I’m torn on this chapter.  I absolutely hated the first bit, then it got a bit better, then the dialogue made it worse again, and that just leaves me not really knowing how to feel about it.   Not a lot really happened in it, but given what did happen, I guess that’s okay; it just still feels like this book is progressing painfully slowly.  We need to get into whatever is supposed to make this a romance novel, because it’s been a pretty terrible sci fi, and those are the only two aspects it’s supposed to have…so it really should come around to having at least one of them sometime soon.  Please?

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The chapter begins with Jared punching Kyle for trying to kill Wanda, which knocks Kyle back into unconsciousness.  No one seems concerned about this – in fact, Doc seems amused – but Wes asks what happened, so Jared explains that Kyle tried to kill “it”.  In response, here’s what we get from Wanda:

“‘Did not,’ I muttered.

Ohhh my god, seriously?  Kyle just said something that verified that he was trying to kill you; continuing to say that just makes you look like a stubborn idiot!  Especially when you say it in such a childish way!  What adult says “did not” when they’re not flirting, and especially when they’re lying?  Gahhh, this book is so fucking annoying.

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“Altruism seems to come more naturally to it than lies,” Jared noted.”

No, Jared, ‘altruism’ is the wrong word here, though that’s exactly what Wanda would like you to believe about her.  You just need to be able to hear what’s going on in her head to know it’s not the case.  And lies seem to come pretty fucking naturally to her, considering she does it all the damn time, but I understand that you’re probably trying to point out that she’s a fucking terrible liar, which she most certainly is.  She doesn’t think so, though.

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Wanda asks Jared if he’s trying to be annoying by continually calling her “it” when she’s female, because he’s getting on her nerves with it, which is something she’s only able to call him on because she’s so tired and in pain that she no longer has any patience for Jared’s crap.  Good; I like when people in this book call each other out on being dicks, even if they never become self-aware themselves.

Jared is surprised at Wanda’s outburst, but composes himself enough to ask if she considers herself female because of the body she “wears”, which pisses her off even more.  She says it’s because of her, and Jared asks whose definition makes her female, so Wanda argues that it’s by his own definition, because she’s the one that bears the young.  Well, I don’t know, Wanda; I could make the argument that in seahorses, the males bear the young and that doesn’t make them female, but okay, whatever; you shut Jared down, so I’ll leave it at that.

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Stryder approves of Wanda feeling smug about shutting Jared down, because she says he’s wrong and being a pig, though I’m not sure what exactly he’s “wrong” about…and after Wanda thanks her (thank god she didn’t act like a bitch again; it’s a Christmas miracle) she says that girls have to stick together in a very lame “girl power” feeling way, so now they’re getting along, I guess.  I think they only agree when it`s about how much someone else sucks.

Wes decides he wants to know how the aliens reproduce, if Wanda wants to tell them, so we finally get an answer to this, though it’s pretty much just as stupid as I expected.  Wanda laughs and then begins to tell them that the aliens don’t have as ‘elaborate’ a system as humans do for reproduction, and then blushes when she remembers “how elaborate it could be“.  I think that’s supposed to sound a bit sexy and allude to the fact that she and Jared have had sex (well, Stryder anyway, not Wanda) since Stryder tells her to get her mind out of the gutter, but it actually just sounds like Stryder’s had a baby before, since there’s no real way for her to know it “all too well” if she hasn’t…butttt I’m going to guess she hasn’t, so that was just poor wording on Meyer`s part again.

Wanda blames Stryder for her mind being in the gutter, because it’s her mind all of a sudden, and y’know, what else is new?  Tell her she’s done something wrong and it’s all someone else’s fault; tell her she’s working too hard, being too much of a martyr, whatever, and that’s all her.  Meyer, your characters are transparent as fuck, and that’s not a good thing.

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Wanda goes on to explain that there are only a few aliens who are Mothers, and this whole paragraph about how they’re not Mothers but have the potential to be them is so awkwardly worded that it’s actually successful in communicating that Wanda is having a hard time explaining this concept clearly.  It’s slightly repetitive, but it’s more important that it feels as awkward as it would be for her, so I’m going to give Meyer some slight props for that.  Not a hard task to write that, I`ll admit, but hey, I don’t get to compliment much in this book, so let`s just let it happen.

Everyone’s listening to Wanda’s explanation now, as Jared asks about the “potential” bit she mentioned, so Wanda goes on to explain that the aliens are more like hives of bees that have many sexless members of the family and then the queen…which is supposedly not an answer to Jared’s question since she chooses not to answer it, but it sounds a whole lot like an answer to his question to me.  So basically, she’s actually trying to be a bitch, she’s just not succeeding.  Progress!  Except not at all.

She says there is only one Mother for every five or ten thousand of her kind, sometimes less, and that there are no drones, because it’s simpler than that, so maybe it’s not actually like bees at all?  I guess that would be just like all the other species Meyer has compared things to that haven`t actually been even slightly like what she said, so that would be fitting, but agh, this is confusing and not elegant at all.

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Wanda doesn’t want to keep talking about the Mothering thing, and regrets bringing it up, but she goes on anyway and explains that the Mothers divide, and every ‘cell’ (because they don’t actually have cells because their structure isn’t the same as ours; not sure how the hell that’s supposed to work but I’m not gonna bother) becomes a new ‘soul’, with a piece of the Mother’s memory in it.  That….is absolutely not in line with my understanding of how bees reproduce.  I have never seen a bee explode into a million other bees.  I just simply haven’t, and might I add, I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to.

She explains that there are about a million new souls created every time that happens, which understandably freaks people out, and then Doc asks if there’s a catalyst for the division.  Wanda tells him that it happens because of a voluntary choice by the Mother alien, who chooses to die so that a new generation may live, which is the only way the aliens willingly choose to die…and here we go again with the stupid martyr crap.  So that’s why Wanda thinks she and all the aliens are so great; because martyrdom is built right into them.  Perfect.

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Doc asks if Wanda could choose to do that (split into a million babies) now if she wanted, and she says she could, but not quite as simply as just doing it.  She says the decision to do it is complicated and the process is painful.  She thinks Doc is surprised that she calls it painful, which leads to her and Stryder thinking that men are idiots, but he’s a doctor; I’m pretty sure he wasn’t surprised it would be painful, he was probably just interested to find out in what way it`s painful, since it`s obviously not like normal human childbirth.

Wanda says all the new souls remember what it was like for their Mothers when they died, which leads Doc to wonder what the evolutionary track would be like for the aliens, and then Wanda closes her eyes, so Doc decides to let her get some rest.  Someone gets upset, though, at the idea that Wanda could be a queen Mother who could divide into a million new aliens at any second, so Wanda tells whoever it is that the aliens couldn`t hurt them because they would die pretty quickly without hosts.

…Which, of course, they can`t get without being inserted, which backs up what I said earlier about how it would have to be done surgically, or they`d just latch onto the first person they came across and would, therefore, be a threat to the people in the caves.  So that leaves all those questions I had before about how any of this ever happened with them in the beginning open again.

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Wanda is a bit hurt by the idea of all the little alien babies dying, but she knows the others are relieved, so she decides to go to sleep…but then Walter wakes up looking for his wife, so Wanda turns to him again.  I like this; she really, genuinely cares about him more than herself.  Finally someone I can say she feels that way about; all it took was finding him on his deathbed.

Some of the guys who carried Kyle in begin to protest against Wanda touching Walter, but Doc shuts them down, then asks them all to go get Sharon for him.  When they don’t get the point, Jeb tells them to get out, so get out they do.

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Wanda says it’s better if Walter doesn’t know her and thinks his wife is there instead, which I agree with, and that is actually a selfless act on her behalf, since she does want to say goodbye to her friend, and won’t really be able to if he doesn’t know her as Wanda.  Jeb and Jared say their goodbyes to Walter while Doc gets the morphine ready, and then:

“‘Gladdie?’ Walt sobbed. ‘It hurts.’

‘Shhh. It won’t hurt much longer. Doc will make it stop.’

‘Gladdie?’

‘Yes?’

‘I love you, Gladdie. I’ve loved you my whole life long.’

‘I know, Walter. I–I love you, too. You know how I love you.’

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I have to admit, I kind of love this.  It is genuinely sad and touching, and it’s a good goodbye for someone that seemed to be so sweet.  It’s good that in the end, Wanda was able to give him what he needed.  This was probably the best part of the chapter. I’m going to leave it at that.

Doc says goodbye to Walter, then gives him the morphine, and his fingers loosen their grip on Wanda’s until she’s the only one hanging on anymore. There’s a bit of the sad tension that there is after someone dies, then Doc tells Wanda that Walt is out of pain, and rolls her into a more comfortable position, where she cries.

Jared makes a nasty sounding comment, which I think we’re to understand is his assent regarding what’s about to happen, which is that Doc gives Wanda morphine.  The section ends with Stryder explaining to Wanda that she’s been given morphine, Wanda panicking slightly thinking Doc is killing her without anyone even saying goodbye, and then Stryder reassuring her that she’s not dying, just sleeping.  Then there’s one of those lovely section breaks.

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Honestly, this would have been a very, very good page, from when the guys leave until the section break, if Meyer had removed the snarky line from Jared.  The rest of the scene was appropriately heavy and sad, including the bit where Wanda is given morphine, and it would have made for probably one of the best scenes in the book so far (if not the best) if she had just cut that line.  As it is, that line both throws off the flow of the scene and makes the reader a bit angry at Jared for continuing to be a jerk even after all this, and that disruption takes away from the feeling that Meyer built up here, for no good reason.  Jared didn’t need to say anything; Doc didn’t need his permission.  Jared should have been silent, and Doc should have simply gone ahead to do what he did.  If that had happened, I would have liked this much better.  I am legitimately sad that Meyer messed it up.

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After the section break, Wanda wakes up beneath the stars, though it takes her almost an entire page to figure out that she’s outside, despite the fact that she can see the stars with no obstructions, and can feel the wind on her face and smell the desert.  Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s disorienting waking up from morphine; trust me, I’ve done it…but it still seems like a bit of a slow realization for her to come to. Though I guess she’s never been especially quick about coming to conclusions, so maybe I should go easy on her.  At least this time she has an excuse.

Ian is next to Wanda when she wakes, telling her that “they” won’t wait much longer, because they’re starting already, and Wanda is understandably confused, because that’s a stupid fucking thing to say when you know the person you’re talking to has been unconscious and does not know what you did with her between her drugging and the moment of waking. Agh. Anyway,  Jeb is there, then, asking if she’s coming around, and then Wanda asks what’s starting, and Ian reveals that it’s Walter’s funeral.  She tries to sit up, but Ian won’t let her, and then she finally realizes she’s outside, and sees the other people from the cave a distance away from her.

Jamie shows up, then, and Wanda is still confused as to what’s happened and how she got there, but Jamie says “they” didn’t wait and it will be over soon, so Wanda asks Ian to help her up so she can see.  Ian lifts her, then explains that Doc gave her the morphine because she needed to sleep, and he (Doc) needed to check her out without hurting her.  She starts to protest (because of course she does), but Ian shushes her because people are starting to talk at the funeral.

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Trudy and Geoffrey say their final words about Walter and toss some sand into his grave, as Ian carries Wanda closer to the funeral, then Kyle, Jared and Jamie follow suit.  Jamie is back to being an adult again, apparently, given what he says about Walter, so we’re really keeping up with the character consistency here, and then tells Wanda it’s her turn, but instead of waiting for her, Andy heads toward Walter’s grave to fill it in.

Jamie stops him, reminding everyone that Ian and Wanda haven’t gotten to say anything yet, which people are unhappy about, but Jeb tells them to have some respect.  Wanda decides that she’ll deny her first instinct (which is to be a martyr again, so it’s good she denied it since she’d just have complained about it later) and say something whether the others want her to or not.

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Ian gets some sand for her, then carries her to Walter’s grave.  Ian says his final words, tosses his sand, and then Wanda says her goodbye to Walter, which is this:

“‘There was no hatred in your heart,’ I whispered.  ‘That you existed is proof that we were wrong.  We had no right to take your world from you, Walter.  I hope your fairytales are true.  I hope you find your Gladdie.'”

While I think it’s quite disrespectful to refer to Walter’s beliefs as “fairytales”, and I think this is a very clichéd thing for Wanda to say at this point, I’m going to try to just view it as nice, because it is also that.  It’s good that she truly sees now that the aliens were wrong about the humans, but as I’ve said, this is very clichéd, so it’s exactly what I expected to happen here.  It would have been nice if that wasn’t the case.

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Wanda lets her sand go onto Walter’s grave, then Andy and Aaron start to fill it in, and people start to mill around a little.  I’m surprised they don’t all immediately go back inside, given that at the beginning of the scene they were supposedly uncomfortable with being so exposed (and I guess it would be for good reason, with the Seeker being around so recently), but meh, they don’t, so there we have it.

Ian carries Wanda back to the outside mat, and she’s confused about what she’s supposed to do outside when Doc shows up and asks how she’s feeling.  Wanda says she’s fine and that she thinks she can walk, but Doc isn’t having any of that, and keeps checking her out to see how she’s healing.  He takes a flashlight to her eyes, and of course because they’re freaky alien eyes, they reflect the light back, so Doc recoils.  Ian doesn’t, though, and that’s supposed to be significant, so I’m mentioning it.

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Doc jokes about how looking into her eyes doesn’t really help a diagnosis, then asks how her head feels, to which she responds that she’d rather the pain than the effects of the morphine.  I can respect that; it’s not the most pleasant thing in the world to come out of.

Doc and Ian grimace when she says she’d rather the pain, because as Doc says, he is going to have to put her under again, since they promised they would do that in order for her to attend the funeral, because the others don’t want her knowing how to get in and out of the cave.   Wanda asks to be blindfolded again instead, but Doc says she knows the caves too well, and the others don’t want her to have a chance to guess the way out.

Ian restrains Wanda gently as she asks where she would go and why she would leave, but Ian says it will ease the others’ minds, so Doc gives her the morphine.  Before she passes out, she looks into Ian’s eyes, and apparently there is betrayal in her eyes, which is a bit much given that she should understand this, and they’re not really betraying her at all.  Still, Ian apologizes, and then Wanda is out, and that’s the end of the chapter.

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So…there we have it; Walter is dead, there were a couple of okay moments here and one that could have been really good if one line had been removed, and I skipped over most of the dialogue at the end that made me dislike the funeral scene more than I wanted to (because I was really hoping it would have the same emotional depth as Wanda and Walter’s Gladdie goodbye scene, except without a stupid interruption by Jared, but it really didn’t feel half that emotional to me).

I’m not actually sure there’s any more to say about this chapter than that.  I’ve no idea what’s to come next, so I guess we’ll just have to see.  Till next time…

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

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