BLOOD IS A strange color. It’s darker than you expect it to be.
I stare down at Marlene’s hand, which is wrapped around my arm. Her fingernails are short and jagged—she bites them. She pushes me forward, and I must be walking, because I can feel myself moving, but in my mind I stand before Eric and he is still alive.
He died just like Will did. Slumped just like Will did.
Also like all the many, many other people who’ve died, including the kid whose head you saw Eric blow apart just a few chapters ago. Or did that not happen again?
This is written like there’s been two deaths so far, Will’s in the previous book and Eric’s now.
On top of that, I feel it’s a fundamental betrayal of Tris’ character as a person who shoots people because sometimes this is a thing that needs doing. The only thing I can say for the book is it’s not yet making this about how Tris is squamish and delicate because girl and seems to just be doing it because oh no death.
Also it’s particularly enraging because Eric killed so many people, many of them right in front of her.
We march toward the doors. At the front of the pack is Harrison, carrying Tori on his back like a child. She laughs, her arms wrapped around his neck.
Huh, so I guess Harrison’s previous girl statements are just a thing that happens and no one’s going to get comeuppance for them. Presumably they’ll just pepper the rest of the book unless we wobble far enough to find an alternate where the author didn’t think shoehorning in sexism all of a sudden was a good idea.
Incidentally, Tori’s being carried because her leg is hurt but given the book’s focus is instead on “like a child” still mildly annoyed.
The Candor show up to ask what’s happened to Eric and they say they killed him. Jac is livid. Not terrified, red-faced.
“Why should I be thanking you?”
“Because you wanted him to be executed, too, right? Since he murdered one of your children?” Tori tilts her head, her eyes wide, innocent.
This is continuing the women act like kids thing, and it’s not like it’s a situation it makes sense. This sort of taunting is what you’d expect if this guy is a king, but the other Candor are right there and supposedly have some say in things, don’t they? Say to them, that huh, looks like your leader was intending to let the man who murdered a child in cold blood go! And even if you’d have been okay with this, it’s after he said Eric would be punished. So, now he’s a liar, the one thing Candor can’t abide.
We’re then told Jack is terrified when the Dauntless inform him they’ve taking off.
“I can’t let you do that,” he says.
And the other Candor continue to say nothing, react in no way, and otherwise not be present. Maybe they disappeared in a shift.
Tobias says fuck you you’re not the boss of us.
“Didn’t you come here to find allies?” Jack scowls. “If you do this, we
will side with Erudite, I promise you, and you will never find an ally in
us again, you—”
“We don’t need you as an ally,” says Tori. “We’re Dauntless.”
Good job continuing to fail in any way to make your case to the Candor, Tori. You could have asked him if that meant he’d side with you if you agreed to stay, forcing him to tell the truth or lie in front of the other Candor. You could have said he’s already siding with the Erudite and same. So on and so on. I don’t know what possessed the author to think the only politicing character should be of the anti-lie people. It’s been one of the stupidest things the book’s done, though sadly there’s enough competition it doesn’t top the list.
Then Dauntless just shoves their way through.
We reach the lobby. A group of Candor and Erudite are waiting there, including the blond Divergent woman who got dragged to the elevators by her hair, the girl I helped escape, and Cara. They watch the Dauntless stream past them with helpless looks on their faces.
The Dauntless not only did not think of these people before leaving, they still don’t think of them now:
Cara spots me and grabs my arm, wrenching me back. “Where are you all going?”
“Dauntless headquarters.” I try to pull my arm free, but she won’t let go. I don’t look at her face. I can’t look at her right now.
What Tris says next can only be taken as a deliberate betrayal:
“Go to Amity,” I say. “They promised safety to anyone who wants it. You won’t be safe here.”
Seeing Eric die is horrible, but condemning all these people to death is fine because it was annoying Tris how they dared look to her for help.
She releases me, almost pushing me away from her in the process.
She probably heard the story of how you got there and knows what you just told her to do.
Killing Will was necessary to save everyone else. What excuse do you have for this?
Zeke tells her about Shauna. The book kept emphasizing that the bullet went through her “back” which I was ignoring because that covers a lot, but apparently it was in fact trying to say “spine”. The person they threw over Tobias’ shoulder instead of transporting in any more reasonable method now is paralyzed. Good job there, fuckers.
Anyway, it means Shauna is doomed.
“She can,” I say.
“Tris. She won’t even be able to move around.”
“Sure she will.” I look up at him. “She can get a wheelchair, and someone can push her up the paths in the Pit, and there’s an elevator in the building up there.” I point above our heads. “She doesn’t need to be able to walk to slide down the zip line or fire a gun.”
Tris, you know full well that they will throw her off a train.
If you have a problem with that, maybe you shouldn’t have refused to be a faction leader, because you could’ve tried to do something about it then.
Also, she’s Dauntless, why would she need to be pushed so badly?
Bud hands each of us a paintball gun, and I load mine. Its weight, shape, and material are so different from a revolver that I have no trouble holding it.
If she’d said something about being able to touch other guns before this, it wouldn’t come out of left field now. It’s like the author just doesn’t want anything to get in the way of yay paintballs for justice.
Incidentally, stupid Dauntless, you were worried there might be hidden cameras you didn’t know about, and paint covering lenses you know about doesn’t change that. Just shut down the system.
I guess to make up for this, she’s asked to do “the Pire” which is the glass building where the control center is and her dad died and she gets all upset but forces herself through it and it works.
The guy she’s with misses the shot at the camera, then she manages it lefthanded due to her injured shoulder because she is always bestest, then Marlene ambushes them and shoots them and it’s all yay paintball tiem.
By the time the fight dies down, my clothes are more paint-colored than black. I decide to keep the shirt to remind me why I chose Dauntless in the first place: not because they are perfect, but because they are alive. Because they are free.
An important component of freedom, you’ll recall, is leaving anyone who isn’t part of your group to die and then ensuring it by telling them to go somewhere you know will get them killed by promising it’s safe.
Since we’re at the midway point, I’d like to stop for some quick rewrite suggestions instead of going on to what’s surely a terrible next chapter.
Remember in Divergent, at least the iteration we read, had Tris saying she’d never heard of murder or crime because the faction system was great, and how this random sentence had no bearing on anything else we’ve seen?
Imagine if this was true. Let’s say the faction system has a huge taboo against actual murder. The setting’s already overflowing with bullshit science, stunguns are not a stretch. Stabby-shock imitation not-bullets feature in the movie, so let’s go with those, because incapacitating people with agony as opposed to tranquelizers seems like something the Dauntless would think was a great idea.
So instead of the murder, it’s all about capturing. The zombie Dauntless were adding the Abnegation to the simulation to be zombies with them, in fine zombie spreading tradition. This not only makes more sense given the Erudite can make zombies out of people, but avoids the problem I have right now of so many deaths making me not care. Instead, we have the a lose state (Erudite zombifies everyone so no one can stop them) and a win state (the zombified people are successfully freed and Erudite is taken out of the picture) rather than the current Erudite keeps killing people and nothing can be done and you’ll all be marring siblings in like two generations at this rate. So last book, they were zombifying the Abnegation and adding them to their ranks, then Tris turned off the simulation and freed everybody. Having a huge murder taboo would also slightly explain why the group’s response was to freak out and run.
It would also explain why no one’s just fucking shot the various obnoxious people who need shooting. Peter makes a perfectly good recurring villain if it made the slightest sense his skull is still intact by now. Eric’s stupid pages upon pages of chatter about morals make more sense if killing is not a totally normal Dauntless thing, and needing leaders to even decide to kill him makes sense if they actually have no idea how to handle this.
Also, perhaps the sheer wrongness of murder makes Candor unable to believe that Erudite could possibly have been killing divergents. As fatal flaws related to their chosen virtue go, not being able to realize something’s the truth because never been true before works pretty well, and also literally anything is better than what we currently have which is a bunch of stupid people who happen to have truth serum for no reason. Tie in the fact divergents probably can lie under truth serum and we have a reason for Candor themselves to suddenly be terrified of divergents and their weird brain powers as well as to ignore the testimony of the two people who say that Erudite’s murderous since they’re both divergent.
Since for it to be these books we need something about how knowledge is cold and evil, fine, Erudite is able to commit murders despite the taboo because knowledge is cold and evil and rational thought makes you a serial killer. THAT’S STILL BETTER THAN THIS I AM FINE WITH THAT I WOULD WELCOME IT.
And if we must have a huge death toll, we can have that begin in the second book, where Erudite realizes that Candor just will not believe they could possibly do this, so they should just slaughter Abnegation now to muddy the waters about their previous plan and also because Tris actually fried the only major computer and they can’t run the simulation again yet but have to stop Abnegation from getting back into the city somehow.
So, let’s consider the faction system.
The five factions form up as a bad response to the trauma of the world burning, as I outlined after Divergent. Their anti-murder thing comes from that too, because people who think almost everyone’s dead don’t actually start murdering whoever they can still find as American cinema claims. So the factions despise each other for not focusing on and opposing the one true cause of humanity’s downfall, but all have the shared cultural beliefs about how killing is the most horrible thing anyone can ever do.
This is not, of course, stable, and also the anti-murder taboo was only put in place from the first generation’s shared trauma and there’s not enough reinforcement in society to expect it to really hold. Erudite shoves it off first because they’re all about being rational ends justify the means types, and as soon as you give them one of those hypothetical questions about pushing a guy onto a track to save five other guys, they’re usually on board with plan Abnegation Are Fucking Idiots Who Will Kill Us All They Must Be Stopped. They were trying to find a peaceful solution as viewed by people whose concept of peace begins and ends at murder being wrong, but knew they still had to get rid of the divergents, and so they did.
If we want to bash intellect here, we can throw in a bunch of philosophical stuff I hate, like that fucking lifeboat metaphor. You know, America can’t let foreigners in because it’s like we’re a lifeboat at sea and if we let people in they would swamp the boat and all of us would die so we have to nobly make the very difficult choice of letting them drown, because America is a lifeboat that is at max capacity this very instant as I explain to you by typing on one of my several computers and then posting to the internet I have near constant access to from my house full of food.
Point is, sometimes being smart just means you write very long books about something that’s actually stupid but use big enough words no one else realizes.
Anyway, that’s why they insist the factionless have to all die. LIFEBOAT. Because I am always for fuck Abnegation, this is in large part because Abnegation keeps manufacturing shortages to screw with people and teach them not to want things, so they think resources are way scarcer than they really are.
Meanwhile, what was supposed to keep factions from attacking each other is that the other three are supposed to come to the defense of whoever’s attacked, but Erudite’s been doing a great job of making everyone else view them as indispensable and also pretty nice people while making them hate Abnegation even more than they do the rest. They also haven’t done anything to make the factions hate each other less and Dauntless are pretty much mad dogs, so no one’s particularly worried about the fact they zombified the Dauntless and if it was meant to be temporary just long enough to remove Abnegation or forever, because hey, fuck those guys and their stupid guns and how they kept calling us cowards all the time.
With a murder taboo, zombifying as an alternative can actually look reasonable and less control freak madness, so the other factions can more plausibly believe Erudite will stop there rather than that they’re inevitably next – especially given Erudites always treat them with respect and consideration.
Next, just as Erudite’s plan has faction relationships as a specific component, so too should the response. Amity being worthless seems like a good idea, since they’re the most obvious nice people, and you could make a link to how everyone keeps insisting that Marcus is just a nice guy and why are you so shouty Tobias shouting is very rude. (Marcus is then killed, avoiding the current situation where Tobias makes it clear in front of two factions that his dad is evil and no one fucking reacts because the factions do not exist in any meaningful capacity but are just setting pieces.) Tobias would warn them in advance that Amity won’t help because avoiding conflict doesn’t say anything about siding with the people who need it, and it would come true. Maybe Tris could use that supposed Erudite qualification and the fact the only class she has ever mentioned is Faction History to tell us she learned in Faction History that Amity are supposed to be the more hardcore sort of pacifist who would sooner die than allow harm to come to others, and we learn that, having never needed those principles tested because they had Dauntless around to break heads, they don’t live up to it.
This also sets the stage for being suspicious Candor will also end up being cowardly, which is extra good because of course the Dauntless already assume everyone who isn’t them are a bunch of cowards. The story Tris brings only further strains relationships between the Candor and Dauntless, and the fact divergent people can lie causes a huge division – divergent people appear to have the exact same tells as regular people, so Candor can tell they’re lying by the usual method, but their magic certainty serum has just failed and that’s disturbing. Right when they need unity, Candor is locked into furious debate about if divergents are evil monsters out to destroy everything or the same as everybody else but the serums don’t work perfectly on them.
Then Erudite attacks and is repelled but insists they’re only after the divergent, and some of Candor now believes that removing divergents is good for everyone. When they find out the leaders were making secret deals, Dauntless announces it and they split, taking a good chunk of Candor with them either because they’re divergent and know Candor will probably kill them or because people just think it’s safer to stick with the guys who have guns. It’s not a good merge, though, since the Dauntless still think they’re cowards and now are suspicious maybe some of them are secret Erudite supporters. Tris has to work to build bridges between them as a practical matter, with help from the Candor verifying what’s true, without realizing that what she’s doing is destroying the foundation of the faction system. Factions only work because of the divisions between them. As they get to know each other, it’s hard to view each other as the enemy, and as they work together, it becomes more obvious that their skills are all useful. The Erudite work on getting the surveillance system up again so they can track their enemies and trying to find a way to duplicate the divergent’s resistance or make some sort of jamming system, the Candor keep watch for spies and help mediate he said/she said conflicts that crop up constantly as everyone’s scared that the other person is secretly on the side of Erudite, and many of them are trained by the Dauntless in weapons as backup. Along the way, they realize most of them are pretty similar anyway, since all the factions have people doing the same basic necessary jobs in addition to whatever their chosen virtue is.
Meanwhile, the Erudite unite the other half of Candor and the Amity against their common enemy, those Dauntless trying to destroy the faction system and create chaos and hatred. Amity is sent to try to lure people back to their area under promises of safety so Erudite can zombify them and make sure everything remains safe forever and maybe they also try to drug the whole compound with their peace serum. Maybe it works and the survivors end up unifying with the factionless then finally beating the others and creating a new system out of the ashes and corpses, one that isn’t insane and basing its peace around five groups hating each other furiously. They create new factions but without the insanity of failing people for the slightest thing and making them factionless forever, being ridiculous caricatures of a virtue that don’t make sense, having no clear purposes, etc. They rebuild and years later, a non-evil Dauntless/Erudite coalition leaves the city to explore the world beyond.