Saturday, March 18, 2017

Golden Son - Pierce Brown [Red Rising Trilogy]

Golden Son - Pierce Brown [Red Rising Trilogy]
Source: Library
Original Review: March 18, 2017
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I don't know why this relief didn't hit me while I was reading the first book in this trilogy, but I find myself relieved that there is no jumping from character to character. There were bare hints at a subplot in the first book, and I feel those were sufficiently fleshed out and handled in this the second.

It also struck me, where it didn't before, that in all of the Carving and teaching they did to make Darrow into a Gold, certain things - such as the matter of being the "brightest of humankind" - came from him, from Darrow, not from the Carving. A point to the message of the book, perhaps?

But I was disappointed again early on. While the transitions have become almost seamless, Brown has stayed predictable. Darrow has repeated the same mistake he made at the beginning of Red Rising - except this time the consequences of his assumptions cost him human lives instead of just his pride.

And Darrow? He's full of faults. Full of them. Makes it really hard to sympathize with him, especially when he starts naming them himself. He doesn't even vie for justice anymore, early on. It takes a good portion of the story for him to even start thinking Justice again. He begins this story in a very, very dark place.

I daresay all of the predictability has come from this plot being one repeated and recycled throughout the decades of Science Fiction literature. Politics - it's always about politics. Politics, the suppression of humankind in a "slave class", a singular hero chosen to fight against the brutality of the Empire... oh, I'm sorry. I mean The Society.

Despite all that, however, the writing is very much redeemed. I'm watching a movie inside my head. T his is where it become actions & sci-fi with characters and cause I can cheer for and get behind and wish the best for, as opposed to your standard dystopian mush. Here is where I can start being eager and surprised and feeling sly and cunning on Darrow's behalf. Where he was physically carved in Red Rising, here he becomes Carved in a different way. The boy from Red Rising is no more.

Unfortunately, many others who play a vital role - do not change at all. Not in any way vital to the story.

In Golden Son, it is the action that waxes and wanes. From natural and cinematic, to stiff and full. The one thing that managed to surprise me - really surprise me - so far, was worth all of the predictability. At that moment, I was eagerly awaiting the final book in this trilogy, for all it's faults.

But Brown completely obliterated the surprise, and any chance of me reading book 3 along with it.

The end of Golden Son unravels the entire story so far. And...



We still don't know.

We get to the end of Golden Son, and we still don't know why the dance, and why the song, are killable offenses! And I'm so bloodydamned disappointed by the ending, and by the lack of creativity as whole in the first two books, that I'm not even going to bother with the third to see if there's finally given an explanation there! It's reading more and more as a plot device and nothing more. And I hate ASB's.

Brown's got major talent as an author - there's no mistake about that. It shows during the parts of these books that are paced well, immersive, and he definitely knows how to hook a reader. My biggest disappointment is, knowing this, he comes across as lazy because his brilliance is not consistent.

I am encouraged that the release date for his next book is being pushed to allow for some fine-tuning. That being said, I hope that it doesn't fall victim to over-editing. I can see where that may have played a role in this trilogy.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Red Rising - Pierce Brown [Red Rising Trilogy]

Red Rising - Pierce Brown [Red Rising Trilogy]
Source: Library
Original Review: March 13, 2017
Rating: ★★★☆

One of the first things I notice - and not in an understandable, this is a completely different culture way - is the selling. With the c's and the k's and the lack of consistency. There isn't consistency to the how & why, and there's no reason for it. It's distracting. Why didn't Brown just come up with new words? Or, better yet, just leave the spelling alone?

Chapter brakes & scene transitions are messy and awkward. And by Chapter 4, things have become predictable. No true building of conflict. Not one I'd care about, anyway. I try to imagine what I'm reading, try to put myself into the world Brown is creating, and I can't. The seams are too visible.

The transitions get smoother as I read, which is a shame. How many readers have already been lost by now? This improvement gives me hope, though. I hadn't reached my decision point by then, so there was still time. But the progression remained predictable. You can't put your main character in life-or-death situations so early (or so many times) without cuing the reader he'll survive. And for what? It's supposed to cause suspense, I'm sure, but fails.

There are a lot of questions early on, but none of them seem all that consequential. Things are made out to be horrible, with no given reason as to why. And if that's the point, and a critical thinker can't truly pick up on it, how will the average reader?

The further I got into the story, the more satisfied I became. The imagery was easier to picture, to immerse myself in. The attitudes and mannerisms of the characters become not so dull and monotonous. 

There is a substantial disconnect between the segments of underground vs. above-ground, though (and if that's a spoiler, I think you're in the wrong genre...) and probably not in the way Brown had hopes. People, especially ones in new & shocking situations, tend to revert to their base natures. Darrow's discipline, from being raised in the mines and the constant introduction of perception-shattering data could explain his apparent stoicism, but this is never explained. Darrow's state of mind, his ability to process everything "new & shiny" is never explored. There is no self reflection. Only observations, pitifully disguised as such.

I finally start getting absorbed into the story at about 100 pages in. Finally, things stop being so predictable and dull. (Yes, I use the word "dull" a lot when reviewing these books. Sad.) We still aren't getting much self-reflection out of Darrow, but the story is getting more interesting. Though I feel I should be much further through the story. A lot could have been left out, or done differently, to make the pace actually match the real estate of the book. For as quickly as I get interested, I get bored just as fast.

There is a message here, but it is so muddled and vague. But it's there. Brown must face something like Darrow when he writes his story. A question. How far to take it?

It's a pity how uninspiring the book turned out to be. There are good lessons, good ideals to be had. They just weren't driven home. However, Brown has proven skillful at manipulating, The Society he depicts should be hated and despised. They've grown worlds on the backs of slaves who've no idea they are slaves. Yet you could almost sympathize - or at least feel a little sorry for - how the children are turned into their leaders.

The good news? Once I got past the halfway point, I was absorbed. I'm not a fan of the similarities to the first book of the Hunger Games, but having all of the other background and details made it different enough to stand on its own. The action is good, well written, and engaging enough to keep me from finding something else to critique. But it took a long time to get there. I could easily see this as a movie, where the entire first 1/2 of the book would take a good 2/3 of the movie, where it should realistically only take up a few opening scenes. The pacing is uneven.

When I finish reading - it's like what the hell just happened? The first half of the book vs. the second half... what switch was flipped in Brown's brain for the second half? The only thing keeping me from immediately going out to the second book is the first half of this one. I'm going to read it - and soon - but I'm not nearly as excited about it as I could be.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Bone Witch - Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch - Rin Chupeco
Source: NetGalley (in exchange for an honest review)
Original Review: March 2, 2017
Rating: ★★

The Magic
Chupeco obviously has skill in bringing setting and environment to life in the mind. Her descriptions are fluid, and in many cases seem natural (with one caveat, noted later). Her use of simile and metaphor, if overdone, at least make sense. And her decision to use taste as the sense used to describe how using magic felt was not only out of the box, but also skillfully done. I definitely applaud her descriptive skills.

The idea of a Heartsglass is definitely unique. I don't know that I've encountered anything like it (though I do have to admit I have a LOT of fantasy previously released that's in my TBR pile, so anything is possible!).

The Madness
So... I have one major, major gripe with this book. It's obviously a part of the fantasy genre. One big note that's made constantly to authors is this - write what you know, and read the genre you plan to write in. Get familiar with it. Be familiar with what you are writing.

But don't make it familiar. At too many points in this book, I was distracted from the story by a scene, an organization, a moment being familiar because of another book. Another fantasy book. In The Bone Witch, I saw manifestations of The Kingkiller Chronicles, the Wheel of Time, Kushiel's Legacy, Memoirs of a Geisha (which I figured even before Chupeco pointed out on Goodread's that the women were Geisha-esque. Tsk.), and even World of Warcraft!

*sighs* If I see one more story of magic where the first use is accompanied by life-threatening illness, I just might explode.

And, perhaps this is just the fact that Chupeco fell victim to the fact that her heroine is both narrator and heroine, but there was far too much description in this book, and the action that did exist also fell victim to the "show, don't tell" folly. For as much as I love the way she describes things, it's hard to continue to appreciate something that is so overdone.

The Musings
All in all, my opinion of this book seems to fall in line with a lot of others I've seen. I want to love this book. I love the premise. But there is absolutely no real tension to speak of. The heroine is indestructible. So is her sidekick. The switching back and forth between events is distracting, especially since we're still seeing things from only one point of view.

Beyond that, I really don't have anything to say about this book. I was excited to read it, but it let me down. Perfectly ordinary. I almost put it down, but I kept hoping, since it wasn't a total disaster, that something would happen to redeem it's blandness. But while it wasn't a total disaster, it also didn't really stand out as anything special.