Book Review: Red Rising

15839976Rating: 2 out of 5

It saddens me when a close friend of mine recommends a book to me, and I can’t enjoy it no matter how hard I try. And believe me, I tried.

In this case, I was not only given Red Rising as a Christmas gift, but also the entire dystopian trilogy by Pierce Brown, and let’s just say that I’m not looking forward to the sequels.

As a fan of dystopia and science fiction, I was optimistic about this novel at first, but the longer I read, the more I realized that it was a cardboard cutout of The Hunger Games on Mars.

(Not that the setting even mattered. Other than a few references to gravity, this story was just another tired war tale.)

If eye-rolling was a sport, I’d win an Olympic medal reading this drivel. It’s difficult to tally all my complaints about Red Rising, so instead of trying to create full paragraphs around them, let me just list the reasons why I couldn’t stand this novel.

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  • A trite caste system based on colors, of all things. Golds are the best, Reds are angry, and Pinks are sex workers. Ho-hum, yawn.
  • Speaking of originality, all the Gold children are divided into houses based on Greco-Roman mythological figures. Because why bother with the hassles of world-building when you can just copy and paste?
  • The so-called protagonist, Darrow, is the best miner—sorry, Helldiver—there ever was. How do we know this? Don’t worry, he tells us five billion times.
  • Helldiver is just one of countless nonsense words that Brown invents to sound cool. The jargon isn’t describing anything new, so it’s yet another distraction.
  • The misogyny and homophobia in this book abound. The only way these outer space frat bros can ridicule each other is by using pejorative terms for women or gay men, because femininity is the worst of all sins apparently.
  • As for the actual female characters, they all fall into these categories: martyr, love interest, backstabber or whore. The only one who can be considered “strong” is called Mustang, because it’s better to be associated with horses than women.
  • Darrow is the absolute worst. Imagine if Ender from Ender’s Game wasn’t a bullied genius who just needed a few lessons in empathy, but rather a straight-up pompous asshole? I so wished that this book wasn’t in first-person present, because being in that narcissistic head of his made me want to blow my own brains out.

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Okay, I’m going to stop there, because although I could rant for pages, it would only make me grumpier. If I could put a positive spin on this, it’s that if a piece of utter crap like Red Rising can get published, then my writing certainly can too!

Has anyone else read Red Rising? For a bestseller with its own upcoming movie franchise, I’m curious to hear whether my opinion is unpopular or right on point among fellow book bloggers. Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Book Review: Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

I feel like it’s the end of an era, because I finally finished the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. I reviewed the penultimate novel, The Atlantis Complex, last year, and I’m pleased to say that the finale was much better.

If you haven’t heard of Artemis Fowl, let me bring you up to speed. Artemis is a boy genius with unsurpassed intellect, upscale taste in designer suits and classical music, and an obsession with increasing his already massive family fortune. His penchant for illicit scheming makes him many enemies, but he’s always shadowed by his best friend/bodyguard Butler.

The book series covers his life from ages 12-15, starting when he kidnaps an elf military officer named Holly Short to gain access to fairy gold to the present novel in which he puts aside his greed to save humanity. After seven books, Artemis and Holly are close comrades, and together with centaur techie Foaly and conniving dwarf Mulch Diggums, they must once again band together to stop the series’ pixie villain Opal Koboi.

It’s interesting to see an author’s writing style evolve over the course of a saga, and at times I felt Colfer inserted too much politics in regards to climate change or animal species preservation. The Atlantis Complex did not feel true to the series when Artemis became an obnoxious schizophrenic. Reading that novel, I was worried that Colfer had lost his magic.

But it came back full force in The Last Guardian. As Opal used time travel to thwart the LEP, I too felt like my younger self, literally laughing out loud at the many jokes that made the series so fun when I was in middle school. Being entertained by Mulch’s flatulence might seem juvenile, but with Artemis and friends battling an army of possessed crickets and ducks, how could you not chuckle?

Harry Potter fans will most likely draw similarities between the two supernatural stories, especially at the end of The Last Guardian. Artemis must make a sacrifice like Harry, but I won’t give away the details. I’ll just say that you walk away with that sad, yet satisfied feeling of fulfillment.

I only wish there could have been more romance between Artemis and Holly! Is that weird? I know that love blossoming between a teenage human boy and a three-foot-tall, 80-year-old elf would be far-fetched, but readers of the series know just how close they’ve become over the years. And in my opinion, nothing Artemis does can be considered normal or average, so I wouldn’t expect his love life to be either.

Lack of love story aside, reading Artemis Fowl has been a wonderful ride, and I would recommend the tale to anybody. Don’t wait until the movie comes out, because after eight years of conflicts, ranging from financial disputes between Disney and the Weinstein Company to the creative decision between CGI and live-action, the project has been shelved as of last year. The odds of seeing Artemis on-screen soon are slim, but at least you have time to catch up reading!

2011 Book Review Catch-Up: Part 1

So in case you haven’t noticed, there’s six books that I read this past summer that I did not have the opportunity to review. In order to effectively rank them from best to worst, I wanted to introduce the novels properly. Yes, I’ve taken valuable time away from my Christmas just for you guys! (That’s okay, though, I needed a break from stuffing my face with food anyway!)

I decided to do mini-reviews for two books at a time, starting with two science-fiction young adult novels: A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane and Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer.

A Wizard of Mars

A Wizard of Mars (Rating: 3.5 out of 5)

This ninth installment in Duane’s Young Wizard series, published in 2010, takes teenage wizards Nita and Kit back to Mars to learn about the planet’s alien species. Unfortunately, they’re caught up in a galactic conflict which could destroy Earth in the process. Although it seemed like Duane did her research on the red planet extremely well, I’m getting tired of this series. I’ve been reading it since middle school, but it began in 1983, and many of the novels seem to take the form of “filler” stories. Duane herself has admitted that she sees no end in sight, and writes as she goes. So what started out as magical has become stale and without purpose. However, I still love these characters and hope that Nita and Kit get a real romance going soon. Maybe a bit of outlining on the author’s part will give this series the structure it so desperately needs and will maintain my attention span for a few more years.

Cover of "The Atlantis Complex (Artemis F...

Cover via Amazon

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex (Rating: 3 out of 5)

This seventh and penultimate novel in Eoin Colfer’s series, also published in 2010, hit a new low. I have loved this tale of boy genius Artemis Fowl, but now this boy is a teenager suffering from “the Atlantis Complex,” a psychological fairy syndrome with symptoms such as OCD and split personalities. He creates an alter ego called “Orion,” who is a flamboyant, obnoxious character with Don Quixote-esque delusions of adventure and romance. Meanwhile, Butler and Juliet fight luchadores in Mexico, and Turnball Root concocts a scheme to save his aging human wife Leonor. Overall, this novel suffers from the same staleness as A Wizard of Mars, but thankfully the final book–The Last Guardian–will be released sometime next year. I wish Colfer would ditch his overly moral storyline on global warming and return to us the mischievous Artemis we all fell in love with, but I highly doubt that’ll happen.

So these two science-fiction novels, although drastically different in subject matter and writing style, fell victim to the same weakness of becoming tiring after so many years into their respective sagas. But if you’ve been a fan of Duane or Colfer, I trust you’ll be following them to the very end.

Book Review: Ender’s Game

Ender's Game

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I finally reached my goal of reading 20 books this year! And what a novel to end on! Like most bookworms, I had heard of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. I’m more of a fantasy fan than a sci-fi one, but I was intrigued by a book many called the best sci-fi fiction ever. And although I haven’t read enough sci-fi to make that claim, it was a pretty outstanding read.

Originally written as a short story but published as a novel in 1985, Ender’s Game is the first installment in the prolific “Enderverse.” The novel follows the journey of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a six-year-old genius who’s recruited by the government to join the Battle School, which is a space station used to train gifted children as galactic soldiers.

In this distant future, Earth has been in two wars with the insect-like alien race known as the Buggers. Now the planet is preparing their third invasion to defeat the Buggers once and for all. Ender leaves his beloved sister Valentine and cruel brother Peter to spend years excelling up the military totem pole.

Of course, none of this training is without consequences. His commanders isolate Ender from making close friends and submit him to grueling practices with absolutely no care for his psyche. Every time Ender believes he’s one step closer to freedom, they beat him down again. He soon suffers from bloodthirst and the incessant need to win at all costs; this in turn brings about many PTSD symptoms, such as rage, depression, illness, and nightmares.

What I loved most about Ender’s Game was that it did not rely heavily on sci-fi jargon and overly complicated world creation. You don’t need to be an expert on space travel to understand this story, which is more about Ender’s struggle to maintain his humanity while being molded into an emotionless robot whose sole purpose is to destroy (hence his nickname: Ender, one who ends).

Despite your personal views on war and the military, you can learn from this novel. You pity Ender, hate the adults pulling his strings, but most importantly you come to realize the other’s perspective in battle. For once, you see the aliens not as ruthless monsters (a la “War of the Worlds”), but as sentient beings simply lost in miscommunication.

I also loved all the symbolism, from the computer game taking Ender from the Giant to the playground to the “End of the World,” as well as Ender’s siblings working together as online demagogues under the aliases “Locke” and “Demosthenes.” I was surprised to hear earlier this year that many of my students were reading this book in high school, but now I agree that teenagers could learn a lot from this rich piece of literature.

Thanks to everybody who recommended this novel, and I’ll be sure to check out its sequels in the new year!

And if you’ve been following my blog in the last week, you know that I’m not a religious person, but I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, and just a happy weekend with your loved ones. And, of course, a happy new year filled with many, many books!