Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This initial Red Rising Trilogy is a little like the original Matrix Trilogy (if you haven’t heard, there’s apparently a fourth in the works). The first one was a triumphant, mostly fun story. At the end, our protagonists haven’t 100% won, but you could imagine it happening. Then the second one just crushed all that hope and made you feel dumb for believing in the narrative of the good guys always winning. Finally, the third entry in the story keeps that crapsack worldview and manages another, less satisfying ending.
There’s a weird tension for me with books. Obviously, there needs to be conflict for most books to work. The stakes need to be real. How often do we complain about characters having plot armor or being Mary/Marty Stus? Thus it’s revolutionary when GRRM (and even crazier with HBO and their promotional material) off Ned Stark. But, at the same time, I read my fiction books for escape. Shoot, even with non-fiction I’ve moved away from certain topics when they just reinforce the fact that you can’t do anything if you’re not wealthy and well-connected. (contemporary EG – wife told me yesterday that a woman who lied about her address to get her kid into a good elementary school is getting 5 years in prison while one of the college pay-of-play criminals is getting a few months) So if a book is giving me a nice give/take between the stakes and hopelessness, I tend to try and read whenever I get the chance. This book STARTS bleak and just rolls downhill from there for a LONG, LONG time.
I think Mr. Brown makes good use of it. Darrow is REALLY brought low to make his rise that much more impressive. But Mr. Brown does some things that just kept me putting off the book because of the crapsack nature of the world. And they all have one thing in common – realism. And, you know what? We probably need more realism in our revolutionary narratives. The version of the American Revolution we learn makes it seem to inevitable. Combine that with tons of pop culture narratives of revolutions where the inevitability of the Good Guys winning is prime and you get people calling for revolution any time the political winds aren’t going their way. The Hunger Games trilogy was one of the leading stories on this new trend of “hey guys, revolutions are messy!” and the Red Rising Hexology (I read the synopsis for the next couple books and it looks like it’s at least going to be 2 trilogies long) seems to carry on this tradition. But yeah, Mr. Brown makes all the characters in this book take off their plot armor. And while it makes for a more realistic and more dramatic book, it’s just too much for me right now. The world is garbage enough in real life right now.
So, I guess there’s two points to a review, right? How did I like this book and should the reader of the review read the book? Well, I liked the book well enough. 3/5 stars on GR according to the hover-tip on the stars is “I liked it”. I thought it was a good resolution to a trilogy’s worth of story – even with the Matrix-like similarities. Am I going to keep going? Oh, hell no! Darrow’s been through enough. In my head-canon, the story ends with this book and he’s got enough pain to last him a lifetime while he enjoys what little happiness the Epilogue gives us.
Should you read it? Well, I think it’d be weird for you to have read 2/3 of a trilogy and then stopped. Then again, I don’t Lem (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/…) books. I slog through and hope the writer will redeem him or herself. Most of the time they do well enough to at least earn 3/5 stars. But if you thought Mr. Brown was too tough on Darrow of Lykos and friends in book 2, then he is no nicer to them in book 3 – stay away!
Well, this has gone on long enough. Time to move on to some SFF Detective novels.
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