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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Allegiant - Veronica Roth

Massive spoilers abound. You have been warned.

As I was reading Allegiant, I periodically got choked up....

This, however, had nothing to do with Allegiant or the character death at the novel's conclusion.

My dog was dying and I was going to have to make that decision very soon. My emotions felt like flayed flesh. Flayed flesh that had been washed in acid. Just about anything had the potential to reduce me to a sobbing puddle of misery.

Except Tris's big, sacrificial, swan dive into the hereafter.

Divergent, the first book in this series, was built on the foundations of some pretty shaking world building. But the fast pacing and violence distracted from the shaky premise. The next book, which I remember less of than the first, decided to get a bit more serious, killing off a few more characters, and trying to shore up the feeble idea of "factions" with the explanation that, essentially, the new Chicago of the Divergent series was all a big science experiment. Maybe because it was dumped late in the novel, and because the character's reactions to this new reality were delayed until Allegiant, the revelation fell flat.

With Allegiant, any semblance of logic is chucked out a highrise building to land -- SPLAT! -- on the concrete below and explode into flames like a car crash in an overblown, Michael Bay film.

In Allegiant, we learn that back in days of yore, the powers-that-be decided humans were a violent species and that the key to happy-shiny people lay in the human genome. So they tinkered with people's genetic material, trying to nullify our desire to be Hulk-style rage monsters. The results were disappointing and eventually, it was decided that the new, improved versions of humanity were more violent; the old, unchanged, "undamaged" humans were mo' betta.

The world Tris and Tobias find outside of the city, is one where the undamaged humans (Divergents like Tris) are considered superior to those with damaged genes. Thanks to some genetic testing, Tobias learns that while he sometimes behaves like a Divergent, he's one of the damaged. So, uh, he haz teh sad, or more sad, because he's a second-class citizen. (Or perhaps, because he isn't all that special anymore.)

Okay, so forgetting the whole "healed genes" vs. "damaged genes" silliness, which is difficult given that it's a dump truck load of bad science, let's move on to Tobias's angst, and the ensuing plot development that officially broke the story for me. (Whew! That's a long-ass sentence.)

Tobias meets other genetic rejects and learns that a revolution is on the horizon. The damaged are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore. They show Tobias old footage and photos of atrocities that took place before the genetic tinkering and explain that violence was committed by the "undamaged/pure." Therefore, the genetically pure, people like Tris, aren't any less violent than the damaged.

Uh, okay. This is where I'm trying to figure out the time frame for all this. Decades? Centuries? How is it that no one else knows about humanity's long, bloody history? How can they not know and at the same time, be aware of the concept of damaged and undamaged? Even this, however, wasn't the straw that broke the proverbial dromedary's back.

Nope, this is it.... Tobias teams up with several "damaged" rebels, and helps launch a terrorist attack on the compound where he, Tris, and the other escapees from the city are living. This compound is essentially a high-tech, research facility, sort of like Los Alamos or Lawrence Livermore Labs. The kind of place that is all about security.

People are killed; stuff gets reduced into smaller, charred pieces of stuff.

And Tobias, for his part in the attack, gets a slap on the wrist. A few of his cohorts are arrested, but there is no protracted investigation. No significant changes in security. Tris, who didn't participate in the attack, and who saved the compound's leader, is automatically exonerated. Even though she's Tobias's girlfriend.

Soon after, Tris fires up a new bunch of rebels -- because only Tris's crusades are okay, St. Tris, doncha know? -- and people start meeting in not-so-dark offices, fomenting rebellion. None of which seems to strike the higher-ups as the least bit suspicious.

And the preposterous meter is pegged all the way up into the red zone.

As for the un-sad, sad ending...a contributing factor is that the story is told in two, alternating, first-person viewpoints -- Tris's and Tobias's. It's fortunate that each chapter included the viewpoint character's name, because otherwise, Tris and Tobias's voices are totally indistinguishable. If their inner monologues are any indication, these two really did belong together. Because they are the same fucking person, only with different genitalia.

Even writing this now, in the aftermath of saying goodbye to my beautiful canine friend, my heart in my throat, I STILL don't give a rat's hairy ass about Tris or Tobias. They're the same person. You got one; you got the other.

OTOH, props to the author for having the hutzpah to kill off a main character.

Though the series started out with interesting momentum, by Allegiant, it melted into a hot mess of too many high-concept ideas, none of which were sufficiently resolved. The characterization, weak at best, just wasn't enough to carry the burden of so many disparate themes.