Review of The Lunar Chronicles / Authorish Stuff

5 Oct

I’ll talk about Rings of Power soonish. We only have two episodes to go for this season. Personally not a fan but we have two to go, so let’s wait for it. I was willing to say “it’s poorly written” but I’ve seen enough stuff in the background and even some that’s understated that I think it’s done intentionally. Know how I I’ve said, “Respect your audience” again and again? Yeah, don’t serve the audience crap and say we just don’t understand or hate or have unrealistic expectations. Stuff I like I will talk about the weak bits. It’s not all negative that I have to say, but let’s just say that bad writing is a cardinal sin in my books.

I am jacking up the price to The Mermaid and the Unicorns on October 7, so get it now while it’s on sale.

Now’s the time to start planning for NaNoWriMo. Honestly my edits for Magus Gambit took longer than I expected, so I’m still not done the Puppeteers book, but I’ll get there. I got my portable keyboard back so I can work on it at work again in full force; right now what I’m honestly thinking of is fixing up another story to send to Champagne for the end of the year as opposed to writing Rogue Healer 4. I have a two book lead and honestly I could just spend time fixing stuff and sending them off to Champagne, but my priority is to get Magus’ Gambit edits done so the book can launch in the spring.

The Lunar Chronicles written by Marissa Meyer first novel Cinder came out in 2012, and I was surprised because I thought that Twilight influenced the cover and by this time there were already movies about those sparkly vampires. I think the hype about Twilight was still pretty much raging, and I’m pretty sure later novels were also influenced a little by The Hunger Games, which wasn’t a bad thing but it’s kind of neat to see things that were trendy and how trends have since changed. The first book Cinder was on my radar for a while, but then last year my niece wanted the box set for Christmas. It was slow going and I never got the box set, but she has all the books and she devoured them, so I requested the first book via library, although she probably would have loaned them to me if I asked nicely. On a side note, we were chatting about books that were obviously influenced by media that she wants to read, but let’s get on with the actual review.

The books are about four fairy tale stories reimagined in a cyberpunk setting, starting with Cinder (Cinderella) a cyborg mistreated because of her half-cybernetic status who finds herself at the center of a plot from the Luna, the former Moon Colony turned hostile nation, who developed a terrible disease which is wreaking havoc on Earth. When the Lunar Queen Levana produces a cure, she agrees to give it for a marriage-alliance with Earth, and it’s hinted that she only wants the hand of the young Emperor so can use his nation as a launching point for Lunars to invade Earth. And she very much wants the cyborg-mechanic Cinder dead, and not just because she’s stolen Kai’s heart.

The books mostly follow this plot while incorporating the stories of Scarlet (Red Riding Hood) Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White) and in my opinion they’re the sort of YA science fiction that makes sense to the level of their audience. For instance, Cinder is a cyborg which is a reduced half-status that technically renders her as property, so she’s the one working to support her family (step-family) but she doesn’t get to keep the fruits of her labor. There’s a microchip embedded in everyone and Cinder can’t buy or do anything without being tracked, but it’s really only there for a plot level induced story; I didn’t think it was bad but it occurred to me more than once that, when characters were leaving in a marketplace in a hurry, that they were worried that they’d be flagged as being in a plague area when, there should have been markers and sensors on everyone and it would have logged purchases and who was at what table at what time, even if people were just passing through without making any purchases, the governments would easily have been able to access who was in the area. Same thing a book later when Wolf and Scarlet are traveling by train, and they have to jump to avoid being quarantined. You would be automatically flagged because your ID would have been registered while being logged. Compound this with Cinder being a fantastic mechanic and Cress being a great hacker (and not unrealistic given their respective situations) it just made me curious when they didn’t really talk about how other people would have circumvented the systems in place. There is a black market for microchips, but it’s really to accentuate the plot and not talk about how criminals would really have gone around the system, but I’m digressing so let’s move on.

For the most part the stories were fun although I think they were a little dragging, but once again I think that they were written with their target audience in mind: That is, younger teenage girls who wanted the heroines to be like their friends and get to know what’s going on in their minds. I don’t know why we don’t see more cyberpunk aesthetic aimed at this market; I took my niece to go see Alita: Battle Angel when she was 12 and given the amount of fan art and stories I’ve seen like this, I think lots of young people like the feel of the world and anything cyberpunk easily makes for a decent ‘I must rise against the system’ feel. One could argue that’s because these were character-driven and could have made for much tighter novels, but I think what made the books really work was that the author slowed down to make us care about characters and her reimagining of their stories. I think my favourite novel was Cress where she took a ton of liberties with the story, but it was still recognizable that this was the story of Rapunzel. I think it’s also at heart about the relationships and these girls finding their respective princes. The girls are very different from one another personality-wise; and it’s kind of refreshing to see more fragile personality types contributing to the adventures when it would have been really easy for the more practical and bold characters to do most of the action sequences.

If I had to criticize, I think it’s something very similar that the author herself complained in that she made the Lunar Gift too powerful. I’ve experienced this problem before, and while she introduced the concept of shells (Lunars without the gift and also immune to manipulation) it honestly raised a lot of questions. For the most part, it’s royalty and the thaumaturges that have the strongest use of the gift, and while some people are selected because they’re easily to manipulate (guards, for instance) it strikes me as something that could be a problem in Lunar Society in general – it’s sort of gone into because at one point, Levana is badly burned and scarred because her sister took control of her, and that seems like something her parents should have anticipated (not so much the burning but children being children they don’t always forsee the consequences of their actions. Imagine being mad at your brother for ripping the head off your dolly and you make him run full tilt into the wall and give himself a concussion). Because they can control one another, not having a bioelectric signature gives away a shell, but it just felt like it was a major issue because it came across in the first book more like fairy glamour – they can make you see what you want, and even manipulate emotions. By the end Lunars were able to seize control of people and make them do whatever they wanted, including self-harm and suicide and even rape. I would have explained it that only a select few such as thaumaturges can manipulate the body, but given the advantages the majority of Lunars would have over Earthens, if there was prejudice against cyborgs all Lunars would be treated very suspiciously. It could have even been a status symbol to leave the sector if someone had a gift, and an aristocratic family could lose a member if they weren’t able to perform at certain levels. What we got was the rich aristocracy living posh and making themselves uber attractive and the commoners slaving in the outer sectors, giving it that Hunger Games vibe.

I think the big issue for me was that Levana obviously wanted Emperor Kaito so she could launch an invasion on earth, but the other leaders of Earth were all like, “I guess this is for the best” and sat on their hands. While Luna is developing biological weapons and enhanced soldiers, it’s also heavily implied that the Lunars are vastly outnumbered. The arguement is that they’re not willing to do anything because they have the antidote or that no one else is developing technology to block the Lunar Gift and I don’t understand why at least one leader would be all like, “We’re going to start putting holes in your pretty domes and watch the air leak out until we have what we want.” It culminates with Kai even giving a similar order himself – destroy Artemesia if things go south – he’s really doing everything to get that antidote, but it seems to me that waiting on a teenage Emperor while your people are dying on mass – and he has to marry the evil leader who set wearwolves on your people – I know the plot isn’t about what other world leaders would do (and quite frankly, most world leaders aren’t elected so they might not really care about their people) but here’s what I imagine the American regulars would be like, let alone the guys elected to office. For whatever reason, they’re hillbillies a la King of the Hill:

 “So yer sayin’ that really hot Moon Queen’s got the cure we’ve been inconvenienced with for the past decade?”

“Eyup.”

“But even though roughly 300 people die every day she won’t give it up unless she marries that pretty boy overseas?”

“Eyup.”

“The inexperienced teenage Emperor who just got thrust into his position and is still dealing with the death of his father?”

“Yup.”

“And the Moon Queen just launched some lycanthropes at the white house?”

“They got dropped outside of the city and made the commute even worse.”

“But tens of thousands throughout the country are DEAD? Well, maybe not our country we have freakin’ lasers and such.”

“Eyup.”

“Why haven’t we invaded the moon again?”

“I suppose it’s ‘cuz of them Lunar Whiles. They get in your head.”

“We have androids, don’t we? Things that can’t get taken over?”

“They have the vaccine we need.”

“Yes. Well, we have the air they need to survive and I think they can spare a vial or twenty if they want to keep those shiny glass domes up there intact.”

“But my gran wants to watch the royal weddin’. There’s all the rich folk from all over the world gatherin’ and it’ll be a spectacle. She also thinks the lost heir to the throne’ll show up and this whole ‘enslave earth’ thing will blow over, it’ll be fine.”

Seriously though, it’s quite an enjoyable series. If you’re a hard core science fiction fan questioning how they have artificial gravity on Artemisia, I’ll advise you that this is character-driven and meant to be enjoyed by audiences getting their feet wet in the genre. If you nitpick you’ll be unsatisfied, but if you’re looking for a book for a teenage girl, try it.

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