It’s a very late Throwback Thursday video but I figure better late than never.
First let’s talk readability, because this pretty much entailed my initial reaction to this book. Gah! This book has no chapters! Such a small thing to throw me off, but I have to be honest with you this no chapter thing is exhausting. I need my chapter breaks so I know when to stop reading and take a break. In addition to the lack of chapters the style of writing that focuses on inner narration is bit like following the Rabbit down into Wonderland. Holy hell I found it so confusing at first. I had to keep going back and re-reading paragraphs over because what I read was not sitting with me. The story feels like it is pure ambient noise and literally about nothing. I’m still wondering what the hell it is about and what the author is trying to say. Hopefully it will become clearer the farther into the book I go.
So I touched on the things I am not really enjoying so far in my initial reaction to the beginning of this book. I’d like to say that I’m not totally hating it, it just hasn’t clicked with me yet. I am enjoying all the movement going on around Clarissa Dalloway as she goes through her day. Woolf keeps marking the time as the day progresses as well along with all the movement so I’m guessing that is going to play a part in this story. I’m not sure but that’s just the impression I’m getting at this half-way point. I can’t say there is any one character that I like or dislike at this point. I need to read a bit more before I can determine that because they are all just a blur right now. They come and go so fast.
I am annotating as I read and here are some lines that I like so far.
“She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, far out to the sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fraulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew nothing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that.”
“One feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable.”
Let’s chat! Are you reading along? If so, what are some of your favorite lines that you have read so far?
Since there are so many specific things I’d like to discuss about Cinder, I thought I’d do a new feature called the “Reader Experience/Book Discussion” here on the blog. I will label these as the name of the series/book with Experience tagged on the end. If you have not read the books then I would not recommend reading the posts as they will contain spoilers. Consider that your SPOILER ALERT and proceed with caution.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer is more than just a fairy tale retelling. Meyer uses this futuristic take on the Cinderella story to bring to light some controversial social issues like abuse of power/corruption of individuals in roles of authority, and racism/discrimination. There is also the predominant question of what it means to be human, that is threaded throughout the story.
The topic of abuse of power/corruption of individuals in authority roles is a crucial discussion point given the tensions going on in the political world right now, especially in the U.S. Some examples of this can be found in characters like Adri, Dr. Erland, and Queen Levana. Adri, Cinder’s legal guardian, is cruel and abusive (both physically and verbally) towards Cinder. Adri consistently tells Cinder that she is useless and unwanted. Adri goes as far as escalating the abuse to a physical level when she hits Cinder. As hateful as Adri is, Dr. Erland’s disregard for life in pursuit of his own personal agenda is worse. Dr. Erland establishes the Cyborg Draft program with the lie of wanting to find a cure for the plague. Many cyborgs died as a result of his experiments and Dr. Erland shows no indication of remorse for the lives lost in his labs. Then there is Queen Levana, the Lunar villainess. Levana is determined to rule earth just as she rules Luna and she will do everything in her power to get what she wants. She excels at manipulation and uses her powers on the citizens of New Beijing to instill fear. She plants a spy in the form of an ambassador to keep track of Prince Kai. Levana also threatens to go to war with Prince Kai if he does not agree to marry her. It is safe to say that words/terms like ethical and moral principles are not in Levana’s vocabulary.
As important as the discussion of corruption is given the social climate we live in today, Meyer takes things further by emphasizing racism and discrimination over and over again. The individuals that are subject to racism and discrimination in New Beijing are the Lunars and Cyborgs. Lunars are discriminated against because they are a different race. They are feared because of their differences from the people on earth (i.e. they have powers). Fearing a group of people because they are different. Sound familiar? We see that in the modern world with how people are discriminated against due to religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. The cyborgs are a mix between human and machine. The attitude toward cyborgs is that because they have these mechanical implants they are not entirely human. Therefore, they are second class citizens and should have less rights. This attitude is similar to how society treated slaves in early colonial times. Slaves were treated as property and did not have equal rights. This is a direct parallel to how Cinder is treated. She has no rights even to her own body parts. Every single part of her belongs to her legal guardian. She has no access to her income, she can even be sold into the Cyborg Draft program to become a test subject against her own will. Let’s take it this second-class citizen thing a bit further. For instance, take Dr. Erland’s complete disregard for the cyborg lives that were lost in his experiments. The society in New Beijing overall accepts this and there is no outcry from the people to stop this inhumane indifference to the loss of life. Why you ask? Because, they do not see cyborgs as equals. There is no unity between the citizens of New Beijing and the cyborgs that live within their society. No unity. Think about that and think about the social climate we live in today here in the U.S. Scary right?
So…all that said let’s talk about the overall theme/question presented in this story. What does it mean to be human? How do you define it? According to the dictionary the definition of human is “susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of human nature” or “having human form or attributes.” Does this not mean that cyborgs are in fact human? They have human form and/or attributes do they not? Let’s take Cinder for example, does she not express the sympathies and frailties of human nature? She has feelings and thinks for herself. She has a human form. Seems to me that she is human by definition. Wouldn’t you agree? Yet, in the society of New Beijing she is treated as less. They liken her to a robot and she is treated as such, but how is she any different than say a soldier that was injured in the line of duty and has to have a prosthetic leg. At what point does a person lose their humanity because they have artificial limbs? There’s definitely some food for thought there.
Cinder obviously left me with many deeper thoughts after reading it than I was prepared for by a Cinderella retelling. I think to just do a surface read of this novel is an injustice. There are so many pertinent topics that Meyer touches on that given our current social climate are incredibly important discussion points. After my initial reading I searched through the internets and tried to find discussions or reviews of the book that highlighted these points. Sadly the majority of the reviews I read of Cinder were all about how dreamy Kai was and how much of a bad ass Cinder turned out to be in the end. I still don’t get the appeal of Kai, but if you want to read my thoughts on that you can check out my Cinder book review.
So let’s discuss. What thoughts do you have on the topics/themes that are found in Cinder? Do you agree/disagree? I’m dying to talk about this! Okay not really dying but you know what I mean. Let’s chat in the comments section.
Stay book nerdy & Happy reading!