Previously, on Save the Pearls: Having been swarmed by a mob of angry black people, Eden attempts to flee, but she’s not very spatially endowed so instead of escaping from the horde, she smacked right into her sexy, beast-like boss, Ronson Bramford. Although Eden expressed severe dislike of this man, he seemed to go easier on her than she anticipated. Furthermore, we learn that Eden is in a secret relationship with the Head of Security, Jamal, and hopes that he’ll choose to “mate” with her. Ultimately, Eden was put on probation for failing at work, but otherwise emerged unharmed. Also, Jamal said that they would have a hot date!
We reunite with Eden as she’s returning to her home (called her “unit”) after being put on probation. As she leaves the lab, she has to go into this glass cage thing which somehow ensures she’s not carrying any diseases. And while you think that this might make sense since she works in a bio-engineering lab, it turns out that this is standard procedure down in the tunnels. Because this is Dystopia, of course, sick people are fodder for all manner of experimentation.
She peered through the glass wall at the dark, masculine robot behind the scanner. It was a classic prototype of the ruling class, from its mahogany-colored casing right down to its superior attitude.
(this is the first and last we hear about robots, FYI). The robot does a scan on her to determine that she is not a plague rat, and she thinks some stuff about how it can’t see the Real Eden, and only Jamal really sees her.
When she gets to the employee’s quarters (which makes me think maybe there’s some pseudo-feudalism in these tunnels, maybe?), she describes how Bramford has put his logo everywhere. Guess how this is described?
Like an animal, he had marked his territory by carving a ridiculously large initial “B” onto each unit door. His audacious company logo—a snow-capped black mountain against a red desert background that offered false hope in a parched land—glowed at intervals along the walls. As if he owned everything, including her.
So I guess the owner of the lab has branded his property? That’s the most charitable reading of this. The least charitable is that he literally went door-to-door scratching his initial into every door, which makes zero sense. No one does that. The only reason this is included is to make Bramford seem more beastly. Which is unnecessary, since (spoilers) he literally turns into a CatMan.
Eden thinks more about the unfairness of her suspension, and gets all worked up. Her LifeBand thing then tells her that her “oxy levels are in the red zone”.
The Uni-Gov called oxy “the happy drug,” which seemed absurd since everyone knew happiness had gone the way of the dolphins.
So, add drug addiction to the list of Serious Issues that this novel manages to fumble magnificently.
Eden begins to feel the effects of withdrawal, and hurries home.
And this is when we learn that Eden has a dog!
Yes, in this underground world of extreme scarcity, citizens are allowed to keep pets. It makes perfect sense! Eden even thinks about how undersized her apartment is, even if she were to live alone!
The dog, whose name is Austin, follows Eden while she takes some drugs. After they kick in, Eden summons up a hologram of a redwood forrest, and she relaxes a bit:
Her world slowly turned a muted shade of gray. Possibly, she wouldn’t kill herself tonight.
Protip: if you want the possibility of suicide seem like a credible threat to your character, maybe mention it once or twice before your character decides against it. Nothing kills the stakes like neglecting to mention them until they’re no longer stakes.
Eden floats around in a presumably-opiate-induced haze until she receives a signal that an “Ethics Officer” is about to come visit. However, this signal isn’t really useful because moments later, the Ethics Officer arrives via hologram.
The Officer (who we are told “is a Coal”), addresses Eden by her full name, which is “Eden Lavinia Newman”. Can you feel the ~symbolism~?
The Ethics Officer informs Eden that it is her May 29th (which is her half-birthday), meaning that she has only six months until she’s cut off from Basic Resources unless she manages to get hitched. The Officer explains that they can’t support to people who don’t continue the species (why the fuck can they have a dog, then???). Then, the Officer goes over Eden’s dating profile video, thing (the one used as the book trailer ).
Despite Eden’s low mate-rate, the Ethics Officer notes that some other white people had offered to marry her, all of whom Eden has turned down. The officer asks why this is, and Eden gets political, maybe?
“Because I don’t want my child to be all Pearl. I’d rather be dead than mate with one of my kind.”
Is this supposed to be a take on internalized racism? Because if so, I don’t think that’s how it works. Disregarding that, though, Foyt has once again failed to raise the stakes. We’re told that Eden could marry a white dude and be relatively fine, but she feels entitled to a black guy!
The Ethics Officer says some more unimportant stuff, and vanishes. Eden thinks about how she has to win over Jamal, and that he’s her only chance, and boy, for someone we’re supposed to believe is so cynical about her chances, she sure is optimistic that her secret boyfriend will risk his own status to be with her.
Austin the Dog then distracts Eden by wagging his tail and licking her hand, and we get launched back into another flashback about Eden’s mom.
So like ten or so years ago (I’m estimating), Eden’s mom brought home a puppy, and Eden was so shocked that she could only say Smart Person Stuff.
–-Canis lupus familiaris, a subspecies of lupus or wolf. It’s a male. The webbed paws belong to the retriever family. They’re excellent swimmers. It’s commonly called a yellow labrador, Mother.
You’ll notice that Foyt thinks that beep-booping off facts and abusing the thesaurus, regardless of whether doing so is warranted, is what Smart People do. It gets super annoying.
So Little Eden pet the puppy, and asked what his name was. Her mother called him Austin, “Like Emily’s brother,” referring to Emily Dickinson. Eden’s mother says that if she had a son, she would have named him Austin, and then we learn this:
But one child was the allowable quota, if the mated couple produced enough uni-credits.
God damn, Victoria Foyt is dumb. In the preceding scene, it’s emphasized how important it is to “continue the species.” In fact, they only allow people who “contribute to the continuation of the species” to receive food and shelter. Now, we’re told that only couples who make enough money can have a SINGLE child. So unless that’s a whites-only rules (which is not indicated), the population must be shrinking rapidly. Especially since people die around the age of 40 in this society. It’s like the author just took every dystopia-related trope she could think of and shoved them into her society, even if they create horrible contradictions. This book is truly the worst.
So anyway, now the whole Emily Dickinson obsession officially begins.
To increase the size of their family, her optimistic mother had adopted her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, as an ancestor[. . .] When Eden’s mother started to refer to her as Aunt Emily, Eden simply had accepted it.
We will be hearing A LOT from “Aunt Emily” as the story goes on. I think that referencing a historical author’s body of work is another thing Foyt had seen Serious Writers do in their Serious Novels, and so she decided to shoehorn in her favorite poet regardless of whether doing so is relevant.
The flashback goes on, and we learn that Eden’s mom was a Free Spirit because she refused to wear blackface and had red hair and believed in Love.
Even at the age of seven, Eden knew love was dead. Only biological instinct and evolutionary climbing mattered. But it was useless to argue with her starry-eyed mother.
Once again, we are told that Eden is a jaded cynic, but this contradicts what we are shown of her regarding Jamal. I’d speculate about her being an unreliable narrator, but Foyt’s already shown that she doesn’t care about consistency.
After a bit more rumination, Eden decides to have some dinner. She also decides to feed her dog:
Eden switched on Austin’s nutrient teat, and he began to suck hungrily on it.
I get that this is the future so everything has to be all technological, but what’s wrong with a bowl? Why would an adult dog be fed via artificial nipple? And once again, the terminology used in this novel squicks me out a bit.
Then she twisted the knob on a small chute and out popped a perfectly balanced meal, three pills in varying proportions: white carbohydrate, blue protein, and red fat.
And once again, I get that this is the future, but macro-nutrients have mass, and compressing enough protein/fat/carbohydrate to meet the needs of an adult body into a three neat little pills would probably require more energy than just distributing meal-replacement shakes and calling it a day. Also, what about vitamins? Victoria Foyt knows nothing about anything.
Eden thinks some more about how she’s “too skinny” (of course), and tries to build muscle by “running in place” for half an hour. When she’s done with that, her life-band/world-band/whatever tells her how many calories she’s burned and how much muscle she’s added. Once again, that’s not how muscle-building works.
Next, she’s off to shower.
At once, a purple laser washed over her. Each day she expected to hear the high-pitched beep that signaled a diseased mole—an indication of The Heat. Funny, they once were called beauty marks.
So I guess The Heat is skin cancer? And no, melanoma has never been sexy. Forgive me for being redundant, but none of this makes sense.
After her laser-shower, Eden puts on a new coat of
blackface“Midnight Luster” . She also puts on a black nightgown, laments how skinny she is, and then, in case you thought that merely darkening her skin was not a good look, she does this:
Applying her makeup, Eden expertly shaded her face to appear Coal-like. She refreshed the brown caps in her eyes with darkening drops. Red lipstick, smoothed over the lines to make her lips seem fuller, was the last touch. She let her long black hair dip over one eye and smiled.
“Definitely passing, right?”
Despite all of Foyt’s literary failings, she did manage to predict the rise of Kylie Jenner:
And that is the end of this chapter.