Last time on Sever, the rapist’s master plan to follow Rhine to her brother is revealed! Rhine still doesn’t know, but Rhine doesn’t know things.
We learn the jeep they’ll be riding in is topped with plastic and more than a hundred years old. Uncle Perfect explains the plastic top is still perfect, despite the fact it sounds like it’s the soft top and I can’t find anyone claiming those are going to last a hundred years. The hard top is a lot more durable, but it’s also a mix of plastic and fiberglass and I don’t think “ripples” is a word you’d be using for it.
So…maybe this is supposed to be a clue we’re so far in the future that the hundred years ago delicate plastic tops of jeeps have become indestructible? I wonder if civilizations that get too good at making indestructible things run into resource problems. That could make for an interesting trash-based dystopia, where there’s all sorts of glittering pieces from the time before that you can use but you can’t manufacture anything new because all your metal is in those glittering pieces already.
Uncle Perfect goes on to suggest getting Cecily’s baby drunk on rum.
“Kidding,” Linden says quickly, lugging my suitcase out of the house. “He’s kidding, love.” He kisses her cheek as he moves past. “My uncle took care of me when I was a baby. He knows what he’s doing.”
So he’s definitely getting the baby drunk is what you’re saying.
Part of what makes Uncle Perfect so awful is that there isn’t really that softening effect of someone who’s awkward. He says things that are upsetting to others and it’s not really presented as a joke that went over badly – here, for example, it’s someone else who says he’s kidding, so it leaves the impression that he’s completely aware an anxious fourteen year old mother forced to leave her kid behind with someone she doesn’t even like will take this at face value and the joke is that it’s funny to upset her.
Rhine even helpfully explains that Cecily is already in a panic about her son’s safety and how horrible it was to decide to leave him at all. She just doesn’t connect the dots to this meaning you shouldn’t joke about mistreating the kid. Instead, Reed reminds her she’s a doll and she talks about how he’s comforting her but it doesn’t work because it’s all her fault the rapist is sad to know his dad is a murderer.
“Would it have been so bad letting him carry on in ignorance?” I say. “If I’d never come along, he’d have gotten some happiness, at least.”
See? Deirdre really doesn’t matter. Elle, likely next on the chopping block, doesn’t either. Linden is the only one with a chance of stopping his father, but – it’s not like his dad’s hurting real people, just ruined girls, so who cares about that part of it?
Uncle Perfect also gives them homemade cellphones that only work using the cellphone towers in cities that still exist for some reason.
And finally, finally, they get in the damn car and get going.
We’re barreling down a tunnel of nothingness. Dead things all around. Broken buildings, civilizations that are hiding in their barricaded houses, if there’s any civilization at all.
There’s this sudden overwhelming need to hold on to something. This feeling that I’m falling forever and forever into nothingness, and I want to grab Linden’s hand. I want to feel the pull of the steering wheel in his certain grasp. I want to feel like I have any control at all over where I’m going and what will happen next.
But you don’t, Rhine. You let him decide to come with you and you let him decide how you’d do it and you let him get in the driver’s seat. And you never will because your idea of any control is to hold someone’s hand while they make every decision.
The rapist must sense even this stillborn complaint, because it’s at that moment he decides to remind her that life sucks more for him because waaaah his dad won’t tell him about his dead older brother and it’s like this weight he’s carrying forever and Rhine of course says she’s so sorry he never knew his older brother because it’s not like she ever experienced dead older siblings or any other sibling related trauma either, let alone one about not knowing about your brother. Not satisfied, the rapist continues to talk about how he’s only alive because of his brother because My father wanted to have me so that he could have something to save.” which seems unlikely. His dad seems pretty stressed about the deadline. I think he had another kid because he missed having one when the first died, and he wanted to save the second one because he likes having a living kid.
“Sometimes it makes me feel less than human,” he says. “I don’t tell my father that. He tells me that I’m the most privileged boy in the world because I’ll be the one who lives.
You’re also the most privileged boy in the world by normal measurement.
Also the insanity continues because apparently now Evil Mad Scientist plans to get the cure for his son only.
Rhine continues saying he’s so great and she’s glad he’s alive. I mean, without him, she…wouldn’t have been kidnapped and those other girls wouldn’t have died and Rose wouldn’t have been imprisoned and tortured.
The rapist asks if she’s happy to be alive. I don’t understand the bitching about this, actually. The problem is really on a societal level. Living twenty years in perfect health isn’t that horrible a fate, and Rhine spent much of her life insulated from the societal part by having first gen parents and being really good at ignoring the suffering of others.
The rapist rejects this because he’s a spoiled brat and if he can’t get everything he might as well have nothing.
“I hear Cecily singing the words of that poem sometimes—‘And Spring herself when she woke at dawn, Would scarcely know that we were gone’—and I think it had the right idea. I think it’s wrong of us to keep trying for something that will never come. I think it was cruel of me to try to have children. There’s nothing out there, Rhine. There’s no world. Only water that’s full of dead things. Why keep trying to fill the empty space?”
BECAUSE THE PROBLEM IS REALLY ON A SOCIETAL LEVEL.
Obviously, people dying is bad and the longer we can get them to live without dying the better. The human lifespan getting cut from a max of a hundred to a certainty of twenty sucks. On the other hand, that’s a certainty of twenty in good health without built-in suffering. It’s not actually worth mass suicide over.
The problems in this is that their society is collapsing leading to starvation, they’re running into reproduction problems because girls don’t finish growing until they’re nearly dead, and that the boys are evil and rape and murder the girls.
It doesn’t appear there’s any actual countrywide lack of food, it’s that people like him monopolize the stuff leading to starvation elsewhere. Really, I think a lot of what in the first book looked like an inherent problem is just the weight of the people up top ruling like feudal lords, stealing people to serve them and food from the mouths of children.
Remove them and you remove the workhouse orphanages teaching children to sew pretty rather than grow food and the gatherers and the starvation and the wives. Let small communities form with the older raising the younger. Have them do basic things like farming since there’s no lack of green land now, and you’d end the starvation and misery.
It’s only wrong to bring children into this world because people like you rape and murder the girls. That’s where every problem comes from – you split apart families and support systems, then force the girls to have children they can’t care for, then repeat the process on the surviving girls. You can even see this in Rhine’s descriptions – it’s not dead children she sees, it’s dead girls, because the girls are the ones who can’t get jobs because they’re too scared of being taken.
Rhine now just talks about how truly, the rapist knows suffering because his wives have lost two babies.
We learn the poem was three hundred years ago, so we finally know when this was set, it’s sometime after 2200. That does give us enough of a buffer to assume the idea women are property came first and the superbabies/virus collapse just exacerbated an existing trend. For that matter, for all we know girls were getting kidnapped for sale even before that, since none of the first gens have shown any surprise the fact people do that now.
Rhine then reminds us evil does not solely reside in the hearts of men.
In the backseat Cecily coughs and stirs. Linden glances into the rearview mirror. “Are you awake, love?” he asks.
She shuffles around for a while more before she sits up. “Your talking woke me,” she complains.
She says nothing when she wakes. When she’s asked, she says that yes, she was woken by the conversation. This is complaining. Fuck you, Rhine. But not done, it’s time for her to give a whiny ending line:
she manages to climb over the seat and wedge her way between us, trailing a blanket after her. She settles perfectly to Linden’s side. “You don’t mind getting in back, do you?” she says to me. “There’s not enough room for the three of us.”
It’s fine when Cecily sits in the back because there’s not enough room for her, but when not enough room for all three means Rhine, it’s horrible.
It’s enough to make you wonder if they really did alter the human brain with the rest. The only girl who’s a horrible monster is Rhine, and she’s special with her special boy twin and her special chimera eyes, so maybe she’s got enough male cells in her brain that she’s like them.
The power of contrivance means they’re now driving past a carnival, which is naturally the carnival.
Shadows that are full of Madame’s guards, and broken girls, and Lilac, whose real name is Grace, who turned herself in so her daughter could be free.
If you really embrace the idea Rhine’s an unreliable narrator rather than this being an issue of unreliable author, this is really horrifying. Rhine watches this girl struggle to get over the fence, watches her electrocuted and unable to move so she physically couldn’t follow them. Months later, she recounts how the girl was fine giving up her freedom to let her daughter escape. She can’t have wanted anything else, right? She’s just a broken girl, and there’s nothing anyone can actually do for those.
Cecily wants to know what a carnival is and what the big wheel is and Rhine says shut up, because Cecily is close enough to a broken girl to not deserve an actual warning. The rapist is also curious and asks Rhine properly:
“I’m not moving this car until you tell me what that was all about,” Linden says.
Amazingly, Rhine manages to feel anger for an instant, although it’s just a matter of being stressed and not wanting to talk rather than because of the way he treats her. She tells them.
“ ‘Collects girls’?” Linden blinks. I doubt he’s ever even heard of a scarlet district.
“For sex?” Cecily asks simply. She hasn’t forgotten what the outside world was like before she became a bride.
And that’s why the rapist is good and his victim is evil.
I’m sorry for my brashness as soon as I’ve finished speaking. None of this is Linden’s fault.
Except for how it literally is his fault you were kidnapped, dragged across the country, and imprisoned, and how the reason you almost ended up raped there is because you were running away after that happened to you.
The rapist goes pale at the thought Rhine is a broken girl too, and she clarifies that no, still a virgin.
The girl helping me wasn’t so lucky, and I’m really in no hurry to go back there
Because she’s in no hurry to help anyone.
“I’m sorry,” Linden says. The words come out firm and practiced, like he’s been rehearsing them in his head this whole time. “It’s just that Rose used to talk about a Ferris wheel. I know that can’t be the same one, but it made me think of her, that’s all.”
“It’s not the same one,” I assure him.
Even when Rhine notes his words sound rehersed and unemotional, his apology is still just a sign she needs to comfort him again.
We learn that Alaska and Hawaii don’t exist as part of the whole accidentally the entire world business, in the process confirming that all the other states are still around. Then Rhine gives this flowery explanation about how he and Rose are spiritually twins just like her, with Rose like a parasitic twin now that she’s dead. Sure book, add in incest, why not.
If he’s given any thought to his father finding us through Cecily’s tracking device, it doesn’t seem to be among his concerns. He has a better understanding of Vaughn’s tactics than I do.
It’s annoying when Rhine points out something suspicious without even realizing it. (Also, his dad would oblivously have a tracker on him too, just in case someone tried to kidnap him.)
While the rapist sleeps, Cecily says that he never talks about Rose. Rhine says it’s because he finds it painful, and Cecily says no, it’s out of consideration for her and how jealous she can be.
“It isn’t easy competing with three other women for my husband’s heart,” Cecily says.
“There’s no competition,” I say. “You’re the only wife he has now.”
“I know Linden,” she says. “He’ll always love Rose. And Jenna was the beautiful one—I’ll never be able to compare.”
As we’ve been told, Cecily herself is also gorgeous, but she’ll never be beautiful for him like Jenna because he’ll be dead by the time she’s fully grown. The rapist goes on about the cruelty of bringing a privileged son into his safe world, but not about what he’s done in buying a girl who’ll outlive him.
Then, as if he’s been signaled, Evil Mad Scientist gets on the radio to provide some stick to go with the rapist’s carrot. He says he won’t give up until he finds his son and thinks he and his wife were kidnapped, and he’s offering a reward.
“Why is he lying about everything?” Cecily asks. She’s gnawing worriedly on the knuckle of her thumb.
“He knows I ran away,” Linden says. “He just wants to put out a description of us so that we’ll be found.”
He has a tracking device on one if not two of them, but the rapist tells them what’s going on before they can consider that.
Several yards away there’s a brick factory building that looks abandoned except for the plumes billowing out of its smokestack. Something is being produced, which means there is civilization here other than Madame’s carnival.
Brothels don’t usually work if there’s no one else around, you idiot.
Rhine then starts worrying her brother has been to the carnival, and not in the sense her brother is the sort of person who’d rape the girls at it but that he might have talked to her and she’d have seen his eyes.
made the connection that his dead twin sister isn’t really dead but is the only girl who ever managed to leave her exquisite and demented prison.
Tha would be a good thing, mind you. That’d mean she might have said it to him. Also, I don’t know where you’re getting that you’re the only one to ever escape. People don’t try to build an inexscapeable prison unless their prisoners were getting out.
The first generations are good at making prisons. I suppose it’s because they remember a time when things were as beautiful as the illusions they use to construct their cages.
I’m not sure if this is just because it’s flowery, but it does indicate a general problem with Rhine and prisons, which is that despite complaints she’s willing to stay as long as there’s something shiny to bat at.
I don’t want illusions. I’m tired of feeling like I’m in a dream from which I can never awaken.
While Rhine is doing the flowery thing, Cecily is in a panic because what if something’s happened to Bowen? The cellphones aren’t working despite this being exactly the place he said would likely work.
I glance at Cecily. Times like these, when she’s very worried, she looks about ten years older. She looks like a woman who has given birth, been married, witnessed death, and now carries the world on her shoulders.
She’s the size of a ten year old, so no, she looks like a ten year old that was forcably married, raped, bore two children and lives in terror of what’s happening next. Women are not the size of ten year olds. You will never be able to excuse the fact you look at her and insist she’s an adult.
My brother won’t be here. He’s smart enough to stay moving; he’ll stay just long enough to make his mark, maybe incite a riot, but not long enough to be caught by someone seeking revenge.
I believe this is confirmation that there’s no actual police force, so you only need to dodge the bereaved victims and you’re good.
Rhine runs over to the exploded lab.
“You shouldn’t be running off by yourself,” she says, and tugs me to my feet. “We’re here to help you. You know that.”
Linden catches up to us, gasping for breath. “What are you thinking, running off like that?” he says.
And again, Cecily’s evil, the rapist is good. You can tell in how they talk to Rhine.
The people recognize the rapist and there’s a brief moment of what resembles justice as they mob him and shove him into the back of a car. He’s even being taken to the carnival, but of course, he’s never in any danger.
Madame shows up. She’s talking, but none of them are really listening because she’s just a woman. Rhine also claims that she hates all love.
I look at Linden and see the way he’s staring at her, like she means something to him. He doesn’t seem at all afraid. I wonder if he’s thinking what I thought when I first met Madame, that something is oddly familiar about her.
Maybe it’s the fact she’s evil like everyone else you know but it’s confusing because her lack of a dick isn’t triggering your apologism instincts.
Cecily’s eyes dulled of any emotion or fear. The night she lost the baby, she drowned in the sleepy gray waters of death and then swam scissor-kicking from its depths in defiance. Madame holds no power over
…that’s not defiance. You’re saying she’s emotionally dead like that’s a good thing. There’s no power of hardness in her, only a dull inability to care.
“You aren’t much,” Madame says. “Maybe once puberty sets in.”
Even the woman who imprisons girls to be raped can see Cecily is only a child.
She begins polishing her silver pistol; it’s studded with fake emeralds. I don’t know if she means to threaten us. Probably not. In Madame’s world it is perfectly normal to admire a lethal weapon over tea.
Meanwhile, Rhine is too stupid to even threaten properly. Madame, seeing the dullness in her eyes is an entirely different sort from Cecily’s, goes for the only tactic that Rhine will register: she tells the rapist Rhine said unflattering things about him.
After Madame leaves, Cecily rediscovers fear. The rapist promises he’ll protect her from his father, and she asks if he loves her.
The book considers her behavior jealous, but to me this is what it’s always been about – she loved Rhine and Jenna, but she knew that she was only safe if she pleased her husband, and if he loved the other two he might forget about her.
Madame, as an evil woman, is sexual. She mentioned she slept with the rapist’s dad long ago and refers to having a lover rather than husband she lived and raised a child with. The little girl turns out to be Rose.
This means that the author probably did finalize the plot by the second book. The pieces are there with her delight in Rhine’s looks. Even the whole flower name business. It’s just so stupid and contrived. It’d have been a stretch but could’ve worked to have this happen last book – she mentions her daughter and Rhine tells her the truth and that’s how she escapes before Evil Mad Scientist arrives. But just coming back here by chance is already ridiculous without it also turning out she just happens to be Rose’s mother.
Furthermore, I can’t believe someone who lost a child like this would’ve kept other girls from returning to their parents. She could even sell them if she felt money was an issue, since the first gens have that. Even if she’s so lacking in empathy she doesn’t care about Grace wanting to leave, denying Grace’s mother her child?
The rapist of course blurts this out immediately.
THERE WAS A little girl once who was very much adored. Her existence was an act of carelessness, for Madame and her lover never intended to have a
child, and in fact they had a long discussion about terminating the pregnancy. It seemed too emotional a venture to raise a child that would die on its twentieth or twenty-fifth birthday. But neither Madame nor her lover could bring themselves to terminate the pregnancy.
Abortion. It’s called an abortion.
You may also notice that no one married has it referred to as “an act of carelessness”.
They decided that a short life would be better than none at all. And they would shower her with all the things a child could ask for. They would travel to every corner of the country, and they would fill her short years with a hundred years’ worth of experience.
And this is perhaps the only time people’s reactions to the situation have been human.
Madame was apparently running the brothel this whole time, which in retrospect I suppose explains Rose’s own cavaler attitude about buying more wives for her husband. She would stay there while Rose traveled with her dad, which was why she wasn’t there when the car bomb went off. She was told her kid died too. Rose was told her mother had come to meet her dad. Rhine speculates that the reason she never had to forfeit my virginity (because there is no rape in these books) is because Maybe that was her way of not sullying the image of her daughter. Everything about these books is so fucked up.
Madame tells them that Evil Mad Scientist wanted to arrange a marriage but she didn’t want to bury grandchildren as well. So it seems like arranged marriages predate the superbabies because there’s no issue with that part.
This is the real Madame. I can see why she hides herself in accents and gems and exotic perfumes. I can see why she’s grown to hate anything to do with love. She isn’t evil or corrupt the way that Vaughn is. She’s broken. Only broken.
Women don’t even get to be properly evil.
“I only knew Rose a little, toward the end,” I say. “But she wasn’t unhappy.
Yes, she was. Even you knew it. And yet Rhine does not appear to think she’s lying, because she has to do that deliberately later when asked if Rose had any children.
This is a woman who imprisoned me, who drugged me and betrayed me and nearly murdered a little girl right in front of me. And yet I believe that her grief is sincere. I believe that she loved her daughter. I don’t hate her anymore.
Rhine’s morality in a nutshell.
Madame then joins the people saying there’s always just something weird about Evil mad Scientist. Meanwhile, the rapist is actually angry because torturing Rhine and terrorizing Cecily are one thing, but lying to the only woman he ever thought was sort of a person? He’ll never forgive his dad for this.
The girls go to be by themselves because the rapist is angry and wants to be alone. Cecily can’t stop thinking of the miscarriage.
“I know it was wrong of me to try to bring another child into the world,” she says. Her mouth twists into a smile that becomes a frown. “I wanted it, though. I would give anything to have it back.”
The way she talks makes me think she feels like she’s been punished for wanting the child. She then says the rapist has banned her from talking about it and told her to move on already.
Madame finishes crying over her dead child and tells Rhine she’ll have Jared let them go.
Rhine does not say that if Madame mourns not having her child for those years and never getting to say goodbye, she should let Grace go too. Instead, they let Madame get them a new car. Madame asks if Rose was pretty at the end, and Rhine says she was.