Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls, Part One)

Revealing Eden - Victoria Foyt Dear sweet baby Jesus, that’s how long it took me to crawl through this book. I…I almost don’t even know what happened, because so much of it was just bullshit. Just…pages and pages of words, words that sort of came together to make sentences, but the sentences didn’t come together to make a scene. It was like reading stream-of-consciousness fanfiction written by someone going through pon farr. Nothing can beat the racism in this book for sheer disgust, but the rampant sexualization sure gives it the old college try. The plot of the book is relatively simple. Eden is a research assistant, working for her dad, who is about to do some big experiment to make man/beast hybrids. She’s worried about getting married, because stupid. (A lot of things are “because stupid” and I’ll cover them later.) She’s got a boyfriend that she hopes will propose, and he asks her to some dance thingy, so that gets her excited. Once there, she gets harassed by some creeps, her boss rescues her, and then they go back to the lab where the human test subjects have gone missing. So her boss, Bramford, volunteers himself, instead. Halfway through, some militia group that Eden’s boyfriend belongs to shows up, and they fuck shit up. Eden decides that the best course of action is SET THE PLACE ON FIRE because…stupid. Bramford turns a little more animal than planned, but he and Eden and Eden’s father all escape in a plane. They fly off to the Amazon and hide in the jungle with a tribe called the Huaorani.And then there’s literally 200 pages of bullshit where Eden just flails around like a moron, gets lost in the jungle, pouts, and goes on at length about how she’s now sexually attracted to Bramford. Also, there’s a mild mystery about some woman named Rebecca, and after far too long we find out that she was Bramford’s first wife, and she betrayed him to the militia once and then also died. Also, they have a son who’s an albino, which is a big deal because of stupid.Seriously. 200 pages. In the last 50 pages, Eden tries to contact someone back in civilization to come get her, but it turns out to be her old fake-boyfriend and the militia instead, and they try to shoot everyone up, but some Aztecs (???) come out of nowhere and blowdart them to death. Then Eden and the albino kid get set to become half-beast like Bramford and go off living in the jungle. Because if you do an experiment on yourself to become immune to the #1 thing that kills everyone in your society…that makes you an outcast and you have to go live in the jungle?Good god, where do I even begin? I guess the racism is a pretty good spot. The author claims to have tried to “turn racism on its head” and flip the roles around. First of all, the very concept is insulting. Want to portray racism? WRITE ABOUT A POC CHARACTER. This is basically saying that white people won’t care about injustice unless it’s applied to other white people. Which, yeah, that’s a big problem in our society. It won’t be solved by perpetuating it with more “poor whitey” stories. Second, this book fails pretty hard at what it set out to do. This isn’t racism “turned on its head,” it’s just regular racism. Eden hates the black people and characterizes them extremely poorly. It only gets worse when Bramford turns into a “beast” and they run into the “primitive” Huaorani. In short, this is our own, modern, white-superiority racism, just with the “unnatural” turn of having blacks be in charge of shit. It really does read as if the pure and good whites suddenly got “taken over” by the nasty, mean, bitchy black people, and oh, woe, isn’t that so terrible!!! Gasp, what a frightening turn of events! It’s wrong because it goes against nature and all that. *gag* I think part of this impression is because the book can’t help but give in to stereotypes about its black characters, and in part because it doesn’t realize what actually goes into institutionalized racism. It hits all the high points, but none of the subtleties. And that’s not even getting into the few lines that make it completely obvious that Eden still thinks of herself as superior, regardless of what the book tries to tell us. Like:Eden flinched. One of them was touching her. White-hot light exploded in her head. Before she knew it, she blurted out an incendiary racial slur.“Get your hands off me, you damn Coal!”Yup. Really. Eden thinks it’s an insult to be touched by a black person. She even flinches at it. Because black people are apparently just that nasty.And of course, then there’s all the science fails. Supposedly this world comes about when “the Great Meltdown” happened, but we have no idea what that is. Now light-skinned people keep dying from “the Heat,” but we don’t know what that is, either. Heatstroke? Radiation from the sun is mentioned several times, but the few examples we have of “the Heat” make it seem like the victims are actually overheating, not dying from cancer or something. And if that’s the case (heck, even if “cancer” is the case) then it’s utterly ridiculous to say that darker people survive it better. Skin tone is not a body heat regulator. In fact, we’re not entirely sure why people developed different skin tones, but we do know it doesn’t have to do with temperature. There’s a few theories bouncing around; I like this one but there’s others as well. If the author had done even a modicum of research, even just to confirm what she thought she knew about ‘radiation’ and skin color, she would have found this out pretty quick. Plus, everyone lives underground. Really. Underground, in a completely climate-controlled environment, with air-conditioning, never exposed to direct sunlight. And yet somehow white people get heatstroke but black people don’t, all because of this radiation that absolutely no one is exposed to.And then there’s this whole “mating” bullshit. Girls have to have sex by the time they hit 18 or they get cut off from…um, free stuff? We later see one of these non-mated white women being forced into prostitution to make ends-meat, so is it that no one will hire her? Is everyone in the society living off government handouts? But…Eden has a job, so…is she banned from working if she doesn’t mate?Eden’s “mate-rate” is 15%, but we have NO FUCKING CLUE what that means. Really, none. A lot of drama is places on this number 15, but we don’t know what that number represents or how it was decided upon. There’s some hint that high or low ratings are an indication of your genetic fitness, but…later in the book Jamal goes on about how his rate went down because he was burned in a fire. Burns which do not affect his genetics at all. It affects his job performance and general fitness, I guess, since he had a very physical profession as a security worker before the fire. Is that what a “mate-rate” is? Your ability to be self-sufficient? Or… fuck, why am I still thinking about this?Bigger problem with the mating issue: it makes no sense. Supposedly this is some ultra-unemotional society, where extreme reactions are dulled with a drug called “oxy” (we’re told this, never shown it) and resources are scarce. Yeah: resources are scarce. But if you don’t mate and make kids, you don’t get resources. Basically, if you don’t pop out children which will put even more of a drain on the limited resources, then you’ll be punished for it because resources are limited and can’t be wasted on your sorry, useless ass. What?Note, by the way, that it’s only women who have a time limit. And that limit is 18. As soon as you become an adult, girls, your only job is to make babies. Men can do things like stay single and run corporations, but all your good for is making babies. If you don’t make babies, you either die or become a whore.Once we get out of the underground part, 2/3rds of the book takes place in the jungle, around a race of real-life indigenous people. The book parallels real life in an almost creepy manner: the book says that they somehow survived in spite of “the Heat” and were only recently discovered to be still living on the surface; in reality, the Huaorani were “discovered” in the 1940s, along with the rich oil reserves on their land. In the book, the size of the Huaorani settlement isn’t made clear. We only see two families, and no indication is made of whether that’s all there is or if Eden just didn’t care about/notice anyone else. The main Huaorani character we interact with is Maria, who literally does nothing in the book except take care of her two small children and wait on Eden and her father. She’s servile and unassuming and, to all appearances, perfectly happy to play maid to these white visitors. She and her sister-in-law live in huts and keep small gardens and believe in fables and… Basically, it’s what a white person would imagine when thinking about a “simple, native” existence through fake-nostalgia-colored glasses. There’s not a hint of the Huaorani’s culture outside of a few nods to mythology, there’s no history for these two families or how their village came to be, there’s no sense that they are part of a larger nation made up of intelligent and independent people.The Huaorani, by the way, are pretty god damn smart and have set up their own rights/activist group, fought for the right to live on their own land, been in legal battles with oil companies, and they’ve had a recent history fraught with conflict and controversy. They’re also made up of multiple tribes, and they aren’t a homogenous society of people who all agree, because you get varying levels of cooperation with both each other and outsiders. They are a complex nation of intelligent people with a rich culture and history, and with some extremely delicate issues that are currently still being fought over, but this author sweeps all of that aside and turns them into bland, grinning servants.Read more here and here