Book Review: Cinder

The Lunar Chronicles, Book 1

Marissa Meyer

Sci fi/Fairy tale

Whether you take to Marissa Meyer’s book Cinder depends in part on how well you can tolerate a few loose wires sticking out of your Disney princesses.

I found this story about a cyborg Cinderella rather amenable. But then, I am a sci fi geek, and a fairy tale geek, and this book combined both in equal measure.

Marissa Meyer’s book reminded me a bit of Jenna Starborn, Sharon Shinn’s sci fi take on Jane Eyre. With both this book and Cinder, I loved seeing the creative ways the author transposed the classic tale into another genre. We live in a day when writers mix genres like elementary schoolers given free reign of the fridge and the blender. I’ll never forget my cartoon-worthy double-take in the bookstore at Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

This retelling of Cinderella is both familiar and utterly new. Meyer’s spin on the iconic glass slipper, for example, is just brilliant.

The evil stepmother is there in all her domineering glory.  She never understood why her dear departed husband adopted a cyborg child. Cyborgs are not even full citizens in this society. Cinder is over 1/3 mechanical parts. A subhuman, whose labor and very life can be bought and sold at the whim of her stepmother. The best her stepmom can say for this anomaly is that Cinder can help shore up the family finances as the most expert mechanic in New Beijing.

Yup, New Beijing. I loved that Meyer sets the story in a futuristic Asia. Take into account the setting is long after World War 4, so elements of the cultures we know today have had centuries to blend together. But Meyer’s choice to center us in New Beijing is a salute to the story’s origins. While the basic plot of Cinderella appears in the folktales of many cultures, the oldest version comes from China.

So overworked Cinder is down at the shop one day, attaching her new mechanical foot, when in walks Prince Kai with a broken android. Which may or may not hold state secrets. Cinder falls for him in quick order.  But he’d never be interested in a cyborg.

Besides, who can think of romance when war with Lunars (people from the Moon) and a plague threaten them all?

Perhaps part of the appeal of this book has nothing to do with factors the author could control.  Marissa Meyer centered this book on not only Cinderella but the issue of how society tries to control epidemics. She could have no idea I’d be reading this book as Ebola topped the headlines. Both Cinder and our hero, Prince Kai, wrestle with the issue of how much personal sacrifice society can demand of them to defeat the disease. At the same time, in the real news a nurse threatened to sue for what she viewed as unreasonable quarantine policies, which violated her personal freedom.

It reminds me about what I love best about speculative fiction. As weird as the setting might be—cyborgs and androids and mind-controlling monarchs from the Moon, there are small reflections of our own circumstances in the weirdness. Spec fic helps you consider your own problems and situation from a new angle by lifting them into another world, rearranging them, shaking free some of the connotation, and just making it entertaining.

I found Cinder funny and refreshing, with a likeable hero and an oppressed-but-not-downtrodden heroine you want to cheer for.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s