In lieu of a video that I’d wanted to make but lacked the energy to do, I am here to wrap-up and give mini reviews of the books I was able to finish this week. I finished two books this week and I enjoyed both to varying degrees.
The first book I finished was Golden Son by Pierce Brown, which is book two in the Red Rising trilogy. I will try and keep this review spoiler-free for both Golden Son and the first book, Red Rising.
Golden Son continues the story about a year after the events at the end of Red Rising. Darrow is trying to maintain power and influence in the world of the Golds when everyone is out to get everyone. It’s a kill or be killed atmosphere that Darrow must navigate if he is to realise the revolution that the Sons of Ares wish for.
I enjoyed Red Rising but my main gripe with it was with how the pacing impacted my ability to connect with the story and characters. Golden Son’s pacing issues felt more severe and I found it hard to connect with what was happening. The story started off with a bang, which was a little disorienting since there was a decent gap between the end of Red Rising and the beginning of Golden Son. I felt flustered in trying to get a grip with who and what was happening that I never quite got over. The book seemed to introduce something intricate and intense but then simmer down to boardroom politics or Darrow whingeing, and this gear shift created a lingering sense of disconnect from the wold Pierce Brown had created. This meant that for most of the story, whilst still fun but occasionally slow and boring, I really couldn’t care. A bit unfortunate considering how epic of a story it actually is.
I did enjoy this book. The gala scene and ensuing chaos was pure excellence. The intensity of that scene carried me onwards to what turned into a fantastic ending. When I finished the book, I was left staring into oblivion with my beating heart in my mouth. For a book that I had felt mostly passive about, that ending shook me to my core.
The last third of the book redeemed itself. Darrow began to assess himself and become vulnerable with the people around him. This made it possible for me to begin to care about his plight like I hadn’t been able to yet in this series.
Though I started to feel more connected to Darrow towards the end, I really stuck with this book for Sevro. Knowing more about him and seeing him be his wicked, goblin self. He is truly a character like no other and it’s gorydamn awesome.
I feel Golden Son fell into the trap that most second books in trilogies fall into; it was a bridging story that left a lot to be desired. Even though it fell into serious lulls, the exciting parts were extremely intense to the extent that it makes the book enjoyable for all its flaws. I am excited to read the next and final part in this story.
Rating – 3 ½ stars
The other book I finished this week was The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara. I had picked this one up after having my heart ripped out by A Little Life. I knew these novels would be different, thank goodness, but they are both smart novels, and upon finishing this one, I am eager for any new releases by Yanagihara.
The People in the Trees is a fictional memoir of Norton Perina, the doctor who “discovered” that a mysterious Pacific tribe had utilised the properties of a native turtle to unnaturally extend their lives. After becoming famous for his scientific discovery, he spent the rest of his life taking care of his adopted children that are from the island. Having been convicted on pedophilia charges, his memoir is written whilst he is in prison and is edited by a close friend who has remained steadfastly loyal. He recounts his life before, during, and after becoming famous for discovering the turtle and proving its magical properties.
The thing that struck me about this book was the perspective. It was utterly fascinating. The novel opens with a preface from the friend who is editing his memoir. His friend details how Norton’s life was “unfairly” destroyed by the criminal charges. This preface magnificently sets up the perspective the novel is intended to be understood through. In my opinion, this technique was masterful and reflective of Yanigihara’s erudition. I am literally stunned that this is her debut.
The friendly editor of Norton’s memoir implicitly states in the preface that he is biased towards Norton. This lets the reader know that we are only seeing one side of the story and whilst we may not agree with it, we are being persuaded to do so. The reader is constantly reminded that the memoir is edited by a close friend, so it is impossible to forget that the perspective is biased towards positivity and flawlessness.
However, as a critical reader, we know that Norton is not a great guy. He is a convicted pedophile and he recounts memories of how he enjoyed using and killing animals in lab experiments. Norton’s fragile ego is merely implied since he is the narrator and he is quite narcissistic. This conclusion is implied by the perspective, since the reader is constantly aware that the account is biased, it is implicit that every opinion or judgement requires further examination. We can’t take Norton’s word at face value because of the perspective and this in itself is an interesting technique of storytelling manipulation. It was an extremely smart way of subtly developing depth in Norton’s character.
Since the perspective is Norton’s, who is heralded as a father of scientific discovery, the idea that the pursuit of science and knowledge is promoted over the preservation of culture. This prioritisation creates an effect the resembles colonialism. Science moves in and overtakes O’Ivu, since the pursuit of science is more important than their culture or community. This theme appears boldest in the novel. The scary comparisons to colonialism implicitly illustrates the consequences of this prioritisation.
The consequence of the theoretically amoral quest for knowledge of eternal life is the actual denigration of humanity itself, as is shown in the impact of the misuse of the mystical turtle. The capture and eventual extinction of the native turtles further evokes images of colonisation. Norton does not emote regret over this, just a sense of inevitability, that he is aware that science has a right of way with the hope for knowledge. The risk of this quest for eternal life for humanity, is the loss of humanity itself.
In the same way that Norton is presented in a biased way, so is the pursuit of science. Science is like God so it is imperatively good. Any negative consequences do not in itself cancel the goodness but are brought about by the reader’s critique. They are outside science, just as they are outside the goings on of the novel. It is only through individual critique that we find flaws in Norton and his search for scientific discovery. The pursuit of science is also the silent death of innocence, which is shown in Norton’s fraught relationship with his brother and his many children. The accusation by his child shows just how innocence, and possibly karma, can rally against Norton, the pariah of reason and scientific progress. The subtly of the critique that Yanagihara set up for the reader blew my mind away. If anything, I am very impressed.
Rating – 4 stars
I quite enjoyed reading these books and especially loved critiquing The People in the Trees. It feels like a book that could be re-read for endless examination. I am glad to have read both of them.
Thank you for reading. Happy Reading!