Cinder: Book #1 of the Lunar Chronicles


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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

4/5 Very Good!

Teen fiction has become less and less awesome as the years progress, with vampires, werewolves, and more dystopias than anyone cares to read. That all tends to get really old really fast. Enter Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This modern fairy-tale remake keeps some of the old classic story (Cinder being a social outcast due to her metal bits; she lives with an evil stepmother and an evil step-sibling; she loses a “shoe,” etc.) while new stuff happens. Even the new parts of the story aren’t entirely new, like the plague that ravages the city and kills the emperor, or the conspiracies of a princess everyone assumes is dead (think Russian revolution).

Aside from the classical fiction aspects and the semi-historical facets, the characterization is a large part of what makes this book so enjoyable to read. Cinder is not a princess. She’s a mechanic, meaning she doesn’t really care what people think and she is often covered in oil or something equally un-girly. She refuses to admit to having any feeling for the handsome Prince Kaito, whom she meets when he asks her to repair his android. She does have feelings, for her sister, her android friend Iko, and she acts on these feelings, the way teenage girls do. Cinder is as real as any human in her story or teen girl reading it.

There are some downsides to this delightful sci-fi fairy tale. First off, it drags. At times, the pace is too slow. The descriptions are decent, but sometimes, they’re too much, especially for the plague, which could make the average reader gag and give up, fearing more grossness. Finally, the biggest issue is that the most important plot probably isn’t going to surprise anyone.

Despite these shortcomings, Cinder redeems itself with interesting action and, throughout the rest of the series, a very well-developed plot and lots of fun characters with their own backstories and personality quirks. It’s definitely worth reading the rest of the series, because this is a dystopian fairy tale like nothing ever seen before.

–Shyela Reimel

Fargo: Season 1 Review

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5/5 Brilliant!

Fargo, the series, is a celebration of the sublimity of the simple life. The one thing the two Fargos have in common above all else is a profound appreciation of kindness and decency. That might seem like a contradiction considering the franchise is known for harsh, striking Minnesota landscapes, cold brutal violence, and subtle dark humor, but that bleak backdrop provides us with the contrast necessary to bear witness to the divine glow of idyllic Americana.

Fargo depicts a world in which people who turn to the dark side can always find themselves on thin ice. Those who are simple and good don’t have it easy, but they have a chance to find truth and beauty in the small joys of life. It doesn’t give us the good versus evil of Tolkien or Star Wars, but gives us an appreciation of the seemingly mundane aspects of our life, and offers the perspective that contentment will always be covetousness in the long run.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens book

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Book Review of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. 5/5

Some books take more effort than others to read. Sapiens is one of those books, and considering the ambitious goal of the author to summarize the entire history of mankind in a single 400 page book, a certain level of density must be accepted. For those of us unafraid to challenge ourselves with our reading selections, the bird’s eye view of humanity offered by Sapiens is an opportunity to fundamentally change our perspectives, our ideas of ourselves, and our ideas about the human race to which we belong.

This is a rare book that takes non-fiction to the level of art. Along with non-fiction classics like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Sapiens has the power to enlighten us by illuminating unseen forces that are at work every day shaping us culturally and biologically. What truly makes it brilliant though is its ability to inspire awe at the long journey the human race has been on, and to make us delightfully aware that we’re currently holding the baton of this timeless relay race with an unknown destination.

Harari takes us from a pre-historical time where Homo sapiens competed with Neanderthals and other early humans for dominance to the emergence of the agricultural revolution which led to the evolution of money. From there, cities could begin to take shape. Governments and religions grew in power and influence. Technological advances started to change the landscape and change the way we interacted with each other. As technology grew exponentially, humans found themselves in a strange land that didn’t conform to our biological instincts and tendencies. He leaves us not with an answer, but with a startling question. Will the world that we shaped with our technology force us to evolve into something that can no longer be considered human?