It’s been a while, but we’re almost through this book, so let’s get down to the final chapters. I must admit I’ve forgotten the names of many of the supporting characters, but let’s hope that doesn’t impede this too much.
You may recall from the last blog that Evil Mrs Pincent turned out to have a Tragic Backstory, in which the son she wanted so dearly was born a Surplus. Mrs Pinsent always believed that said son was killed as baby, but in a narrative twist, our hero Peter turns out to have her family’s ring – the very ring she left with the child.
Now, if Mrs Pinsent happened to be aware that she was a fictional character, she would have immediately joined the dots and realised that Peter was her long lost son. Indeed, when she summons her ex-husband Stephen for a confrontation at the start of this chapter, I assumed that she’d already figured out the truth. But no – instead she’s angry that this random boy who just happens to be the same age as her son also somehow has her family’s ring. Her assumption is that someone must have stolen the ring from her son’s grave.
Meanwhile, Anna is still with her family, and she’s busy discovering another cliché – the automatic love that all stereotypical women feel for small babies. She hated looking after them at Grange Hall, but holding her little brother is another matter.
“Why would Mother Nature make something so beautiful if She didn’t need it and want it?”
I don’t know if this meant to be an anti-abortion dog whistle, but I could well believe it of this book, given that last chapter was all about women having their foetuses killed by injection but then being forced to carry them to term. Also, note how Anna, supposedly the main character of this book, is left alone in the cellar to look after the baby while her parents and Peter go off to plan their next move.
In fact, Anna has a plan of her own – if she gets caught and sent back to Grange Hall, then maybe the Catchers will leave Peter and her family alone. Now, fortunately this plan seems to be headed off at the pass, since once again anyone with any knowledge of narrative convention can guess how it might pan out. Anna would turn herself in, Mrs Pincent and the Catchers would still want to go after Peter and the others, and all that would happen is that everyone would be in a lot more danger. Of course, this still might happen, since there’s another 9% of this book left to potentially fill with a Dramatic Conclusion.
As it turns out, Anna seems to be dissuaded from her plan when her parents explain how much they loved and wanted her. Like many people, at age sixteen they didn’t have any particular plans to have children, but by not Opting Out of The Declaration then, they implicitly accepted it. By the time they did want children, it was too late to do so legally, so they just went ahead and had them anyway. Of course, so as not to stand out from the crowd, they continued to take Longevity anyway.
Which leads me to a thought I’m not sure I’ve expressed in previous blogs. If the shadowy Authorities don’t want people on Longevity to have children, why not put an oral contraceptive into every dose of the drug, or insist anyone who wants to take it gets sterilised? True, this would throw obstacles in the way of the plot – including later revelations about the nature of Longevity – but I’m sure a skilled enough write could have made it work.
While Anna basks in the love and adoration of her family, chapter 25 sees Mrs Pincent finally learn the truth. Her ex-husband never actually killed their son – he just faked Peter’s death and then left him to be raised with a family that wouldn’t turn him in as a Surplus. Finally, all the pieces slot into place, leaving Tragically Evil Mrs Pincent to realise that Peter is her beloved, long-lost son, and that she almost had him killed.
In these circumstances, there’s only one thing to do. As it turns out, there’s yet another clause in the Declaration – one that allows a child to live if one of their parents dies. With this in mind, Mrs Pincent has a revolver in her drawer (or “draw”, as the book spells it), and she’s not afraid to use it. Will she kill herself, depriving the book of its main villain mere pages before the end? Of course not – instead, she turns it on her ex-husband. Cliffhanger!