Because all of life is stories.
Just about a year ago a certain book started blowing up my social media. The name of that book was Red Rising. After seeing it on my dash and on my feed for several weeks I decided to pop open a copy on a break at work and read the first five chapters, just to get a feel for it.
Half an hour later I purchased the book and skipped all of my classes for the rest of the day.
Red Rising was dramatic. It was powerful. It was brutal and unflinching. It was all the best parts of Ender’s Game, Divergent, and The Hunger Games with a little bit of Game of Thrones thrown in for good measure. The comparisons though are here to give you the barest idea of what this book was like. To call it derivative would be to fall far, far short of the mark. Pierce Brown’s debut novel was one of the best books I had ever read. I ran into my store the next day and made sure we had more copies on the way and began hand-selling it to everyone I could.
Yesterday, the sequel came out. Golden Son builds on all of the promises and drama of its predecessor, and takes it up another notch. It’s a dystopian space opera that takes on family, betrayal, friendship, ideas of leadership, and what it is to be a good person. I had the good fortune to be given an ARC of the novel and finished it about two weeks ago. Every day since has been the slow agony of waiting for my friends and coworkers to be able to start and finish it so I can have someone to talk about it with.
Golden Son and Red Rising before it is the story of Darrow, a Helldiver from the martian colony of Lykos. He and the rest of his fellow Reds (Mankind has been split, both genetically and by class into colored groups) have lived their lives under the martian surface under the premise that they were pioneers making the planet ready for colonization to save a dying Earth. When that is revealed to be a lie, when Darrow discovers he and his people are slaves to a humanity that has already conquered the solar system, he is brought into a rebellion, The Sons of Ares, to overthrow the Golden hierarchy and free his people.
Having ingratiated himself with the upper class Golds, book two begins his rebellion in earnest. Strong characters such as the devilish Sevro, the strategic Mustang, and the enigmatic Jackal will help Darrow on his path to freedom, though they know nothing of his true goals, his true heritage. When all that he knows is threatened Darrow, stubborn and efficiently cruel, will need to lead an army against the powerful Praetors and the head of the Empire, Octavia au Lune.
This book is perhaps one of the most dramatic things I have ever read. Every sentence drips with the weight and power of a hammer. In any other book I feel like the constant speed these books move at would be tiring or at the very least become dull after awhile, but with Brown’s deft hand it has become one of the chief points of high praise I can give to this book. Each sentence hits home like a memorable speech of a great orator, and every chapter brings Darrow and his friends closer to victory or catastrophe. These novels move with breakneck speed that never feels rushed. It’s a series I’ll have to read again beginning to end when the final book is released hopefully sometime next year.
Between the memorable characters, the pacing, the phenomenal stories of love, between friends and family and nation and something more, and the scintillating political intrigue, it’s hard to find flaws with Brown’s work thus far. I do have to place a strong content warning on the book for violence. They’re shelved in adult SFF and not YA for a reason. I should also mention the sexual content, though it is more implied than implicit almost all of the places it occurs. Neither aspect though detracts from the story. The brutality of the book feels necessary in order to get across the nature of the society Darrow has infiltrated.
At the end of the day, those particular bits will be judged differently by different readers. For me, Golden Son is the middle book of a trilogy done right. Between recapping the first and setting up the events of the third volume, it has its own vitally important story screaming to be told. Three days ago I named Red Rising to my top books of 2014. If Golden Son doesn’t make an appearance on the 2015 edition of that list, I’ll be shocked and awed by the incredible books that knock it down the list. It’ll be a tall order, and that points towards another hopefully banner year for genre fiction.