Book Review – ‘Golden Son’ by Pierce Brown

A solar system at war led by an impostor.

Golden Son Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 442

From the dustjacket:

As a Red, Darrow grew up working in the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labour while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds – and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among the wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love – but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution – and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

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While it starts off with an engaging encounter turning everything achieved in ‘Red Rising’ on its head, immediately after, the narrative fell into that long-winded flat tone I found at the beginning of ‘Red Rising.’ The story is interesting but the writing style is not so compelling for me. Pierce can have such a meaningful and succinct turn of phrase that really resonates… and then waffle for pages on mundane happenings. It’s really frustrating to sing his praises when I find times I’m so bored I’d rather wait for my dog to fart for entertainment.

So, after 131 pages, I had to put the book down and walk away. Reading three other novels before returning for a second wind. And then it is all so interesting and so political… but that went hand in hand with wavering engagement. With many long difficult character names (and there are lots of them) and such macabre machinations I only got another 100 pages before I needed another rest. Slow pacing and a dry narrative are killing me!

Golden Son Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe story is great. Complex characters. Political chess playing manoeuvres. Power plays. It has all the ingredients I usually love in a novel but it just didn’t sell me. I found my interest waning a number of times, bogged down with too much detail, too much padding to the main story line in a barren narrative tone. And then, like a switch had been flipped, I was back into it again. It was as if only half of the book really grabbed me and the other half put me to sleep. Talk about polarizing.

I took just under a month to read ‘Golden Son’ and managed to read another eleven novels in between. I’m hoping it was just a second-book-syndrome thing. Because I liked ‘Red Rising’ and can imagine the finale to be explosive. Especially after the hype this series has received. I don’t think I’m all that emotionally invested in the characters, they are all about war and revenge and playing a long game to end oppression. That leaves little room for softness and building trust and love outside the harsh landscape – I guess that’s why I kept putting the book down because it was so hard to digest knowing that they all turn on each other.

My favourite scene was that of Darrow with his mother. It was the first emotional connection I’d gotten to the series – even in comparison to the death of Eo.

Here’s hoping it gets better… I really want to love this series.

Overall feeling: Some really amazing writing – and some that lapsed me into a coma

Golden Son Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Golden Son Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Red Rising’ by Pierce Brown

Being a Martian is difficult.

Red Rising Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 382

From Goodreads:

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

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I’ve owned ‘Red Rising’ (well, the whole trilogy) for a while, but have only just started reading it after a number of rave book reviews popping up on my feed to remind me why I bought this collection in the first place. While an amazing story, at the beginning I was resistant to the narrative. There is a lot of information to process, and the writing style feels dry, or sparse, making it hard to connect with our protagonist, Darrow. ‘Red Rising’ read like an institutionalised Lord of the Flies on a futuristic Mars. Brutal.

Darrow is a complex protagonist, but there is something hinted at in the narrative, at to how his destiny is shaped the way it is, but not revealed. I think this is a major part that stopped me from truly connecting with him. The novel is full of puppet masters pulling strings – and Darrow is ultimately just another pawn. I never felt his motivations and actions were truly his own. But I love an underdog story, someone fighting against insurmountable odds, so I was invested in his story though not truly convinced by his convictions.

Red Rising Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The friendships formed – especially in the school, were barbarous and endearing. I see it in my best friend and his buddies that were in the S.A.S. together, there is a certain type of connection that is formed on the battlefield that nothing can break, and others will not truly understand. Piece Brown captured that comradery perfectly.

There are a few things about the society and its technology that puzzle me in the face of human nature. Such as the role carvers (doctors) play and how malleable the body, and its genetics can be. They are truly playing God… and from the hierarchy and accounts of the ruling factions they pretty much are, but this aspect did not seem to be explored as far as I think it would be naturally with such a powerful instrument to play with.

The politics, however is an intricate web and blindsided me on a number of occasions. I think this, and the battle scenes are the best parts of the novel.

I may have rated ‘Red Rising’ higher, because it is truly a tremendous tale, but if not for my issues connecting with the writing style, and near boredom through two thirds of the novel. But aside from that, it is a magnificent book that others may find outstanding. The writing style was sparse, dry, distinctly masculine. Even though the protagonist is male, something about the narrative made it difficult for me to immerse myself into the Martian landscape. I was frequently putting the book down for a rest or lack of interest. The last third of the novel, however, is an entirely different creature. The pacing is gripping, and so is the plot with all its twists and turns. The cast start to show their true colours and get tested… I was truly riveted and could not put the book down. The only thing that kept my persistence in the beginning was that I had heard so many wonderful things from friends about this series and kept telling myself that it will get better… any time now… any time… and finally it did.

I think there is so much to set up for this series to work, the world building, the motivations, the politics, that it takes some time to get its legs. That didn’t bode well for this debut, but promises that the following two books in this trilogy should be amazing. That’s what I am hoping for anyway.

The main purpose of ‘Red Rising’ is easily predictable – it has to be to continue on to the second and third in the series, but the journey there was not. There were some minor points that I had been spoiled from my friends, but they confirmed what I thought as I was reading, but did not detract from the enjoyment near the end. I still got shocked and horrified. It’s a great story, but because of the issues I had with the writing style, did not get emotionally invested. Had I been sucked in, I think ‘Red Rising’ would have brought all the feels.

On a side note, I found elements of this society synonymous to that of the Japanese yaoi ‘Ai No Kusabi’ (minus the sexual nature of the anime.) This book has also been optioned to be turned into a movie. I’d be interested to see how this series will be treated… maybe it will fix the issues of pacing because there wouldn’t be the need for pages and pages of explanations. And I can just imagine the special effects! No news has come through on the development of this project as yet, but I am certainly keeping my eyes peeled. Additionally, Pierce Brown is starting a new series in this universe, with the first novel ‘Iron Gold’ due for release in January 2018. It’s all so exciting!

I think I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not I’d recommend this novel until I’ve finished the trilogy because there are so many unexplained elements that worried my brow…

Overall feeling: Huh?…. OH! *lightbulb*

Red Rising Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 

Red Rising Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.