Alright, so this chapter was actually pretty okay, and I’m going to hope that what happened last post with starting off saying it wasn’t bad and then somehow finding numerous flaws in it doesn’t happen as I go here.  Still not a fan of the dialogue and wording for the most part, but the story seemed to actually be coming together a bit better in this chapter, as weird as it was.

The chapter starts with a dream Wanderer is having, which is really just Stryder’s memories of meeting Jared, and then the rest of the chapter is Wanderer emailing the Seeker about the new information she learned through the dream, fighting with Stryder, and being upset about all the emotions associated with being connected to a human’s memories, which ‘should stay in the past’. Y’know, except for when you need access to those memories, of course, like you kind of just did here, since they provided you with useful information you didn’t have before.

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I don’t really like the description at the beginning of this.  The first line seems really lame to me, and the bit about “another hungry stomach hidden safely away in the darkness”…well, for me, that’s just too visual a description to convey what she’s trying to convey at first read.  I get it, I suppose it’s valid, but all I can picture is a giant stomach with a sad face on it, and it just threw off the paragraph entirely. Not to mention the fact that the first time I read it, I didn’t think it was a young child, but rather that it was something bad.  That description is much more fitting for something bad.

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“I know what they will realize when they return…

I hate this sentence fragment.  Hate it.  I’m sure they will realize a lot of things when they return, and while you’re probably right that one of them will be that you’re a human, you’ve made a pretty sweeping general statement there, and I just find it distracting.  Yes, yes, this is being picky again, but if I can’t be picky, who will I be?

Anyway, it is mentioned that the aliens won because they keep the habits of humans so perfectly, which…makes a little sense in terms of how they spread through the population after they got going with this body snatching, aside from the fact that in order to mimic some people they’d need to act against their supposedly gentle, perfect natures (though maybe the human hosts would corrupt them enough that they’d be convincing anyway), but how did they start doing it in the first place?  The form the aliens were in when they showed up has yet to be determined, because so far all we’ve learned is that Wanderer was in a shimmery, not even palm-sized form until she was inserted into her host body, and had to be transported in a cryogenic chamber.  So…if this is the case with all the souls, how did they manage to infiltrate Earth’s population without either a form that they could move in (and move in without notice; we’d notice a bunch of shimmery feathery things floating around at some point, I’d imagine, even if they could exist outside of cryo chambers) that either was human already somehow or was at least a form that wouldn’t make us fearful for long enough that they could perform their ‘surgery’ on us, and that also had the proper physical attributes to enable them to do said surgery?

They had to be inconspicuous enough to have succeeded on a lot of people before they were noticed in order to have been so successful, but I don’t see how that would have been possible given the problems they’d have faced with starting out, blending in when their only reference is the memories of their hosts, and then acquiring new hosts without anyone noticing.  And did no one notice that people were randomly disappearing for a time, then coming back having had neck surgery?  The scars that are left are described as faint, but they’re still scars, and anyone who was intimate with the people involved or even just especially observant would notice and question that.  Especially when it started happening to a lot of people.  Did they just do the same to someone who noticed, immediately after they did?  How can the surgery be performed that quickly and easily if it requires everyone to be a surgeon, with all the tools and a soul in a cryo chamber on hand at all times, lest someone discover what they’re doing if they take too much time?

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More than that, though, the bodies that have had insertions have different eyes than regular humans…how did nobody notice that?  The eyes of one who’s been infiltrated apparently shine more than a regular human’s, and let me tell you, that shit is noticeable.  My mom has had a few eye surgeries in recent months for corneal implants, vision correction and fixing a detached retina, and for whatever reason, her eyes have a shine now, that almost looks like a glow when it catches the light the right way.  I find it incredibly beautiful, but it’s definitely something you can’t help but notice, so how could they have slowly but surely infiltrated the population without anyone noticing that the people around them suddenly had much shinier eyes than usual?  And they would have had to infiltrate slowly in order to do it all peacefully and without people seeing any difference, as Stryder mentions.  It just doesn’t make sense.  …Wait, maybe my mom has been infiltrated…I’ll have to check her neck next time I see her…

Anyway, for now I’ll just assume that there was some really good explanation given for why everyone suddenly had shiny eyes and neck scars, despite that there couldn’t really have been a widespread explanation given without at least some people starting to question it.  That’s one thing I don’t get – if it wasn’t widely broadcast that this was going on, how do Stryder and Jared know anything’s wrong?  Especially down to the details of what they are and what they do; the aliens would have to have told them that themselves, which seems unlikely.  But if it was widely broadcast because somehow someone did know what was going on, why didn’t the humans revolt?  It’s kind of what we do.  We are nothing if not fighters when we’re threatened, and even if they came in ‘peacefully’, it’s still a global takeover of the human race, and humans just do not let that shit happen.

There was mention in a previous chapter of how violent the humans are, which may mean that the humans did fight back to some degree, but how is it at all possible that they were able to overcome us without a lot of loss to their own population too?  What happens if a soul’s host body dies that way in this scenario, anyway?  Do they just put it into another human body?  How are they still performing their quiet little surgeries if there’s a war going on?  Or do they need to immediately find a cryo chamber for it before it dies?  Can they die?  If not, why the cryo chamber?

I’m gonna move on; we’re running into ‘too many questions’ territory again.

…Sorry, another question.  Why does Stryder feel anxious enough about the light in the fridge coming on that she feels the need to extinguish it while she steals food, if she’s just acknowledged that she doesn’t need to place her feet carefully on the tile because no one is home, and there are no other houses close to the one she’s in?  If there’s no threat, there’s no reason to feel anxious, or to feel around blindly to get food instead of actually looking with the light on and thusly getting things that are of the most use to her and Jamie.  Wait, why was the door unlocked, anyway?  Do the aliens want people to come in and steal their food?  That’s certainly not keeping the habits of humans perfectly…

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The next section confuses me a little.  So these aliens are supposed to be peace-loving, and even ‘feistiness’ is not common behaviour, if what Jared says and all the descriptions about these aliens thus far mean anything, and yet Jared acts very violently and hostilely toward Stryder and she doesn’t at any point consider that he may not be one of them?  Maybe it’s because she’s afraid, but she had the thought that she’s never heard of one of them that would break rules and ‘give her a choice’, so how doesn’t she put two and two together there and at least think that maybe he could be human?  Especially after he’s accused her of being an alien, and threatened to kill her because of that; why would an alien do that?  She does note that he has specifically human features in terms of his muscles, but some people are naturally ‘hard’ in the abdominal region, so she may have given that piece of info too much credit, while giving none to the actual obvious signs that he’s not what she thinks, even after he loosens up and treats her more nicely (including dropping his weapon) after finding out she’s a human.  She’s gotta be pretty clueless. Meyer later alludes to her feeling like there’s ‘no hope anymore’, which I assume is supposed to explain why she acts this way, but I don’t think that’s sufficient.  Even people who feel hopeless can’t ignore logic, facts and reality smacking them over the head repeatedly; at least not when they’ve already been observant enough to notice small details about the person and their actions.

Anyway, after discovering she’s human, Jared immediately kisses Stryder.

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Who does that?   Sure, you haven’t seen a human in two years somehow, but why wouldn’t you go for a hug first, or a kiss on the cheek?  Well, I guess it all works out, because it’s somehow Stryder’s first kiss, despite that she’s 16 (if my math is correct) and attractive, and of course that means that she falls madly, hopelessly in love with him.  ❤

…Or knees him in the balls.  Okay, that’s reasonable; I’ll give her that one.  She then runs away, out the back door, which Jared apparently doesn’t expect, because somehow Stryder knows his thoughts, and his thoughts are stupid enough that he would expect her to take the long way out rather than the door that’s directly behind them, with him incapacitated momentarily.  Sadly, the granola bars become a loss when she escapes, even though she didn’t drop any food…I mean, who would want to eat granola bars that have been slightly crushed when they’re hiding in a cave, on the run?  That’s just basic standards.

So she runs off, he chases her with enough speed to outrun her and enough strength to knock and pin her down, when she was a state champion sprinter and has a head start, and he’s just been kneed in the balls.  Well damn, maybe this guy is an alien!  I certainly don’t know any guys that could do that, no matter what kind of shape they were in.  Maybe she didn’t knee him in the balls, she kneed him in the stomach, though that would be much less hilarious.  …I mean horrible.  And hilarious.  But hell, even if it was in the stomach, that’s still a pretty damned impressive feat just after a blow like that.  Or maybe she just wasn’t as fast as she thought she was, because of hunger and carrying shit and whatnot.  I dunno.

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Regardless, he does manage to take her down, at which point he shows her his un-shiny eyes, and she asks to see his neck, so she can see if he has a surgery scar.  This just proves that that’s the only way to insert the souls, which just leads to all those problems and questions I had before.  Anyway, she asks to see his neck and he denies her because he has a scar there…omgwtfbbq! But it’s self-inflicted, to make the aliens think he’s one of them I guess, which makes little sense given he just said that the eyes should be enough to make her believe he’s not one of them, and I’m pretty sure the aliens would be smart enough to look there first, instead of the scar.  Especially since he did a poor job, so it doesn’t even look like one of their scars.  Everyone in this book is intelligent.

So yeah, she’s cool with the self-inflicted scar thing, so they exchange names, and he tells her that he hasn’t spoken to another human being in more than two years.  Okay, wait, so it’s been at least two years since humans were taken over enough that they were very few and far between, and I’d wager it was a while before that that there were more but they were in short supply, so it’s been many years since there were enough humans to be considered useful for all intents and purposes.  So if that’s the case, and Stryder is about 16 here, she’s been on her own with her brother since at least 14, probably earlier, unless we’re going to get to some point in the story where she has more family…so how have they survived so long undetected?  They’re pretty young for that, and besides, she’s still very naïve and easy to trust, given that she pretty much gives herself over entirely to Jared on the next page, including being all gushy over kissing him, which of course they do again, because he doesn’t learn lessons well.  No, wait, he said “don’t kick me” all sheepishly, which is totally the badass kind of attitude you’d need to have living on your own, hiding from aliens for two years, so it’s all good, kissing is totally acceptable.    But yeah, she seems to slip into trusting him pretty quickly for someone who would have to have raised her defenses significantly in her time ‘on the run’, especially considering she was also taking care of a kid, but I suppose you would be glad to see another human.

I’ll follow you even if you tell me not to.”

…And there go all those good feelings of warmth and trust with this guy.  “I’m gonna stalk you whether you like it or not” is NOT a good way to make a girl feel safe.  I mean, sure, your social skills are probably lacking after two years, despite how eloquently you can apparently speak, but again, like with the kissing, there are some things even basic logic tells you you do not do/say, and anything related to stalking within moments of meeting is probably pretty damn high on the list!  I’d have run for the hills the second he turned away, grabbed my brother, and taken off to somewhere he couldn’t find us!  Stryder’s got enough problems without a creepy stalker with the power of super speed on her ass.

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But of course, Stryder doesn’t think like a normal person:

I don’t want to disappear from him.

Yeeeep.  I don’t want to be away from this person I just met who held a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me, then kissed me without my consent, chased and tackled me, and threatened to stalk me! HE IS MY DREAM GUY!

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Of course, she feels that she has to trust another human completely, because “we’re family“, which means she has clearly never seen a post-apocalyptic movie/show.  The survivors are often less safe with their “family” than they are the invaders.

Anyway, she tells Jared she can’t wait for him to go back and get the food he was going for in the house because she has Jamie waiting, and he gets “uncertain” (see: jealous and disappointed) about that, until she explains that Jamie is her nine year old brother that she has to get back to, and then Jared’s like “oh hell yeah, still available for coitus”, and offers to drive her back to her brother in his jeep.  It’s totally smart to lead this person you don’t know at all and only tentatively trust not to kill you in your sleep and steal your food directly back to your little brother that you’re supposedly protecting!  But I guess he did threaten to stalk her, and unless she was really smart about her path back to Jamie (which, let’s face it, she wouldn’t be; she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed), he would probably find her in his Jeep anyway, so maybe there was just no point denying him.

“My heart gives one hard thump, and I know I will wait here if it takes him all night.

…Or that.  She’s got a lady boner for him so  big that she’ll completely forget what she just said about how worried and scared and upset and STARVING her poor little brother will be when she waits ‘all night’ to return to him just because a random guy she JUST MET *smiled* at her. She gets to eat, and be all lovey dovey, and go for a ride in a Jeep, while little brother sits there crying in a cave, all because she is too much of a selfish idiot to do the RIGHT thing.  Not. Fucking. Cool.

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The whole dream sequence ends with Stryder and Jared kissing again, as previously mentioned, with a more sexualized description than I’d have expected of a second kiss (especially a second kiss ever in life), and Stryder running her hands over Jared’s neck during the act, which leads to her fingers touching “a line of puckered skin, a raised ridge right beneath the hairline” and then screaming.  Is that his scar?  Because if so, you already KNEW about that, Stryder; he told you! If It’s not that aforementioned scar, then what the hell is it?  It’s not referenced again for the rest of the chapter.  There’s supposed to be some significance to this moment, but we’re not told at all what it is…

I already summed up the rest of the chapter before, with the whole Wanderer waking up from the dream and being like “omg feelings are hard”, and identifying that it wasn’t a dream, it was a memory, as mentioned previously.  She reaches out for Jared in the bed, but surprise surprise, he’s not there, and she’s all like “ohhhh, my feeeeeeels, how can I possibly survive this?!” again.  So to make herself feel better, she emails the Seeker, giving her details on Jamie and where they were in the dream/memory/whatever, because apparently some amount of time has passed since Wanderer woke up in Stryder’s body, and this is the first time Stryder has let slip that Jamie exists.  Impressive.

Stryder is upset that the information about Jamie is known, and she and Wanderer have a small, uninteresting mental battle, where both are pretty petty and childish for 20 year old women, and it is revealed that somehow Stryder is “getting stronger”.  How?!  She’s a generally suppressed mental consciousness, nothing more; how is she possibly getting stronger?  That doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, the chapter ends with more emoness and crying from Wanderer, because she’s sad that she’ll have to visit her Comforter (*cringe*), and then her going back to bed and smothering herself with a pillow.

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Somehow, I don’t think she’ll be successful, unfortunately, so we’ll be back at this again next chapter, I imagine.  Hooray!!

(See Mike’s take on this chapter at http://emptystress.wordpress.com!)

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