Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Square Fish
Pages: 387
Genre: Science Fiction (YA)
Add on Goodreads

New Beijing is a thriving 
metropolis. Humans, androids and the reviled cyborgs crowed the streets. A mysterious illness is sweeping the world. The powerful Lunar colony is threatening war. What does all this have to do with the young, gifted mechanic Cinder?

'"For starters, I just spent my life savings on a foot. But even if I did have money, why would I spend it on a dress or shoes or gloves? What a waste."'

Is there something wrong with me? Is there? I wanted to love this book as much as everyone else. Instead I have a book that the longer I'm away from, the more ire I have for it. And believe me, I had enough - and enough sheer boredom - when I was reading it. I might be convinced to read the next in the series because, because Little Red. Excuse me me now while I curl up in the corner and let my depressive funk overtake me.

Okay, okay, I latched on to this book because (I mean, seriously) a cyborg Cinderella! How cool is that? And, honestly, this part of the story was done so well. You see, Cinder is a cyborg in more than just name. She has a processor connected to her brain. There's always 'netscreens' coming up in her retina. She cannot cry because she has no tear ducts. She cannot blush because certain systems click on/off to prevent her from overheating. A orange light flashes in her vision when someone lies.

In short, you are never allowed to forget that Cinder is not fully human. That was great. However, part of the reason you're not allowed to forget she'd human is because she won't let you. Cinder has this borderline self-pity thing going on. She hates being a cyborg. Of course, this could possibly be because the way most people treat her that know she's a cyborg (but more on that later). I do think I would have found Cinder a more relatable character had she enjoyed what she was a bit more - after all, the excitement of a cyborg character was what drew my attention. (Oh, yeah, about the twist concerning Cinder... I saw it coming so far off that I just wanted it out in the open.)

The setting itself is a sci-fi, future tech Asia. Very cool although not so inventive if you watch as many anime's as I do. In fact, I had such problems at the start of this book because of that that, even though the city name is New Beijing, I kept imagining a more Japanese culture than Chinese. That was doubtlessly just my own little problem, but I was all set to give this major kudos for the inventive setting until I realized that it's not really so unusual. For books, however, it is something that I personally have never experienced before, so still a thumb up for that. (I did read the author interview in the back of my copy and, surprise, surprise, Marissa is indeed an anime fan.)

What I don't understand was why the society hated and reviled the cyborgs so much. They are basically being used as lab rats - tested on and killed - to save the 'humans' from this plague. The cyborgs can contract the disease and, from everything I've heard, they die horribly. There is even a 'cyborg draft' to give the future version of the CDC new test subjects. (I will mention that, at almost the end of the book, there was a rather...unpleasant explanation as to why there was a cyborg draft in the first place. I could understand it - but it also kind of made me sick.) Sometimes cyborgs will willingly volunteer. No matter how the cyborg finds themselves a lab rat, their family is given some money. Through all this, cyborgs are still hated by the 'normal humans'.

I'm sorry, what? You have these people that still behave as people in mind and heart - and usually look quite human on the outside - being given a disease strain for which there is no cure, in the hopes of finding a cure, and the general populace still hates them. They even believe it is suitable for creatures that are obviously no longer human. I do understand that this isn't a pretty world - it has it's own share of problems - but if you're not going to explain why this society behaves this way, it just doesn't work for me. Honestly, in this world, if you were injured badly enough to die if you didn't get mechanical parts - you'd have to choose between death and general disgust. And don't even get me started on people that would choose to be a cyborg just to replace a missing foot and - whatever else it was that that guy had - to be merely six percent cyborg.

Cyborgs are fairly common from the sounds of it so I cannot imagine why they are still so stigmatized. What happened? Did the first cyborgs go on a rampage - unable to handle the mechanical parts connecting to the organic of their bodies - and now it's been ingrained into the human mind to loathe them? What? What happened?

After awhile, I realized another issue with this story. I couldn't see it. I couldn't see the city. I couldn't see Cinder. I couldn't see the prince. And that was all because no time was spent describing anything. Actually, the city did have brief moments - like the sun breaking through the clouds and shining on a little plot of land - and you could almost picture the place.

Honestly, I had a better mental image of the villainess than I did Cinder or the prince. As for Cinder… Was her hair color even mentioned once? All I knew about her was that she had long hair that she wore in a ponytail sometimes. To be fair, her clothing too was roughly outlined. All I could tell you about Kai's looks was that he had dark hair with bangs. In a particularly uncharitable moment, I wondered if it was one of those bowl type haircuts.

Besides my inability to see the people/setting, I never really connected to them. Cinder was a rather dry main character. The only times I found her very likable was when she was talking to Kai, Peony and Iko - the rest of the time I was rather indifferent to her. I wasn't really rooting for her to succeed. I was just reading her story.

The romance was…cute, but it fit in with fairytales too well. I know, I know, this is a fairytale retelling, so what did I expect? Well, you see, I can handle this type of budding romance when it is in a fairytale. We expect the romance to be rather insipid (or at least, I do) and too quick. I don't expect a well rounded fairytale romance - but I do expect one in my books. There is over three hundred pages to this book and I still don't feel the romance. It felt convenient. Cinder fell in love with the prince because... Well, because he was the prince and every girl (and a certain android) was in love with him. Kai fell in love with Cinder because... Uh, did he fall in love with her? I remember him showing an interest in her, but that seemed to be only so he could avoid all the crazy girls that 'loved' him. He showed no interest in Cinder except as means to an end. Or, perhaps, as a friend - something I believe he had none of.

Which leads me to the fact that this is a fairytale retelling. I will admit that this is only the second one I've ever read, so… Maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about. Or maybe this genre isn't for me. I felt as though the fairytale aspects just didn't work. They felt crammed in, forced to fit where they really didn't. The world was interesting on its own, but the Cinderella additions just felt stilted.

I feel like I should complement something. Now, this will be a backhanded complement if I've ever given one, but... The writing was nice. Even though I couldn't see things, the story was easy to follow. There were no confusing moments, though I think my eyes probably glazed over a bit from all the techno-babble. That happens to me sometimes and it's certainly not commentary on how interesting the technology was because, even though it was not described as well as I might have liked, it was some of the most interesting stuff in this story.

Ultimately, this book was just too dry and sterile for me. I know I didn't laugh once during this book and I don't believe it even got a chuckle out of me. (If it did, it was at that quote at the top of this review.) I seldom felt any emotional connection to the characters - and the only times (twice, I think) it happened was for Prince Kai. He was trying his best to take care of his people and keep them safe and he had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. I do, honestly, like those type of rulers. For me though, the story just felt emotionless - even when there should have been emotion. Maybe it's because our main narrator cannot demonstrate emotion like most humans. Whatever the reason, I felt a perpetual disconnect from the characters.

  • Quick read
  • Writing that I didn't hate

  • Poor world building
  • Characters I was indifferent to
  • The whole 'cyborgs as second class citizens' (yes, this goes with world building, but I hated it so much it needs its own point).



(Two Stars)

Read as part of the following challenges: Book Bingo & Fairy Tales Retold.


  1. I think that it is perfectly okay for you to feel that way about the book, even if most people love it. Everyone is different, enjoys different things, and looks for different things within a certain book. I loved this book, but I can also very much respect your view on it, and I can even agree with some of the things that you said about the book. I have heard that the series does get MUCH better, and that the character of Scarlet in the second book is amazing (and that there is a great romance). I just picked up the book today, so we shall see!

    Beneath the Jacket Reviews

    1. Thank you. Even if we do disagree, I really appreciate the comment. What was so difficult for me was I really, really wanted to like this book. It sounded like it would have everything for me. So, because it turned out not to, I feel kind of sad when I think about how much I could have liked it. I might give Scarlet a shot because this series still interests me and, honestly, I didn't hate this book.

      Once again, thanks for the comment.

    2. I understand what you mean completely! That happened with me with the Enclave series by Ann Aguirre just recently. My friend talked it up sooo much that I was sure I would love it. I could barely get through the first book, and only made it through 58 pages of the second before giving up. I was so frustrated because I wanted to see what she saw in it, but I just couldn't! And no problem, it would be fun to chat more often! :] Do you have Twitter, instagram, etc?

      Beneath the Jacket Reviews

    3. That's exactly it. Sometimes all the hype just makes it worse when the book isn't for you.

      Unfortunately, I am still living in the virtual stone age. I do plan on getting something set up soon (Twitter or, perhaps, Google Plus). I've just never really felt a need for anything like that before starting my blog. Now I've realized that this is something I need to do. So, not yet, but soon.

  2. I definitely think you have valid points. I personally loved Cinder, but I can understand your complaints. As far as the whole cyborg-prejudice, it's explained further in the following books, which are even better than the first. I hope you find more enjoyable reads in the future!

    1. I guess Cinder does have her reasons for not liking what she is - and after some time away from the book, I can understand why she's the way she is. But that will still be a problem for me. I have been tossing around the idea of reading Scarlet (maybe for the upcoming Fairy Tale Fortnight) so the fact that the cyborg thing gets some attention in the sequel(s) is a good thing for me.