I have to apologize to everybody, because it appears that I’ve seriously undersold the upcoming Good Books Good Times reading club (which starts a week from tomorrow). Not only will both myself and Ariel be participating in this, but ARIEL’S MOM is reading this book too. It is going to be incredible.
Chapter 17: Visited
We last left our main character on her way to the bathroom. It was quite a cliffhanger.
The heat hit me first – like a wall of steam, the moist, thick air rolled over me and dewed on my skin.
Nope, she’s not talking about going to the bathroom yet, don’t worry. In fact, she hasn’t even gotten to the bathroom yet! Although with Stephenie Meyer’s overly descriptive writing, it’s very hard to tell.
It was really only one river and one small stream. […] A feminine, high-pitched murmur purred from its gentle ripples. The male, bass gurgle came from the river, as did the thick clouds of vapor that rose from the gaping holes in the ground by the far wall. […] The water seemed to simmer, such was the heat and steam it produced. The sound of it, too, was like that of boiling water.
Dude, where the fuck are you?
Crazy old Uncle Jeb describes how he found a hot spring in the caves which made it a perfect place to hide from the aliens to an alien, because I’ve given up on trying to figure out what his deal is anymore.
He nudged me with his elbow, a conspiratorial gesture.
Although I guess it makes enough sense, since Wanderer’s definitely not going to get out of the cave unless something crazy and world-changing happens (which it totally will because this is a book). Although Stephenie Meyer doesn’t make much sense.
Jeb spoke as if we were alone because we were.
His sense of humor mystified me just as much as his motivations did.
It’s okay, Wanderer. I have no idea what his motivations are either.
Wanderer goes to the bathroom and its very exciting. They walk back, Jeb apologizes for the inhospitable conditions they have to keep her in, and Wanderer expresses amazement at the complexity of human nature. It’s not really funny, and it’s at least a little interesting to see Wanderer’s slowly changing opinions towards the value of other sentient life. Sorry, not everything is great fodder for me to make dick jokes.
There was no guarantee that Jared would not decide my secret was more important than protecting Melanie’s body.
This is still bothering me a lot. All of a sudden, as soon as Wanderer was captured, do we learn that there is a SECRET that the captors can get from Wanderer, and WOW suddenly the stakes are higher. And it’s fine that the narrator is keeping a secret from the reader, that’s not what makes this bad writing; it’s the way the reader is suddenly told there’s a secret at a time when there being a secret would suddenly increase the conflict.
It would be like if, in the first original Star Wars movie, when Luke is the only person who hasn’t died in the Rebellion’s assault on the Death Star and Darth Vader is right on his tail (tension is high!), Luke suddenly said, “Oh no! And I’m the only other person in the galaxy who can learn how to use the Force and I’m about to be killed!” The tension would be higher, certainly, but with new information introduced at a time when its introduction makes it relevant to the tension of the plot, it would also feel a lot cheaper.
They get back and MELANIE’S YOUNGER BROTHER JAMIE IS THERE. Melanie fights for control over Wanderer, and Wanderer has to fight hard to keep control, then feels guilty about it.
I felt strangely guilty as soon as I won.
Then Stephenie Meyer continues to just overexplain every little thing instead of letting the reader draw their own conclusions from it, ensuring the reader has to think at no point in the narrative.
she was more than a body to me. But now it seemed like something beyond that. I regretted causing her pain.
Jamie wants to speak to Wanderer, and things actually get really interesting! Like it has a nice, slow, tense build and everything!
“You’re not Melanie,” he said in a low voice.
[…] after a brief hesitation, I shook my head.
“You’re inside her body, though.”
Another pause, and I nodded. […]
“Then do you remember what happened to her?” he asked.
I winced, and then nodded slowly.
“I want to know,” he whispered.
I shook my head.
“I want to know,” Jamie repeated. His lips trembled. “I’m not a kid. Tell me.”
Guys, it took a thirteen year old boy to bring any real emotion into this story. And to make it actually go somewhere, because he’s the first human to actually ask about Melanie’s fate (she threw herself down an elevator shaft), and to actually ask an alien why they would take over a human body.
“I wasn’t in on the decision,” I murmured. “I was still in a hibernation tank in deep space when that happened.”
Jamie blinked again in surprise. My answer was nothing he’d expected, and I could see him struggling with some new emotion. I glanced at Jeb; his eyes were bright with curiosity.
Yeah, see, you idiots? That’s what happens when you actually try to get new information instead of spending an entire plot sitting around twiddling your thumbs. THINGS FUCKING HAPPEN. Jamie asks where Wanderer was coming from, but then Jared stomps into the room all angry and the plot goes right back to sitting around twiddling its thumbs with an oddly appropriately named chapter.
Chapter 18: Bored
Now, look, I’m gonna be honest with you. I really feel bad for Jared. The girl he loves and who loved him is presumably dead and an alien is using her body. That can’t be easy.
But oh my god is he annoying in this chapter, because four weeks pass with him standing guard over Melerer’s cell, not talking to her, and with no one coming to talk to him. Which makes it very unclear where the food he keeps getting comes from, but it’s not really the first thing I’d complain about with this book.
Anyway, Melanie and Wanderer shoot the shit about boys very briefly.
[Wanderer:] He might be reminded of the pain of losing you the first time, but he would be happy if I disappeared.
Because he doesn’t know you, Melanie whispered […]
I stood frozen where I was, surprised. I wasn’t sure, but it felt as though Melanie had just given me a compliment.
Okay, well, “shooting the shit about boys” is jumping the gun a bit, but this is like our first “I think he liiiiikes youuuuu”. I cannot fucking wait for the love triangle part of this book to kick in already. It’s not like the science fiction is any good.
After that, though, the entire chapter is just Wanderer and Melanie thinking about how bored they are and Jared not talking to them. It goes on forever and it’s excruciating.
But then there’s this:
Sometimes there were extra things for Jared, packaged foods with brand names […]
Once, Jared slowly ripped open a bag of Cheetos […] He ate one slowly, letting me hear each distinct crunch.
My stomach growled loudly, and I laughed at myself. I hadn’t laughed in so long […]
I don’t know how my reaction offended him, but he got up and disappeared. After a long moment, I could hear him eating the Cheetos again, but from father away. I peeked out of the hole to see that he was sitting in the shadows at the end of the corridor, his back to me.
This is simultaneously the funniest and saddest thing I’ve read in this entire book so far. Even rereading and typing that passage I started laughing again. I don’t know what it is, but the combination of how sad Jared is and how Cheetos are just like the most depressing food ever, and Wanderer laughs and then he goes off into the corner to eat his Cheetos, his back turned and his feelings hurt – oh god, I’m laughing again! I can’t stop laughing at this! Why is this so funny?!
Ian shows up and gets Jared to chill enough to have a conversation about how the Hosts have given up on their search for Wanderer after looking for her in the desert and getting attacked by coyotes, so they probably assumed that Wanderer got eaten by coyotes. Except for one Seeker, who clearly didn’t want to give up and oh my god you guys it’s the same Seeker that really has it out for Wanderer for some perplexing reason that doesn’t even make sense to the rules of this book as all the characters understand them.
“Kyle was the first to notice how this one stood out. […] when they called off the search, this one wasn’t very happy with the decision. You know how the parasites are always so… very pleasant? This was weird – it’s the closest I’ve ever seen them come to an argument. Not a real argument, because none of the others argued back”
Wanderer hisses (?) once she realizes it’s the same Seeker.
When had our distaste turned to fear? […] Why couldn’t she just let me be dead like the rest of them had? When I was dead, would she hunt me still?
And then Jared’s all “Wait, you know something. Tell us what you know!”, which – hey – is a much better cliffhanger than “Wanderer is going to the bathroom”.