Well, I guess I should have expected it: The last chapter seemed to be slightly interesting and show some promise for the rest of the book, but then this chapter just went back to boring.  Nothing even really happens in this chapter until the last page; up to that point it’s just a whole lot of descriptions of things, and a conversation between Stryder and Wanderer that we would probably have been fine without.

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The chapter starts with Wanderer waking up and trying to figure out where she is without opening her eyes.  She says she knows “exactly” where she is, “roughly speaking“, but that just means that she, in fact, has no clue where she is other than “somewhere inside that cave Jeb took me to”, so it’s a bit misleading.

She doesn’t want anyone who might be around to know she’s awake, so she stays still and quiet, and the next page is all just descriptions of things.  Descriptions of her hunger, the pain in her head, the uncomfortable position she’s lying in and the pain that causes, the darkness, the musty air, the temperature, the sounds she can hear (or lack thereof), and her ideas of what kind of space she must be in and what she’ll see when she opens her eyes.

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Because she can’t hear anyone else nearby, she begins to wonder if they would leave her without a guard, and if so, why.  She thinks:

To leave me alone…that wouldn’t be in character with their brutality, their natural fear and hatred of what I was.

Okay, they’d guard you because of fear, sure, and even hatred, but they wouldn’t guard you because of their “brutality”.  If they were acting on their brutality, they’d have already cut you up into little bits and served you in a stew, or destroyed your body so completely that there would be nothing left of it.  You don’t guard something because you’re brutal, you guard something because you’re either afraid for the safety of the thing you’re guarding itself, afraid for the safety of yourself or the ones you love because of what the thing you’re guarding may do to them, or you hate it and don’t want it to get away before you can punish it.  …Nitpick.

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Anyway, she keeps thinking about why they would leave her alone, and realizes that they wouldn’t do so unless they thought she was dead, or had made sure that she would be by putting her somewhere that she wouldn’t be able to find her way back from.  That wouldn’t really make sense, given that that wouldn’t serve the doctor or Jared in their desires of what should happen to her, but she’s scared, so I can see why she’d consider it.

The fear that that is the situation she’s in causes Wanderer to panic and start to imagine her surroundings in a different and much more terrifying way, and she begins to have a very weirdly described panic attack, and has to hold back to keep herself from screaming.

Panic attacks suck.

Panic attacks suck.

Her panic attack is interrupted by a grating noise on the ground near her head, so the scream finds its way out naturally, and she opens her eyes and throws herself against the wall.  With her eyes now open, she can see that she’s in a “tiny bubble of a cave“, and Jared’s face is in the doorway to it, still looking angry.  She realizes he was guarding her all along, she just didn’t hear him.

Jared slides a plastic “tray” toward her – which she realizes is what caused the grating sound she’d heard before – with food and water on it, and then the entire next page is nothing more than descriptions of the various food items as she eats them, and how disgusted Jared looks when he sees her drink the water.  All of this is obviously pertinent information.

When she finishes eating, Wanderer realizes that they probably wouldn’t be feeding her if Jared had won in the confrontation with the doctor, because he was looking to have her killed quickly, but if he hadn’t won, then he wouldn’t be the best choice to play the role of guard to her.  Very true.

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She pushes the tray back to the opening where Jared is and thanks him, and then Stryder starts talking about how shocked she is that Jared hit her.  Finally!  Wanderer describes Stryder as “not over the surprise of it yet“, but I have to say, I don’t think she’s not over it yet, I think she only just felt the surprise of it now.

From her reactions before, she didn’t even really notice what he’d done at the time that he did it.  I hated those reactions, and still see them as completely unrealistic, but I can also see the whole weight of the shock she would feel not setting in until the adrenaline had gone down a bit.  Now that she’s partially rested and fed, her body has relaxed enough that she can really feel and think more clearly.

Wanderer was not surprised that Jared hit her, given what Stryder did in trying to hug him, so she ignores Stryder’s shock and instead makes a sarcastic comment that I at first thought was supposed to be a teasing joke, but because it was described as being said in a “sour tone“, I now realize was just a really bitchy thing to say:

I wondered where you were, I answered. It would be poor manners to get me into this mess and then abandon me.

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Firstly, “answered” does not fit there, since she is not actually responding to Stryder’s statement, she’s just making a new one of her own, and besides, Stryder didn’t ask a question, so there was nothing to answer.

That nitpick aside, YOU GOT YOURSELF INTO THIS MESS, WANDERER!  You DECIDED to go out to the desert looking for Jeb, Jared and Jamie, when you knew this would be the most likely outcome!  Actually, no, this is better than the outcome you expected! Why are you still blaming Stryder for a decision YOU made??  Yes, she got you slapped three times, but those slaps had zero impact on what was or is going to happen, and hell, Stryder showing emotion to Jared may in fact be the only reason you guys are still alive now!

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It’s good to know she can still make me angry.  I lost that for a couple chapters there.

Stryder ignores Wanderer’s comment as Wanderer did to her, and goes back to talking about Jared hitting her.  She says she wouldn’t have thought he’d be capable of hitting her, because she couldn’t have hit him, and Wanderer responds:

Sure you could.  If he’d come at you with reflective eyes, you’d have done the same.  You’re naturally violent.

No.  No, goddammit, NO! Humans are NOT “naturally violent”, and what you described there is NOT a situation where a human’s just acting as they normally do; that’s a situation where a human reacts in SELF-DEFENCE! That’s entirely different! Committing a “violent” act to protect yourself from someone who is going to either KILL YOU or STEAL YOUR BODY is perfectly reasonable!  Saying humans are “naturally violent” implies that if anyone came at us for any reason, we would be violent toward them! That’s just not the case!

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Unless you mean that it’s in our instinctive nature to protect ourselves, in which case I’m pretty sure you can’t blame us for defending ourselves; there are some times curling up into a little ball and covering your face just isn’t going to cut it!  Does this mean if a human came at you with a weapon, and you felt threatened, you’d just sit there and take it?  Cause if so, the humans definitely would have won in a war against you! I’m going to guess you fought back at some point, especially considering you chased Stryder with weapons!

Just because someone might daydream about strangling a very annoying Seeker doesn’t mean they’d actually do it, just that it’s an attractive idea because of how much they hate them — and Wanderer, YOU found that idea attractive when Stryder presented the visual to you, too!  You think just because you can’t or wouldn’t have done that to the Seeker, that that makes you better than Stryder, but remember – Stryder probably couldn’t do it either, if the Seeker wasn’t a THREAT to her!

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Ugh, moving on.

Stryder considers whether Wanderer is right that she could hit Jared, but still comes back to thinking that she probably couldn’t, and that she definitely couldn’t hit Jamie, even if he was an alien.  Wanderer agrees with this, thinking that neither Stryder nor herself could do so.  So, wait, is Wanderer admitting she could hit Jared?  Is she “naturally violent” too??

Wanderer says the idea of hitting Jamie is different, because Stryder is in a mothering role to him and mothers are “irrational here”, because too many emotions are involved.  “Here” means Earth, I’m assuming, so apparently there aren’t any emotions involved with motherhood in the alien species, which would make a Calling in Motherhood fairly boring and pointless, I would think.

Stryder basically calls Wanderer on that, saying that motherhood is always emotional, even for Wanderer’s kind, and I have to wonder how she knows that.  I’m assuming Stryder knows the secret as to why it was so offensive that the Seeker bring up motherhood as a Calling for Wanderer, so she knows how all that works, but I really don’t know why Meyer won’t let us in on it.  Can that really be such a big plot point?  I kind of hope it is, just for the sake of having another plot point.

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If Wanderer was a mom, I’m sure this is how she’d feel.

Once again, though, Wanderer ignores the issue of motherhood in her species, so it seems like it’ll be a while yet before we figure anything out about this.  Stryder changes the subject, asking Wanderer what she thinks is going to happen, and Wanderer responds only that she doesn’t think it’s a good thing that they’re giving her food.  She says she can think of only one reason they’d want her strong.

At this point, there are a couple of paragraphs about the horrible brutality of humans and blah blah blah again, that Wanderer shouldn’t even know since she supposedly avoided looking at that sort of thing before coming to Earth, a pointless story about Stryder burning herself on a pan, and more allusions to Wanderer’s belief that she’s going to be tortured.

During this, Wanderer describes how she remembers the pain Stryder felt when she burned herself, and I just cannot get behind that.  It was not an occurrence that Wanderer was present for, so all she has to go off of is Stryder’s memory, and I’m sorry, but humans don’t retain detail that vividly.  The burn would have happened at least a few years ago, I would think, so Stryder would remember that it happened, but she would not be able to remember exactly how it felt.

That’s why people have more than one kid, even after spending their entire labour with the first  proclaiming that they’ll never do it again – because by the time they feel like they want to have another baby, they can logically remember the pain they went through, but they can’t feel it, so in their mind, it probably wasn’t as bad as they had thought.  That would most definitely have happened with regard to a burn.

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Anyway, that story was just a setup to Wanderer thinking about torture by fire, as mentioned, so she could then think about how horrible humans are, and for once she considers that maybe there needs to be some bad in the world to balance the good, or else the good would not seem so good.  She questions whether the souls are the exception to that rule, and if they can live with the good but not the bad, and then Stryder interrupts her thought process.

Stryder seems disturbed, and says she felt something when Jared hit her.  Wanderer responds sarcastically, but Stryder’s not in the mood to joke, and clarifies that she means that she had thought that she was in control of how “they” felt about Jared, and that it was only her that felt love for him, but that she realized that Wanderer feels it as well.

Wanderer is annoyed (though to her credit, at least she tries not to be) that Stryder thought that she had manipulated Wanderer into coming to find Jared, and that she was controlling Wanderer instead of the other way around, and I find this to be in direct contradiction to Wanderer’s blaming Stryder, earlier in this chapter, for getting her into this mess.  She can’t both blame Stryder for bringing her here, and be annoyed that Stryder thought she brought her here.  That doesn’t make sense.  Sense, sense, sense.  Let’s have some sense!

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Stryder admits that she did think she’d been manipulating Wanderer, but that she has realized that Wanderer is also in love with Jared, separate from her, because it feels different than the way she feels about him.  She says she didn’t notice it until Wanderer saw Jared for the first time, and she does not understand how it’s possible for a ‘soul’ to have fallen in love with a human.

There’s a random bit here where Stryder describes Wanderer as a worm and they debate that, but that’s just another pointless addition by Meyer, so back to business.

Wanderer explains that Jared not being her species is a moot point; that she is in a human body, and while she is in that body, she is also human.  She blames Stryder for the fact that she fell in love with Jared, because of Stryder’s memories of him, and this upsets Stryder, for good reason.

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Stryder asks if Wanderer had switched bodies, would she still have loved Jared, and Wanderer says that she hopes she wouldn’t have, and now they’re both sad.  Not a good position to be in, and I do feel quite bad for Stryder.

She changes the subject though, and starts talking about how glad she is that Jamie is safe and how much she wishes she could see him.  Wanderer says she’s not going to ask for that, which makes sense, even though she really wants to see him too.  It still feels weird to me when Wanderer describes her feelings for these people, because she’s never really met them, and it still makes me feel uncomfortable when she acts like she wants to protect Jamie, but I guess I’m probably going to have to get used to that.

They discuss whether or not anyone will tell Jamie that Stryder is there, and Wanderer is actually supportive for once, telling Stryder that no one could say that she didn’t keep her promise to Jamie.  It’s nice to see her reacting in a comforting way, and Stryder clearly thinks so as well, as she thanks her for what she says.

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Wanderer suddenly feels exhausted, so she stretches out and goes to sleep for a bit, until the sound of footsteps in the distance wakes her.  When the footsteps are close, Wanderer sees Jared stand, and then Kyle and Ian start talking, telling Jared that he can’t keep her as a prisoner.  They say if Doc can’t have her then she has to die, and they go on with trying to convince Jared of this for a while, despite that he says nothing in return.

Jared steps in front of the entrance to the cave bubble, blocking it, but still says nothing, and eventually, Kyle and Ian give up talking and Wanderer and Stryder hear a lunge, then something heavy hitting something solid, and then the sound of choking.  Wanderer yells and throws herself out of the hole, and…that’s where the chapter ends.

So Jared really did protect them.  For what reason, we don’t know, except that it’s probably love because what else could it be?

As I said in the beginning, this chapter was mostly just boring because of all the useless descriptions of things (especially the food; who cares the exact details of what she’s eating?), and the action didn’t really come in until the end.  Let’s just hope that action actually continues in the next chapter, instead of more pages of descriptions we don’t need.

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

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