24 February 2016

Books: Morning Star By Pierce Brown (2016)

In Morning Star, the conclusion of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Trilogy, we get another wild tale of war, revenge, politics, duplicitous humans, and more death and destruction than you can shake a leg at.

 “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 the devotion to honor and hunger, for vengeance, runs deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some that 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.” 

There is a lot at stake here, and the novel runs faster, harder, and more headlong than the previous two novels (mostly because there is a lot of stuff to cover in its 518 pages) combined. There is little time for sitting and talking, which is good…and bad. While the relentless works, it also takes on a sense that while many will pay the price for this war, you know the ending. Brown gives us a few surprises though, and brings forward Servo to give the series the dark, sarcastic humor it has lacked, but the ending was never in doubt. 

While the first person narrative worked for the first two books, here I feel that book could’ve been stronger had we seen other perspectives. Being in Darrow’s head all the time made the book go over so much of the same ground the previous books did. I have no doubt he loved Eo, but it becomes redundant when we cover his guilt feelings for her death and those of his extended family again and again. 

When I read the first book back in 2014, I was curious if the author was going to explain how, some 700 hundred years in the future, we humans became the way these folks did, where a society is based on color codes, where the Roman Empire somehow came again. But either it was not important, or something else, but we never get a glimpse on how this happened, even as Morning Star does make more references to Earth, to the Romans of yesteryear. I mean the works of Homer and Sophocles survived, but apparently Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire did not, which I find curious (I also ruminated on the oddness of Darrow’s name that came up in Red Rising, that the name was unusual, but again, this story thread was dropped).
Unlike James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse series, which went out of its way to explain space travel, Pierce Brown forgoes all of this, which then leads me to believe this whole series really is a space opera in the vein of Star Wars or Star Trek, with a lot of gory elements borrowed from George R.R. Martin.

This was not, as it may seem, a horrible series. I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing where Pierce Brown goes from here. It’s just I’m not a huge fan of ultra sadistic books, where human life is tossed away like a forgotten toy. I go numb from the horrible ways in which people die, even these fictional characters. That is part of the reason I gave up on Game of Thrones. I grew weary of so much death, and the blurring of the line between moving the story forward and torture porn.

As I said, I’m curious as where Pierce Brown will go from here. A nice hard-core science fiction novel or even a good fantasy novel would be nice. I hate to see him stuck producing just this style of space opera over the next decade. 

But we’ll see.

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