So we’re back from the brink of death with Wanderer and Stryder, and the very first words of this chapter are from the less-than-dynamic duo, asking if Jamie and Jared are “here”, and if they made it.   I’m surprised they’re able to speak so much and so clearly after just being so close to dying, since I’d think they’d still be pretty weak, but they were really motivated to ask those questions, I guess, so I’ll let it slide.

Uncle Jeb responds with a hard “no”, showing them no emotion, which makes perfect sense, because he’s got no reason to trust them yet.  As far as he knows, the girl before him is nothing more than an alien that stole his niece’s body, and she’s there looking for Jared and Jamie, as a Seeker would be, so of course he’d say no.  He’d be an idiot not to.  Who wants to bet they actually are there?  Who thinks this chapter is another gigantic waste of time because we already know how it’s going to turn out in the end??

This will be my face when it turns out they were there all along!

This will be my face when it turns out they were there all along.

They get very depressed, of course, to the point of being suicidal, and usually I might call a paragraph like this emo or melodramatic, but in this case, I think it makes sense.  Though their goal was technically to find Uncle Jeb, which they achieved, and they were only hoping to find Jared and Jamie…at the same time, they really expected to find them, and they almost died in the effort to do so.  Combine that with the fact that they should still be weak from their ordeal, despite the water, and depression becomes a very hard thing to stave off.   I’m pretty sure anyone would be suicidal there, at least temporarily, until they realized that they had at least found Jeb, and that’s a good thing.

Jeb says he has something to take care of and leaves, so Wanderer/Stryder (I need to find something to call them since this is a bit rough, but they keep talking as “we”, so I can’t just say Wanderer…Stryderer?  That’ll have to do) wallow in their (I guess as a combined entity it would actually be “her”) sadness for a bit, then decide to go to sleep.

When Stryderer wakes up, it’s almost dawn, and she decides that she must have dreamt that she’d seen Jeb, though I’m not sure why she wouldn’t question how she was still alive, if that was the case, and why her head would seem clearer if she hadn’t actually ingested anything.  Regardless, it’s not long before she notices the canteen of water that Jeb left for her and realizes that he was, in fact, real.

She sits up and realizes she feels better than before, but hungry, then downs the whole canteen.

We drank it all; we were done with rationing.

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Alright, I get why you feel that way, but Wanderer was never good at rationing in the first place, so you didn’t do it for all that long…so you don’t get to say things like that.  And you have no guarantee Jeb will ever come back, and no more water beyond that one canteen you just drank all of, so…maybe not the best decision.  Oh well, good decisions are not a part of this storyline, as we know, and this whole situation is illogical anyway, because that little water and sleep would not have been enough for her in in the first place.  If Jeb doesn’t come back, she’s just delayed dying for a little longer.

Suddenly, there’s an angry voice behind Stryderer, asking Jeb why he gave “it” water, and she turns around and sees eight humans – six men and two women – not far behind where she is sitting.  Right before this happens, she refers to how ‘silent’ it is, and I just cannot understand how that is possible with eight people there.  I mean, they’d have to be standing perfectly still – not moving at all or even breathing – for there to be silence in the way she describes, and unless they were intending that Stryderer not know they were there (which they clearly weren’t since this guy comes right out and starts talking loudly), I seriously doubt that that would be the case.  Nitpick, though.

Another potential nitpick, but something that REALLY bothers me, is that “we” is used for the first two pages of this chapter, but then immediately at the start of the third page, it’s back to “I” (meaning Wanderer), and by the end of the same page, is back to “we” again, before switching back to “I” on the next page.  Okay, I GET why this was done, I really do, but it’s annoying and off-putting and feels awkward, and I have to think that there must be a better way to do this than constantly switching back and forth.  It’s certainly going to make these reviews disjointed and hard to write if she keeps switching like that.

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Anyway, back to the eight new people.

They all look very angry and are carrying weapons, and with them is Jeb, carrying a rifle.  Stryder is amazed and overjoyed to see eight human survivors, because she never imagined there could be that many all in one place (well, I guess it’s nine if you count Jeb, and I still think Jamie and Jared are here somewhere, but anyway), but Wanderer doesn’t like people to be happy for even a minute, so she calls her an idiot and makes Stryder see things from her perspective.  Yeah, okay, she has good reason, but I still don’t like how she does it.

In Wanderer’s mind, these people are no longer human, and instead are barbarians or monsters.  She describes them as ‘slavering for blood‘. Clearly, she still does not get the impact that seeing all of their friends and families either killed or turned into husks for alien implantation has on a person.  The humans are not ‘at their worst’; they are exactly as would be expected, given what they’ve been through.  They’re not planning to kill her for fun or personal gain, but to save themselves from a similar fate to the ones that their friends and family have endured, and to avenge the ‘deaths’ of those people.  It’s not like the stuff in the newspaper.

We should have been wiser; we should have died yesterday.

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What?  How would being ‘wise’ have made you die any sooner?  You almost did die, and not doing so was not because you chose not to, it was because Jeb saved you.  Being ‘wise’ or not had nothing to do with it.

Wanderer mentions that she ‘skimmed through‘ the histories of human atrocities, which is another part of that whole ‘did she or didn’t she research shit before coming here’ thing from a few chapters back, and it feels incredibly stupid because if she wanted to feel justified in taking part in taking Earth from the humans, she really should have looked into why that was warranted.

Wanderer remembers that humans have a tendency to torture their enemies when there is information they want from them, and because she can’t think of any other reason why Jeb would keep her alive when he is part of a group that wants to kill her, and because she remembers a secret she has that they would want to know, she decides that must be what they intend to do to her.  She decides she can never tell them her secret no matter what they do to her, and hides the secret from Stryder, of course, which is apparently something she can do now.

We, as readers, are not yet privileged enough to know what the secret is either, so SUSPENSE, but apparently Stryder doesn`t care to try to figure out what it is, so why should we?  It’s probably not going to make any sense whatsoever anyway.

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Wanderer agonizes over her options, wondering how much pain from torture she can endure, and finding suicide repugnant because it would also be murder, which is ridiculous given she was on her way to murder Stryder before her little sidetrack into the desert, so she apparently only has a problem with the idea of committing murder if she is also going to die as a result of it.

“Melanie would be part of either torture or death. I would wait until I had absolutely no other choice.

Wait for what?  To tell them the secret?  If you know you’re going to end up telling them in order not to die, why don’t you just fucking tell them now?  If that’s not what this is referring to, then I have no fucking clue what it IS referring to.  Proper sentence structure would be very useful here, Meyer!

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That line is followed by this:

No, they can’t.  Uncle Jeb would never let them hurt me.

No they can’t WHAT?  You can’t follow “I would wait until I had absolutely no other choice” with “No, they can’t“; it doesn’t fit at all!  In fact, nothing in the entire two paragraphs before Stryder says that makes that a fitting response! Wanderer never says they CAN do ANYTHING! I get what you’re going for, Meyer, I really do, but again with the damn sentence structure! You can’t just throw these things in here when they don’t actually refer to anything! People don’t do that!

Besides, they sure as hell CAN, and Jeb is only one person, when there are eight of them.  If they wanted to hurt you, they damn well could.

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Stryder tells Wanderer to tell Jeb that she is there, hoping that will keep them safe, but Wanderer thinks it through for once and realizes that as much as Jeb doesn’t look like he wants to kill her, he still won’t believe her if she tells him Stryder is still there, because he will think she’s just a Seeker lying to try to infiltrate their group.  Aside from the annoying bit that alludes to Seekers being the only ones that lie again, she has a point.  Jeb would have no real reason to believe her, even if he wanted to.  But who wants to bet he already does anyway?!?

Stryder sees the truth in what Wanderer says and doesn’t push the issue anymore, and then the guy with the machete steps toward them and raises his blade to, presumably, kill them.  Wanderer tries to convince herself this is a good thing, because it will be fast and she won’t have to be the one to kill herself and Stryder, because she doesn’t want Stryder’s blood on her hands as well.  Cause, y’know, that whole thing about how she was on her way to kill Stryder before she came here, again.

Jeb stops the man – who we learn is named Kyle – because despite that he admits that he has verified that Stryderer is ‘one of them’, she is also his niece.  Kyle isn’t phased by that knowledge and steps forward again to kill her, so Jeb readies his gun at Kyle, and tells him to stop again, saying there are ‘things to be discussed‘ in relation to Stryderer.

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At this point, a female suggests that ‘the doctor‘ might be able to learn something from Stryderer, and Wanderer immediately realizes that this means the very torture she feared.  I’m not sure why these people would call someone in their group by their title instead of by their name, but I guess we’re still calling the Seeker “Seeker”, so that’s just how lazy this writing really is.

Stryder recognizes the woman who has spoken as her Aunt Maggie, who is, from what is said here, Sharon’s mother, and suddenly Stryder is talking out loud to the woman.  Apparently this is possible because Stryder and Wanderer have shared so much during their desert journey that Stryder has become strong enough to speak for them, even though I feel like this has already happened before, though I can’t be bothered to verify that.

Maggie does not respond in the happy way Stryder had expected she would, and instead lunges toward Stryderer and slaps her twice.  Why twice, I don’t know, but there you have it.  She yells at Stryderer that she won’t fool them because they know how the ‘parasites’ work and how well they can mimic humans.  A reasonable response, I suppose, given she’d be both angry at the alien and hurt at the loss of her niece at the same time.

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Wanderer scolds Stryder for speaking out, and yeah, in this case, she’s right.  Stryder is too shocked – and probably emotionally hurt – to answer, so Jeb steps in and tries to calm Maggie down.  Maggie is convinced that Stryderer has led a ‘legion’ of aliens to their location, even though there’s obviously no one else with her, so Jeb tries to prove to her that Stryderer is alone.  He calls out and no one comes, and he points out that the aliens would not leave one of their own to die, so she must be alone.  So far, he’s the most logical character we’ve met.

During this exchange, Jeb refers to the aliens as ‘centipedes’, and Wanderer doesn’t get why.  Stryder shows her the image of a centipede next to the image of a ‘soul’ and says Jeb is talking about her (being Wanderer), and Wanderer seems about as confused about that comparison as I am.  The description of a soul back in the prologue did not make me think of a centipede at all.  My image of the souls as beautiful is completely shattered now.

I refuse to look at pictures of centipedes for this blog, so have this instead.

I refuse to look at pictures of centipedes for this blog, so have this instead.

Stryder wonders how Jeb knows what a soul looks like, which implies that before now, no human has ever seen one implanted or tried to remove one, which seems unlikely six years in, but oh well, here we are.  I guess this implies that Jeb has done so.  Wonder if he was successful.  I’d say he probably was, except there’s like a million pages left of this book, and if he could do it I’m sure he would, so…I don’t know how he’s seen a soul either.  Maybe killed an ‘infected’ human and took it out after they died?  That makes more sense. Poor Stryder.

Jeb helps Stryderer up and alludes to bringing her ‘home’, which Kyle and Maggie protest against (despite that it was Maggie’s idea to take her to ‘the doctor’, who is presumably not with them since he hasn’t spoken up), but Jeb is firm in his decision because it is ‘his place’.  The rest of the group is not happy, and Kyle’s brother points out that it’s not smart to show Stryderer where they live, but Maggie doesn’t think that will matter because they’re going to kill her anyway.

Jeb decides to just shut them all up by putting a bandana around Stryderer’s eyes so she won’t know how to get to where they’re going, despite that that’s where she was attempting to go in the first place, and off they go.

I like to picture her walking like this.

I like to picture her walking like this.

There’s a bunch of description of people’s footsteps and blah blah blah, implying that most of the group gets ahead of Stryderer and Jeb, and then Maggie and Jeb have a conversation (which is clearly very serious since they use each other’s FULL FIRST NAMES, ooooooh) that is supposed to be vague but is clearly about Jared.  You know, the guy that Jeb said WASN’T there, but that we knew all along really was.

Maggie thinks it would be cruel to tell Jared about Stryder’s fate, but Jeb thinks he has a right to know, which I agree with.  I wouldn’t want to spend my life searching for someone, only to find out that the people I had trusted knew all along that she was already gone.  Maggie thinks that’s unkind though, and I think SHE’S unkind, so…there.

Neither Stryder nor Wanderer seems to catch on that the two are talking about Jared, and instead try to figure out who is more terrifying; Jeb or Maggie.  That’s some serious observant intelligence right there, folks.  Not only to not even notice when they’re talking about the person you supposedly love more than anything, but to think that Maggie might be less terrifying than Jeb when Jeb has been nothing but nice to you, and Maggie has suggested what you believe to be torture, and directly implied that the group will kill you.

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Wanderer thinks that because Maggie says it is “unkind” to tell Jared, that means she’s more worried about cruelty than Jeb is, but…no, that still doesn’t make things better for you, Wanderer.  Try actually listening to the conversation and thinking it through, next time.

They walk for a few more hours before Wanderer collapses again, and Jeb gives her more water and tells her to let him know when she’s ready to go again.  In relation to this, Wanderer thinks:

“His voice sounded kind, though I knew that was a false interpretation.”

No, Wanderer, it’s not a false interpretation.  He IS kind, and that is INCREDIBLY obvious; he’s done nothing but be kind to you since he found you.  He gave you water, he protected you from his own people, he’s taking you home with him, he is NOT the one who has suggested killing OR torturing you, you’ve referred to his touch as gentle and his dealing with you as ‘almost chivalrous’, and now he’s giving you water again and letting you take your time to recover instead of pushing you or rushing you.   How is that NOT nice??

Wanderer really has a fucked up view of reality.  She never trusts the people that are nice to her, and seems to be drawn toward the people that are out to hurt her (like Maggie), and even when she’s acknowledged that someone is treating her well, that still doesn’t stop her from thinking they MUST be a horrible person.  I just don’t get it.  It would be incredibly frustrating to be in her life.  Possibly even close to as frustrating as it is to read about her life!

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Jeb and one of the brothers have a conversation about why Jeb is taking her back with them, and Jeb says that it’s about curiosity, not sympathy, and that if it were sympathy, he’d have let her die.  That certainly doesn’t sounds good for Stryderer, though of course we know how it turns out, again because of the amount of pages left.  Maybe if I was really engrossed in this book I wouldn’t be so aware of how many pages are left and might be tricked into some anxiety in situations like this, but when the book drags on and on, you tend to notice when it’s pointless bull.

They get going again, and Wanderer starts thinking. She realizes that she must not be the first of her kind that they’ve captured, since there seems to be a routine, but also that “Doc” (apparently that’s his name now, since we’re capitalizing it) has been unsuccessful in the past with whatever torture methods he’s been using to try to get information from the aliens, because otherwise they wouldn’t need her now.

Again, if she’d paid attention to the previous conversations, she’d probably have realized by now that they don’t need her, since the group wanted to kill her and it’s only Jeb that even wants her to come back…and that his wanting to bring her back has something to do with the individual that we know to be Jared but she somehow doesn’t.  Oh, and curiosity.

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Wanderer considers lying to the group to get them to kill her, despite how much she’s gone on about how that’s not something that ‘souls’ do if they’re not Seekers, and then considers telling them the truth about Stryder because the group would believe it was a lie and kill her anyway.  She assumes a lot of the humans’ intelligence here, which seems to contradict her views on them, and also is surprising in that she’s capable of thinking that intelligently herself, which did not seem to be the case up to this point.

Stryder agrees with her that the humans would see it as a lie and kill her, but Wanderer decides her instinct for survival is too strong to do either option since she isn’t yet in pain, so she does nothing. Stryder also agrees with this choice, as she doesn’t wasn’t to die either, but suggests that perhaps the group isn’t keeping them alive to get information from them, but for another reason.  Maybe she was paying a tidbit more attention than Wanderer was.

Stryder asks Wanderer what information they would want possibly from her, but she won’t tell, of course, and that’s the end of that conversation.  They walk for another hour, and then Wanderer notices that the footsteps ahead of her sound different, which means they’ve hit new terrain.

Jeb guides Stryderer into what sounds like a cave with the echoes and stagnant air and moisture, and there’s a very long section of description of them walking through the place, which is entirely unnecessary, and then another long section of unnecessary description about the sounds Wanderer hears.  We get to be reminded of the goddamn Singing World again, and how bats are apparently blind in Meyer-verse, and then it is finally revealed that the sounds Wanderer is hearing are an argument, which she’s never experienced because she’s never been around humans.  Yep, not even going to bother with that one.

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Wanderer and Stryder are surprised that there are enough people in this place for an argument, because that means there’s even more than eight, but they don’t have time to think on that for long before Jeb removes their blindfold.  It turns out it is, indeed, a cave they’re in, so of course we’re treated to more unnecessary description of the cave, and then Jeb apologizes to them and leads them through the ‘door’ (big hole) to the lighted area where the argument is taking place.

Meyer finally includes a paragraph that actually feels like anxiety as they pass through the door, and then Stryderer sees the new room, which is apparently lighted so brightly that it’s like an artificial sky, and she can’t even look at it.  I’d love to know how Jeb sorted that out underground.

The room goes silent as they enter, and when Stryderer’s eyes adjust, she sees a crowd of people standing, staring at her with hate.  Stryder attempts to count them, finding that there are at least 27, and Wanderer tries to stop her from doing so by impressing upon her the gravity of their situation and the fact that they’re going to die, but Stryder is far too engulfed in amazement.

A man steps out of the crowd and comes toward them, carrying no weapons but clearly angry (since his fists are clenched), and Wanderer recognizes him from Stryder’s memory.  I wonder if we can guess who this is?!?

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Seems about right.

And that’s it.  This chapter was way longer than it had to be, and if Meyer had cut out a lot of the useless description it might have been better, but it wasn’t actually all that horrible, in the end.  At least we’re getting somewhere now.

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

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