Book: The Red Rising Trilogy

"Red Rising"

His wife taken. His people enslaved. Driven by a longing for justice and the memory of lost love, Darrow will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if he must become one of them to do so.

I’m doing something a little different this time; instead of posting about just the first book, I’m going to write about the whole Red Rising trilogy. Why? Because as I put the first book down, I realize that I really didn’t have much to say about the book, because while it was enough of an enjoyable read, it didn’t really feel like that much different from another dystopian novel. Specifically, The Hunger Games.

You have a caste system. The ones at the bottom are oppressed, and the ones on the top are the oppressors. You have a reluctant hero who is transplanted from the bottom to the top. And then the revolution begins. It’s not exactly paint-by-numbers, sure. Red Rising is different enough from Hunger Games that you don’t put it down and turn your back on it. But the only thing that really set it apart from the aforementioned dystopian series was the fact that author Pierce Brown is amazing at describing warfare.

Red Rising, during its first few chapters, was a little boring with all the exposition needed to set up the new world. But once the action starts? The whole book becomes a breeze to read. And I’m glad I’m not the kind of reader to just give up on a book just because I don’t enjoy the first part. Because the rest of Red Rising? It was exhilarating…even when it feels like it was running a very familiar course.

But I enjoyed it enough that I decided to jump onto the second book as soon as I can. And it’s Golden Son that really sets the trilogy apart from other dystopian series. Because our reluctant hero, as you can tell from the first book’s back synopsis that I quoted above, doesn’t remain a reluctant hero. He leads. And he makes mistakes. Multiple mistakes. And in a series that grapples with the idea of humanity, making mistakes is exactly what we want our characters to do.

Sure, it does get frustrating when things don’t smoothly for heroes. But that’s what makes for a good read, right? When your heroes, smart as they are, can still face obstacles that don’t look down on them; challenges that develop them even further.

Pierce Brown definitely delivers on great character development; most of which aren’t surprising, but only because the characters he created–heroes and villains alike–are so complete that none of their actions feel left-of-field, even during plot twists.

Both Golden Son and third book Morning Star show that the dystopian genre can still deliver fresh takes. They show that you don’t have to dumb down your heroes, or your villains, to make a compelling story. That you don’t have to rewrite the same story, dressed differently, just because the first one worked. Although, I must say, Morning Star does feature a few chapters where the narration becomes frustrating. Not because the writing isn’t at par with the rest of the series, but because it becomes a little obvious in holding facts back. I think it’s four chapters that could’ve been condensed to one, if Pierce Brown had employed the no-holds-barred storytelling he used in the first two books.

All that said, I’m still of the opinion that the Red Rising trilogy is one for the ages. A must-read for fans of dystopian fiction… Or and any sci-fi, fantasy, or warfare book lovers for that matter.

Advertisements

Book: Fire & Ash

"Fire & Ash"

Benny Imura and his friends have found the jet and Sanctuary–but neither is what they expected. Instead of a refuge, Sanctuary is a hospice, and the soldiers who flew the plane seem to be little more than bureaucrats who have given up hope for humanity’s future.

With Chong hovering between life and death, clinging to his humanity by a thread, Benny makes a startling discovery: A scientist may have discovered a cure for the zombie plague. Desperate to save Chong, Benny and his friends mount a search-and-rescue mission. But they’re not the only ones on the hunt: The reapers are after the cure too, and they want to use it to wipe mankind off the face of the earth.

Before we go any further, I need you to understand one thing: I cannot say anything bad about this series. No, I’m not biased. I really just can’t say anything bad about Rot & Ruin nor its succeeding sequels.

The bad thing about this is that my hopes were impossibly high when Fire & Ash was announced. I tried to keep the expectations down, because we all know how hard it is to conclude anything. But it was impossible. I had impossibly high hopes for Fire & Ash. Impossibly high.

And the book met my expectations. I don’t know about exceeding expectations, but meeting my really high hopes was enough for me.

Right. We’re taking a break from Filipino Fridays this week because I really need to get this out. Fire & Ash, and the Rot & Ruin series, is now officially my choice for definitive zombie fiction. Tied with World War Z. It has the right amount of horror, of suspense, of action, of comedy, of romance, and most importantly of drama. Because, let’s be honest, while you can have a good book without drama, it won’t be great unless you feel for the characters. It won’t be definitive unless the character’s plight become real for you.

When your characters are in a fictional future dealing with zombies, and you can still feel the plight? Hello, you impressive author. Here I am with the highest award I can give to anyone: my undying devotion to anything you will publish. While I’m still a big Christopher Golden fan, I think Jonathan Maberry is my master of horror now.

Now, before I go on and write about my reaction to the book, I just want to say one more thing first. I love how the Rot & Ruin series never wastes a single book on filler. (Yes, Michael Grant’s Gone series, I am throwing shade at you right now.) We can say that Dust & Decay, the third book, would be a good candidate for being the filler in this series, but it’s not. If it is, then it’s the best filler book out there. Because while nothing much advances in terms of plot, the book completely makes up for it in how the characters develop.

But this post is not about Dust & Decay. It’s about Fire & Ash. The last book. The finale.

This is where the world, as we’ve come to know it, burns.

Right from the first page, answers are given. What happened to Chong after the last book ended? What is Sanctuary? What is done inside Sanctuary? Well, that one is answered more subtly, but once you get to the point where it’s explain more explicitly, you realize that the answer was already given very early on.

The biggest question though, of what is going on in the reclamation of the world from the dead? That one is explored more carefully. And without forgetting that villains have been introduced in the last book. Villains that need to be taken care of.

If there’s suspension of disbelief that’s to be made, it’s in how teenagers are able to disarm and beat grown men who are just as trained as they are in the arts of war. But after four books, are we really going to start questioning this now?

Fire & Ash is plotted well. Never did I question where the book was going, and never did I become frustrated at how long it was taking certain characters to go where they need to go. Characters were talking. Actions were being taken.

There were no obvious over-drawing of events just so the series could be extended. There were no repetitions. And characters, all of them flawed, acted in tune to the characteristics they were introduced with. They grew, yes. But they did not become different people. They didn’t suddenly develop amorality or bipolar disorders.

And although the book introduced a new point-of-view, it didn’t detract from the overall experience. In fact, it added suspense and amped up the fear you felt for characters we were already introduced to.

Let’s just say that all the characters we’ve come to know were all serviced well. And that there was a reason for everything.

And I can’t believe I’ve missed the nod to The Walking Dead until now. That was some quick-draw.

I’m all out of words now, so let’s see what other people have already said about the finale book of the Rot & Ruin series:
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Doubleshot Reviews

Now, while you read those, I’m going to see if I can find some free time in my schedule to reread the whole series again.

Book: The Scorch Trials

"The Scorch Trials"

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get tehir lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated–and with it, order–and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim…and meal.

The Gladers are far from done running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They mus cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder–does he hold the secret to freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

The problem with sequels is that they rarely live up to the genius of the book that came before. And The Scorch Trials is no different. It is not as good as its predecessor, The Maze Runner, but that’s not to say that it’s bad. It’s not. The Scorch Trials is quite the page turner as well. It’s just that– Well, some of the charm wore off. Especially when it comes to main character Thomas and the mystery of WICKED.

Going back to the first book, everything felt new and intriguing. There was intrigue in who Thomas was. And as the book went on, we found out that he had a hand in creating the world that our characters were inhabiting. WICKED was a complex character, with us (the readers) unsure if they really are good, as Teresa wrote on her arm, or if they’re just a group of cold-hearted scientists.

And that’s where the second book hit a snag.

Yes, we were moving forward with the plot. The Gladers, the characters we’ve grown to care about in the first book, are out of the maze–but they’re not completely safe yet. Instead of getting back to whatever normal is, they are thrust into a new test that puts them in direct contact with illness that has been decimating the world’s population in the most dangerous place on this new Earth. And to top it all off, one of their numbers is replaced by a person from another group of Gladers.

New dynamics? Yes. Except the framework of the first novel remains the same in this second book: Thomas still does not know who he really is, save for the fact that he has a hand in all these tests. WICKED is still straddling the line between good and evil.

The setting might have changed, but the story has not. And that’s where the second book fails. All these new action masks the fact that we are only replicating the events of the first book. If we read deeper into this, we could probably draw a parallel to the fact that the Gladers are being subjected to more variables and stuff. But why should we make an excuse for the novel?

At the end of it all though, The Scorch Trials was still enjoyable to read because of the new adventures and challenges. Now, I’m just hoping that the last book wouldn’t hold back on the answers–that it would live up to the promise of The Maze Runner.

Now, before we go, let’s take a look at what other bloggers have said about The Scorch Trials:
My Books. My Life.
Foil the Plot
Reading for Sanity
YouTube: TheJeanbooks

Book: The Knife of Never Letting Go

"The Knife of Never Letting Go" by Patrick NessTodd Hewitt is the last boy in Pretisstown. But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he’s going to have to run…

This is one of those books that everyone keeps recommending, but I never really found the desire to read—much less, buy. But whilst killing time at the mall, I found myself being drawn to the bookstore. And though I still had around a dozen books left to read, and an Ilustrado that’s still waiting for me to finish reading it (and maybe because of this), I decided to give The Knife of Never Letting Go a chance. This time, learning from the Twilight mistake, I only bought the first book from the Chaos Walking trilogy.

After the first couple of chapters, I was happy with my decision not to buy the second and third book—because I found the story absolutely boring. I did not love The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Well, not at the beginning anyway. The author’s choice of storytelling was confusing and infuriating.

And then there was no Noise.

And then there was a girl.

And then, I understood.

The way Patrick Ness, the author, structured the story is for the reader to discover the secrets at the same time as the protagonist. Infuriating, as I said earlier, but it made for compelling storytelling—once we got to the part where something actually starts happening, when Todd first encounters the gap in the Noise. Prior to that though? I was ready to strangle Todd myself.

As the story commences though, it becomes tough to put the book down. You wouldn’t want to. Because the world Patrick Ness creates, a real New World if there ever was one, is so complete, so real that you can’t help but picture yourself in it.

No, it doesn’t have minute descriptions of the moss that grows on the rocks that our protagonists pass by. But the atmosphere created by the way our hero describes how he feels about everything, about the new things he’s seeing, it’s enough to create the world. You fill in the blanks with your own experience of the world we’re in.

And for me, that’s better than describing the texture, the color, and the other what-nots. Because by letting us, the readers, color in the world, we’re giving part of ourselves to the story. We’re becoming part of the story. And that in itself, I think, makes the book engrossing for a reader.

And that feeling of connection, how to book draws you in into its world, is enough for me to recommend this book to anyone looking for anything to read. Seriously.

I’m not going to write about how well-written the story is, or how I’m not a fan of the spelling that Mr. Ness employs for the dialogues. I think that’s been done enough by other people who’ve read the book and written about it before me.

I’m basing my recommendation on the fact that The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most engrossing books I’ve ever read.

Still, if you’re the type of person who wants a review, here are some blogs where people actually do a review:
Dodging Commas
District YA
Chachic’s Book Nook