(We’re in for another round of Variant Bonus Features! I’m blogging about three chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until Feedback is released, October 2nd. These blogs will be FULL OF SPOILERS, but they’ll only spoil Variant—they won’t ruin any of your fun in reading Feedback.) THESE BONUS FEATURES ARE WRITTEN ASSUMING YOU’VE READ THE ENTIRE BOOK, NOT JUST THE CHAPTERS MENTIONED. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
–So does the school want kids to run? After all, it drills them with combat tactics in the woods (in paintball games). It sells camouflage and outdoor supplies and packaged food, all of which can greatly aid in escape.
I think it’s safe to say, without spoiling Feedback, that the school likes to observe the escape attempts. We know from Rosa’s note (coming up in future chapters) that the school is very interested in the students developing tactics and strategies. I think it’s absolutely fair to assume that the school views escape attempts as yet another datapoint to study. They want to stop the escape, of course, but there is scientific value in observing the attempt.
–Last week I mentioned that there used to be great significance to Benson waking up outside after the attack and staring at the lone paintball. That’s because it gave him an idea of how to weaponize paintballs: by freezing them outside overnight, essentially turning them into little marbles. That’s how the book was framed for a long time, even after it had sold and my editor and I were working on revisions.
And then, doing some final cleanup work on the book, I discovered a painful fact: you can’t freeze paintballs to make them deadly. First, the shell of a paintball is made out of gelatin, not plastic, which makes them very brittle in the cold. Second, the paint inside isn’t water-based: it’s something called polypropylene glycol, which has a very low freezing point (much, much less than water). Also, when the paintballs are very cold they get a lot of condensation on them. So, when you fire them, they usually break apart in your gun, and the gooey paint and condensation gum up your gun, just causing a big mess. (If you want more information about this myth, there’s a great video on YouTube, which you can find here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyXXXCC3B0E)
So now I was stuck. I needed Benson to create a weapon, but frozen paintballs were out of the picture. Fortunately, YouTube helped me again! I found this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCz41Dzt6wU) which teaches a very simple recipe for making pepperspray. Benson is not only a rebellious kid, but he’s also an avid TV and movie watcher; I figured it would make perfect sense for him to have picked up this skill somewhere along the line. Loading the pepperspray into a pressurized grenade just makes it all the more fun.
(Don’t try this at home.)
–Did you notice, on page 265, that Isaiah makes a pop culture reference? What does that say about him?
And then we get the big revelation that Isaiah is the one handing out most of the punishments and making most of the rules. These two bits of information really reveal a lot about Isaiah, and they go back to what I was saying about the Society being influenced by the Straight Edgers or The Third Wave.
Chapter Twenty One
–This scene with Becky really is a turning point in their relationship. She’s always watched out for his safety, like when she takes him into the stairwell without cameras, and there have been a few hints that she’s taken an interest in him, like the fake survey or when she gets a little jealous Benson is asking about Rosa. But this is the first time where we see that she’s not only watching out for him, but has some amount of unearned trust in him. (I say it’s unearned because she knows he’s tried to escape before, and he still talks about it all the time. And yet she still opens the door for him, based on nothing but his word.)
It’s also significant that she decides to show him the pipe. Not only is it confiding in him, but it also feels very anti-society. The Society doesn’t go around trying to discover the school’s secrets, and they definitely don’t share secrets with Variants who are trying to escape.
And yet, you get the feeling here that Becky’s talk about the pipe is less about informing Benson about school secrets and more about making a connection with him.
- -It was not yet a state. That wouldn’t happen until 1912.
- -It was 25 years before Pancho Villa would invade.
- -There was a railroad built in the 1880s that is near the Zuni Mountains, where I imagine this book taking place.
- -Route 66, following the same path as that railroad, would be built 35 years later.
- -The borders of the Navajo Reservation, just north of the Zuni Mountains, were established in 1887.
So, to answer the question of “What was in New Mexico in 1893?” the answer is: not very much. Certainly no big private schools in the mountains.
The Full List of Bonus Features: