Red Rising: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.1

Darrow has risen from the depths of the red soil of Mars and traversed the galaxies as a god among men.  Fracturing the Society that the Golds have worked so hard to maintain, Darrow struggles to bring the secrets of the Society out in the open.  There are many loyal to the cause, but just as many loyal to their colors and to the golden gods they have served for so long.  There comes a time when one must reap what they sow and that time for Darrow has come.  Those Darrow believed to be friends, along side his enemies, have crushed the progression of the Sons of Ares.  The Jackal has taken control of Mars after killing his father and the Rising is scrambling to hold what momentum they had when their leader, the Reaper is no more. Trapped within a stone hole, Darrow has spent months in solitude after being tortured by the sick and twisted Jackal.  Will his friends be able rescue him in time? and will they recognize the husk of man that remains while the unrecognizable war continues to rage on around Darrow?

Brown has a gift of harnessing positive elements from his interests and his influences within his novels.  Even when things are not familiar to me you can tell when he has taken a positive from another outlet and shone a light to enhance it, expanding it to its true potential.  So many authors do not gather enough of these positive influences and end up reflying on far too few and many times on the hope that their main character will be enough. While Darrow is our main character for the Red Rising series, Brown has recognized that one of his best elements in the series is the vast array of characters from different backgrounds and planets in his arsenal.  Darrow still remains in the forefront, but Brown also knows that many of the other characters need their time to shine, and shine they do.

For those of you following my progression through the Red Rising series, you know that I have been waiting for that fan girl moment where I completely fall head over heels with the series.  I regret to inform you that this moment still remains incomplete.  While I do really enjoy the series and love the characters, there is an element that still remains elusive in Red Rising.  I believe that element is cheesy romance and love triangles which Brown does not dally is such hokum.  It is a negative that has kept me from becoming a full and true fan, but it is also the lack of dalliances that have kept me fully entertained from start to finish.  Before you begin to believe that I did not actually enjoy this book or series, there are elements within Morning Star that Brown has executed perfectly all within one book.  We are taken on a crazy adventure over vast amounts of space, we are taken to our knees and sunk to our lowest lowes.  The ones we love have been cruelly taken from us.  We have found hope, we have found love and we have found hate.  Morning Star is the best book in the series thus far for its ability to capture all these things without any complaints.  There is a moment where an author or film maker will put the audience in an impossible situation where we are trapped, we feel vulnerable, and can do nothing as everything we have come to know and love is taken from us.  It is these moments that I whole heartedly applaude any creator, and it is also the moment when you know you have totally won me over.

It excites me knowing that the series continues beyond the trilogy that Red Rising states that it belongs to.  With Iron Gold already out and Dark Ages in the making I look forward to see what else the series brings us.  If the series had ended with Morning Star, I have to say I would have been extremely sad to be leaving the world, but I was completely at peace and rather thrilled with how Morning Star wrapped up.

The concept of life in space and in space ships may be more familiar to many of you, but there was something that was nagging at me in the back of my mind during the entire series.  Aside from how these mega structures are created, weaponry is so prevalent throughout the entire series, and not to say it is easy to destroy one of these ships, but it’s kinda easy to destroy some of these ships.  Countless lives are lost during the battles, as well as countless dollars of machinary.  While these questions plagued me, Brown unknowingly came to my rescue in Morning Star on page 350 where he notes the following:

“Metal shreds metal.  Ships vomit oxygen and men.  But ships are made to take a beating.  Huge hulks of metal subdivided into thousands of interlocking honeycombed compartments designed to isolate breaches and prevent ships from venting with one railgun shot.”

And just like that…interlocking honeycombs… mystery solved and my mind put to rest.

Morning Star ended on quite a high for me personally, though I cannot explain for it would ruin the experience entirely, and even after the story ended the book continues with positive acknowledgements.  Most acknowledgements are full of endless lists of names that mean nothing to the average reader, and while Brown does include these mentions, I found his experience and his advice to be inspirational and I really connected with them while already experiencing the high of the ending of the book.

As I’ve mentioned I am not a true fan girl of the series, but perhaps the reason for that is that is not a series to fan girl over, but a series to truly enjoy, completely immerse yourself in, and an inspirational source of how a series should be written from beginning to end (or not so end).

  1.  Book summary courtesy of Pierce Brown book page.
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Red Rising Series: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

 

As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor 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 own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within. 

A lamb among 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.1

There is something to be said about being able to devour an entire series because you are late to the game.  If it were the other way around I would be joining others in the slow painful death of waiting for a next book in the series to come out which can sometimes take you out of that world completely.  Being lucky enough to have much of the series already published I have to say, perhaps there is something to be said to building the suspense?  Maybe for a short while, at least. 

Sworn to protect and aid the man who took everything from him, Darrow’s days at the Institute are quickly becoming a shadow of his past.  Training to be a Praetor of his own fleet, Darrow and some old friends face off against their enemies in a training scenario that disposes the lives of low colors as if it were truly a simulation.  With so many eyes on the champion from the Institute, it becomes clear to Darrow just how little control he has and how truly out of his element he is.  Aided by his friends once more, Darrow lives in a den of lions aligning himself with villains more dangerous than the last, and with limited contact from the Sons of Ares, Darrow has never felt more alone.  Rather than detonating a blast of mass destruction, Darrow ignites a spark that brings fire raining from the heavens as the structure of society begins to fracture.

The scenery has changed, but many of the same great characters remain.  Believe it or not, Golden Son introduces us to many new characters to join the journey, as with the first book you cannot have war without loss so be prepared to lose some characters along the way, but gain some favourites in the process.  

I’ve always had an issue with the middle book in trilogies.  They tend to be nothing more than place holders trying to carry the flame from the first book, burning out quickly and dragging us along until the end to ignite the spark once more.  Red Rising is a trilogy, but as noted by the already released books in the series, the adventure does not end after the first three books which might be why this middle book feels different.  Brown has a way of filling the story with characters, adventures, and moments that even at downtimes we are never bored or find ourselves being dragged along in a desert of ramblings.  I’m surprised, though it should not have come to the point of this to be a cause of surprise, that I have not become annoyed or tired of many of the characters.  There are those that annoy or anger us as meant to as part of the story, but not in a frivolous or demanding way.  There is one exception to this that did not initially come to mind, but having thought about it I can’t seem to stop thinking about him.  Roque was one of the first close friends that Darrow made as a Gold.  Roque has a poetic soul, and while he did kill people in the Institute he was never one for war.  During Red Rising we actually like Roque and accept him into the main fold, but in Golden Son he becomes a bit too whiny and angsty for my liking.  He complains about wanting something, but when he gets it it’s not what he was expecting and reacts poorly.  

Pierce Brown knits together a galactic adventure that keeps us on the edge of our seats from the first sentence to the inevitable cry out of “Noooooooooooooooo” when completing the last.  I continue to enjoy the series as certain characters grow on me more and more.  Though I have not yet reached the desired fangirl status I remain hopeful.

 

  1.  Book summary courtesy of Pierce Brown book page.

 

Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

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Beauty and the Beast is by far my favourite Disney movie so I was thrilled to find this interactive illustrated copy of the original tale.  I was curious to discover how many similarities and differences there were to the Disney version and that of the original.  As experienced with many other Disney films, when you compare the story to the original there are some pretty vast differences, and usually pretty gruesome details as well.

The live-action version of Beauty and the Beast starring Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux released in 2014 tells a different variation of the Beauty and the Beast that Disney solidified in our hearts.  It was this version of the story that I was expecting to discover while reading Gabrielle-Suzanna Barbot de Villenueve.  How very wrong I was.

I decided to keep a notebook while I was reading the original tale to keep track of changes, differences, and inspirations to take and learn from the original tale.  This may sound like a novel concept, but oh how naive I was thinking about that now.

Beauty and the Beast is about a girl named Beauty who lives with her father, six brothers, and five sisters.  Beauty’s father is a wealthy merchant, but when tragedy strikes in the form of a fire, then a shipwreck and pirates on top of that, the family is forced to leave the luxuries of the city and move to the country.  Beauty’s sisters are completely beside themselves, but the change of scenery and pace does not effect Beauty as it does her siblings.  When word is received of the discovery of one of the ships thought to be lost arriving at port, Beauty’s father races back to the city along with a list of requests from his children, the daughters all seeking fast amounts of luxurious clothing, jewels, and other material goods.  Beauty, not wanting to inconvenience her father, chooses the gift of a rose.  As the family prepares to return to the city and their previous lives, the Merchant arrives in the city only to discover that the ships wares have been liquidated to pay debts, the people of the city believing the Merchant to be dead after his long absence.  Defeated, the Merchant begins the long journey home when he finds himself in a wintery landscape in the middle of June with an injured horse.  His journey takes him to a castle he did not know existed and seeks shelter from the weather.  Inside the castle, there is a fire, a feast, and more extraordinary, a treasure trove of items, each one checking off the list from his children; except that of a rose.  After being fed and rested, the Merchant makes to leave the castle, but stops at a garden full of roses and picks one for Beauty and finishes his list of items.  Upon doing this, the Beast appears, insulted that after providing hospitality in the form of shelter, food, and an immense fortune of goods, the Merchant still takes more.  The Beast makes a deal with the Merchant that if he were to return in one months time along with one of his daughter who comes of her own free will knowing that she may perish at the hands of the Beast then the Merchant can go free.  The children are elated to see their father, and the daughters even more thrilled at all the goods he has brought home to them, but become thoroughly distressed at the news of their father’s journey.  The daughters believe that it should be Beauty who should be sacrificed to the Beast.  After all, it was her choice to request something as silly as a rose rather than a mass amount of unattainable material goods that placed their father in the situation he is in.  Though Beauty agrees to return with her father to the Beast in a months time, this does nothing to appease the sisters and their hatred of Beauty.

Upon the arrival of Beauty and the Merchant at the castle, they are greeted by fireworks and a vast array of statues littering the property all holding torches.  After the Beast is satisfied that Beauty has come to the castle of her own free will, he guides the Merchant and Beauty to a room full of unimaginable treasures and requests the Merchant to refill his trunks once more with all the treasures he can hold for his journey home to the rest of his children.  Beauty, believing to be eaten any day, is relieved and confused to still be alive.  Her days consisting of exploring the castle, she has acquired a team of monkeys and birds she found in one of the vast rooms and has turned them into her team of aids.  Each night she arrives at dinner where she eats alone until the Beast arrives and requests her hand in marriage, and each time she refuses, causing him to retire once more.  Her nights are filled with dreams of an enchanting woman who advises Beauty not to be fooled by appearances, to give the Beast a chance.  She is further greeted by a handsome young man who also gives her strange messages about the Beast showing images of himself then the Beast, himself then the Beast and vast many other visuals to show that he is, in fact, the Beast without coming out and saying as much.  Despite all the obvious hints, Beauty falls in love with the man in her dreams and continues to deny the Beast’s proposals.  She discovers new rooms with windows that open out onto streets around the world and even rooms with opera houses and shows to entertain her.  Though enjoyable, this has become her life, day in and day out and she begins to miss her family dearly.  Relaying this to the Beast he allows her to depart back home to see her family for two months time but not a day longer as it would surely kill him.  Once more, Beauty is given the opportunity to fill trunks with vast fortunes to bring home to her family.  Though her brothers and father are pleased to see her, Beauty’s sisters still hate her and are ungrateful.  This is perpetuated further by the sister’s potential matches all falling in love with Beauty.  As her time with her family comes to an end, Beauty dreams of the enchanting woman who warns Beauty to not stay a day longer and shows Beauty images of the Beast dying.  Though this effects her she does not necessarily hurry back to the castle, but returns to the Castle when it is too late.  Using the visions from her dreams she finds the Beasts body and cries and cries wishing him back to life as she owes him so much.  When he is revived she cries tears of joy and agrees to marry the Beast.

The next morning she wakes to find the handsome man from her dreams sleeping in her room, and the Beast nowhere to be found.  The enchanting woman from her dreams arrives at the castle in an elaborate chariot along with a Queen.  The Queen is thankful for Beauty saving her son and bringing him back to his original form but begs Beauty to ask for any fortune or any other union except that to her son who is of pure and noble blood and Beauty is not.  Beauty agrees not to marry the Prince as she has no desire for the title or riches, but also admits that she does not love the prince and only agreed to marry him out of guilt.  Beauty asks only to be returned to her family.  It is then that the enchantress reveals that Beauty’s own mother was, in fact, the Enchantress’ sister and that Beauty is the cousin to the Prince and of noble birth.

The story then goes into that of the Beast and how he came to be a Beast.  This part gets even stranger involving multiple fairies, the one who turns the Beast into the Beast because he refuses to marry her, Beauty’s mother, and the enchantress who is sister to Beauty’s mother.  The tale then goes into the world of fairies, the story of Beauty’s mother and a King who is Beauty’s real father and how he married a fairy.  After this strange narrative ends, it is determined that Beauty and the Prince will marry.  Beauty’s family arrives at the castle to witness the marriage and discover the truth of her birth.  The people of the court who were transformed into statues are returned to the state they were in all those years ago.  The castle becomes a vacation home for Beauty and the Beast as they must return to their true kingdom and rule as Prince and Princess.

There is a vague reference to a cabinet and a clock early on in Beauty’s arrival at the castle, but these are the nearest references to any of the Disney characters that I could find in the story.  All enchanted beings of the castle were turned to statues, and the monkeys and birds that tended to Beauty were created by the fairy and were known as Genii.  It is hard to read many of the original tales that shaped our childhood from the Disney vault and seeing them in such a different light.  It is no secret that Beauty and the Beast is by far my favourite Disney movie, but reading the original story by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneueve was an exercise in patience and became an increasingly tedious project.  The book is only just over 200 pages, with a larger font, embellishments, and interactive pages.  The events that took place in the story along with the style of writing in the original time period were so difficult I could scarcely read more than a page or two at a time.

It absolutely gutted me having read this story and found it to be such a chore.  There were no magically fond memories found in this story and I couldn’t help but be annoyed by all the characters at one point or another.  Our beloved bookworm Belle from the Disney film turns out to be based on a boring Beauty who could not take a hint and any notion of romance is completely eradicated from the story.  Normally it is the original or source of the fantasy that is the truest and favourite, but it is becoming more and more apparent that many of the original tales pale in comparison to the Disney enchantments of our youth.

Stranger Than Fiction

 

 

Stranger_Than_Fiction_(2006_movie_poster)

Picture Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

 

There are certain things in life that people either love or they hate.  Cilantro is one of those things that come to mind, and Will Ferrell is another.  Comedies are an escape from reality and there is nothing that compares to a good laugh, but there seems to be something in our chemical makeup, like that of cilantro, that we can either laugh and stand Ferrell, or else you have a completely adverse reaction to him.  Try as I might, you will not find me enjoying a movie starring Will Ferrell and his cilantro performances.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS agent whose life consists of a select few actions timed precisely to that of his wristwatch.  On this particular day, his wristwatch fails him and the course of his life is altered greatly.  The most notable change being a voice (Emma Thompson) who narrates the actions of Harold’s life and gives the foreboding message that his days are numbered.  While trying to understand where this voice is coming from, why no one else can hear it, and what the voice meant by his days being numbered, Harold meets Ana Pascal.  Ana (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a beautiful baker, and Harold’s next assignment to audit her business.  Harold enlists the services of Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) to help Harold discover who this narrator may be, and what she has planned for him.  What would you do if you knew that your time on earth was nearly up, and what would you say to someone if you knew they were in control of your destiny?

I had some very obvious reservations about this movie based on the lead actor alone.  My only knowledge of the film was a split second memory of the scene of Harold brushing his teeth in front of the mirror all those years ago when the trailer was on TV.  Interestingly enough, I noticed that Stranger Than Fiction was not a title that you would hear falling from the mouths of those cilantro lovers.  I’m curious to know their thoughts on this movie.  Did they not like it as much because he wasn’t in his normal over the top comedic role? And did I only like it because he was not in that role and had evolved into something other than cilantro?  The real hero of the film and the person who truly made it for me was, of course, Emma Thompson.  Her voice as a narrator and her role in the film was fascinating at all times.  Stranger Than Fiction is one of those highly underrated films and hidden gems, hiding in plain sight, on Netflix.  For those with reservations about the film because of Will Ferrell, I am a true testament that his presence in the film does not sour things.  In the reverse, I am curious to hear the thoughts and opinions of the Will Ferrell lovers and how they felt about him in such a reserved role.

 

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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“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 reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds 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.1

 

Darrow is part of a class of humans known as Red’s for the dirt of the red planet that they mine.  Years ago when the damage done to Earth could not be undone, the human race set out for the stars in search of a second chance.  The Red’s live and work within the deep tunnels of Mars in the hope to terraform the planet and one day rise up to the surface.  Hundreds of years have passed since the colonization of Mars began and the hierarchy of space differs greatly from the humans of Earth long ago.  With advancements in technology, the human race was also advanced creating a color-coded society with those known as Golds at the top.  The Golds are Gods among men with far greater intelligence than any normal human with strength and size unparalleled to any other in the universe.  It’s because of these qualities that the Golds are at the top of the ranks, and the smaller more frail of those known as Red’s rank at the bottom.

The following is a ranking of society based on color, courtesy of book II, Golden Son:

Gold – The fiercely intelligent rulers of humanity.
Silver – Innovators, financiers, and businessmen.
White – Priests and priestesses who oversee the ritual functions of Society.
Copper – Administrators, lawyers, and bureaucrats.
Blue – Pilots and astronavigators bred to crew starships.
Yellow – Experts in human and natural sciences.  Doctors, psychologists, and scientists.
Green – The programmers and developers of technology.
Violet – The creative class of artists, musicians, and performers.
Orange – Provide systems support upon star ships and all manner of mechanical enterprises.
Gray – Police and military personnel.
Brown – Services in homes, business, and social institutions.
Obsidian – A monstrous race bred only for war.
Pink  – Unparalleled in beauty, they are bred and trained for the physical arts of pleasure.
Red – Unskilled manual laborers condition to brutal environs.

The mines of Mars are all Darrow has ever known.  Thanks to the HC video feeds provided to the Red’s they get a glimpse of the outside world and other planets.  The communications keep them informed, but they are also a way to thank the Red’s for their continued work and the hope that one day soon they can all come together to reap the seeds they have sown and live on the surface of Mars as one.  At just 16 years old, Darrow is known as a Helldiver in the mines.  A select few men who brave the drills and venomous creatures known as pitvipers earn the title of Helldiver, but with the nature of their work, many don’t live long to keep the title.  It’s rare that many of the men of the mines live to be what is considered old in the old days on Earth.  While the conditions are intense and their lives toiling in the mines can be difficult, Darrow is married to the love of his life, Eo, and he couldn’t ask for anything more.  Where Darrow is cocky and brash, Eo is gentle, beautiful and well liked by her fellow Reds.  She does not; however, share Darrow’s contentment with his lot in life.  Eo wishes for more for Darrow and more for her people, and she is willing to risk her life for change and risks it all when she sings a forbidden song that costs her life.  The words of the song resonate deep within Darrow changing him forever, but they also echo throughout the universe.  Eo’s song struck a cord and set in place a series of events that take Darrow from the dark dirty mines he called home to a world he never knew existed on the surface of his own planet.  With the help of a terrorist group known as the Sons of Ares, Darrow is transformed into the very thing he despises in order to plant himself into the society of the Golds and make Eo’s dream of change a reality.

I first learned of the Red Rising series after its release back in 2014.  Unfortunately, the book became another added to the never-ending list of books to be read.  Even as more of the series was released I wasn’t hearing any of the rumbles and praise I would have expected which kept the series off my radar.  It wasn’t until I discovered the author, Pierce Brown, on Instagram that I really started to take notice of the series.  Good looks, a published author with bestsellers under his belt and to top it off, only slightly older than myself.  Needless to say, I was mortified when I discovered this, igniting a series of quakes in the form of life and identity crises, the tremors of which continue to this day.

An odd thing that seemed to hold me back from the series was the fact that the lead character was a male.  As seen throughout many of my past reviews, I tend to stick to fangirling female leads and hunky co-stars.  I was concerned I wasn’t going to be able to relate to a straight male lead, which looking back seems a bit ridiculous.  While many series out there take their inspiration from other famous pieces of work they tend to create one good idea and put all their eggs in one basket.  I found so many elements from series such as Red Queen, The Hunger Games, and even Harry Potter.  Red Rising had also been compared to the Ender Game series, though I have not read any of them to be able to compare.  Brown takes some of the better elements from these series and uses them to inspire and create a new world without having to rely on the elements so heavily that they break and crumble to nothing as so many other authors have done.  With ancient Roman history thrown into the mix, Brown creates an exciting new world with so many memorable characters as he effortlessly guides us through a dangerous dystopian landscape set in the stars.

Many series focus on a character who is naturally set apart from their peers in many ways making them inadequate, but they also happen to be the only one who can save the world.  This is a common theme in most novels that I’m willing to accept, but when Red Rising takes the vulgar lowly red, Darrow, and splices him into a superhuman badass I was over the moon.  So much time is wasted in other books on the inadequacies of our main character that it tends to come off as more whining and right place at the right time than anything the character has actually done to effect change.  Darrow is rash and headstrong and will jump into situations without any long-winded questioning of himself that I really appreciated throughout much of the novel.  Death is a common occurrence in Red Rising as different houses at the Gold Institute battle it out on a landscape of different terrains offering its advantages and disadvantages along with the help from outside figures vying for their champion.  This becomes worrisome when there are so many characters that you instantly like or come to love.  One of my favorites sadly became a casualty of war and I am sad to continue the journey without them.

Perhaps it is because I have surrounded myself with, or placed myself within groups of other fangirls and fantasy buffs, but frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t heard higher praises for the Red Rising series sooner.  I’ve had grocery lists of complaints about other series that have a female lead and hunky heroes, but I can honestly say that my complaints about the Red Rising series pale in comparison which is pretty funny.  What is my complaint about the series you might ask?  The statuesque Roman Gold Gods have golden Blonde hair, and I happen to prefer tall dark and handsome.  The fact that this is my number one complaint is fairly laughable.  Because of this I will give a second and likely last complaint.  I didn’t care for the endless “bloodydamn” and “gorydamn” that were used as curse words throughout the book.  Still, there was some swearing and vulgar language so it seems my complaints are rather sparse.

While it is great to branch out and read different types of books, I was pleased to step back into the fantasy fiction niche I feel so comfortable in, and to find that place in something I didn’t think I would be able to relate with makes it that much better.  With that being said I am looking forward to continuing the series and seeing how things play out.  I would also be more than happy to check out the TV Series/Movie once they decide which route they will be taking.   Oddly enough, I enjoyed the book and have little to no complaints, yet I’m having a hard time to take the leap in saying I fangirl loved the book.  Perhaps it’s time I explore this more masculine niche and end with, dude writes a good book.

 

  1.  Book summary courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse book page.

Everything Sucks!

 

 

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Picture Courtesy of Netflix

 

 

Everything Sucks! is a Netflix Original coming of age story set in the 90’s.  I have to admit that when I first saw it and started watching I assumed it was just some quickly mashed together show to take advantage of everyone’s love of 90’s nostalgia.  To some extent, this is definitely true and is a big selling feature and bonus for many.  There are the more obvious references and then there are the more obscure.  The ones you do catch are like finding little bits of treasure along the way and the ones you miss you likely wouldn’t understand them anyway.

The story begins with Luke (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), McQuaid (Rio Mangini) and Tyler (Quinn Liebling) starting their freshman year in the town of Boring, Oregon.  In order to set the tone and their status in Boring Highschool, they decide to join a club and land themselves in the A/V Club.  It is here that Luke meets Kate (Peyton Kennedy) and falls in love and things are a downward spiral from there.  Okay, maybe not a downward spiral but what you can expect by combining a group of junior’s, freshman, sophomores, and seniors with an awkward 90’s backdrop.  Hormones are running wild, questions about sexuality are being explored, and the desire to dream big is found in all of them while the world is out to get them.

The story is not the most complex but it is its simplicity set in the 90’s, which I think is safe to say was a simpler and more wholesome time, with a kickass soundtrack that really makes the series.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about these mixed characters while watching the series as it progressed, but in the end, I found myself building a connection with the characters, rooting for their successes and hoping things work out for them in the end.  Each one has their own quirks from the nerdy religious girl, the dramatic popular girl, the awkward nerd, the squeaky-voiced cool nerd, and even the ridiculous but lovable dad and principal of the school.  A coming of age/finding yourself story doesn’t strictly have to be about kids, right?

Netflix had only ordered 10 episodes for the first season but I would be shocked if they were to allow it to simply die there.  I think they found something worth expanding on and I would be willing to stick with these awkward teens and see how they navigate through life.  While I can appreciate the sexual orientation aspects of the series, I do hope that they do not make it a focal aspect of all the series and are able to balance the storylines.  Everything Sucks! is perfect for fans of the afterschool specials, Full House/Fuller House wholesome era, but who also enjoy some foraying in more risque topics such as sexuality and drugs.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….1

I can’t say I had actually heard of the Handmaid’s Tale before seeing that the book had already been turned into a TV show and was well into its first season.  After reading Oryx and Crake in college, Jamie recommended the book to me and I actually didn’t mind it, marking it as the first Margaret Atwood book that I’ve read.  Margaret Atwood is a world famous author and activist and a jewel to the crown that is Canada and recognition is necessary where credit is due, but with that being said let us discuss the book at hand.

I haven’t really seen a full preview for the Handmaid’s Tale TV show so nothing was really spoiled for me other than a woman that appeared to be a nun wearing red rather than black, but that is all.  When reading the books, the handmaid’s are often described wearing these winged headcovers like a nun’s habit.  The way Atwood speaks of them as being protective and tunneled I more expected them to be wearing birdlike plague masks than habits.  In this dystopian tale, the world has gone to crap and naturally the only way to fix problems caused by men is to suppress and destroy the lives of women.  Women viable for childbirth are taken to facilities run by Sisters where they are taught their new way of life and how to be more submissive.  While there are those who attempt to escape through various routes, many times the result is being shipped off to a place only known as The Colonies.  The Handmaid is given to a family run by a Commander, a man in a position of power.  Their lives are dictated by religion,  routine and fear.  An organization known as The Eye runs everything and has people hidden throughout to ensure things run according to the new laws.  A Handmaid, while precious, is also replaceable and the bodies hanging on the wall in town are an ever-present reminder of this.  Our Handmaid is known as Offred, a nod to the name of her Commander.  The name she used in the past is not one to be spoken.  If she is successful in completing her duty she will be sent to a new Commander and given a new name.

Offred gives us a glimpse into a dystopian world where the things that were once trivial and rarely given a second thought are things you could now only dream to exist.  Though I haven’t looked into any other works by Atwood this would be the second dystopian work of hers that I’ve read and it would not surprise me to find more.  Atwood is a well-known poet and as I mentioned before, a jewel of Canada and worth recognition.  For someone like myself who enjoys writing, books, movies, and music you would think that poetry would be part of my repertoire but there is something about most poetry that I find to be pretentious and painful.  Atwood’s award-winning poetry skills are prevalent in the book, though perhaps a better choice of word would be rampant if not long-winded.  Though not to cast stones too harshly, I did flag the following as an interesting aside, though Atwood’s writing style makes the actual story more of an aside than the asides.

p. 221 “Night falls.  Or has fallen.  Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloudcover.  Like smoke from an unseen fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city.  Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes.  Wool blanket.  I wish I could see in the dark, better than I do.”

This is a fine example of a great and beautiful thought turned ramble, brought back to the topic only to disappear in a cloud of smoke once more.  There are a time and place for prose, but when 3/4 of the novel consists of these asides and rambles it is hard for your mind not to drift away to other more interesting things.  When you do come back to the novel you realize you’ve gone on a tangent longer than a page and still have not come back to the actual story letting you know that your daydreaming can continue until familiar words and phrases signal that we are getting back on track.

I couldn’t help but flag two more passages from the book where Atwood is so in tune with her reader and how they may be perceiving the book.

p. 149  “I’m too tired to go on with this story.  I’m too tired to think about where I am.  Here is a different story, a better one.  This is the story of what happened to Moira.”

At times I too was too tired to go on with the story and to think about where in the lost prose I was.  That is when my mind too found a different story to drift to, a better one.

If this does not appease you to Atwood’s connection to her reader let us turn to p. 307 and 308 and unearth a few more gems.

“I wish this story were different.  I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light….

I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story.  I’m sorry it’s in fragments…

Nevertheless it hurts me to tell it over, over again.  Once was enough: wasn’t once enough for me at the time? But I keep on going with this sad and hungry and sordid, this limping and mutilated story…”

Too right you are Atwood, too right so I will end your suffering now.  The book isn’t without its merits.  The few lines of an actual story were intriguing enough to get me through and I’m actually interested to see the TV series, though I can’t imagine how they were able to continue into a second season.  The Handmaid’s Tale is best left to a quick online search for a plot summary and perhaps sticking strictly to the TV series.  Having not seen the series yet, I can’t guarantee it will be any better, though going into a second season it may be just as time-consuming.

 

  1.  Book summary courtesy of Penguin Random House book page.