Red Rising Trilogy (Pierce Brown, 2014 – 2016) – Lowborn miner Darrow infiltrates the ranks of the elite Golds to bring down a class system that thrives on oppression.
An intergalactic war of epic proportions marks the birth of a compelling young hero on terraformed Mars.
Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste in a colour-coded society. The young Helldiver mines the surface of Mars, content in building a better world for future generations. Then, the truth hits. Humanity has long terraformed the planets. Reds like him are but slaves to the decadent ruling class of Gold.
Only with tragedy is he bestowed a fighting chance. The Sons of Ares, a resistance group, conscripts Darrow into their mission – to impersonate a Gold in the Elite institute and bring down the system from within.
Science fiction at its best, Pierce Brown has built a deeply immersive world of scale, spanning across the galaxy. Diversity is not just in the human race but in distinct aberrant beings, built to their varying upbringing. Even the planets are endowed with individuality. Each caste takes up their own slang, bound to slip into the daily vernacular of Howlers like us.
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Chaos Walking Trilogy (Patrick Ness, 2008 – 2010) – Where everyone’s thoughts can be heard, Prentisstown has a dark secret, from which Todd must escape.
Thrills abound in the page-turning trilogy of grand ideas that are sadly lacking in subtlety.
Prentisstown is not like any other town. In this town of men, every thought can be heard in an endless stream of Noise. Then, before his 13th birthday, Todd Hewitt and his dog Manchee come upon an area of utter silence. That is where he meets the first girl he has ever known – Viola, who has no Noise. With the Mayor’s insidious secret coming to light, Todd is forced to leave his home and run for his life.
Inspired by information overload in the modern age, author Patrick Ness builds a fascinating other-world, where men struggle with their thoughts that float in the open. Secrets wield powers, and knowledge becomes a weapon. This inventive premise keeps the pages turning in The Knife of Never Letting Go.
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Stories of Your Life and Others (Ted Chiang, 2010) – The collection includes eight of Ted Chiang’s original published stories of remarkable wit and consistency.
Meditating on the irresolvable meaning of humanity, Stories of Your Life and Others is an essential for keen readers of sci-fi, theology and philosophy.
What if language has the power to change our perception? The story behind the acclaimed film Arrival owes its cerebral genre narrative to Ted Chiang’s source material. Story of Your Life tells of one woman’s account of her newfound perspective and resultant personal choices, positing how linguistics can shape civilisation.
The story is interestingly in itself, an experiment in language. Tenses shift between past, present, and future to untangle a complex yarn. Physics come into play with Fermat’s Principle of Least Time. But while rooted in vernacular and scientific technicalities, the speculative work is primarily philosophical, questioning the dichotomy of freewill and fate.
Equally thought-provoking themes can be found in the rest of the collection, Stories of Your Life and Others. Each of the eight short stories proves remarkable in their sophistication, accessibility, and rare originality.
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Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1939) – A young American soldier awakens in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell.
A haunting anti-war manifesto, Johnny Got A Gun echoes with relevance even today.
Every war narrative is essentially anti-war. In news or fiction, each account of its dire costs is a call for pacifism. WithJohnny Got His Gun, prolific writer and filmmaker Dalton Trumbo presents one of the most harrowing imageries in war literature, by giving a voice to the voiceless.
The story centres on the tragic fate of one young soldier, who wakes to find himself blind, mute, deaf and paralysed. Unable to tell if he is alive or dead, he struggles to come to terms with his disfigurement and hold onto his slipping soul by recalling his idyllic past.
The horrors of his position is unimaginable. Trapped in someone else’s war and consequently his own body, Joe Bonham becomes a man who finds no reason to live, yet cannot die. However inconceivable his pain must be, we come close to knowing the victim and how he feels in these vividly written pages.
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Gunslinger (Stephen King, 1982) / The Dark Tower (Stephen King, 2004) – The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. And so begins his quest fraught with danger towards the mythical Dark Tower.
It is the journey, not the destination that matters in Stephen King’s tour de force.
A year ago, I put down The Gunslinger with a disparaging, “That’s it?”
Surely there must be more to Stephen King’s acclaimed work than a meandering walk through the vast desert, I thought. How wrong I was to have dismissed the story this early on, and thankful I am to have persisted. I write on with minimal spoilers, in hopes that you yourself might embark on this journey towards The Dark Tower.
What lies at The Dark Tower, you might ask? That I cannot tell. What you can learn however, is who to follow. In The Drawing of the Three, Roland Deschain of Gilead finds his ka-tet in ex-heroin addict Eddie Dean, troubled child Jake Chambers and afflicted lady Susannah. He draws death and danger too, in search of the elusive Man in Black.
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And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie, 1939) – Ten strangers are invited to a mysterious island mansion, where their secrets threaten to end in blood.
With Poirot and Marple out of the equation, And Then There Were None employs the reader as a willing detective to a simply but sharply crafted mystery.
Ten strangers are invited to an island. When the needle drops, undesirable secrets spill. An anonymous record on the phonograph reveals a death row under the guise of an island mansion, threatening its guests with long-due justice for alleged wrongdoings.
Helmed as Dame Agatha Christie’s masterpiece, And Then There Were None proves its acclaim rightfully won. First published in 1939, the timeless mystery lives up to expectations built by her reputation, sustaining an air of deadly mutual mistrust.
Continue reading Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie