♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ 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.