Book Review : Cytonic

Book Review : CytonicCytonic by Brandon Sanderson
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Action & Adventure, Survival Stories, Dystopian, Science Fiction, General
Pages: 432
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two-stars

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Reckoners series, the Mistborn trilogy, and the Stormlight Archive comes the third book in an epic series about a girl who will travel beyond the stars to save the world she loves from destruction.
Spensa's life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell--the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What's more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.
Now, the Superiority--the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life--has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa's seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.
Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she's able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.
The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.
To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

Cytonic is the follow-up to Skyward and Starsight, and like its predecessors, Cytonic follows pilot Spensa on a new journey. Unfortunately, this new adventure very much felt like filler for both the series and for Spensa, and I found myself really having to push to finish the novel. Even though Cytonic was very on brand for the series, featuring a lot of the same humor, a new group of ragtag comrades, and a few familiar faces, the novel felt like it was merely following the paces of the formula of the series, and just seemed to be setting up for future entries. After absolutely loving the prior entry in the series, Starsight, I couldn’t help but to feel very letdown by Cytonic. 

 

I think one of the biggest issues for me is that in each book of the series, Spensa seems to meet a new eccentric and diverse group of friends. Though this process felt more organic in the previous entries in the series, in Cytonic, Spensa literally steals a ship from this new group of people, only for them to automatically forgive her because she is such a great pilot and they want to recruit her. This quick turnaround was completely unbelievable to me and was made even worse by the fact that Spensa inevitably has to leave this group behind to go back home. It is obvious that Spensa picks up belonging in this  temporary group to accomplish her short-term goals and that she’ll move on when she’s gotten what she’s wanted. 

 

“I’d never had any other options in life. It was fight or be destroyed. But now I’d seen that wasn’t the only way to live. It was the first time in my life I’d actually had a chance to escape the war. I had to consider it. How could I not?”

 

But Cytonic likes to pretend that Spensa is conflicted by how much she likes the group of people she literally just met, and enamored by the illusion of the life she could have with them. However, I wasn’t fooled for a second—I knew Spensa wouldn’t give up her life with what’s left of humanity on Detritus, or her fight with the Delvers. And I found it annoying that I had to watch her entertain these supposed thoughts of letting her home, her mission, her friends, and her love interest all go for a flight of fancy. I felt this whole supposed struggle was completely out of character for Spensa and I even found myself skimming to get through her so obviously temporary inner-conflict.

 

Despite not buying any of Spensa’s inner agonizing or her supposed profound bond with her new friends, I still enjoyed parts of the novel. Like the rest of the series, Cytonic manages to make flying a starship, something I would tell you I had absolutely no interest in whatsoever before this series, believable and exciting. The description of how this interstellar flight works—with gravity caps, light lines, acclivity rings, and all of the other technical terms, shows off author Brandon Sanderson’s prowess at world-building and for lack of a better term, magical systems. 

 

Sadly, Spensa’s ability as a pilot, bravado, and her trusty companions Doomslug and M-Bot were just not enough to save Cytonic for me. Plus, it was getting harder to suspend my disbelief that this young adult woman, who has been through more than ever and makes galaxy-altering decisions at the drop of the hat, is still talking about the inconvenience of eye holes when drinking out of the skulls of her enemies. M-Bot’s prattling also felt more like mouth diarrhea for the sake of mouth diarrhea than actually humorous or entertaining this time around too. I also couldn’t help but to mentally roll my eyes when characters are making unnecessary jokes and references during intense life or death situations where concentration was of the utmost importance. Sadly, it all just felt a forced to me this time around.

 

“Oh. Maybe that last part had been a little much. I was trying to get better at this sort of thing. I should probably leave skulls out of conversations.”

 

I also really struggled with the writing style in Cytonic. Though the other novels were also in first person as well—something I typically dislike, but admit can be fine if done well—I really did not care for this narration in Cytonic at all. Mainly because Cytonic straight up told me every little thing Spensa was feeling. There was absolutely no showing and no mystery, and I found it boring, repetitive, and sometimes annoying. It doesn’t help that the novel is entirely from Spensa’s perspective, and no one else’s.  In fact, I can’t help but feel the formula of of these books is growing stale, (note that I haven’t read the novellas that detail the events of Spensa’s Flight at home on Detritus, maybe they are more unique), Spensa goes off on an adventure that only she’s able to do without consulting anyone, meets new group of friends that she instantly bonds with, and saves the day with the power of friendship, her supreme pilot skills, and Cytonic abilities. Even the most powerful and deadly of the beings in the universe, the Delvers, are easily dealt with by Spensa, even though they destroyed entire civilizations and actual planets in the past. It’s starting to feel like her obstacles aren’t really that at all, but are instead, mere bumps in the road to make her appear even more special and powerful. 

 

As a result whenever anything life-threatening or remotely serious in the novel happens, I knew without a doubt that it would be resolved neatly before the end of Cytonic. I was unable to feel any tension at all, and couldn’t help but feel that Cytonic was a major step backwards from Starsight, and even Skyward, which had more believable conflicts and friendships. Cytonic didn’t work for me, and actually made me feel like a grumpy, jaded adult who had outgrown the series and maybe even young adult novels. Dramatic, I know, but really not a feeling I enjoy getting from any novel, let alone one by written by one of my all time favorite authors and when I can still manage to enjoy children’s novels just fine. 

 

Plus, it feels to me like the series is definitely going in a different direction from Skyward, and a part of me really mourns the loss of the dystopian science fiction series I thought I’d be reading. I miss reading about a young outsider who longs to become a pilot, and who manages to struggles her way to the top in spite of her Cytonic “defect,” and her father’s infamous legacy hanging over her every move. At this point, I’m sadly undecided if I will be reading the next entry in the series. If I do decide to read it, it probably won’t be a day one purchase, at the very least.

two-stars
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Book Review : Cytonic - Blogging with Dragons

Posted December 7, 2021 in Book Reviews, Science Fiction, Young Adult

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