Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Cinder

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopia, Romance
My Rating: ★★★★

Cinder

It’s just one of those cookie-cutter Cinderella stories hitting the bookshelves lately…if you established the whole story in a setting reminiscent of Star Wars. Instead of a fairy godmother, the protagonist has her robotic brain interface to protect her from strange magic or simple lies. Instead of a pumpkin carriage, she has an ancient gasoline car she recovered from a junkyard. Instead of mice and bird friends, she has a talkative android rolling around with her whenever she does errands for her stepmother. And instead of a pretty glass slipper, she has her old, rust-caked metal foot falling off  from her growing sixteen-year-old body.

This is the story of Cinder: a snarky cyborg mechanic, 36.38% not human, and considered as a technological mistake by many.

Marissa Meyer’s Cinder—the first book in the Lunar Chronicles—combine two of the most popular themes that continuously top the bestseller’s list and bedside tables nowadays: re-imagined fairytales and post-apocalyptic worlds centering on young adults. In the futuristic setting of Cinder, cyborgs are former victims of mutilating accidents who are given second chance at life by having their destroyed human parts substituted by computer-operated nervous systems and limbs. However, despite the advanced technology, earthlings are still not immune to a deadly virus—one which Cinder is strangely immune to. Unbeknown to her, there’s a secret in her blood that may save not only the Emperor or New Beijing but also the whole world.

The premise is an instant attention-grabber, and once you plunge in, you wouldn’t stop until you get to the last page. I love how Cinder is a sarcastic butt-kicking girl that is light years away from the damsel-in-distress she is loosely based on. Her internal struggle about being a cyborg—particularly the bits about her “metallic monstrosities”—is profound, although it is never really revealed to the readers if her emotions are programmed or not. Her dichotomic nature removed  some of her human stimuli like blushing and crying, but the author managed to maker her not come off as robotic. As a character, I think she’s 100 %, multi-dimensionally human.

The pacing is good; pages containing action scenes pack a wallop, and the arcs where the author is sprinkling romantic hints burst like cherry blossoms amongst the cold metallic world where Cinder walks on. Prince Kai is also interesting, representing the epitome of energetic youth that has to be prematurely shed, skipping straight into the chaotic adulthood of a royal politics. He is not just the flat Prince Charming character that happy-ever-after stories supplied to the pop culture.

Meyer handled the budding romance very well, too. It is not too saccharine nor is it too trying-hard; it is just there, embedded as a subplot, left to bloom on its own and treated as a secondary concern even by Cinder herself. “Love conquers all” is the clichéd adage we encounter in almost all love stories, but not here in this book. When Cinder finally uses it as one of her desperate “weapons” near the end, it backfires so bad that even the Prince felt betrayed by her.

There is one thing that prevented me from giving this novel five stars, though: it’s predictable, and that’s not even counting the fact that it has a classic fairytale framework. I know the beauty of anticipation and the art of good foreshadowing, but there's nothing like a book that takes you by surprise in a good way. I’m not sure if the author dropped too many hints or if she gave them away too early, but about fifty pages in there’s a good chance you’ll know the most important bit that will be officially revealed 300 pages later. It’s still an entertaining ride, though, and I’m eagerly waiting for the next installment.
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(PS: The Lunar Chronicles book #2 is Scarlet, this time featuring Little Red Riding Hood. I wish Meyer will not shift the spotlight from Cinder to LRRH. Some of the synopses are worrying me!)

(PSPS: I almost forgot—Rapunzel has a cameo in Cinder! She’s a computer programmer trapped by one of the Lunars or the moon people. I’m having a people that she’ll have her own book, too).

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