(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.
Chapter Twenty Two
–If I ever go back and write interstitial fiction taking place in the Variant universe, it’s going to be about the war and the truce. I find it all really, really fascinating. (For what it’s worth, I don’t have a ton of worldbuilding about it. I know the important facts, but not the details. I’d love to explore it in more depth.)
–I love that, while Benson knew “there’d be hell to pay”, he still doesn’t get the gravity of the situation. When Curtis and Carrie are freaking out, Benson asks “What could happen?” It’s like he knows it’s a problem on an intellectual level, but the reality hasn’t sunken in. I think this kind of “shoot first, ask questions later” approach is what leads to most of Benson’s problems. He’s quick to act when he gets an idea, but doesn’t think all the consequences through.
This attitude is reflected again when people start getting down to the maintenance room and Benson wonders what he’ll do once they break into basement door. He has an immediate plan (get into the room with Jane), but no follow-up plan. He just assumes things will come together.
–This is the second time in the book where we see/hear that guys and girls go into the other’s dorms. It’s never mentioned as a rule, but it probably is.
–I’ve mentioned before how I wrote the first draft of Variant in eleven days, after half an hour of plotting and world building. The contracts were one of the few–only–things that I had planned before I started writing the book. (I started from the simple premise of “I want to write a book with no adults”. So, I came up with the school as the experiment, and then asked myself how a leaderless school would operate. The gangs came to mind first, and then the contracts shortly thereafter. It wasn’t until I was writing–making things up as I went–that I hit on the idea of the truce and the war.)
Chapter Twenty Three
–Remember when I said that I had to tone down Benson’s injuries? This was one of the main places where a kid with his arm in a sling would be useless. (In fact, in the first draft of the book I’d forgotten that his arm was in a cast, and just wrote the scene mostly as it is now–with Benson smashing a doorknob with a crowbar. Fortunately, my beta readers all pounced on the error.)
–I love the moment where Rosa opens the door, immediately making Benson both suspicious and questioning of everything he’s thought about her. (I also love that she does it, knowing that it essentially breaks her truce with the school. She’s been accepting the bribes all this time, but she ultimately helps Benson expose the truth.)
Chapter Twenty Four
–So here’s the question that everyone asks, so I might as well address it here (even though I’m going to have to jump forward in the story to give a full answer):
Dylan is an android, and Jane was an android, and Dylan killed Jane. So, the question I always get asked is: Can androids really kill each other? Or, put another way, was this all a plan on the part of the school to mess with Benson’s head, and they sacrificed two androids to do it?
For the answer, we need to skip ahead to Chapter Twenty Seven (AND I’M SURE YOU’VE ALL READ THE SPOILER WARNINGS BY NOW):
”The tests weren’t for us,” Carrie said, her voice almost a whimper.
”Well,” Ms. Vaughn said, grinning at Carrie. “That’s not entirely true.”
And in an instant Curtis’s pistol was in Carrie’s hand. As he collapsed to the dirt–as Carrie let him fall–she fired three rounds into Oakland’s chest.
There’s a big answer here, but it seems like a lot of people miss it: the androids don’t know that they’re androids. Not until they “pop” (a word from the next book) and become taken over by the school. Until that point–until the point where Carrie grabs the gun–Carrie thinks she’s a human who is being held captive by the school.
So for Dylan: he had no idea that Jane was an android, or that he was an android. We’ll find out more in Feedback about the prelude to this attack, but suffice it to say that he was killing her for the reasons everyone in Variant believed: because he was in The Society and Jane and Benson had just crossed the line with The Society.
As for why Dylan was in the basement with Jane, deactivated, we’ll leave that for Feedback to answer.
–I also like that this is the chapter where everyone finally feels the same pain and suspicion that Benson has felt for the last several weeks, where no one can trust each other. Conversations are short and terse. Curtis and Carrie don’t hold hands.
–Then we get the painful revelation that, even after Benson got exactly what he wanted, and everyone knows about Jane, they still don’t want to revolt and escape. They decide to go with Isaiah’s plan for negotiating.
–And in my mind, this chapter is the official beginning of Benson and Becky’s relationship. She comes after him, not knowing if he’s trying to escape. (Question: if he was trying to escape, would she go with him at this point?) But she also declares that, even though no one can trust anyone else, she trusts him. He asks if that means she’s a V, and she says “I’m whatever you are.”
The Full List of Bonus Features: