Book Review // Want by Cindy Pon

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♡ ♡ ♡ ♡  s t a r s

Zhou lives in a futuristic Taipei that’s divided on class lines and polluted beyond belief. The you are the elites who run businesses and large corporations, and continue to grow richer; while they have suits to protect them from their polluted surroundings, the mei – the lower, poorer classes – have a high mortality rate, and barely live past the age of forty. Zhou and his crew want to make a difference; most of them have lost someone or another due to the conditions they live in. They hatch a plan for Zhou to kidnap a you girl and hold her hostage for a large sum of money that will allow them to infiltrate the elite class, and start a revolution on their own, even if that means sacrificing their lives.

With Want, Cindy Pon launches you immediately into the action. When a book starts off with a kidnapping, a hostage and a ransom, you know it’s going to be exciting – and exciting it is, throughout. Pon does an incredible job of pacing the book – there’s a perfect balance of action with those slower moments permeated with introspection, conversation and character-building. The romance exists, but it’s slow-burn without much rush, but the focus of the story never shifts from the mission at hand to anything else; Pon set out on a mission with this book – to tell a story of a group of misfits, and one misfit in particular, who’s trying to topple the system, and that’s ultimately where the focus remains.

The world-building is incredibly vivid; although no dates exist anywhere in the narrative, you get a sense that it’s sometime in the near-future, maybe seventy or ninety years from present day. It can be difficult to represent futuristic technology without it seeming far-fetched, but Pon describes most everything with immense precision, but her imagination is reigned in and believable. Perhaps one of the reasons I don’t reach for sci-fi much is because despite being fiction, much of it is still aimed to be believable – and it very rarely is that for me. But with Want, I could see it play like a movie in front of my eyes, and that’s everything I could want from a science-fiction novel.

It’s a terrifying prospect – that within a century or so, the human race’s lifespan might fall thirty years, that the sky will no longer be blue because of the grime and the smog and the smoke, that people will no longer have enough money to take care of their sick family members who keep getting sicker because no place is safe, there is no food to eat. And at the same time, there will be people living lavishly – with apartments that, if they were sold, could feed an entire city, who turn the other way and eat finger food while children and the sick die in the streets from disease and hunger. And it’s even more terrifying when you realize that that is the way of the world even now. There is added technology in Want, sure, and increased pollution too, but the class and social dynamics are eerily similar. And it does raise the idea that… is this aggravated version of already existing conditions really what we’re heading towards?

One of my main negatives of the book was how little emphasis there was on the side characters, and I don’t mean that they were badly developed or flat, but that they were so well-deveoped and interesting that I wanted to see more of them. Zhou’s crew was made up of diverse, fascinating people – an Indian genius/scientist who works behind the scenes, a bisexual Chinese girl who’s the brains behind the entire crew, a quiet, lethal fighter who speaks with her weapons, and a tall, charismatic Filipino boy who likes to look dapper, yet aloof, while he orchestrates his role in the mission. I loved each and every one of the side characters, perhaps some even more than I liked Zhou (and I really did love Zhou) that I would have liked to see a bit more of them. Hopefully, there’ll be more emphasis on the crew in the next book.

Another critique I had was regarding the writing style; it doesn’t flow quite as well as I would have liked, and that’s mainly because Pon spends too much time explaining what’s happening. It’s not a case of “she was telling me, not showing me” but rather “she showed it to me and then explained what she already had shown me.” She would also spend time describing the clothes of secondary characters, who sometimes never showed up again. Both of these technique issues often broke the narrative flow, and it takes effort on the reader’s part to get back into the swing of things.

But apart from these minor issues, Want was an incredible start to what seems will be an incredible duology (trilogy?) and if the second book’s anything like the first one, I know I will enjoy it tremendously. If you enjoy sci-fi at all, or books with heists and crews, and slow-burn romances, definitely give Want a go – there’s a lot this book has to offer, and you won’t be disappointed.

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Comments

  1. A futuristic Taipei? That kinda has me right there. I love how you describe the futuristic elements being believable, that’s always good, and the balance of action and quieter moments sounds spot on too. Also the part about the disparity of the haves and have- nots- it does sound eerily similar just dialed up to eleven?

    Love the art too- I love cyberpunk/ future tech art and it definitely looks like it fits the story!

    • That’s the main reason this book was on my radar! We get such little literature that’s focused on futuristic countries NOT in the West, you know? I hope you get to it soon and enjoy it as much as I did.

    • Thank you so much! I can’t wait for more people to start reading this book once it’s released. <3

    • Absolutely! Those are definitely my favorite types of sci-fi. What’s a futuristic tale that isn’t based off the events of now? 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Ahhh vivid world building is a favourite element of mine! And excitement yesss ahah. I haven’t read sci-fi in a while, but this one definitely seems like one I have to pick up!! <3 Lovely review Aimal!

    • Thank you so much! It’s definitely a very accessible science-fiction tale; this is coming from someone who doesn’t often read sci-fi. Here’s hoping you’ll get to it and enjoy it. x

  3. Oh you do know how to sell a book right- I’m so piqued for this one now and I wasn’t even all that interested to begin with and nor am a huge sci-fi fan xD A futuristic world set in Taipei and incredibly diverse characters- ah, this sounds absolutely brilliant, Aimal! Can’t wait to get my greedy hands on this.

    Ruzaika @ The Regal Critiques.

    • *blushes furiously* That is honestly the best compliment I’ve ever gotten on my reviews, omg. Thank you so much. I need you to get your hands on it asap, too. 😛 I hope you love it!

  4. I hope I can write a review as good as you! If I was an author, I would probably write a hundred books and let you read and review them all. Anyway, I have been seeing a lot of Pon’s books on my feed. I think it’s better to start with Want. Again, I love your awesome review!

    • Thank you so much, this is the nicest thing anyone’s said about my reviews, oh my God. 😭

  5. This book has been on my TBR ever since I saw it was set in a futuristic Taipei! It just sounds so fresh and original, and I’d love to read it even though I’m not usually that much into sci-fi. And your review just convinced me even further to read it, because a heist storyline and an amazing, diverse cast of secondary characters just sounds like music to my ears! So happy to hear you enjoyed this, despite a few minor issues like the writing style. Thanks so much for a great review!

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