Sever Ch17-18

Last time, the contrivance of the carnival is taken to ridiculous levels.

Now, Jared is driving them to “a compound”. He asks about Maddie and Rhine just says the kid is safe, not that she’s with her grandmother or anything, because why talk to people who aren’t her precious Rapist-chan?

We learn that Madame owns a thirty mile radius around her main brothel and compounds are her smaller sub-brothels because she’s making so much money, because a collapsing economy doesn’t impact one’s ability to pay for sex.

His tone has none of his usual gruffness, and I wonder if it’s because he sees Cecily as a child.

Or maybe it’s because she actually is a child.

He always showed patience for the children who worked as slaves at the carnival.

Rhine is really, really bitter about this. The work and expectations we see leveled on the children at the carnival are reasonable chores rather than the perfection demanded from the rapist’s “servants”, and they at least can stay with their mothers and won’t be sold to strangers or murdered. Even their world is bigger.

“How long will we have to stay there?” Cecily asks.
“Until I’m told otherwise,” Jared says.
“No offense,” Cecily says, “but why do you get to be the boss of us?”

Ah, Cecily. While Rhine passively accepts the flip from danger to friendly that still involves exactly as much being locked up, she’s willing to ask the questions poking the supposed civility.

He laughs. “I’m not the boss of anybody,” he says. “Madame’s the boss. And I’ve learned that if she wants things done a certain way, there’s always a reason for it.”

Technically, because you’re evil is a reason.

The new compound is the same tents and colored lanterns and electric fence thing.

“They aren’t drugged or anything,” Jared says. “Look, see?” He takes the spoon from my bowl, helping himself to a hearty mouthful, even licking both sides before putting it back. I watch it sink into the oatmeal.
Cecily removes it, dangling it between her thumb and index finger before daintily laying it on the crate. “You can share my spoon,” she tells me.

Oh, Cecily. Only the fact their deaths will make you unhappy stop me from cheering for it every second of this book.

Rhine informs us that Cecily eats her bowl even though at the mansion she’d have complained about getting this for breakfast. Rhine assumes this is because Cecily isn’t picky when hungry as opposed to the fact Cecily complains at the mansion because she’s smart enough to tell when complaining accomplishes things.

Unfortunately, it’s drugged. They didn’t bother with Rhine’s bowl, probably because she doesn’t do things. Madame might remember her as the runaway, but Jared knows she didn’t exactly decide that on her own.

Jared then asks her again about Maddie, and Rhine grudgingly offers slightly more info that she left the girl in an orphanage and not just a ditch.

I don’t tell him the whole truth about Maddie being with Claire, her grandmother, because I still can’t figure out if this would be too painful for Lilac to learn, or if it’s what she meant to happen all along.

And by can’t figure out, Rhine means she’s decided that Grace shouldn’t find out. She even goes on to say that Jared, who also cared about Maddie, looks disbelieving because a completely unrelated orphanage taking in a disabled kid is a really unlikely event. So apparently it’s less painful to believe the kid is dead and Rhine is lying about it.

We find out that there’s another lab a hundred miles away, so she’ll go there next I guess.

Rhine ponders how unhappy the rapist looks.

And he’s in that state because of his father—I know this. It’s his father who kidnapped Rose so his son would have her; it’s his father who murdered his malformed grandchild. His father is the reason for all the ugliness in our lives.

Kidnapping women, murdering most of them, and then raping the thirteen year old being non-ugly things in their lives.

And Rhine feels more guilt about how it’s all her fault he knows terrible things happened to other people and feels mild sadness as a result. Also, Cecily knowing she’s in danger means she’s in danger. Therefore, Rhine has to ditch them in this viper pit. For their own safety.

I tell Jared everything that I know. I start with the day I was Gathered, and I tell him about the arranged marriage to Linden

That’s what it is now.

The books have been avoiding adjectives with the marriage, which helped disguise this attitude. As I said back in Wither, this was absolutely supposed to be gothic romance. That’s the last time you can have kidnapping for arranged marriage as a minor note.

During her recounting, she adds how Cecily lost the baby and saw Jenna die.

Cecily is fast asleep, safe now, but she’s been victim to more horrors than a young girl should ever have to know.

Like the rape.

And it’s my fault, all my fault, and my eyes are full of tears.

It’s never men’s fault. Even Evil Mad Scientist, our designated monster, just sort of dissolves away whenever he’s off-camera.

But anyway, Jared is in favor of stopping lab explosions so he agrees to take her there (because men have to drive her) while ditching the other two. Rhine babbles more about how it’s not that she wants to it’s just that it’s for their own good.

Jared’s car has a GPS, which means they do still have satellites, which means they should still have satellite phones.

I think it might be an antique from the twenty-first century. After the wars devastated the rest of the planet and before the virus took over, technology was at its most advanced. That much I know. Hospitals and businesses were sprawling. And then the virus was discovered, and it all deteriorated. What took generations to build took less than fifty short years to come undone.

Wait, I thought it was 2200? But now she’s talking about 2000 as being humanity’s max technology level, so it’s only 2100. That’s not long enough for people to think kidnapping brides is normal.

“I thought all the satellites stopped working years ago,” I say.
“Just one of many rumors,” Jared says. “The president still has use for them, I think. There are plenty of theories about what the president’s role really is.

Huh. This suggests that it’s not that the satellites did break but it’s not like the fact they’re still around is a secret, it’s just that there’s no one you can actually ask so everyone just guesses.

Rhine passes on her own new rumor about other countries still being around. Jared says everyone who’s suggested that and wanted to go look was promptly killed, which…seems to make it pretty obvious the countries are still around. Not sure why anyone would still treat it as a crazy idea at this point. How incompetent is this government? Obviously you let the people leave, then they just never come back, deadly radiation or mutant sharks or something.

As is the case with many research towns, the hospital and laboratory is probably the area’s only source of income. Because the president is so adamant about the human race not dying out entirely, he funds these types of institutes, which create jobs locally and provide a shelter for the wounded or the dying.

1) Funds with what? You can’t keep “many” towns afloat solely on the spillover from funding labs unless you have other towns making a lot of surplus income.

2) Why aren’t people mobile? Families are shattered and life expectancy is shit and it’s not like you expect to live long enough for the economy to recover. And apparently the snackfood vans are unguarded, for all your hitchhiking needs. Plus you might find one of the first gen’s gated communities to mooch from.

Why stay here? There’s other places that’ll pay to poke you that also offer a semi-functioning economy.

The president will fund these establishments, but not defend them from threats like my brother.

That’s a plot hole. Don’t be so proud of pointing it out.

Rhine isn’t sure how to find her brother, so they decide to hang out by the lab hoping he’ll appear, because obviously people make it super obvious when they’re planning to set off a bomb.

I wonder about Jared. I want to ask him how he came to belong to Madame. I wonder what it is that makes him return to her even though she sets him free. He could easily keep driving and never look back. Why does he return? Is it because he wouldn’t leave Lilac to face that woman alone? Because he has no place else to go? Because imprisonment is the safest existence in this world?

Rhine does not appear to know what imprisonment means.

I hear the voices accumulating outside. I hear the feedback of a microphone. I twist around in my seat and look out the back window. From where we’re parked, halfway underground, I can see the crowd of legs. They’re setting up a makeshift stage with wooden crates. The scene is unfolding just like the one I saw on the news on Edgar’s television.
My brother is preparing to make a speech.

Rhine’s brother gives his speech to the cameras prior to exploding the buildings.

I can’t think of anything to say but that seriously, Rhine’s brother gives his speech to the cameras prior to exploding the buildings, that is what the book is saying.

Rhine decides to rush out and Jared makes a bid to escape this farce into the sweet embrace of death by suggesting she not run out because the crowd thinks she’s dead and…………….somehow that means it’s dangerous to show herself. Jared also adds that she won’t be able to stop her brother, so I don’t know why he took her here at all unless he was actually hoping she died because thanks to her shitty behavior he thinks she let Maddie die.

Rhine is baffled at the rest of the crowd. “How did they know he would be here?” Jesus christ Rhine, heading toward the next closest lab is so easy to understand that even you figured it out. But apparently this is supposed to be a revelation:

He looks at me, smug. “Word travels.”
“You knew,” I say. “Didn’t you? Knew he’d be here at this exact time?”
“You didn’t think I crushed sleeping pills into your friends’ dinner simply because they looked like they needed a nap, did you?” he says. “There were rumors that this would be his next target. Information is always available if you know the right people.”

The right people being a map that shows you the distance between his last target and the closest lab.

I’m really left with the sense the author doesn’t want to be writing this book. Fever being lackluster was to be expected from the middle of a trilogy and something that was a travelogue. But this is just a string of nonsense, and it’s not loving nonsense like the first book, it’s just there.

And then we have to listen to Rhine tell us about his speech, because, I am pretty sure, the author’s editor wanted X number of words and she’s got to get them somehow.

He says he has benefactors now—benefactors that choose to remain nameless, but who are funding his cause because that’s how important it is. He tells the crowd that each one of them is important, that they are not terrorists, as the news claims. They are a revolution.

It’s times like this you can really see how the rebranding of the last decade has fucked up our language. Terrorist isn’t the evil counterpart to revolutionary. It’s people trying to enact change through terror. That is literally what he’s doing. Fucking own it.

Rhine then stops being able to hear him because even for filler purposes the author hates Rhine knowing things. Jared realizes that right, they’re kind of about to be blown up and they hurry back to the car just in time to escape the parking garage.

“Now do you see?” Jared says into my ear. “Whoever your brother once was, he’s beyond your control now.”
That brings me back to myself. I shake my head. “No, he’s not,” I say.

This is probably for a stupid reason, but yes! You’re completely and utterly right. The fact that your brother did the thing you already knew he was doing when you failed to contact him does not in any way affect your belief he’d stop if you did contact him.

So Rhine runs out.

When I call his name, it’s a sound almost entirely out of my control. It soars over the crowd and hits him. Even from where I’m standing, I can tell that he recognized my voice. Hastily he unwinds himself from the girl, stands to attention like an animal sensing danger. And I try to call him again, but that word, that name, was all I had the energy for. I barely have the strength left to stand.

Things that have happened to Rhine recently: ate a good meal, rested, rode in a car.

Luckily, his super ears let him hone in on the sound and find her.

He opens his mouth, but before he can utter a word, I say, “Don’t try to tell me I’m dead. I’ve heard that so many times, I can’t stand to hear it again.”

She’s heard it like two times, and one of those was someone pointing out she’s thought to be.

“I can explain,” he says. “I can explain everything.”

I sure hope so. I mean, one explanation that isn’t nonsense and victim-blaming, the book can give me that much, right?

“Bee,” he says to the wild-eyed girl. “This is my sister.”
I can’t tell from her expression as she looks me up and down whether she wants to spit at me or stare right through me like I don’t exist.

Wild eyed is sort of like ruined, you see. The book has complimented other girls for their strength and fierceness, and then more horrible things happen to them since they’re acceptable targets because of it.

“I heard what you said on the news,” I say. “None of that is true. None of it.”
“But I—” He looks at the girl, Bee, and back to me again. “I don’t understand. I was sure. I talked to a doctor who saw you. Saw your eyes. And he knew the date that you disappeared, your name, that we’re twins.”
I can’t bring myself to say his name out loud, that awful name that seems to follow me wherever I go.

Therefore, she doesn’t say anything at all, not even “he was helping keep me prisoner”.

Rhine, this time, decides to at least leave a message and so tells Jared to tell Rapist-chan and Punchingbag to go back to Uncle Perfect and she’ll visit them.

I don’t know if what I’m saying is the truth. I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again. But I’m thinking of what Cecily said to me that night at Reed’s. We have our own lives to take care of, and there’s only time to do so much with them. I know she was right. I know that she belongs with Linden and that I belong with my brother, with my family.

This is an interesting repeat of the business with Maddie. In both cases, Rhine is saying it’s all a matter of uncertainty when she doesn’t seem uncertain at all – she decides and sticks to the idea that telling them Grace’s mother is still out would be bad, and here her explanation makes it clear she does not intend let alone expect to ever see them again.

It seems like it’s some bid to avoid any responsibility for her actions. She never meant to do anything, she just couldn’t decide what she should do, and she tells us this as she decides on her actions.

The driver eyes me as coldly as Bee, who is still glaring at me from across the backseat. I feel as though I’m in a strange dream. My brother is my Eden, but something’s amiss.

Possibly the part where everyone sees the return of their hero’s beloved sister as a bad thing.

Rhine instead tells us she doesn’t want to know what’s wrong and just wants to stay like this forever, because she’s a girl and girls are passive like that.

He’s become some kind of rebel celebrity. One girl asked if she could touch him, and then without asking she gripped his hand and shook it with desperation. She said he’d changed her life, and he thanked her and said he preferred that she admire his work rather than his person.

On a completely different note, the idea Rowan is doing something that’s a big deal rather than business as usual is hard to believe. There’s an entire political faction of the lie down and die crowd who enjoy violent riots and bombing labs full of babies. How can what Rowan’s doing be new when some other group doing it is a feature in his backstory?

How did he change this girl’s life? It isn’t as if let’s all die is a new idea, because it’s established in the first book as, if anything, the dominant ideology. We know bombings are business as usual for labs too. Maybe he’s special because in the past the bombing sprees halted after one or two, but society has finally hit the point a guy can stand in front of reporters listing his supervillain plan without repercussion and Rowan just happens to luck into being there at that moment…but given the number of angry young men with kidnapped/murdered family members and only a few years left to live anyway, I can’t believe there’d ever be only a single person active.

And even if there was when he first blew something up, by now there should be copycats everywhere. Rowan might have been the first, but by now he should be just another drop in the tsunami.

They stop at the rubbly remains of a building next to a dead cornfield and the remains of what was once maybe a barn and a silo. Unless this area is radioactive, a dead cornfield will turn into a live weedfield long before buildings fall completely apart. Honestly, even if it is radioactive I’d expect something to have managed to grow over it by now.

The girl and driver continue to menace and Rhine continues to think it’s because she’s suspicious instead of that their behavior is really fucking suspicious as if they’re here to manage Rowan rather than support him.

“I want to ask you where you’ve been,” he says, walking at an even pace with me and looking ahead. “I’ve believed the worst, but you seem as though you’ve been well.”

Speaking of fucking suspicious. Rowan’s initial response is sobbing awe that his sister is alive. Then he says he’s so shocked because he met someone who was sure she was dead. Then silence and disinterest, and now this outright dismissal. It’s like she looked away and they swapped him for a pod person.

“Things have changed,” he says. “I’ve met this brilliant doctor, and, Rhine—” He pauses when he says my name. I wonder if he’s been able to say it at all while I’ve been gone. “He knows things that I never would have thought could be true. Things about the world. Things about the virus.”

Remember The Host, and how the main character just wouldn’t talk? We’re there again. Rhine has always been good about not saying important things, but before now she used to give excuses about how she couldn’t.

As this book goes on, all the justifications and excuses the series previously gave crumble apart and it doesn’t seem to notice or care.

Her brother goes on about how this scientist told him about a girl named Rhine who looked just like him who had a brother and thought her eyes would be the key to the cure and died horribly and how super great this scientist is and how he looked through their parents’ notes and the doctor ended up employing him.

“He’s a popular doctor,” Rowan says. “He can’t denounce research. He can’t destroy laboratories. He needed someone else to do that.”

Evil Mad Scientist continues to be the center of all evil.

“So he’s using you,” I say.
“No!” He rakes his fingers through his hair, frustrated. “When the time is right, he’ll announce what this has all been about.”

If it doesn’t matter that he was told Rhine died to research, then why bother with that? Why not have him just assume the worst when his sister disappears? Given the whole business with Rose shows the book isn’t above idiotic contrivance, we could even just say Evil Mad Scientist just happens to be employing her brother by chance.

Rhine doesn’t find anything amiss about how he’s singing the praises of a guy he now knows lied and manipulated him and insisting he wasn’t being manipulated. She just takes issue with the idea research is bad, despite believing research is bad the rest of the time.

“Let me tell you about people,” he says. “They don’t know what’s best for them. They need simple explanations. They need to be lulled into compliance, because they’ll only rebel against it if they’re forced. Of course I don’t believe this research is pointless—not all of it, anyway.”

So just past the midpoint of the book and our plot has crashed into a wall. It’s sort of like last book, with the sudden flip to her getting tortured in the basement, only that at least made sense.

He takes my face in his hands and pulls me toward him and kisses my forehead roughly. There’s wild delight in his eyes. “You have no idea the wonderful things I’ve seen.”

This book is always looking for new reasons for me to hate it. It’s not enough the plot takes forever and everyone’s stupid about it, now it’s just being stupid in random ways.

2 Comments

  1. sophiecognito says:
    This just feels like things are just happening without any semblance of plot. And that would have been okay if the characters were you know, good and likable and made sense. You have a lot of willpower to just not stop by now
    1. Farla says:
      I must know every line of it so I can hate it as it deserves.

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