Previously, on Save the Pearls: Eden returned to her apartment, and was alerted to the fact that unless she gets married within six months, she’ll get killed off. Then, she prepares for her date with Jamal, which was essentially a racist makeover montage.
The chapter opens as the date between Eden and Jamal begins. And if you thought that their rendezvous would be more than a holographic Skype call, well, you were wrong. Somehow, though, they can still sort-of physically make contact:
“How’s my Little Bunny?” he said.
“Jamal,” she said, her sensors registering the warmth of his arms as they snaked around her.
I think that this means that everyone has neurological augmentation specifically for tele-dating in this world. I won’t harp on it too much, because it’s getting redundant, but still.
Austin shot up, growling. She had forgotten about him. It was embarrassing, really. As if she’d trained her dog to hate Coals. Maybe he wasn’t color-blind, after all.
I love that Eden assumes that her dog hates this stranger who has just randomly materialized because the it’s the dog who’s racist. Imagine writing this sort of thing with a straight face. Imagine thinking it’s powerful social commentary.
Mortified that her dog has acted like a dog, Eden removes Austin from her room. She soon returns to Jamal, and it is explained that since he’s Head of Security, he can “scramble signals to hide their illicit date”. And stuff starts heating up: somehow, Eden can feel the moisture on the hologram’s lips as the two begin to make out. Holographically.
But then the cockblocking Life-Band tells informs her that she’s overstimulated, and tells her to calm the fuck down. Jamal asks her if she wants to take a break. She emphatically does not:
“No!” she cried, flinging herself at him.
They didn’t want her to mate. So they could cut her off. But Eden wouldn’t let that happen.
This would be so much more effective if we had’t just been told that there are plenty of people who would be perfectly happy to be with her. And wait, now that I think about it, does this mean that there will possibly be white dudes killed off all because Eden wants a black guy? This sounds like a dystopia conceived of by 4chan’s /pol/. I’m surprised it’s not more popular over there.
Anyway, Jamal is worried that Eden literally die from being so turned on, I think? And Foyt misses a prime opportunity to make a joke about Eden having “the Heat.” .
“Whoa, pet. I’m receiving dangerous signals. I don’t want you to explode. I need you around.”
“You have no idea.”
“Oh.” That meant he wanted to pick up her option to mate, right?
No, Eden, it means he’s an evil schemer who needlessly drops hints about his nefarious agenda.
Since Eden misses the mustache-twirling, she launches into some exposition about what a good guy Jamal is.
He’d been hired at REA when the former head of security died of an oxy overdose. Moses always had seemed so levelheaded, but then you never knew what secrets lurked in a world where even children wore a poker face.
Remember, Eden is supposed to be smart and cynical and distrustful of black people, and somehow, she just chalks a mysterious death up to “lol, you never can know people!” I appreciate that in this novel, though, I can at least feel confident that I’m not hallucinating subtext (as was the case in Handbook for Mortals.) Even if it is glaringly obvious to the point that it feels more like actual text, but whatever. I’ll take it.
Eden thinks about how they first met a few months ago, and it’s very conventional YA flirting with a lot of “wow I can’t believe a guy like you would be interested in someone like me!!” It’s boring and predictable, but there’s nothing outright horrible.
Back in the present, Jamal says that there’s a bright side to Eden being put on probation (which appears to be more like “suspension” than “probation”, but whatever): it means that she has the next night off! And so. . .
“I’m just saying bad news can bring good news. Wait and see. For example, tomorrow night, you’re off work.” His eyebrows arched with anticipation. “Which means you and I should go to the Moon Dance.”
Look, I’m not getting bent out-of-shape about cultural appropriation or anything, but there is something a little bit funny about a white woman writing a book that casts white people as a persecuted minority, and then naming the society’s monthly soiree after a song/album by a white man who was inspired by the sounds of black musicians. Like, it might just be a coincidence, but I love how the result is that it looks like the ruling class still thinks that Van Morrison improved on rhythm and blues so much that they just had to pay homage.
Eden gets excited at how they’re going to actually be seen in public, because she thinks it means he’s definitely gonna propose. In case you’re wondering what the Moon Dance is, Eden explains:
By law, everyone had to attend at least nine a year. The Uni-Gov insisted these events reduced the frequent violence that naturally resulted from the crowded conditions in the tunnels.
I like how Foyt implies that the Government’s claim about the Moon Dance being a crime-reduction measure doesn’t work (by using the word “insisted,”). Like, even she realized that mandatory city-wide revelry would never result in lessened violence, but just liked the idea so much that she had to include it. Because every dystopia must have a coercive government! Otherwise, we might forget that it’s a dystopia!
But before Eden can fantasize about married life too much, she realizes that since she’s
suspendedon probation, she can’t leave her house! So apparently your boss decides when you get to go to the Moon Dance in this world? Jesus Christ, none of this makes sense.
Fortunately, though, since Jamal is in charge of clearance, he can override her suspension which will let her go to the Moon Dance. Eden worries about transportation, and then remembers that her father’s big experiment is happening tomorrow night as well! Jamal says he’ll switch shifts with someone else, and meet her at 19:00.
And if the name “Jamal” makes you think of scary things like militant black people or militant Islam then you might be a racist. But you’re also probably just picking up on Foyt’s intended reading, which is emphasized here:
He cupped her chin and looked deep into her eyes. “It’s time for Jamal to make a righteous move. Do you understand?”
So by this point, it’s obvious that Jamal is some kind of radical, even if we don’t quite know in what way, right?
And then Holographic Jamal kisses Eden on the cheek, says bye, and vanishes. Moments later, though Eden gets another phone call:
Her Life-Band tingled again. Eden accepted the incoming signal, thinking it was Jamal, even as she realized her mistake. Instead of his heart-warming face, she saw the dreaded logo of the Federation of Free People: a swirl of black that spun around until it erased a small white circle.
If you get the feeling that the FFP will shop up next chapter, you’re right! If you think it’s kind of hilarious that decided to prank call Eden for no reason, well, that’s the price you have to pay for expert foreshadowing.
Eden is all freaked out and thinks about all the white people who have gone missing or been murdered, supposedly by the FFP. After taking a moment to calm down, she lets her racist piece-of-shit dog back in the room and says she hopes that Jamal will pick her.
And that’s how this chapter ends.