It didn’t take me long to get bored with dystopian lit. Sure, it was exciting at first. But…there’s only so many corrupt governments that I can stomach. Enough of hoary-haired elderly people sitting in positions of power trying to squash creativity/individualism/control human personalities. Please. I’ve had enough.
That being said, I wasn’t sure to expect when I picked up Marissa Meyer’s marriage of quite a few genres: sci-fi/dystopian/fantasy/fairy-tale retelling. After all, how original was it going to be?
Let me inform you, darlings.
It wasn’t set in post-apocalyptic/post-WWXI America.
Can we just sit back and revel in this? Newsflash, not all dystopian must take place in a futuristic version of the USA. I promise, the dystopian police won’t come catch you if you set it somewhere else on this planet of ours. Cinder took place in Asia, which is underrepresented in sci-fi as it is. While I live in America, it’s not the center of the literary universe. Feel free to set your stories elsewhere.
(Also, yes. I understand your pain. If you live in the USA and haven’t traveled outside it, it’s going to take research. Ugh.)
The leader actually…cared?!
Come on, you can recite the chant of dystopia with me. “President ______ is a heartless ogre that lives to see teens brutally disemboweled and murdered. The government is evil. Long live the rebels.”
Not only did the leader get a POV, (Kai is such a cinnamon roll. Bless him.), but he actually was willing to make some pretty major sacrifices for his people. (Marrying the villain, anyone?) The evil comes from another planet, which was pretty dang cool.
The population wasn’t controlled through hunger, government control, and brutal labor.
The concept of ‘glamouring’ someone was so unique! Taking control of people’s thoughts by creating a mental illusion was a great way to show how people can be controlled by a visual.
The female MC had Emotions ™.
Raise your hand if you’ve suffered through present-tense dystopian with a female MC…and the crackers on your plate had more depth and personality. (I’m not criticizing The Hunger Games here. I enjoyed that read. But not all dystopia needs to be a knock-off of that, kids.)
Cinder was really well-done, in my opinion. Her character development (going from harboring a prejudice of Lunars to understanding the dangers of that prejudice when she realizes she is herself Lunar), coupled with her mechanical skillz, was so fun to watch. Also, she had a crush while still being sensible about it. What is this phenomenon? Disney is shuddering in disbelief over here.
The conflict wasn’t person vs. society.
No angsty teenage rebels here, thank you very much. The conflict was largely person vs. person, with a few cases of person vs. nature. (Letumosis, anyone?) While I need to keep reading The Lunar Chronicles to see where it ends up, Cinder kept me hooked, because each person is so caught up in what they want. They’re not little saints, determined to do what’s best for the good of the nation. Except for Kai, but he’s been trained his whole life to do that. In fact, Cinder is fighting what she should do for the national good, every step of the way. Each person is so caught up in their own microscopic world, but not at the risk of being 2-D or selfless.