Save the Pearls: Chapter 13 (or, Chimney-Sweep Chic)

Previously, on Save the Peals: Eden whined about how her dad doesn’t love her, and whined about Bramford taking her cell-phone earing, and whined about how sexy he was, and whined and whined and whined.

When we return to the Bramfordjet, Eden is asking her missing Life-Band for the time.

Like an amputee who still feels the presence of a missing limb, she had forgotten her Life-Band was gone. Bramford had taken more than her earring; he’d stolen her identity. She just didn’t know who she was anymore.

I’m 99% sure Victoria Foyt sees this whole Life-Band subplot as cutting commentary on how people read their phones on public transportation rather than, like, chatting to the stranger next to them. I know that there are people who get way too caught up in social media, but the extent of Eden’s social media presence basically amounts to a shitty Tinder profile.

Noticing that Bramford has fallen asleep, she decides to take the opportunity to try to get her life-band back.

But, of course, we have to take a brief moment to ogle the sleeping Bramford. Because this goes on for three paragraphs, I’ll just quote my favorite bits:

A company T-shirt strained over his shoulders like a child’s garment, exposing his muscular torso.

catshirt

BEAST count: 9. Is this the same shirt that ripped off his hulking new muscles in chapter 9? Or did he put a new one on?  Now I’m imagining him struggling to put on this tiny shirt, and it’s funny.

Eden suspected that the dual identities waged a mysterious battle. But which did she want to win? The powerful titan that might save them or the savage beast that excited her?

BEAST count: 10. And I’d like to note that Dr. Dad seems to think he’s mostly unchanged mentally, so this is literally just Eden fantasizing about this cat-dude’s suppressed bestial urges.

Eden had despised the attractive, top-rated man Bramford had been. And yet, this wild creature stirred something deeply primal in her.

BEAST count: 11. There’s zero contradiction there, BTW. She didn’t like Bramford on a personal level before (even though there was totally ~subtexual tension~), and she doesn’t like him on a personal level now. She just thinks his cat-form is hot.

Eden thinks about how even Jamal hadn’t been able to reduce her to a pile of lustful goo the way Catford does, and then somehow this segues into how Jamal never saw the Real Eden, etc:

Was it even possible for two people to truly see each other in a calculated world where its inhabitants mated to improve their offspring’s genetics or to control a lesser mate?

Um, I don’t see why not? I get the point Foyt is trying to make, but it’s yet another pseudo-Deep Observation that falls apart as soon as you even think about it a little bit.

She thought about how her mother might have quoted Aunt Emily. “That Love is all there is, / Is all we know of Love.”

In case you’ve forgotten, “Aunt Emily” is Emily Dickinson, who is for some reason shoehorned into this book at random intervals that are usually total non-sequiturs.

But no, Eden reminded herself, love was dead. Bramford’s condition simply piqued her curiosity, as it would any researcher. Possibly, that explained her desire to touch him.

Eden obviously hasn’t thought through the implications of her hypothesis. If she had, it would lead to to the conclusion that her dad is also undergoing a sexual awakening   piquing of curiosity.

Eden reaches out to touch Bramford, but she sees his mouth twitch, which makes her scared (or, you know, horny).

If he awoke and found her hovering over him, he might attack. She imagined him leaping on her, pinning her underneath him, his strong body pressing her down no matter how she writhed and protested. His jaw would clamp onto her neck and she’d scream.

You know how one of the biggest complaints of this novel is that it reduces black men (and black-cat-men) to sexual objects with no regard for them as people? Bramford has repeatedly shown that he’s not a violent animal, but Eden completely disregards this because it’s less sexy if he’s not a feral beast. This is actually a great example of objectification. I don’t know if that’s Foyt’s intention. I mean, one of the themes of this novel is seeing past appearances to see the “real them,” but there’s no implication that Eden’s objectification of Bramford is wrong. I’ll revisit this as I go along, but I’m pretty sure it never really gets discussed.

Oh, and BEAST count: 12.

Eden steps away, all wobbly with desire, wondering if the traumatic events of the day have driven her mad. She remembers her original plan, and makes her way to where Daisy-the-white-flight-attendant is chillin. Daisy knows why Eden’s there, and tell her to go sit down.

Eden wheedles, saying that she’s had like a really hard life and her mom died when she was 10 . This works on Daisy, who seems to sympathize. Eden thinks about how once-upon-a-time white people were the cultural hegemons and they would have been considered beautiful.

Daisy asks what happened to Bramford, and Eden explains how it makes him immune to solar radiation or something. Then Eden asks to know where they’re going.

Daisy objects on the grounds that she’s loyal to Bramford, because he employed her white husband, until the husband died, and now he employs her.

Eden figured Bramford found it cheaper to employ the widow than pay costly benefits. He was no tender heart.

No comment on Eden’s cynicism. She needs to hate Bramford because hating someone while simultaneously feeling unbearable attraction to them is ~sexy~ and honestly it makes up much on the conflict from here on out.

Secondly, in this world where unemployment results in what is essentially a death sentence and treats white people as utterly disposable, THERE ARE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS? Like, that’s a thing?

Despite Daisy’s explicit statement of loyalty to Bramford, Eden makes the same mistake she did with her dad in the last chapter, and says that they should totally trade Bramford for anmesty. But then she changes tactics, thinking that if she gets a life-band, she can contact Shen who can come and pick them up.

She asks Daisy for a life-band, saying that if Bramford falls into “the wrong hands” everything will go wrong.

Daisy is having none of this. She tells Eden that their destination is “Sector Six.”

Sector Six was a lawless, barren land. If the drug lords didn’t kill them, The Heat or predators would.

 

Eden begs Daisy some more, to no avail. on her way back to her seat, she stops off in the bathroom and freaks out about how her blackface makeup is streaking. She considers washing it off completely, but:

Even some Coal was better than none, she decided, throwing down the towel.

See, she could have justified wearing the blackface as sunscreen, in which case her decision would have kind of made sense? But does she honestly think that looking like a chimney sweep is preferable to her light skin? I mean for fuck’s sake, she was just contemplating how relativistic beauty standards are!

After getting back to her seat, Eden looks out the window. It’s sunrise:

In the dim amber light, she was stunned to see the Amazon River, once the healthy lungs of the planet, limping through parched land. She’d seen it many times glistening and vibrant in World-Band experiences. Had she forgotten that those images were fake?

I’m not even going to speculate about what you can see out the hypothetical window of a plane going at Mach 20. And if Eden only knows of the Amazon River from seeing old pictures/ VR experiences of it, how does she even know this tiny dribbling stream is the Amazon? How does she make that connection in her brain? How can she even see it from the airplane if it’s drastically smaller? What? Victoria, what are you doing?

Wait, and if the Amazon is mostly non-fertile now, why would drug lords be there? Did Foyt think about any of this at all?

We’re catapulted into a mini-flashback of Eden doing Life-Band VR of a redwood forest. She cries because now there are no trees. Her dad tells her that trees are different than humans because humans will find a way to survive, while her mother says it’s sad that the trees are gone.

Eden thinks about how her father is wrong, and everything’s hopeless. Then she recites an Emily Dickinson poem about hopelessness to herself, and thinks that Emily Dickinson had it so much better.

The end!

 

8 thoughts on “Save the Pearls: Chapter 13 (or, Chimney-Sweep Chic)

  1. *sputters incoherently* The Amazon RAINFOREST is the “lungs of the planet!” Not the river! This woman couldn’t pass elementary school science! I could give a lot of the “science” in this book a pass, or at least an eye roll because she’s pretty much just using stock sci-fi ideas from the last 70 years. Even the melanin thing because it’s apparently a fairly common misconception. But this? This just makes her either too stupid to pass the third grade, or this author doesn’t know what words are!

    Ok, now that I got that out of my system, I really don’t have much to say about this chapter. Daisy doesn’t want to tell Eden because of loyalty then tells her? I love plot convenient 180’s. /sarcasm

    I’m a little surprised this is a YA with all the blatant sexualization. The furry doesn’t bother me. I grew up with Thundercats (I keep seeing Panthro as Cat-ford, poor Panthro), TMNT, Gargoyles, and probably half a dozen other cartoons with anthromorphic animals or other species as leads. The more I think about it, my generation was practically raised to be furry curious. But, I thought YA was supposed to go light on the sexual aspect of romance?

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  2. (I’ve never heard of “The Lungs of the Planet).
    Although it makes sense that it’s the forest, not the river. Because trees make oxygen. Is that it?

    I mostly rag on the Furry stuff because it’s funny to imagine a middle-aged woman discovering the Furry fandom and being kinda into it (although I’m sure she just thought that Disney’s Robin Hood was cute as a kid, or something). And yeah, the intense, repeated descriptions of sexual desire just feel super out-of-place in a YA novel. I also find it extremely uncomfortable to read, but that just makes it funnier.

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  3. Yeah. I can’t remember the numbers, but a large percentage of the planet’s oxygen comes from the Amazon Rainforest. It by no means could handle the entire planet on its own, but without it, we’d be in serious trouble all the same. That being said, I’ve never heard of it being called that myself, I was just using Foyt’s words. It does sound like something a bad school film would use though so I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t even come up with it herself.

    I wasn’t meaning that I minded you ragging on the Furry innuendo, I just wanted to state that that wasn’t what I found weird about all the overt sexual tension in a YA novel… ok, I do, but more because it’s a YA novel, and it seems weird that it would have a Furry relationship. To clarify, I don’t mind Furries, it’s just surprising to find Furry erotica in what is supposed to be a very mainstream YA. If this were shuffled into a sub-genre erotica section, I wouldn’t think anything of it. Does that make sense? I think you’re right about Foyt reading nothing but romance novels and then writing one but making the main character a teen.

    Sarem wrote an adult character who, in my opinion, would work better as a teenager, and Foyt has written a teen character who would work better as an adult. Just thought I’d remark on the weird coincidence.

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  4. From what I recall, the oceans produce the majority of the world’s oxygen (which in this dystopian future would have been even more impacted by excessive radiation from the sun). Maybe Foyt heard that oxygen is produce in the water, heard the Amazon called “the lungs of the planet” and just assumed it was the river itself. I have come to the conclusion she must not have Google or internet. That is the only way she could have been this clueless about science, peoples of the world, racism, and languages. If she just used an old encyclopedia and one or two books from the public library, it would have given her about the same amount of knowledge, with no hints of the vast well of facts and information she missed.

    I also wonder, if the planet is being killed/burned by the sun, why would they go to the equatorial region? Just to make sure that the skin cancer happens as fast as possible? Was there a statement about where they started their journey? The mach 20 thing makes it difficult to develop a radius of where the lab and underground civilization were, since given the time on the jet they should have circumnavigated the globe, I think. I am too lazy to do the math, but then again, it is not a book that I am publishing for the masses.

    How often do these types of writers lose the grasp of who the intended audience is? Is it just accidental self-insert? I could see Sarem stuck in the mindset of a 14-year-old, and Foyt not understanding that younger folks do think and see the world differently than older folks. I don’t remember, was this book self-published? It feels like one. (This isn’t a knock on indie authors at all, I love them! The problem is that there so much static to wade through to find those gems. Even some of the static can be diamonds in the rough, with a bit of polishing.)

    The reason this book feels so much more awful than HfM is just the overall concept is bad, and the execution is worse. HfM could have been great, if all of the various threads were handled differently. The premise is one that can sell, and will make people curious as to how the author would choose to drive the story. (Sarem drove it right into the ditch, and stayed there!) Pearls is different, as in the original pitch it sounds questionable, even if you knew the author was delicate at handling controversial topics. HfM became notorious because of the way it was handled, not the story itself. Pearls earned its notoriety from the very premise, and then lived up (or down) to the expectations of the possible future readers.

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  5. Interesting about the ocean. It would stand to reason that a lot would come from their given that water is partially oxygen. A quick google said that more than 20% of the world’s oxygen comes from the Amazon Rainforest alone, and half of it is produced by plants. So the Amazon alone accounts for roughly a fourth of our oxygen.

    I was wondering about the equator thing too. That seems like the worst possible place to go with no ozone layer left. If the Mach 20 was a typo and she really meant Mach 2, then they could have been just about anywhere in the U.S. and get to South America in about 2 hours. Otherwise, they circled the planet at least once before landing.

    With Sarem, she so much as says she was writing wish fulfillment, and didn’t really care if the people reading it liked it. She crowed about people at cons buying the book simply because her friend was going to sign it with no intention of reading it themselves. I find it kind of funny that Sarem wrote a book where the main character would be better off as an 18-year-old, and Foyt has written a book that should have a 25-year-old. Not that it would make either character more likable, but Sarem’s character would make more sense, and Foyt’s wouldn’t make you feel so awkward about all the sexy talk, or the implied child brides. I agree that Sarem had an idea that would have sold well in today’s market if she had tried at all to write it well. Foyt though… I don’t know what could have gone through her head for her to think she should write the skin color angle in. If that hadn’t been a thing if this had just been a dystopian novel about an ozone-less wasteland and those few humans trying to survive it, then, while it still wouldn’t have been good as is, it wouldn’t be quite as cringe-inducing.

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  6. Even if Foyt still wanted to use a race angle, there are so many better ways to handle it. She could have easily had some aspect of the gene for blue eyes causing some issue. (There are some differences with blue eyed folk and brown eyed. Blue eyed can process toxins like alcohol more efficiently, taking more to become intoxicated. It has something to do with an enzyme produced in the liver. They do also have a higher risk of alcoholism, though.) This would give her an easy platform for the prejudice and discrimination in the story, without having to go blackface. If you ever have a story where blackface seems like a good idea, you should rethink your story.

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  7. I agree wholeheartedly. I feel like Foyt thought it would be akin to hair relaxing/straightening and how even today black people feel pressured to put their hair through that to be seen as attractive, but completely ignored the horrendous history of blackface.

    Heck, she could have used height. Since now the human race is forced to live below ground, they are systematically trying to breed down. Instead of trying to find a mate, you’re paired off with someone who will give your children the best genetic chance of being the correct height. It still sounds silly, but much more plausible than dark skin protects you from fatal levels of radiation.

    On a side note, have you ever heard of Jane Elliott and her Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Experiment? I watched a filmed class on Youtube and it was heavy stuff.

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  8. Yes, I have heard of that experiment. It was a great example of how easily we attack and marginalize the “other.” Another fascinating one is the Robber’s Cave Study, the subjects were 7 year old boys. It took hardly any time for them to group identify, and the study had to be shortened because the boys from one group were filling their socks up with rocks to beat the other boys to death in their sleep. It was very similar to the blue eyed /brown eyed study, though with more observation and less added structure, allowing the group to develop all of its own norms.

    I wonder, in a dystopia like Foyt is creating, why are there not forced genetic matches, or maybe an overall breeding program? It would also explain why Dr. Dad and Bramford’s research is unauthorized. It would mess with their genetic program.

    I have heard so many people (usually white) not understand the history and ramifications of blackface. Same folks have no problem with co-opting Native regalia. Sadly, this includes several of my own relatives.

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