I recently finished reading Cinder, the first book in the (very) widely loved Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and long story short, I loved it. I really enjoyed it a lot, and I’m already itching to read Scarlet, the second book in the series. Despite the fact that Cinder has been out since 2012 and the Lunar Chronicles seem to be a pretty universally loved series, this is my first foray into this particular futuristic world. But even though I’m kind of late to the Lunar party, I’m actually a little bit glad I waited to get into this series…and I’m about to tell you why.
I know you may have looked at the title of this post and thought, Sam, what in the name of all that is holy are you on about now?
You see, there’s this little video game called Fallout 4. You may have heard of it, considering it sold 1.2 million copies within 24 hours of its release back in late 2015 and won a game of the year award.
No big deal.
Now, I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout 4 for basically the past year or so. My two favorite video games are Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, both by Bethesda (they really know what they’re doing over there). So it’s not out of the ordinary for me to have Fallout on the brain, but when I started reading Cinder, it was even more at the forefront of my mind than it usually is. The parallels between the first novel in The Lunar Chronicles series and the 7th installment in the Fallout video games series were glaringly obvious, and were actually the very first thing that caught my attention. And I’m not saying this in a negative way or accusatory way—by no means am I trying to create a case for Bethesda ripping off Meyer or vice versa. I’m saying it more in the sense of “great minds think alike”, and “if you like one of these, you’ll probably like the other one”, which was the case for me.
In fact, my two favorite things about this book were the fairytale retelling aspect of it and the major Fallout 4 vibes I got from it, and this is a case where I truly think my love for one thing (Fallout 4) managed to actually feed and foster my love for another (Cinder). Because I’m so familiar with the world of Fallout 4, I was able to more fully immerse myself in Cinder’s world, and relate to it almost in a way as if I had experienced it, because in a sense, I had experienced it, through the RPG gameplay in Fallout. I felt like I could relate to it even more because some of the aspects were already so recognizable.
I think it’s really interesting how our love for one work of art or one type of media can, in a sense, inform our love for another. How many times, for example, have you seen articles that say things like, if you love this TV show, here are some books you’ll love? Or, if you loved this book, here are some movies you might enjoy? It’s not abnormal to draw the parallel between one work of art and another, and even use someone’s preferences in one media to make recommendations for them in another type of media. In this case, though, I was pleasantly caught off guard by the parallel, which is always a fun experience.
For those of you wondering, allow me to break down some of the major similarities I saw between one of my favorite games and what has the potential to be one of my new favorite book series.
Both Fallout 4 and Cinder are set in the future, and both of them take place in a society that has seen some sort of breakdown and then seen massive changes as it is/was built back up after said breakdown of society. In the case of Fallout 4, we enter the world post Nuclear War, which is usually just referred to by the characters as “the war”—because it seems to be the only one that matters. Post Nuclear War, the world has seen the need to be built back up nearly from scratch, resulting in a complete overhaul in the way people live. Cities are abandoned, ghouls—zombie-like victims of radiation—roam the streets, and new communities have been assembled. Historically, war informs society, changing the way we live, act, and view things, and Fallout 4’s envisioned future is no different.
The society in Cinder seems to have been informed by war as well, but in this case, World War IV, which is mentioned early on in the book in order to bring us up to speed on some of the major conflicts that have occurred between the present and the futuristic timeline in which The Lunar Chronicles take place (namely, world wars III and IV, obviously). A bit later in the book, we learn that World War IV eventually resulted in the breakdown of countries as we presently know them, and the reforming of coalitions which are fewer in number, but larger in terms of what they encompass, i.e. the American Republic, the African Union, the United Kingdom, the European Federation, Australia, and the Eastern Commonwealth, where Cinder lives. I loved seeing the two different interpretations of a new, futuristic post-war setting, and how the war has informed the lives of the characters in each work.
In both Fallout 4 and Cinder, characters generally refer to the area in which they live as “the Commonwealth”. In Cinder, it is a shortened version of the full name, the Eastern Commonwealth, whereas in Fallout 4 it is the New England Commonwealth, kind of a Boston-Cambridge-Quincy-Salem area. While of course the two don’t actually have anything to do with each other, seeing the characters in Cinder refer to their home as the Commonwealth definitely brought Fallout to mind, as well.
Animosity Toward Cyborgs & Synths
Okay, this was where the similarities were really driven home for me. One of the most compelling driving forces for the plotline in Cinder is also one of the most compelling driving forces for the plotline in Fallout 4, and in both cases it really roped me into the story and got me emotionally invested. The theme I’m talking about is a general animosity and distrust for any group who looks and, for the most part, acts like human beings, but who other characters know is somehow different on the inside. In the case of Cinder, this dislike and distrust is aimed toward cyborgs like Cinder herself, but in Fallout 4 it is aimed at synths—short for “synthetic humans”, being who were originally created by a shadowy organization called The Institute in order to look, act, and, for all intents and purposes, be like humans—except they’re technically not.
Cyborgs are treated like second rate humans in Cinder, being looked down upon with general disgust and even drafted for experimental testing in the search for a cure for the plague (intense, right?). In the Fallout world (the other Commonwealth), opposing groups have different opinions on synths. To some, like the Railroad, synths are just as good as humans and should be treated as such, especially due to their ability to develop human emotions and grow and change as humans would. Other groups, such as the Brotherhood of Steel, are 100% against synths, and look down on them with a similar disgust to that of some people in Cinder’s commonwealth. Depending on which faction you choose to align yourself during your gameplay, you may find yourself surrounded by people with either one of these views—and, of course, you can choose what your own character thinks of synths as well.
This controversial disdain for those who some consider human but others consider some sort of subhuman is one of the quickest ways to get emotionally involved in Fallout 4 one way or another, and I found that it was the same for Cinder. It’s definitely a polarizing topic, and it’s honestly not hard to see how in the future, it could be something that actually comes up.
Android or robotic companions are also prevalent in both, and I couldn’t help picturing Iko, Cinder’s android companion, as similar to Codsworth from Fallout 4, if not in structure, then certainly in terms of loyalty and having a big personality.
“Secret Heir” Plotline
Obviously, I can’t say too much about this one without dropping pretty big spoilers, but so I’ll keep it as brief as possible. I got some minor Fallout 4 vibes when the secret heiress plotline of Cinder was revealed. It is stated pretty early on that it’s rumored there is another heiress to the Lunar throne, Princess Selene, who has yet to be located. In Fallout 4, things are a little different…but there is something of an unexpected heir plotline going on. In case you haven’t played Fallout 4 yet (you should…you really should), I won’t say what it is because it’s literally one of the biggest twists in the whole game, but between the Commonwealth, the cyborg/synth distaste, and the post-war society, once we got to the heiress plotline in Cinder, my Fallout 4 vibes were fully saturated, and I was loving it.
Did I love Cinder? Yes. Absolutely.
Did I only love Cinder because it reminded me of Fallout 4? No. Definitely not.
Would I have loved Cinder if I had never played Fallout 4? Yeah, probably. Generally, we like what we like, and not only do I like realistic futuristic settings, sci-fi, and fantasy, I also like well-written stories I can get invested in and dynamic characters with strong motivations—which both Cinder and Fallout 4 have.
But what I loved is that there are two things out there with similar elements that I can love, and, again, that my love for one art form can inform my love for another.
So, if you’ve read Cinder and you’re interested in trying out a video game, I highly recommend you give Fallout 4 a shot. There’s no fairytale retelling elements (other than the fairytale-like, seemingly perfect like The Sole Survivor seems to be living pre-war), but it definitely has some Cinder-like elements that will appeal to you. I also think it’s a good video game to start out with if you’re not usually a big video game buff, but you do love stories and reading, because not only is it an open world RPG, but it relies pretty heavily on a well-written story—which readers will love.
Similarly, if you’ve played Fallout 4, and you’re looking for something to read…might I suggest Cinder?
I’m definitely going to pick up Scarlet, the next book in The Lunar Chronicles, as soon as I’m able to and get reading it (you know, because I don’t already have a towering TBR) because I cannot wait to find out what the next part of this saga has in store for me!
So, what does everyone else think? Have you read Cinder or played Fallout 4? Did you see the similarities, too? Have you ever found that one work you love helped to foster your love for another work, whether they were in the same medium or not? Let me know in the comments below! You know I’d love to talk <3