I *claim* to be a fan of the sic-fi genre. I’ve said before that it’s my favourite. But it has come to my attention that I read far more contemporary and fantasy than sci-fi, which is shameful. So as soon as I heard about Want and realised it was sci-fi/dystopian then I knew I had to read it. So I did.
Author: Cindy Pon
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Themes: deception, pollution, climate change, activism, friendship, rich people are literally bubble heads.
My blurb: In futuristic Taipei, there are two types of people. The ultra-rich yous protect themselves from the terrible pollution with oxygen suits and money, while the meis die young, suffering from all the environmental degradation and their poverty. After someone Zhou loves is murdered trying to bring in new environment laws, he and his friends decide they’ve got to do something to get back at the corporation who is responsible. But their plan is risky and the first thing they need is a lot of money. Zhou’s actions are about to get him into a game of deception and risk where he might lose sight of the end goal…
There were a lot of good things about this book, but first I have to complain about something important. Namely, the writing style. I haven’t read anything by Cindy Pon before, but the way this book was written really affected my perception of the story. The book required a lot of worldbuilding because of its dystopian nature, but instead of showing aspects of the world of pollution and global warming and poverty inequality, it was totally told. Especially at the start of the book, the writing had what felt like paragraphs spouting information that wasn’t always that relevant, though it did help paint the scene. At other times Jason (that’s his code name—we never learn his real first name, which is weird) comes up with information that you wish he’d announced earlier, like ‘oh I was not sick now because I had the flu when I was 10’ or ‘this person said X important thing to me the other day’ instead of actually showing it happening. This made it feel like the things being narrated didn’t happen.
The writing was also occasionally confusing, especially during action scenes, and there was a big reveal at the end that wasn’t made to feel that big. The book opens on an action scene, then goes back to ‘two months earlier’ to explain what’s going on. After that, though, there is no explanation of the time gaps, even though it becomes evident that weeks or months have passed with only a few days or events having been described. Generally, something about the writing style really made me feel disconnected from Jason and the other characters, even though it was a first person narration, which normally is easier for me to connect to.
However, there were some good things about this book. Firstly, I really liked how it was set in Taiwan, because I’ve never read any other books set there (and the author was born there) and my ex really good friend is Taiwanese. I liked the descriptions of food and although it made the future look bleak, it wasn’t hopeless either.
I also liked how it dealt with wealth inequality, something that’s rapidly becoming a bigger problem and environmental degradation. I personally believe both of these are going to be big problems in the future and I don’t get why more dystopias don’t tackle them. Like I don’t think the US is going to become a monarchy that likes to play games to amuse the prince and help him find a wife. But growing commercialism, the ethics of surveillance without consent, bio-warfare and deadly viruses, and poverty and climate change are all things that are already problems now and will be in the future. I liked how this book touched on all of these.
Also, I just generally love sci-fi and dystopia, not gonna lie.
I really liked the love interest character! I liked how she wasn’t only petite and subservient, but she wasn’t just the Stronge Female CharacterTM archetype. She was a combination of all of them. Jason’s ‘gang’ and all the minor charcters were really interesting.
The plot was intense and usually interesting. I liked how I thought the plot was going to centre around all of Jason’s deceptions getting him into trouble and be something where nothing would happen if everybody was honest, but it wasn’t.
Overall, I liked the idea of this book, and it definitely tackled some good topics, but failed to execute them well enough to make me like it.
Have you heard of this? What other books have you read set in South east/East Asia? (I need recommendations) Is there a genre you claim to love, but never read? What have you read which has a really great concept but not as good writing?