Preface: If you haven’t read Red Rising, which is book #1 in the Red Rising trilogy, stop reading this review right now–as it will contain light spoilers for you–and go read Red Rising. You will not be disappointed.
I’m reading the audiobooks of this series–so can I call it reading? Is it listening? *shrugs*–and of all the audiobooks I’ve read this one stands out. Exemplary, really. The writing, and story, and all that book-review stuff are absolutely top notch, but the performance delivered by Tim Gerald Reynolds, the narrator, is spectacular. He narrated the first book, and did an excellent job, but he found his stride with Golden Son and frankly, I think his performance takes the book to a level it might not have achieved for me by eyeball reading. If you haven’t truly experienced an audiobook yet, I strongly encourage it. Even if the purist in you thinks that reading must be done with your eyeballs, trust me. This is next-level shit right here.
Did you think Red Rising was a little too derivative, too young adult, too Matrix/Hunger Games/Modern YA Dystopia for ya? Any dust motes of that type of thinking are quickly swept away as soon as you open the door to Golden Son. This entry in the trilogy takes you way, way beyond book #1, and doesn’t just break the chains, but breaks the mold (bahahaha! See what I did there?).
Do you remember the expansion in scope you felt when Darrow first heard the term “low red?” When he was in that cabin with Dancer and learned that big, brutal, bitter, paradigm-shifting lie? Pierce Brown manages to expand the scope again in Golden Son in a way that breaks free of the previously-mentioned allusions. This book, in many ways, creates a unique identity that perhaps the first book was slightly lacking. It may not seem that way in Golden Son’s first couple of chapters–as there is another learning institution–but don’t worry. In typical Brown fashion, he moves on quickly, like a wriggling slithering snake.
Twists. Action. Pace. Introspection. Intense moral ambiguity. Deception. Betrayal. Large-scale combat. Intrigue. All hallmarks of Golden Son, but maybe most importantly of all, Brown handles one of my primary concerns with scary-good skill: with such an advanced society, and with Darrow rising so high in his capabilities, how do you avoid the issue of him becoming completely overpowered? Or his opponents being overpowered? How do you manage all of this advanced tech in such a way where the struggles and plights are interesting? My god … he does it with such brilliance–you may not even notice he’s managing these things, that’s how good it is.
The relationships Darrow has developed become paramount as his lie becomes harder and more meaningful to keep going. His decisions, gut wrenching. The consequences … often worse. In many ways, the relationship dynamics are what makes this such a step forward, in my opinion. And of course, the plot is perfect “act two” stuff. Where the first entry had the previously-mentioned and obvious allusions, this entry feels like a nod to Empire Strikes Back. Not because the plots are similar, or that the themes are borrowed–because I don’t think they are–but because of that feel you get towards the end. That feel. I think this is a huge compliment, as it’s my opinion that Empire Strikes Back might be the best piece of act-2 science fiction ever created, so capturing that essence is a huge win.
Once again–and several times during the read–I found myself thinking, “how the fuck do we get out of this?” and “where could the story possibly go after this?” *applauds*
I’ve already started Morning Star: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy, and I can’t wait to keep reading!