The Cinderella story has many versions, but none like Marissa Meyer’s new young adult sci-fi character in “Cinder.” This Cinderella is a mechanic who can repair anything, and she is “36.28 percent not human”- instead of a slipper, she loses a foot at the ball.

In Meyer’s futuristic world, victims of mutilating accidents can be saved by substituting computerized limbs and nervous systems for destroyed human parts, changing people into cyborgs. Unfortunately, the world of the future has not evolved enough to avoid deadly viruses, and cyborg Cinder’s cruel stepmother delivers Cinder to the authorities for the clinical trials to find an antidote when one of her stepsisters falls to the epidemic. But Cinder has a mysterious natural immunity that may save the Emperor and the nation from the disease as well as from the insidious Lunars (moon people), who plan to wage war for control of Earth.

Combining a love story, including an appealing Prince Charming, along with some Star Wars references, Meyer’s story includes suspense, adventure, romance – and a heroine appreciated for much more than her outward appearance. If you are a fan of “The Hunger Games,” you will enjoy Cinder’s heroism as much as Katniss. And, like Katniss, her story continues into a sequel – with 4 books in the Lunar Chronicle series.

I read through “Cinder” in one sitting, and was only disappointed when I discovered that I have to wait for the next installment.

The Passage

What will the world be like in a hundred years?  Forewarnings of the Apocalypse are everywhere, and in Justin Cronin’s version –  The Passage –  we are our own worst enemy.

Cronin’s narrative has all the pieces of a good science fiction/mystery/thriller – with the ubiquitous vampire theme, fear, war, and prejudice.  But underlying the obvious, he cleverly writes subliminal messages about government and science – this is more than an adult version of the Twilight series.

A well-meaning scientist, looking for the secret to longevity and invincibility, finds federal funding to test his “virus” –  in 2018 (not so far away). Prisoners on death row become the guinea pigs and his success suddenly relates to combat and secret weapons.  Six year-old Amy, with a hidden talent to communicate with animals, is kidnapped to be the final test subject, and the action begins – with the first half of the book following her and her saviour, an FBI agent who defects to protect her.

When Cronin jumps one hundred years to a small group of survivors self-imprisoned in a walled enclave, on constant guard against the vampire descendants of the original test subjects, you’ll wonder what happened to Amy.   But, she reappears, still a girl – and becomes the hope for a new world. The geographic commentary is clever  – California defects to become its own country; Philadelphia is the last stronghold; Las Vegas is the home of all the mutant and Texas has its own army.  And the characters are true to fictional stereotype, with heroes who fall, villains with heart,  wise elders,  rebellious teenagers.  Cronin delivers what you expect, but then twists the plot to keep you hypnotized.

The action is thrilling, vibrant, and constant.  No matter that this is a huge book – 766 pages – you will read it into the night – and maybe have some nightmares. Cronin seems to get a little tired toward the end as the action slows, and then leaves you hanging.  But, stay tuned, like recent blockbusters – this one is the first in a trilogy – and already headed for the movies.

The Twelve is due in 2012, while the concluding novel, The City of Mirrors, will hit stores in 2014.

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The Hunger Games

Target practice on children has been a theme that occasionally pops up in literature – from Jonathan Swift’s 18th satirical essay, A Modest Proposal, suggesting we eat them for population control to Shirley Jackson’s haunting short story, The Lottery, having the winners stoned by family and friends.  The latter is closer to Suzanne Collins’ young adult science fiction  The Hunger Games, the first book in a trilogy.

True to form, Collins has adventure, true love, and villains – and a subliminal message.  The hunger games occur annually in the future – after the world as we know it has been destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again, and finally at a place you wouldn’t want to live – unless you had lots of money (maybe not so different from today?).


When Katniss’s 12-year-old sister’s name is announced as the district 12 (coal miners district) female representative to the murderous games, she volunteers to take her place.  The baker’s son, Peeta, becomes the male “tribune,” and they form an alliance that helps them both as they try to survive, without killing each other.  The Gamemakers’ rules  demand that out of 24 children, only one can be alive at the end.

Pitting children against each other in a fight to the death, the games are televised for the pleasure of gladiator thrill seekers – think Survivors episodes.   The games have a futuristic and macabre quality:   the controllers can strategically shoot fireballs at the participants just to liven up the action and electronic chips keep track of each participant and projects their moves (ala the Truman Show).

You know Katniss is going to survive – hey, she’s the heroine and this is the first in the trilogy – but you’ll still be on edge as she encounters each terrifying obstacle and almost dies a thousand deaths.  Collins hooks you into the action, and it’s fun – like riding an upside down roller coaster in the dark.

Katniss is better than Wonder Woman or Supergirl; her powers are those of a real girl and anyone young and resilient, smart and strong, true of heart, could tap into them – although shooting a rabbit in the eye with a bow and arrow might take some practice.

Part of growing up, at any age, is knowing how to play the game – unless you refuse to play or make your own rules.

I started this book in the morning and could not put it down until I finished.    What a trip – check it out for yourself.