“This is the world we live in, a world of safety and happiness and order, a world without love. A world where children crack their heads on stone fireplaces and nearly gnaw off their tongues and the parents are concerned. Not heartbroken, frantic, desperate. Concerned, as they are when you fail mathematics, as they are when they are late to pay their taxes.”
When we last saw our heroine, Lena, at the end of Delirium, she had hurtled over the fence to the wilds, fleeing – she thought with the love of her life – to live and love and survive however they had to, together. And Pandemonium begins as she flees that fence, running through the woods. Running with Alex, the love of her life on her mind, running without him, lost to him, him lost to her.
“When I’m running, there’s always this split second when the pain is ripping through me and I can hardly breathe and all I see is colour and blur – and in that split second, right as the pain crests, and becomes too much, there’s a whiteness going through me, I see something to my left, a flicker of colour (auburn hair, burning, a crown of leaves)-and I know then, too, that if I only turn my head he’ll be there, laughing, watching me, holding out his arms.”
My heart ached for Lena. As I mentioned in my review of Delirium, I wept at the end of that book. I cried for Alex, for Lena leaving her life behind on a hope and a prayer of life with him, only to have everything wrenched so violently from her grasp. I got very emotionally attached to the characters in this series, and this time, the only character I really had to hold on to from the first book was Lena. Thankfully, the author introduces a new host of people – those involved in the revolution and those homesteading in the wilds – to fill out the book.
Because I think if Lena had been left alone to pine away in the forest, I couldn’t have taken it. But not to worry, she’s a survivor.
“Grief is like sinking, like being buried. I am in water the tawny color of kicked-up dirt. Every breath is full of choking. There is nothing to hold on to, no sides, no way to claw myself up. There is nothing to do but let go. Let go. Feel the weight all around you, feel the squeezing of your lungs, the slow, low pressure. Let yourself go deeper. There is nothing but bottom. There is nothing but the taste of metal, and the echoes of old things, and days that look like darkness.”
Much of the book is about working through her grief, but it is also about hope, when she’s given an assignment to follow Julian – the son of the head of the pro-Cure group the resistance is fighting – no matter what. She follows him right into the long-abandoned subway tunnels after a riot. (And here takes place one of my favourite parts of the novel – the society under the society, living beneath the streets – home of those who chose to go under the ground instead of over the fence).
“There’s a place for everything and everyone, you know. That is the mistake they make above. They think that only certain people have a place. Only certain kinds of people belong. The rest is waste. But even waste must have a place. Otherwise it will clog and clot, and rot and fester.”
She follows him right into getting kidnapped.
And that’s when the fun parts begin.
I’m still very much enjoying this series. I have to say, I haven’t been this obsessive about a series since the first time I read Divergent, and that’s saying a lot. This installment is full of action – much more than the first in the series – and intrigue. It’s less about the world building (as we saw a lot of that in book one) and more about how that world might get torn apart.
Although I still am waiting for more on the origin story of how the Cure came about in the first place, there are few more clues planted here and there. I’m not sure I’ll ever get a full payoff on that want.
Oh and the ending of this book? I was not an emotional wreck this time. Well, unless you count laughter that bordered on hysteria, edged with anger and sadness and everything else. Yeah. I’m going to give it a bit before I read the next book, just to stretch out that moment a bit longer, before everything goes to hell in a handbasket again.
“You might as well get used to it now,” she says with quiet intensity. “Everything you were, the life you had, the people you knew … dust.” She shakes her head and says, a little more firmly, “There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next.”