A WriterAina Book Review: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
As you have probably guessed by how many of Marissa Meyer’s books I’ve reviewed, I’m a big fan of hers. I enjoy her ideas and her lighthearted proes. Her stories are fun and I am engrossed in her imaginings the way I allow myself to fall under the spell of a good anime.
Stars Above is a collection of four previously published and five new short stories that Meyer has written for her Lunar Chronicle fans. The short stories in this collection are entertaining, shadowy, and filled with relevant backstory for each of the main characters of the series (except Queen Levana – for she had her own novella called Fairest published in February 2015). Only one of the short stories is a stand alone fairy tale retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” set within the world of The Lunar Chronicles. And the last short story is a nice Lunar Chronicles Epilogue that ties up some loose ends quite satisfyingly.
Stars Above contains the following short stories:
- The Keeper (New)
- Glitches (Published December 5th 2011 by Tor.com)
- The Queen’s Army (Published November 23rd 2012 by Wattpad)
- Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky (Published February 4th 2014 by Feiwel & Friends)
- After Sunshine Passes By (New)
- The Princess and The Guard (New)
- The Little Android (Published January 27th 2014 by Wattpad)
- The Mechanic (New)
- Something Old, Something New, or Stars Above (New)
Overall the stories were arranged in chronological order and was a fun read. Some stories I liked more than others because in some I was able to connect better with the characters than others. The hard part was when I was pulled out of some of the stories for one reason or another and distracted by my Writer Brain. Ah well. But over all I thought the book was well worth the purchase for those who enjoy the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
Here we go…
The Keeper is the backstory of Michelle Benoit. We learn about how she was sent to Luna and became entangled with a lunar doctor. We learn about the sad relationship between Michelle and her son Luc and the story shows how Scarlet came to live with her grandmother. Most importantly we are shown how Michelle Benoit became the protector of the stasis controlled, unconscious Princess Selene until she was made into a cyborg and given to Linh Garan.
This story was told from a more adult perspective than those of the rest of the stories, for obvious reasons that Michelle Benoit is an adult and not a child or teen at any point in the story. The POV is close third person and it’s almost as if we experience Michelle’s triumphs and failures. I like how we are not spared Michelle’s faults and her motivations are quite clear which makes her more endearing, though my only gripe with her personality is that she feels more like a Midwestern American than she does a Frenchman (but I already discussed that gripe in my review of Scarlet).
I gave this story such a high rating because as I read the story I was captivated and felt that there was sufficient conflict and intrigue and resolution to be a stand alone story even though we are left wanting to know more. But of course, we already know more because of the rest of The Lunar Chronicles. Scarlet shined as her own more French feeling child self with the troubles and reactions of an observant child, which I found more refreshing than her more matured character.
Glitches is about Cinder meeting the Linh family for the first time and her experience with the various family members in the days that lead to Linh Garan’s Letemosis diagnosis. Each family member’s attitude toward Cinder is established from the very beginning and the conflict in this short story is more emotional than anything else. It’s about Cinder waning to fit in, be normal, but realizing that she isn’t.
I wanted to give this short story a higher rating than a 3 out of 5, but unlike many of the other stories I felt that this one was lacking. Cinder is supposed to be 11 or 12 years old in these pages and yet the close third person narration often switches from Cinder’s POV to a more adult perspective. I didn’t feel like I was reading the story from a child’s perspective, many of the explanations and justifications and descriptions were more from a matured perspective even though they were mixed in with a child’s reasoning. This took me out of Cinder’s story and made me start wondering what value the story added to the overall story of The Lunar Chronicles. I really didn’t find there to be much information gleaned within these pages that weren’t already stated in the same way or better with in the novels. The only information that we really get that is potentially new is that it was Cinder who figured out how to put Iko back together and that’s how her career as a mechanic started.
The Queen’s Army
The Queen’s Army is about how Wolf was recruited into the Queen’s Army. We get to see and experience his struggles before being sent on his mission to Earth and we get to see first hand the conflict that he has with his younger brother within the pack before their Earthly mission.
I think that Wolf is actually one of the more tragic and torchered characters of The Lunar Chronicles. I enjoyed this story because it really “showed” his natural defiance and the strength of his willpower. This story did a really good job of establishing Wolf as a character, if it had been read in the proper order within The Lunar Chronicles. There was something very rounding in my storytelling brain about this story. The story challenged Wolf’s character and showed the reader his reactions and struggles. Every bit of his defiance and strength of mind demonstrated in this short story was mirrored at the end of Winter, which really gave him a very interesting character arc. For here he used his powers from himself, to survive, and gradually though the events of The Lunar Chronicles he uses his powers for those he loves, to change the world.
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky is about Carswell Thorn’s early school days and establishes his plans for the future for the reader. This is also a way to show an event in more detail that was discussed in Cress and reassure the reader that Cress’s whimsical assessment of Thorn was probably correct.
The nice aspects of this story is the setting and the use of world building to show how different Carswell’s life is in the American Republic versus any of the other places we’ve visited in The Lunar Chronicles. Thorn is as lighthearted and blasé as ever, which is fun, but really it was unclear what this story was supposed to demonstrate to the reader. I’m assuming that, like Wolf’s story, this was supposed to demonstrate Carswell’s ability to think outside of himself about the welfare of someone else — to have a similar effect as with Wolf’s story to demonstrate that he too will set aside his selfish tendencies and save the woman he loves. The idea is a good one, the problem is that the whole situation felt contrived. The aspect of Thorn’s character that bothers me most is that the narration implies that he knows he’s being conceited and selfish, which 1) isn’t very realistic and 2) doesn’t make him very likable even though he’s funny. It’s not realistic. Usually people who are conceited and selfish are unaware of the fact that they’re being that way and if they are there’s usually an underlying reason for their actions that redeem them. Here all we know is that Thorn doesn’t want to be pushed in directions that he doesn’t want to go and feel that his only weapons are his charm and wit to get what he wants. This is not the same thing as conceit and selfish, so it confuses me why it’s presented this way.
After Sunshine Passes By
After Sunshine Passes By is Cress’s backstory. The reader gets a bit of history about the Shell program and how Cress came stranded on the satellite spying on Earth.
Again the most redeeming quality of this story is the setting descriptions and the adherence to Cress’s character. Cress reminds me of Anne of Green Gables <> in her active imagination and how she allows her fancy to whole heartedly occupy her until reality kicks in. The isolation that the Shells experience give a reasonable excuse for how Cress could have developed her hacking skills, the only problem is that if the Shells were really that isolated, how would they have developed the desire to read? It’s an intersection question that Meyer tries to address, but was only successful on the surface. My favorite scene was when Sybil was taking her away from the Shells’ compound and Cress imagined that she was becoming a spy. The colorful language was enthralling and the build-up and downfall of Cress’s emotions were perfect over the course of leaving the other Shells and being abandoned on the single room satellite. The short story was most worth it for the last few scenes.
The Princess and The Guard
The Princess and The Guard is the story that establishes just how close Princess Winter and Jacin were as children and teens. It reveals the circumstances that lead Winter to decided never to use her Lunar gift ever again and also shows why Jacin makes the decision to become a palace guard over becoming a doctor (which is not what we’re lead to believe while reading Cress or Winter).
Unfortunately, Winter and Jacin are the least interesting of The Lunar Chronicle couples for me. I like how Jacin is committed to Winter, but there isn’t anything special about him. He’s always committed and his character doesn’t change from this beginning to the end, sure he makes sacrifices and such but his character doesn’t change. Boring. I can almost say the same thing about Winter. She’s always the same creature until the very end of Winter, when she decides to finally use her Lunar gift to save lives. This short story is interesting only from the perspective that the reader finally gets to understand the circumstances that occurred that would influence Winter to not use her Lunar gift. The way her perspective unfolded was artfully demonstrated, giving Winter and the reader a powerful punch when Winter realized what her good intentions lead to. Much of the rest of the happenings within the story were things that were interesting to experience as a Lunar Chronicles fan, but didn’t add much to the series over all. Each of the other characters were already disliked for various reasons and no additional revelations were made.
The Little Android
Of all the short stories in this collection The Little Android was my favorite. This short story was an admirable piece of art and reminded me of how I felt when I first read Cinder. This is the only story that doesn’t revolve around any of the Lunar Chronicles’ main characters, though Cinder does make a brief appearance. This is a beautiful fairy tale retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid,” not Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the tragic original story.
The Little Android is about a Mech 6.0 android who developed near human emotion and falls in love with a human that works at the same shipbuilding company that owns “her.” The development of the near human emotions is overlooked, which is all right because Lunar Chronicles fans know it’s possible because of Iko, but it is briefly mentioned that if an android develops near human emotion it seen as unpredictable and dangerous.
The story follows The Little Mermaid to a tee. Android meets man. Android saves man’s life. Android seeks a way to be with the man. Android sacrifices its body and voice to acquire a new body that can more easily interact with the man. The mute android meets the man again but can’t tell him how she feels. Android finds out that man is in love with another woman. Android sacrifices her happiness for the happiness for the man she loves.
The Little Android is filled with mechanical parts replacing human parts in the descriptions but very human reactions and “feelings.” Some of the “feelings” are a bit more juvenile than my taste but I believed it could be true for many. The conflicts felt real and believable (as long as you can buy into an android developing near human emotions of course). The last scene left me breathless in the simplicity of the sacrifice and deception and left my heart singing and crying all at once.
The Mechanic is a retelling of Cinder’s beginning chapter from Kai’s point of view. I think the idea of rewriting chapters from another characters POV is generally quite powerful. As a writer it helps to decide who has the stronger message to convey in the story. Though this story was fun to read I found that most of the information that was conveyed wasn’t something that was already revealed or easily inferred by what has already been written. I didn’t find that it really added all that much to Cinder’s story or to Kai’s character. It was already quite obvious that he was interested in Cinder, though I enjoyed the description of her from his perspective.
Something Old, Something New, or Stars Above
Something Old, Something New, or Stars Above is a wonderful epilogue to The Lunar Chronicles. Scarlet and Wolf are getting married and all the Lunar Chronicle friends are invited! Honestly I gave this 4 out of 5 stars because I enjoy reading stuff like this when I’m a fan of characters. There’s no real conflict within this short story other than the annoyance of having unruly reporters and the suspense of keeping Scarlet in the dark about the group’s wedding preparations. But I love the interactions between the various characters because they each come out in their uniqueness and sometimes it’s fun to just read about characters having fun after they’ve just struggled for their lives.
Perhaps this review is a bit contrived and emotional, but there it is.
If you are a fan of The Lunar Chronicles then you will most likely love Stars Above. If you want an introduction to The Lunar Chronicles I suggest reading Cinder and then reading Stars Above (but you’ll have to save the last story until you’ve read the rest of the series). The short stories in this collection will give some great background on all the characters you’ll meet in the rest of the Lunar Chronicles and give you the choice of whether or not to continue on to read the rest of the novels, which are all quite enjoyable.
How About You?
What are your thoughts about Stars Above or any of the other Lunar Chronicles novels? I know I’ve enjoyed them immensely and find them just lighthearted fun novels. Do you agree that its like reading anime? Who is your favorite character? Leave a comment and we can discuss Stars Above. 🙂
If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by writeralina: