Space Fairytales: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I recently finished Winter, which is the fourth and final book in Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. The Lunar Chronicles is a YA series that retells some basic fairytales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White) but on a futuristic Earth. I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern to science fiction I love: there has to be a depth and mythology to it for me to really get invested in everything going on (another example is Star Wars), unless there’s a killer cast of characters. This one happens to have both: all of the folklore and timelessness of the fairytales combined with some really engaging characters.

That isn’t to say this series doesn’t have flaws – because it is definitely a hot mess at times; some of it is really innovative and well-structured and other parts have weak storytelling and no followthrough. The style of the series is very cinematic, which is both a strength and a weakness; – a lot of the sub-plots and character arcs are formulaic or at the least predictable, but it is very easy to visualize everything and everyone, and the drama and suspense works very well.

The world-building incorporates an interesting mix of science and technology (especially on the side of the Earthens) and the more “magical” abilities of the Lunars (the population who colonized the moon) who can control or manipulate people’s minds, to a point. In some cases, technology can protect a person from the Lunars’ powers, or vice versa. There are also plenty of spaceships of different makes and models – I really appreciate specificity with tech in my scifi. There’s also space-poison and space-antidotes.

Cinderella, aka “Linh Cinder,” is a cyborg and the importance of this fact and how often it is worked into the story is really great and interesting. Cinder, who is also a very skilled mechanic, is constantly faced with her humanity or lack of it, and trying to figure out where the line is between her computer abilities and her own abilities and humanity. I love it. It was especially cool to see in Winter when some of Cinder’s systems are shorted out because of some Unfortunate Events. She has to reorient herself because she can’t rely on her computer systems, and she has to acknowledge that while they don’t define her, they are a huge part of her and an asset to her skills. Most of the characters in the series, at least initially, judge her because of her cyborg identity, which introduces some interesting racial commentary (Earths and Lunars don’t generally judge each other based on their skin color, only on whether they’re a cyborg or from Earth or Luna).

Then you’ve got the Lunars and their powers. Most Lunars have the ability to manipulate others’ “bioelectricity;” I have no idea how this is supposed to work scientifically because it seems like magic to me. They can sense lifeforces from some distance away, take hold of a person’s mind and force them to do anything, even kill someone or themselves. The Lunars are heavily villainized; the only ones who we see as “good” are either Lunars who aren’t skilled with manipulating people, or who choose not to use their powers (and go crazy). They’ve got magic powers, they’re born with them, and almost all of them use their powers for evil? Why? I would have been interested to see some Lunar characters who used their powers for good (for instance, using their sensitivity to find lost or injured people). We also had one throwaway moment where a character realizes that a Lunar woman is actually using their “glamour” to disguise the fact that they’re a man, but there is no further explanation of that fascinating skill. The fact that they call their bioelectricity manipulation “glamours” is very evocative of Faerie/the Fair Folk, which leads us into fantasy once again.

There are androids, which I am always pleased to meet in science fiction. We meet two very important androids in the first book Cinder, but one of them is used as a plot device and then tossed aside, while the other, Cinder’s android Iko, becomes our only stand-in for the androids as a whole, and she is supposedly very different from other androids because she has a Personality and possibly a Soul. I guess androids in general are soulless and boring? Despite this, Iko became a very dear character to me over the course of the story, and continued the theme of exploring what makes someone human. Cinder and Iko, who are considered by most of the population to be “inhuman” in different ways, are constantly emphasized to be the most humane characters in the story. Or at least more humane than Lunars, according to the story.

The story also features more than one princess (as expected in space-fairytales), although only one is locked up in her space-tower. The story takes itself very seriously, and sometimes it comes across as over-dramatic and overblown because of that. Then again, when you’re dealing with space-fae, cyborgs, space-werewolves (DID I TALK ABOUT THE SPACE-WEREWOLVES YET? THEY’RE GREAT), a little drama can be expected.

[This post was written as part of my participation in the 2016 Scifi Experience.]

 

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Looking Back: 2015 Reads

I was at a loss to write this post about my favorite books read (but not necessarily published) in 2015. I simply couldn’t articulate my thoughts about each of these books in a coherent and positive manner, even though I knew they were certainly my favorites read during the year. Fortunately, my good friend Stormtrooper Bob had MANY thoughts about these books, and was willing to share them with me (and you). Below are my favorite reads from 2015, in no particular order.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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“The chapter illustrations are of Imperial quality!”

Stormtrooper Bob: This book was everything I wanted but didn’t get from Harry Potter, along with all of the things I loved; there’s a magic school, strong friendships, mysteries, demonic pets, and questionable father figuresIt also plays around with Chosen One tropes.

Bahnree: Imperial troopers love Chosen One tropes.

SB: That we do.

Half Bad by Sally Green

Stormtrooper Bob: I suppose the style isn’t for everyone, but I always love stories that pit one guy against the world, forcing him to face impossible odds, pitting him against basic threats to his survival, like White Magic.

Bahnree: That’s basic?

SB: And discrimination!

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover:

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“Don’t move, Jedi!”

Stormtrooper Bob: Luke Skywalker judges his own narrative and finds it wanting, so he hires a guy to find out whether Luke is his own worst villain. Which, of course, from my point of view, he is.

 

 

 

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold

Stormtrooper Bob: This is a collection of short stories and novellas about Miles Vorkosigan. I’m not sure what you liked so much about this. There are spaceships?

Bahnree: Bujold is a mcMASTER of the science fiction genre and this series is amazing and Miles is a tiny doofus-brain who is learning how to be a compassionate yet badass mastermind!

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Stormtrooper Bob: Rebel scum! Why would you enjoy a book  about the rebels creating their own government after the events of Return of the Jedi, or a story about lady pilots and cocky traitors and clever boys and homicidal droids?????

Bahnree: …….I don’t understand the question.

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne Valente

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“I have a weakness for cute chapter illustrations.”

Stormtrooper Bob: This is in a series….what is this, the fourth book? I am so constantly assaulted by the perfection that are these books about a young girl from World War II thrown into Fairyland and has adventures and saves people and befriends wyveraries that I lose track of how many there are. I hope Ms. Valente writes these until the Empire falls. Which will be never.

 

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

Stormtrooper Bob: The only nonfiction I read are operation manuals and Imperial manifestos, so I’m uncertain why you enjoyed this book so much.

Bahnree: Jen Hatmaker has a hilarious, compassionate voice and mixes anecdotes from her own life with more general experiences from the Christian life to encourage her readers to embrace their own skills and gifts and use them to love other people, rather than setting impossibly high standards for themselves and falling into a pit of self-loathing and despair.

Stormtrooper Bob: Maybe I’ll recommend it at my weekly Fascists Anonymous group meeting…..

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

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“Finally! A book with full-color illustrations!”

Stormtrooper Bob: I had never heard of any of these myths! I don’t think these are even real, everyone knows the galaxy was created by my namesake, Sparklecake Bobsun.

Bahnree: The narrator is a fictional character from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, but the myths themselves are well-told, with lots of humor and modern perspectives.

 

Medea by Euripides

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“I mean, she’s not wrong.”

Stormtrooper Bob: Medea probably took it too far, but if my husband left me alone on another planet, I might get a little knife-happy, too.

Bahnree: I can’t believe this was written so long ago and we are still dealing with the same stupid problems.

Stormtrooper Bob: The Patriarchy?

Bahnree: The Patriarchy.

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

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“HOW? HOW IS IT SO GOOD?”

Stormtrooper Bob: WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL US WHAT AN AMAZING FANTASY SERIES THIS IS?

Bahnree: They did. We didn’t listen.

Stormtrooper Bob: DON’T BE LIKE US. READ THIS BOOK AS SOON AS YOU CAN.

 

 

Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Bjarzak

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“I still have a lot of questions!”

Stormtrooper Bob: CRAZY KID OR MAGICAL REALISM? YOU DECIDE.

Bahnree: Calm down.

Stormtrooper Bob: I CAN’T, I STILL HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS AND FEELINGS.

Bahnree: Calm down.

Stormtrooper Bob: WHY IS EVERYTHING TERRIFYING?

 

 

An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

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“I like to tuck myself into a good book at night.”

Stormtrooper Bob: I don’t always read fantasy books that try to answer the question “What do we do after we’ve defeated The Dark Lord and gone home?” but when I do I make sure it’s chock-full of flawed but lovable characters, giant monsters, terrifying lady scientists, mysterious war veterans, and all focused around one war-torn family with a lot of healing to do.

Bahnree: Bob, that was beautiful.

SB: This book makes even Imperial Stormtroopers feel things. Also can we talk about the interdimensional portals that bleed acidic monsters?

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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“I can’t stop rereading this book to glean for clues!”

Stormtrooper Bob: This is the first book in a series about some teenagers searching for a long-ago Welsh king. How much do YOU know about Welsh kings? There’s a house-full of snarky psychics, a handful of broken boys, an eccentric girl, and trees who speak Latin. I will say, their boarding school experience is VERY different from my boarding school experience….

Bahnree: I don’t want to hear about your boarding school experience.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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“Let me find my favorite part…whoops I’ve been sucked in again!”

Stormtrooper Bob: I wish I had a sibling just so she could explore magical woods with me and defend me with her magic sword and find me a magical boyfriend. Have you noticed that a lot of books on this list have magic and/or fairies?

Bahnree: No I have absolutely  not noticed that. I would like to point out that this book also has a monster made of moss and I am historically prone to adoring such creatures.

 

Thanks for all of your help, Stormtrooper Bob!