I got tired of just writing this out, so I decided to take a few minutes and whip up a quick graphic. Ready?
Of course, I'll still try to make this interesting.
We open with a weirdly hostily little exchange between Emmeline and the Gatekeeper:
"Your special job hasn't started yet, you know."
I nodded again. He didn't have any facial hair. He talked like Jeremy, and he looked to be about Jeremy's age...
..."[Jeremy] didn't like you," he called out. "You're one of thos home-raised. Note like us. He told me about you. He told me about you waking up early. So there."
Having seen the Children's Village, does this characterization make sense anymore? I don't know - the detached and cold environment seems like it would produce something closer to the dead-eyed moppets of Brave New World. It's pretty typical for dystopian novels to feature scary youths, but surly =/= scary. Perhaps I'm just a few decades too young to realize how chilling back-sass is.
Next, John drops off Emmeline's energy bicycle and shows her how to hook it up (via hose - to capture all that electricity juice, presumably). Then, in true tell-before-telling-some-more fashion, some government officials turn up and inform Emmeline that she's going to be paired off at the Social Update Meeting, which we were told about several chapters ago. ARE YOU ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT YET?
Then something happens that actually is unusual for this book - description of our surroundings:
I rode in a circle past all of the Living Spaces in our Compound. Twelve Living Spaces here at Re-Cy. Other Compounds were larger or smaller depending on the number of workers needed in those workgroups. Our individual worlds were small and fenced, under the dark umbrella of the all-controlling Republic.
Take a look at the page count. We're at Chapter 23 of 49; in terms of pages, we're not quite halfway through. We're just now description of the area in which the entire story takes place. And just look at all the details that aren't here.
As is so often the case in this book, this little stump reveals a lot. Twelve Living Spaces means that there are twenty-four people here, plus an indeterminate number of Gatekeepers who live separately. The last few chapters were vague on the number of children, but there were only three infants so the number of children in the Village is presumably less than the number of adults. This entire compound probably has fewer than fifty people in it. If you pictured a few hundred people at the earlier meeting - as I did - then you were really high.
This is a significant hint in our quest to figure out the size of the Republic. It also makes the Republic logistics seem even more absurd - imagine what their power grid looks like if every settlement is under a hundred people and spaced a few miles away from everything else. And for the more detail-oriented, it also raises questions as to whether this tiny compound is even capable of sustaining itself.
(Future me: Actually, hundreds of people might be right. There are more details about the layout of these compounds that - naturally - won't be revealed for a few dozen pages. We'll deal with that when we get to it)
But that's not the part I noticed. After all, didn't Emmeline just break a rule in front of everyone? I know I read this somewhere...
...all transportation had to be approved by the Authority. No Citizen could walk freely because that was an expense of energy that could not be afforded. (pp. 23)
This ridiculous policy is the excuse as to why we didn't get a good look at the compound during the first half of the novel. And yet Emmeline is now riding around in violation of that rule. She actually does get stopped by a Gatekeeper. She tell him that she's "practicing." Then she rides around the compound again.
I bet you thought I was exaggerating when I said her main goal is "Get caught," didn't you?