnegation’s true sin being pride and refusal to let go of their power would be just so perfect with all their rants about how only they can be trusted because everyone else is too proud and power-mad.)

…in conclusion, the opening was pretty much the usual generic dystopia and protagonist, the ending went screaming off a cliff, but the middle bits were really, really nice. I loved Tris. I loved how her love interest has his own issues and how the author found a middle ground between Graceling’s endlessly supportive boyfriend cutout and everything else’s abusive-glorifying horrorshow that let both of them actually respect and build each other up. I loved that there were female side characters everywhere. I loved that good people had flaws. I loved Tris’ thrill-seeking. I love how there’s just enough blocks you can actually worldbuild something amazing out of them, I love the trains that run forever while the roads crumble and how they think the endless wasteland of dead mud is a “marsh” and how Amity has just NOPE NOPE NOPED their way out of everything and now follow only the dictates of the Cheese God, curdled be his prophet.

I loved it so much that we’re actually going on to the next book in the poll without needing a breather! Sorry, sixteen people who accidentally clicked on Exalted, that’ll have to wait until rape inevitably pops up in Sever. I don’t expect to feel charitable or really any emotion that doesn’t involve hatred at the end of that.

I was considering having there be a free vote after Sever/Exalted, but…

The current series I’ve begun:
Gemma Doyle (2)
Animorphs (fuckton)
Beautiful Creatures (3)
Exalted trilogy (1 will be left…)
Divergent (2)
Eona (1)
Graceling (2)
Matched (1)
Mortal Engines (3. I didn’t realize there were sequels when I started!)
Unwind (2)

As you can see, this is moving in the wrong direction. I’d really like it reduced down to five before we start new things. Animorphs is obviously not going away in anyone’s lifetime, but the rest of them are doable, especially since not all of them need to be full chapter-by-chapter affairs.

So that’s why the current poll choices. You vote on what you’d like to see and I’ll try to work my way through in order. (I’ve also got a lot of backlogged posts, so I may run those to have more time for thinning the herd if I need to. Single post reviews are faster overall but I really can’t manage a daily schedule.)

Also included as an option is Pokemon Yellow, because I feel the games are a similarly unfinished thing, but it’s not going to be counted toward the limit.

Regardless, unless Divergent marks a sudden upswing in YA being non-skeevy crap, you can all look forward to a bright future of me finishing the trilogy this year and finding out what happens with the +1 sword. (I kid, I kid. That’s never going to get resolved.)

10 Comments

  1. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
    Yellow is just blue with a few more gimmicks, not really something worth reviewing. It’s a good game if it’s your first pokemon game, but it’s not a sequel to blue because about 96% of the content is the same. The only games different enough within a generation are BW and its sequels.
    1. Farla says:
      But I like the gimmicks! And it’s the beginning of the games moving in more friendship/more story direction.
  2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    If you want to wrap up the last book of Matched, it should be do-able in a format shorter than chapter-by-chapter. It has the same big issues for long sections, with occasional spikes of “WTF?” Stuff actually happens.
    1. Farla says:
      Yeah, I’m thinking that’ll be one of the single posts.
  3. Betty Cross says:
    I won’t spoil it, but the 3rd volume (Allegiant) explains both the origin of the faction system and what’s outside the fence. I still don’t believe it, though. In any case, Roth’s trilogy made me care about Tris, Tobias, and Christina, and that’s worth something.
  4. Socordya says:
    Unwind!
    I read the excerpt, and it’s like the author is trying to persuade us that these kids deserve to be cut apart.
    1. Farla says:
      My current theory is the author just hates absolutely everyone.
  5. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    nvm
    1. Ember says:
      What did they do with the test? Did they make it less stupid, or explain it being stupid, or just not show it to the extent that you could notice how stupid it was, or what?
      1. Farla says:
        It was just her looking in a mirror a lot, then the bowls of cheese and stuff and dog. They cut out the whole train business. Also, this time she looks like she’s just giving up and accepting death when she kneels down, and the friendly dog is a completely different dog because I guess the snarling dog had only been trained to snarl and hadn’t mastered the licky puppy behavior.

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