(This review is of the audiobook version.)
I’m a middle-aged white guy, I don’t fall for these things. Really.
Of course, we all know that’s a load of fei hua, especially when you have kids involved, especially daughters with vivid imaginations. Before we know it, we’ve been sucked into worlds alarmingly overshaded in pink, & hidden princesses are on every corner and they don’t have negotiable affections. If you’re geek like me, Cinder is about as far as you’re going to nudge your darling child toward worlds and characters that don’t have an automatic Disney surcharge.
Meyer’s Cinderella is a 17 year-old mechanic that’s first introduced to us replacing her foot. Cinder is cyborg – her left leg and hand are mechanical following an accident & a childhood she doesn’t remember. Her prosthetics define her in status in a rebuilt post-world war city of New Bejing, because cyborgs have no human rights. Cyborgs all have caretaker guardians; and it’s from here we begin to see how the Cinderella fairy tale is woven into a semi-dark science fiction world. Throw in a world pandemic & lunar humans with a mental telepathy mutation, and you got a romping science fantasy.
Meyer’s gifts in Cinder are her easy prose and world-building, but not necessarily her plot and characters. Weaker plot and character are not a surprise – this is one of the exponentially growing number of ‘young adult’ books being marketed right now. It’s a post-modern rewriting of a fairytale, so the story was thin to begin with, but I rarely see the plot chapters in advance when reading. Meyer very broadly telegraphs her destinations. Ms. Meyer’s strongest plot element is addressing the rights of posthumans, but doesn’t develop it beyond ‘they are this, oppression is bad.’ Cinder, the heroine, is very teenaged – obsessing over issues of identity and anger, so if you hated those long ghastly passages in The Order of the Phoenix, you’re going to find your patience tested again. The real reward is in the characters of the over-the-top pure sociopathic & racist behavior of the EVIL QUEEN Levanna (She’s so dramatic, she has to be written in CAPS!) and the mostly-wicked step-mother Lihn Adri.
There’s just enough detail that readers can fill in the images and feel the surface of a much different world, but not be overwhelmed. Meyer has obviously done her research on far eastern cultures, but she doesn’t spend her time detailing those differences. Which is probably my greatest criticism — this book could have been really, really good, not just fun, if the author had the talent or drive to create a much more detailed culture and characters. Yeah, I know, ‘young adult”, ages 12 & up, yadda yadda . . and I really miss the creative cursing in mandarin, ta ma de. The final chapter of the book is exceptionally frustrating as the story ends without resolution of the immediate problem.
This is of course a serialized novel plan called the Lunar Chronicles, with 3 other announced books to follow. The following books, Scarlet, Cress & Winter, will also add Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, and Snow White to the continuing story of Cinder. (Rapunzel makes a cameo appearance in this book, and Snow White is mentioned several times.)
Our reader, Rebecca Soler, is capable, doesn’t get in front of the story and keeps it interesting.
Recommended for pre-teen & teen readers, or anyone looking for a lazy day book. Not recommended for serious adult science fiction readers who can’t turn off.