Tuesday, March 06, 2012

What We’re Reading: Cinder

What if Cinderella was a cyborg? A girl that was part human and part machine (with, of course, a mechanical foot!)? And what if her story was not in a “once upon a time” European setting (typically France), but rather a brutal, war-ravaged, plague-infested Earth on the brink of war with an estranged Lunar colony? These are the questions Marissa Meyer tackles in Cinder: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles.

Linh Cinder spends her days working as a mechanic in her stall at the market. She repairs malfunctioning and broken machines of all types and sizes to provide money for her family (her stepmother and two stepsisters), and her skills have garnered her the reputation of being the best mechanic in New Beijing. When Prince Kai shows up at her stall to have his android repaired, seeking her out specifically for the task, she can’t wait to tell her younger stepsister Peony about his visit. But she is also terrified that Kai will realize that she is a cyborg.

Part human and part machine, Cinder has a mechanical hand, leg & foot, eyes, and a hatch in the back of her head to access her programming. While this gives her instant access to the information/news network, she has no memory of her life prior to the operation that both saved her life and doomed her to exist as a second-class citizen in New Beijing. While she tries desperately to appear to be a “normal” young girl, she is continually reminded by her cruel stepmother (and one of her stepsisters) that she is little more than a bothersome piece of property. When her stepmother finally submits Cinder to the “cyborg draft” (medical testing to find a cure for the plague threatening New Beijing) for a financial reward, she sets in motion a series of events that will transform not only Cinder and her family, but the Earth and its threatening Lunar colony.

In many ways, this retelling of the Cinderella story has all of the elements one would normally expect: the good-hearted but woefully mistreated title character, the evil stepmother and stepsisters (well, one of the stepsisters is evil), the handsome prince, and a ball. But Meyer has taken these familiar characters and put them into a well drawn/developed world of New Beijing, with the Lunar colony and its Dictator (Queen Selene) threatening to plunge the Earth into another savage war. This new setting provides not only some of the expected challenges, but also some interesting new ones. Meyer also inserts some elements from Russian history with the mystery of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna.

According to Marissa Meyer, there will be four books in the Lunar Colonies series and, while Cinder will continue to have a presence in the series, each book will focus on a different fairy tale character. The second book, Scarlet, will be based on Little Red Riding Hood. The protagonist of he third book, Cress, is Rapunzel. And the fourth book, Winter, will feature Snow White. Alert readers will recognize references to the sequels (the Snow White and Rapunzel stories and possibly the wolf of Red Riding Hood) in Cinder.

Author Marissa Meyer has provided some background information on the writing of Cinder on John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever. Her entry can be read
here.

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