Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star

Stop whatever you are doing and go read Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Seriously, it’s that good.

 

My rating + review for each of the 3 books:

Red Rising – 5 Stars

The first 5-10% of the book is a little bit slow, and the “worldbuilding” elements (new words, terms, new races of humans) were a bit much for me, but not enough to bother me. Also, the first person present tense was very new for me, and took a bit of time to get used to. Then BAM, the story takes hold and never lets go. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such superb pacing. It has been quite some time since I’ve loved a book enough to lose A LOT of sleep to read it.

Pros: Incredible pacing; distinct, meaningful characters; simple yet sufficient worldbuilding; awesome premise; thematic parallels; complex yet understandable plot that both entertained in the moment and set up the next books nicely.

Cons: It didn’t bother me, but some people will HATE this book/series because of its obvious ties to Hunger Games. Like they are really, really obvious at times during book 1. And you know what? I liked the book even better for showing that its not necessarily a mind blowingly unique premise that makes a book awesome, it’s the execution.

 

Golden Son – 4.9 Stars

The sequel is really very good. One of the best sequels I’ve ever read, probably. And to be so consistently awesome with his pacing, Brown had to start somewhere he could launch right into the next portion of the conflict that mattered. But the character relationships that weren’t “on screen” for the first several scenes felt neglected. Particularly the primary romance sub plot. Overall though, it was incredible. Still lost a ton of sleep to this book.

 

Morning Star – 4.5 Stars

By the third book, the frequent plot twists pulled off by the character started to become obvious. Brown kills off just enough beloved characters off that you worry a bit about who is next, but by the third book you are pretty sure it’s not going to be any of the characters that the author has fallen in love with himself. I like happy endings as much as the next guy, but if I’m being honest, it started to feel like more of the same.

The friends turned villains theme didn’t work as well as I wanted it to, either: the outcome of the MC’s conflict with the “bads” could have been a lot more satisfying.  I get that the author is going for a realistic interpretation of how a group of friends torn apart by conflicting ideologies would/could act in war, but something about the Roque/Cassius storylines just felt… contrived. Roque’s storyline made some sense but could have hurt the feels a lot more instead of having your MC just turn into an emo bitch. And we all wanted to see Cassius come back to the fold. But the way it happened just felt sudden, and too easy.

Oh and the pacing took a hit in the third book. It was still good, better than almost any other book out there. But the break-neck speed of the other books took a back seat at times to long descriptions or exposition from the MC.

It was still an awesome book with a great ending, but at the same time I was glad that it ended after 3 books. Hence the 4.5.

 

These are the types of books that inspire me to write. The kind that drags you along for the ride, whether you like it or not. The kind that sticks with you, consumes you, perhaps even changes you in some small way.

Thank you, Pierce Brown. You talented bastard.

Writing Journal – One Big Thing

A discussion with my writing group led to a conscious solidification of a writing principle I’ve believed in for a long time but only now fully wrapped my mind around. It’s not new to the writing world, but it is new to me, so here is my take on it:

One KMAlexander suggested “One Big Thing” as a principle to follow relative to how much we can/should ask readers to suspend belief in works of fiction. This might apply to other genres, but it’s particularly applicable to Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror.

The idea is that all “unbelievable” elements of a story (or world in which the story occurs) stem from, and are logically consistent with “One Big Thing”.

For example, the catalyst for all of the fantastical elements in my book IRE was the idea for the spiritual metabolization (not a word, but I am trying to make it one) of energy as a magic system, which I call Infusion in my book. The theology (creation mythos) was constructed with this in mind, and the “bad guys” are all products of misuse of the direct and indirect (technology) use of this magic.

The alternative is world-building gone wild, where either the various aspects of the world feel artificially fabricated to fit the narrative, or the narrative feels fake – stretched to hit all of the world building that the author wants to introduce in the story.

Two more (somewhat related) principles that I’ve learned recently, in large part thanks to my agent’s awesome new assistant, Christine:

  1. Introduce ideas early in a book. Introduction of new characters, new civilizations, new arcs should be early enough to build to a meaningful resolution, or at least have a meaningful reason for inclusion within that book. Arcs spanning books, particularly from Book 1 to Book 2, may not be a good idea. I’m cutting a character from my book with this round of edits for this reason. A character I really like.
  2. Cut anything that doesn’t contribute to the story you are trying to tell. I’m cutting another scene with characters that I really like because their scene serves to give more depth to the world as it exists in my mind, but doesn’t contribute to the plot of this book. This is a hard lesson to learn, but a very valuable one.

 

-Scott