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.

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Book: Where Futures End

"Where Futures End"

Five Teenagers.
Five Futures.
Two Worlds.
One Ending.

One year from now, DYLAN develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world.
Ten years from now, BRIXNEY must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtor’s colony.
Thirty years from now, EPONY scrubs her online profile and goes ‘High-Concept.’
Sixty years from now, REEF struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard.
And more than one hundred years from now, QUINN uncovers the alarming secret that links them.

Five people, divided by time, determine the fate of us all. These are brilliantly connected stories of one world bent on destroying itself and an alternate world that just might be its savior–unless it’s too late.

In the future, who will you choose to be? And how will you find yourself before the end?

I was excited when I first started reading Where Futures End. The first story, Dylan’s development of his ‘sixth’ sense that allows him to see and enter an alternate world, wasn’t very original–but it was very engaging. Sure, Dylan was a character that we’ve met time and again in many fantasy adventure novels, but there was something in the way author Parker Peevyhouse wrote him that makes you want to see him get his happy ending.

And then his story suddenly ends.

Brixney’s story was strange. Original, yes– But also very familiar in our social media-obsessed world. Again, we get a character worth rooting for, and a predicament you want to see unfold.

And then her story suddenly ends.

I’m starting to feel restless. What is the author’s purpose in cutting the stories off? Why aren’t they being allowed to flourish? We’re being given promising beginnings with no middle, and no end– But then, I remember: the book blurb promises a last story that would link all of these vignettes.

The third story with Epony was more self-contained. A short story that had a clear beginning, middle, and end. My need for a satisfying story was quenched–even if the story itself wasn’t as good as the first two. And then when the fourth story with Reef ends, I’m starting to feel that my enjoyment of the book was diminishing.

Still. No matter. The final story promises to link all the stories together. I tell myself that it will work out, probably, because why else would people be saying the story was good. I started to hold on to the promise of the book blurbs. Of people saying the book was good–

And then I read the final story. A story that was supposed to link all the stories together. And it does, yes. But the stories were already linked in the first place. Reef’s story was spurned on by Epony’s. Epony’s by Brixney’s. Brixney’s by Dylan’s. And yes, technically the book didn’t lie when it promised an alarming secret that links all five stories.

But it’s a horrible link. It doesn’t tie up the stories together. They remain vignettes of half-realized premises that never became whole. Except the third story. And as I turn the final page, I find myself asking if the gimmick of linking these stories with a last story was realized because the author couldn’t find a way to wrap up the individual stories. That she couldn’t push the story forward to a satisfying conclusion.

Because the book ends and I don’t get the point of it all.

Because the book ends, and the weakest story in terms of originality and characterization suddenly becomes the strongest for actually having an ending and character growth.

Because the book ends, and all I want is the chance to go back in time and stop myself from buying it. Or, at the very least, warn myself not to expect anything from it. Can I do that? Can I go back in time and stop myself from hoping that this book would give me any satisfaction?

Book: Doctor Who and The Blood Cell

"The Blood Cell"

An asteroid in the farthest reaches of space–the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the cruellest murderers, so he’s not impressed by the arrival of the man they’re calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

But when the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape, and keeps trying, the Governor sets out to find out why. Who is the Doctor and what’s he really doing here? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers…

I haven’t read many Doctor Who novel tie-ins, but the ones that I have read haven’t really been all that memorable. Still, I picked this book up because it was one that starred the Twelfth Doctor, the latest incarnation of our titular character. You see, I wasn’t really happy with the stories since he came into the picture, and I felt like this latest version of the Doctor was getting short-changed. I figured, if I still didn’t like him in book form–then maybe I just wasn’t interested in the Doctor anymore.

The thing is: I fell in love with the Doctor again while reading The Blood Cell.

Story-wise, The Blood Cell isn’t really anything special. It’s a space thriller with conspiracies and timey-wimey stuff. But it worked–because we weren’t seeing The Doctor through Clara’s eyes. It worked because we were getting a new perspective on the adventures of The Doctor and his companion–from someone who is just as flawed as they are.

Sure, the Governor bordered on annoying at times, but he never broke character. Not that there was a lot to begin with. He was the perfect reader surrogate; reacting when we’re supposed to react, and discovering the mystery of the prison along us.

But what I loved most about the book was how The Doctor was written. I could imagine Peter Capaldi saying the lines. And I loved that he didn’t have a lot of interactions with Clara, allowing him to have a personality that isn’t reliant on this particular companion. And there was a sense of suspense. Something that was missing in most of Series 8.

After putting the book down, that’s when it clicked for me: I wasn’t really tired of the Doctor after all. I was just tired of the epic adventures that he seem to be getting sucked into every episode. That’s why I loved Time Heist–when he just had to penetrate a bank and steal something. And the Flatliners, which, although it threatened the existence of the world as we knew it, also had a sense of smallness.

I’m tired of grandeur. Epic isn’t special when it happens all the time.

And until the television series learns to scale back on what’s big and what’s making a splash, I think I’ll pick up more books to balance out the program’s too-fast-too-furious take on Doctor Who.

Book: Eternity’s Wheel

"Eternity's Wheel"

Joey Harker is a leader.

With InterWorld trapped by HEX and his only other companion–the mysterious Time Agent Acacia Jones–missing in action, Joey’s the only one left. Though injured and alone, he refuses to give up. How can he, when all the worlds are depending on him?

As the threat of FrostNight looms ever closer, Joey seeks out more of his fellow Walkers across the Altiverse, training them as fast as he can and trying to track down InterWorld Base Town along the way. But even a solid team of recruits–including Acacia’s brother, Avery, who’s not a recruit so much as a tenuous ally–can’t prepare Joey for the ultimate showdown with InterWorld’s enemies, old and new.

Joey never wanted to be in charge. But he’s the one everyone is looking to now, and he’ll have to step up if he has any hope of saving InterWorld, the Multiverse, and everything in between.

Eternity’s Wheel is the heart-pounding conclusion to the InterWorld series, full of time and space travel, magic, science, and the bravery of a young boy who must now face his destiny as a young man.

If I can only say one positive thing about Eternity’s Wheel, it’s this: it’s not afraid to do what the story needs to happen, regardless of how the readers might react.

Fortunately, this being my blog, I don’t have to stick with just one positive thing.

Eternity’s Wheel serves as a great conclusion for the Interworld series. It gives a fitting ending to the main character we grew to know and love over the course of three books. And, the best part for me, is that it didn’t go the route I was expecting it to. Although it would have been an awesome twist, what with the time travel and all.

But it’s far from being a perfect book either.

Unlike the first two books in this trilogy, Eternity’s Wheel doesn’t have the benefit of a set-up. The second sequel drops us off right into the heat of the chase, and, unless you’ve just finished reading the second book, it’s very difficult to catch up to what is happening–even though the first chapters are supposed to serve as a catch-up.

Once the action starts though, all qualms are quickly silenced–because, even with Neil Gaiman no longer being one of the writers, both Michael Reaves and Mallory Reaves do a good job of having this book retain the feel of the first book.

That is, until we get to the climax. There will be spoilers from here on in. You have been warned.

In hindsight, I now understand why there was a need to bring Joey Harker back in his original world at the beginning of Eternity’s Wheel. Aside from going full circle, it’s also supposed to anchor us to our main protagonist’s longing for home, and his desire to keep it safe. So when the climax happens, something big is at stake for our hero.

Unfortunately, this is the book’s biggest misstep for me. Because, for some reason, although Joey comes back to his original world–we don’t see the actual ties that bind him to this particular world. So when the climax comes, our fear stems not from the emotional attachments that will be severed once FrostNight wipes everything out–but only from our desire to not let the bad guys win.

I feel like this was a missed opportunity for the book to be more than just an adventure book for young adults.

Of course, that still doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the entire package. Eternity’s Wheel, as I said, is a great conclusion for the Interworld Series. But it could have been even better.

Book: Symbiont

"Symbiont"

The enemy is inside us.

The end began in a thousand places at the same time, sending little cracks through the foundation of mankind’s casual dominion over the Earth. It was born of hubris, and it started slowly, only to gather in both speed and strength as the days went by.

The SymboGen tapeworms were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world’s population began attacking their hosts, turning them into a ravenous horde.

Panic spreads as these predators begin to take over the streets, and those who do not appear afflicted are gathered for quarantine. In the chaos, Sal and her companions must discover how the tapeworms are taking over their hosts–and how they can be stopped.

After a long time of waiting for Symbiont to be released here in the Philippines… I finally decided to just have Fully Booked order it for me. And I don’t regret it.

Granted, the book took a wee bit too long for me to dive back into the action. Mostly, I think, because it’s been so long since I read the first book, but also because the sequel doesn’t dive back into action. And it’s something that the characters themselves point out in the book. There is a safety cocoon surrounding the characters in the first third of the book, and it made me feel like nothing was happening.

I mean, yes, I understood the need to lay down foreshadowing, and world-building, and mythology-building… but there was just no sense of urgency in the first third. It wasn’t until the second third of the book kicked off that I started to feel that something was happening.

There were times when I felt Symbiont lost the edge that made me intrigued in the world Mira Grant was building with her Parasitology series. But the way Grant handles her main character, Sal, makes me want to continue holding on. Not because I cared about her, but because I was curious to find out what exactly she is–and why she’s different.

Grant doesn’t have strong characters in this series, but their gray moralities make them interesting enough that you don’t want to leave them behind. And that’s what made me keep reading Symbiont during the times when I was starting to feel bored at the lack of anything happening.

Sure, I understand that events can’t happen in rapid-fire succession. Things breathe. Plans take time to be built. And I commend Grant for not losing hold of a logical timeline. Or, at least, one that’s logical in her world. But I really, really hope that the last book in the Parasitology series is better paced than Symbiont.

Right now, I’m not understanding the need to expand this duology into a trilogy. Even if I am glad I get to spend more time dissecting the motivations of Sal, her allies, and her enemies.

Don’t be a Peter Jackson or a Christopher Paolini, Ms. Grant. Do the right thing: tell the story the way you intended for it to be told originally. And don’t let your falling in love with the research pull you into writing more than what you had planned.

Because I cannot be the only one who thought that Symbiont was overlong and overwrought. Right? Let’s see what other people wrote about the book:
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
The Discriminating Fangirl
Booking In Heels

Book: Mythspace

What if creatures from Philippine folklore — the tikbalangs, nuno, kapre — were inspired by actual alien races? That’s the question that fuels the Mythspace stories.

"Lift Off!"

Lift Off! wraps up its story with the third issue, ending with a promise of more adventures. But before we get to the end, let’s talk about the journey going there.

This is still not my favorite story off the Mythspace lot. But having read this final issue of Lift Off!, I can now say that I don’t hate it. In fact, I can even admit that it is a good story. If only it came out all at once.

Honestly: the story took way too long. Couple that with the fact that I found it hard to like the protagonist? The title really dragged for me.

But now that it’s over, I see the potential in the title. As a prequel to other stories, Lift Off! is great. Hopefully though, when it does get a follow-up, the pacing will be better.

"Uncommon Ground"

Uncommon Ground is a solid noir story. So solid that you can actually have it take place in a different milieu and the story would still stand.

Unfortunately, that’s also my main complaint about the story: the characters are interchangeable. This could happen anywhere, any time. The main selling point of Mythspace is not integral to the actual story.

But it is good. I just wish it were more.

And now, I’ve saved the best for last:

"Unfurling of Wings"

Unfurling of Wings is the story I’ve been looking forward to since first being exposed to Mythspace a couple of years before now. And it does not disappoint.

If you’re looking for something to introduce people to the world of Mythspace, you’d do no wrong by giving them this title. The characters are interesting, the milieu is important to the story, and although it feels like a prequel of bigger stories to come, it’s an origin story that can stand on its own.

And the art? I normally don’t talk about the art as that would only draw attention to the fact that I know nothing about it, but I want to commend the artist here. It’s clean, easy to follow, and you can distinguish the characters even when they’re surrounded by creatures that look like them.

Unfurling of Wings is awesome.

Book: Parasite

"Parasite"

A decade into the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease. We owe our good health to a humble parasite–a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the Intestinal Bodyguard worm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system–even secretes designer drugs.

It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them. But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives… and will do anything to get them.

I was, and still am, a big fan of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. So when I found a copy of Parasite at a local bookstore, I had to give it a go out of goodwill. I didn’t even know what the story was about. I just picked the book up, bought it, and started reading.

Less than 24 hours later, here’s what I have to say: Mira Grant has another winner with Parasite.

As a thriller, the book works. It takes one of the biggest horrors of the Newsflesh trilogy, humanity’s reliance on medicine–on living for as long as possible, and spins it off to a new story. But don’t fret. Parasite does not tread on ground that’s already been covered by Mira Grant’s other series. It goes the other way. And, if possible, makes the monstrosity that humanity is capable of creating even more horrifying.

I do have one thing I want to bring up though. The central mystery with regards to the hot, dark, red dreams our main protagonist is experiencing throughout the book? It’s not really a mystery if it pretty much spells out what protagonist Sally Mitchelle doesn’t want to confront. So instead of feeling fear and trepidation about what’s happening with Sally, you just want to tell the book to get a move on as there are more exciting things happening outside of her head.

Oh, and after the massive reach of Feed, Deadline, and Blackout, I was expecting Parasite to be as… global. It’s not. There are times when you feel like Sally’s world exists in a bubble.

And yet none of these two concerns detract from the overall experience of reading Parasite. It’s a good thriller.

I just hope that the sequel is better.

If you’re not content with what I said though, why don’t we take a peek at what other people have said about the book. Starting with…
Respiring Thoughts
Sci Fi Now
Looking for the Panacea