CGG Book Club: Morning Star
I am so pleased that so many of you enjoyed my inaugural CGG Book Club post last month. I’ve got a couple more fun book club posts coming soon, so stay tuned and check out what I’ve been diving into lately.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
If you follow books at all this is sort of the book right now. Although it just hit shelves at the beginning of January, this heart-wrenching memoir has quickly shot up the charts. It tells the story of a young neurosurgeon who, at the cusp of graduating and moving forward with his life, was hit with a deadly cancer diagnosis: lung cancer, the type only 0.001% of the population gets at his age, the type that will kill him in an unspecified period of time. The book traces Paul’s life – his pursuit of a medical career, his interest in the mind and its connection to life and death, his marriage and its genuine struggles – followed by his shaky yet determined march toward death.
I can’t speak as to why this books is connecting to so many people so hard, but I suspect it has something to do with the brutal frankness Dr. Kalanithi provides throughout. It gave me perspective as a patient, it made me sad as a human, and I also found this new type of empathy regarding the realities of the life of a doctor that I think we all take for granted. It’s the type of book I feel you could read a dozen times (for it’s beautifully written, densely packed; Paul often considered a career in literature as opposed to science) and get something new from each time. I’d just hope you wouldn’t cry at the end, each and every time you consume it – because make no mistake, this one will break your heart, even as you know going into it what it’s about.
I’ve had a few really good reading experiences this year already, which is all any book lover could ask for right? One of those thrills came from the release of the last entry in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. So let’s dance, shall we?
What’s the Buzz?: The buzz is Pierce Brown’s ‘space opera’ has finally come to an (initial) conclusion. The series – which every critic, myself included, will tell you – has been quite underrated to date, but I’m pleased to say it’s worth your time now that all three books are out. If anything, I’d actually recommend starting the series now, because there is a HUGE cast of characters (Game of Thrones style) and the story is best consumed in a shorter timeframe.
What’s the Plot?: Needless to say, if you don’t want to be spoiled at all because you haven’t even heard of this series, you may want to skip this paragraph. But I’ll take it back to the beginning for some context. In a nutshell, space has been conquered by humanity, and we have been divided into different ‘classes’ of people by colour (which also seems to tie into our physical appearance – I’ve admittedly always been a touch fuzzy on that). The society is run by the almighty Golds, which are basically synonymous with Gods in this context; beautiful, brutal people that enjoy lavish lifestyles and are reminiscent of Roman warriors in their desire to battle and win. Darrow, when we first meet him, is the lowest of them all: a Red, living underground on Mars and being lied to about life on the surface. A series of events puts Darrow above the surface and in disguise as a Gold, where he attends the Institute, a brutal boarding school of sorts where Gold children prove their mettle (and earned the book its Hunger Games comparisons).
After proving himself at the Institute, Darrow continued to infiltrate Gold society, but without a clear purpose or direction from the rebels he was supposedly working for. A series of missteps put him in a precarious position at the beginning of the final book, although as you may anticipate, he finds a way out of it. The thrust of Morning Star is to finish the mission set out for Darrow in the first book: to end the Golds’ iron rule over their society and unite the people. To do so means waging a war against people with far more power and resources than Darrow – at least, far more types of resources that Golds value. Can Darrow accomplish this seemingly impossible task and get him and his friends out alive? Can he mend the bridges between him and those he’s hurt most deeply?
What You Need To Know: I’d heard going into Morning Star that the ending might be polarizing, which in turn, had me pretty panicked throughout the book. While Pierce Brown is adept at creating the most wholly fleshed out space society (and battle scenes) since Star Wars, he’s also pretty talented at creating characters you really care about. I found myself increasingly distraught as I headed toward the final quarter of the book, realizing not only how much I cared for Darrow and didn’t want to see him meet his end, but also how much I didn’t want the series to end. The neat thing is – and this isn’t a spoiler – is I think Brown has ended the series in a way that invites future instalments, if he should desire. I for one would be all for it, which isn’t necessarily something I would have said when I first encountered the series a few years back.
Who It’s For: It’s probably worth noting that Red Rising, while originally marketed as more of a (yet another) YA trilogy, really doesn’t fit that mould anymore. Darrow and his friends are in their early 20s at this point, and the level of violence / some of the subject matter feels more adult in nature. So, if you’re tempted to write Morning Star off as a book for teens – don’t. The series has earned love by wannabe space pirates, fanboys, and people of all ages for its gripping narrative and expansive world building. He’s great at setting up crazy twists and make your heart jump out of your chest – and many of the characters are witty and wonderful and memorable (Sevro, most notably). While it does have shimmers of similarity to other properties – the aforementioned Hunger Games and Star Wars for example – the series is just a cool sci-fi read that promotes some good values about friendship, owning up to your mistakes, not idealizing people, and when to accept your fate versus when to challenge it.
After reading Morning Star I was curious as to when it’d ever get a film version. There’s enough content in any one of these books (moreso the second and third) to warrant a season or two of a TV show, so while I’d wish for it to be made into one, it appears that instead, the author and some screenwriters are taking their sweet time with developing a worthy script. In the meantime, get ahead of the curve – if the eventual film adaptation is anything as dynamic as the books (and my goodness it’d be amazing to finally see all of Brown’s creations in visual form), you’ve got a lot to look forward to! Plus, there’s talks of him writing a spin-off series to boot.
Finally, I have the entire Red Rising trilogy for one lucky reader of mine (and reader in general) to nab and devour. Sound prime? Here’s how to enter:
1) First & foremost: you must be a subscriber to the Canadian Gift Guide to enter this giveaway. It’s as simple as finding ‘The Gift of Gab’ box in the righthand column and dropping in your email or clicking follow. Then, tell me in the comments below by March 28, 2016 – why are you interested in reading the Red Rising trilogy? Have you heard of the series before?
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around March 29, 2016 to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry: Follow Random House of Canada on Twitter, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a Tweet about why you want to read this series! Post a link to your Tweet below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.
5) Bonus Entry #2: Add this book to your to-read list on GoodReads, and leave a link back to the page it’s on below in a separate comment to earn yourself another bonus entry.