Thursday, September 9, 2021

Review: CYTONIC by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: 4.75/5 stars

“I’m not exactly a “there are nuances to this situation” type of girl. I’m more of an “if it’s still moving, you didn’t use enough ammunition” type of girl.” YESSS! Spensa shows us her bravado and fearless personality right from the beginning. 

Cytonic was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, and I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to read an early copy from Edelweiss. This review will contain spoilers for the previous two books, Skyward and Starsight, because it is really hard to talk about anything in this story without spoiling the previous two books.  

At the end of Starsight, Spensa jumps through into the nowhere, the place where FTL communication takes place, which is where almost the entirety of Cytonic takes place. I think it’s really neat that each book has a different setting and story structure: in book one, it was your classic school setting with Spensa training to become better at her skill of flying; in book two, the setting was on a space station where we got introduced to lots of alien races and there were lots of politics involved; and now in book three, Spensa spends the whole book on a high-stakes adventure in the nowhere. I can’t wait to see how book four will change it up again. 

We’re introduced to a new character right at the beginning named Chet Starfinder, interdimensional galactic explorer. He’s funny and the perfect companion for Spensa to spend the book with on an adventure across the nowhere, and I really enjoyed getting to know him. 

One issue I did have about this book was that it kind of felt like it deviated from the original plot. Spensa’s goal is still to take down the Superiority, but in this book she’s on her own side quest while all her friends are back at home working toward the goal. Not that the book was filler, because we do learn some pertinent information and some events do occur that are crucial to the main storyline, but I almost feel like this book looses sight of the overarching goal at times. And it’s very possible I’m wrong and I just missed some details or the effects of the nowhere made it feel that way, because I have a hard time believing Sanderson would write a book that didn’t ultimately work toward his overall series goal. 

This book made me think that the connection to Defending Elysium is even bigger than I had previously thought, and when I realized this, I immediately went to go reread Defending Elysium in the middle of reading this book. And wow, I had not remembered any of that story whatsoever, and once I finished it, I noticed so many more connections in Cytonic! I would definitely recommend reading Defending Elysium before Cytonic if you want to catch the maximum number of Easter eggs and references possible. 

Cytonic was so funny, full of classic Sanderson humor. When Doomslug says, “Poop!” in that one scene . . . I might have laughed way too hard. 

This series has such great characters, and we get introduced to a lot of new ones in this book, even more cool new alien races. My favorite character is still M-Bot though, and I loved seeing his evolution! I love how in each book he’s focused on something new: in Skyward it is finding mushrooms, in Starsight it is him forming emotions, and in Cytonic it is him learning how to tell jokes and insults and making Spensa rate them for him. Spensa still has her bravado, but she has also matured a lot over the course of the series. She is much more level-headed now than at the beginning of Skyward

I love that Spensa is faced with having to see someone in a different light and learn to accept them for who they really are rather than who she originally thought they were. This event has happened in all three books so far (Jorgen in Skyward, Krell/Varvax in Starsight, and Chet in Cytonic) and has really helped Spensa to grow and mature. 

I appreciate how diverse this series is. Sanderson really makes an effort to be all-inclusive, specifically with the alien races. Spensa notices too: “Even the wildest of Gran-Gran’s stories couldn’t compete with the universe’s biodiversity.” 

Parts of this story, especially some scenes toward the end, were almost over my head. I had to reread a few passages to fully grasp what was going on technology-wise and space-time-wise, and I still don’t know if I fully understand everything. Science fiction has never been my strong suit because sometimes I’m too dumb to comprehend what’s going on, but I want to like it and get better at understanding it, and this series is a good introduction to sci-fi, in my opinion, with each installment adding a few more sci-fi elements than the previous one. 

Starsight is still my favorite of the series so far, followed by Skyward and then Cytonic, which wasn’t bad by any means, but I just like the other two installments more. This book has pirates, exciting adventures through “space,” starship battles, a companion that gave me Indiana Jones vibes, a humorous mushroom-obsessed AI, and a girl full of bravado and courage who will fight until the end for the right thing. I absolutely recommend this series to anyone looking for a sci-fi with a strong female lead that takes the story in new directions with each new book. 

“All people must accept that we have the potential to do terrible things. It is part of seeing our place in the universe, our heritage, and our natures. But in that acceptance we gain strength, for potential can be refused. Any hero who could have been a monster is more heroic for the choices he or she made to walk another road.” 

(So I don’t forget the important reveals when I start book four.)

When Spensa gets to the nowhere, she finds in her pocket a bunch of silver glowing sand and her father’s pilot pin that she had left back on Detritus. It turns out this is Doomslug, whose form has shifted in the nowhere into an inanimate object. 

Cytonics were made when “the nowhere leaked into our dimension [the somewhere], and it changed people living near the breach.”

End of ch. 11: “The initial records of the delvers occur after the First Human War began. That was when the Phone Company—a human organization—gave a hyperdrive to the people of Earth. Humans then spread throughout the galaxy. War began, and near its end the first delvers appeared. Before that time there were no reports of delvers, or even the eyes.”

End of ch. 24: “Find the memories of the man who will come … find the memories … of the man named Jason Write.”

Mid-ch. 25: Jason Write was “the human who initiated first contact with the greater Galaxy after accidentally discovering he was Cytonic. He … kicked off the expansion of humankind into the galaxy, and indirectly caused the First Human War of conquest.”

Chet Starfinder turned out to be a delver, the one Spensa separated from the group in Starsight (? I don’t remember this happening), and he took on the appearance of the original pilot of M-Bot’s ship, named Spears. This entity was originally Jason Write’s AI. After Jason died, the entity felt sadness and thus deleted all his memories and personalities and copied himself thousands of times, thus creating all the delvers and explaining why all the delvers think exactly alike without being a hive mind. 

“Delvers are a kind of AI. Human bodies and consciousness are built off the DNA of early creatures on their planets, delvers are [essentially] created from the code of AIs.” This makes all AIs delvers, including M-Bot. AIs are “brought to consciousness and emotion by exposure to the nowhere.” 

At the very end, M-Bot flew off alone to distract the delvers, who disintigrated his ship, thus allowing Spensa, Doomslug, and Hesho (the Kitsen pilot) to escape through the lightburst back into the somewhere. They ended up at DDF headquarters on Detritus, which was orbiting another planet now. Chet stayed behind. Spensa found Jorgen, who told her that her eyes were glowing white (like the delvers) when she first showed up. She had promised M-Bot that she would return for him. Even though his ship is destroyed, AI consciousness can exist outside of a housing in the nowhere, so theoretically his mind is still alive in there. 

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