When reading books for adults, there are some individual books and series that are very good, and the vast majority are either enjoyable fluff or just not great. And in the same way with young adult literature, some of it is very good and engaging, and some of it is mind-numbingly bad. I feel like we’ve had a mix of that hear on the blog with the YA books that I’ve read, the dumbest and most terrible being all of the ones in the “Selection” series that I wrote about early in the year. Perhaps you thought that because I never wrote about the following books that I actually gave up on the series. You’d be wrong. It’s that obnoxious part of me that likes to finish a thing that I start, and so I am actually in the middle of listening to the last book (THANK GOD) as I write. I haven’t written about them because they didn’t seem worth wasting precious blog space on finding new ways to say “brain candy” or “mindless entertainment”.
So I was excited and please when I began reading “The Lunar Chronicles” a little while ago, having found them on a list of popular YA science fiction, and discovering that they were actually good. Engaging. Creative. Completely different than I thought. Looking at the covers of the books and the names, you can probably guess that they’re retellings of popular fairy tales, but with a sci-fi twist. Which is the simplest way of describing these books without being wrong. But it turns out that the author – Marissa Meyer (not the Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer) – built a fascinating world that happens to weave in key elements of these fairy tales. Reading her wikipedia entry, I discovered that she originally wrote Sailor Moon fan fiction, and there learned about plot construction, what people liked, and how to take criticism. And the Sailor Moon thing sort of fits in this world too, because there is a Moon Princess.
Maybe I’m being silly. Maybe this world, in which a cyborg mechanic named Cinder is trying to find her place in the world and escape her evil stepmother is silly. But I bought into it. And perhaps the second book starts in a discombobulating way, and moves too slowly at the beginning, and then too quickly at the end. But I think that’s a matter of wanting the book to hit certain emotional beats at specific times. And I bought in. Mainly because the characters are interesting, and because there’s a little bit of a mystery. I will say that I figured out the mystery in the first book about 1/3 of the way in, but it didn’t ruin it for me. And with the second book, I did keep guessing about how things would work out through the end.
The most important thing for me is that these books sucked me in. I like to read stories about worlds that feel very real to me. Perhaps that’s because books are set in our current world, but ones that have a well built alternative universe around them are even more interesting. There are new things to discover around every turn, and if the world is built well, it will make sense and not feel like a plot device.
I still may not write follow-up pieces on the rest of this series, but it’s nice to know that it’s a closed series – four books with some short stories and novellas, but it’s done. The author has moved on to other things. It’s not being milked and drawn out for extra cash. But it’s fun. I think the story and the world would be an awesome thing to see on TV. Not just because it features an interesting female lead who is funny and flawed and relate-able. Not just because the main setting (New Beijing, after the fourth World War) is one that would be new and creative, and would get a lot of Asian actors into cool roles. But because the story is one that could easily be turned into episodic television with seasonal arcs over the course of the books. It would be visually interesting, and an interesting alternative to some of the young adult programming that’s already out there.
Plus, if they turned it into a TV series, it would probably give me time to finish reading the series and feel smug over everyone who hasn’t read it yet.