As this series has gone on I have found myself more and more invested in it. Red Rising was good but I felt that it contained a few standard YA tropes that forced me to keep my distance. Golden Son was better but as the middle story of the trilogy it was a bridge that went nowhere ending with a cliffhanger. That left Morning Star with a built in obligation to build upon the unfinished foundation laid before it and it does not fail to deliver. For me it was the best book of the series.
At the end of book one, Red Rising, Darrow's brutal experience at the Institute concluded with him firmly embedded in Gold society. Darrow, a lowly Red hidden with the ranks of Gold, was required to choose a patron to sponsor his future and he chose to become a Lancer for House Augustus. This means he now works for the ArchGoverner - the man who killed his wife. He did this in order to be close to his hated enemy as well as to be able to attend the Academy, where Gold prodigees learn starship fleet command. As a member of House Augustus, Darrow finds that life among the Peerless Scarred is not as straight forward as he hoped. It is often hard to tell the difference between his allies and his enemies which leaves Darrow pretty confused as to the best way to move forward with his hidden agenda.
A red burst in the sky known as Calamity suddenly knocks human society into a post-apocalyptic world ruled by evil super villains known as Epics. The series kicks off in the city of Newcago (formerly Chicago) where an Epic known as Steelheart has ruthlessly established his dominion over the inhabitants of the city, both humans and lesser Epics alike. Everyone knows that Steelheart is invincible and even the Reckoners, a group of humans rumored to hunt and kill Epics, won't mess with him. However, young David Charleston has a secret that he has kept hidden for the last 10 years. On that fateful day many years ago when Steelheart killed David's father he witnessed something that no other living person has ever seen - he saw Steelheart bleed!
Ark Royal and her crew are the laughing stocks of the Royal Space Navy. The old lady is 70 years old now and more museum than active carrier as she remains parked in orbit around Earth full time. Her systems are out of date and her crew cobbles together whatever leftovers they can to keep her barely functional. She has also become the dumping ground for Royal Navy personnel that have screwed up elsewhere, so her crew lacks motivation. All of that changes in an instant when an unknown alien race arrives and cuts through the modern ships in the human Space Navies like a hot knife through butter leaving Ark Royal as a last line of defense.
When the 3rd Thomas Covenant series started I was ecstatic. I pre-ordered the hard cover version of the first book, The Runes of the Earth, and upon its arrival I instantly dove right in. Unfortunately, I quickly began to feel like this book was written to take financial advantage of my love for the Land rather than to tell me a good story. The book was full of uber-beings that supposedly always existed in the Land but had never revealed themselves before. These powerful beings had always been there but never surfaced even when the Land was on the brink of annihilation. WTF? My beloved Giants, which were so memorable in the first two series, had now become bland, expendable and boring. The same could be said for the stalwart Haruchai who were now corrupted and uninteresting shadows of themselves. It appeared that Donaldson had done what Lord Foul never could and desecrated the Land. Now I had become the Unbeliever.
At the start of The Wounded Land over 4,000 years have passed since the end of the first trilogy (time moves at a different rate in the Land) and Thomas Covenant is once again summoned back to the Land. This time, however, he is not alone when he arrives as Dr. Linden Avery is summoned along with him. They arrive to find that the Land has been completely corrupted and a malicous force known as the Sunbane has made the Land almost uninhabitable. When the sun rises in the morning it does so with a colored aura every day. That aura dictates what happens to the Land throughout the day cycling at random times between rain, desert, pestilence and unnatural fertility. So day by day the Land either floods, has all plant life die away under oppressive heat, gets overrun by bugs, or has plant life grow at an alarming rate creating a jungle. Revelstone is now inhabited by the Clave who fuel the Sunbane through blood sacrifice and the few remaining inhabitants of the Land have adapted to use blood magic of their own. Covenant's heart is broken when he sees how the beauty of the Land has been corrupted and he vows to set things right and abolish the Sunbane. This is exactly what Lord Foul wants and he takes active steps to increase Covenant's ability to use the power of his white gold ring. Foul hopes to provoke Covenant to recklessly use his wild magic in anger and shatter the Arch of Time on his behalf. The state of the Land in this book broke my heart and I found that Donaldson had manipulated my feelings once again as I was now a staunch supporter of Thomas Covenant.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is a classic fantasy series published in 1977-1979. This is a very polarizing series for readers because the lead character, Thomas Covenant, is an anti-hero fraught with paradox. He is a young, best selling author living an idyllic life when his world is devastated by a diagnosis of leprosy. The disease not only costs him two fingers on his right hand but it also costs him his family, as his wife takes his son and leaves for fear of the disease. To make matters worse he is also shunned by the rest of the community in his small town and he quickly finds himself living a solitary life of despair. He is taught not to hope as there is no cure for his disease and hoping for one only leads to madness. Thomas Covenant is truely a man worthy of your pity. Then he is abruptly summoned to a beautiful and vibrant world known simply as "the Land" where magic is a reality and a cure for his disease is indeed possible. So what does he do? He commits an act of violence so heinous that he instantly transforms himself into a man now worthy of your hatred. Because Covenant is the only person capable of saving the Land from desecration author Stephen R. Donaldson now has you trapped in the paradox of hating Thomas Covenant and rooting for him at the same time. What a bastard.
It is 3000 years after the events that take place in Ender's Game and Ender Wiggin is alive and well, as is his sister Valentine. Having spent the majority of their adulthood travelling through space, relativity allows them both to be only in their 30s age-wise and yet they have both witnessed the progression of mankind for over 3000 years due to Ansible communications technology which allows for instantaneous communication across the vast distances of space.
Twice before the human race has faced extinction at the hands of the Buggers, an alien race that ruthlessly attacks without communicating in any way, and many feel the 3rd war is imminent. It is within this context that we learn about the battle school set up by the International Fleet (IF) to train earth's most promising children to become commanders of the human fleet. Only a prodigy trained from birth in the art of war will be able to resist our deadly enemy and with the 3rd war almost upon us, humanity is running out of time. The powers that be will cut any corner and take any risk they deem necessary to get ready, because if they fail there will be no humans left to condemn their actions as immoral.
Neal Stephenson takes a variety of different ideas and seemingly random subjects and does his best to weave them together into a coherent tale. These subjects include ancient Sumer, religious history, linguistics, virtual reality, viruses, sword fighting, and hacking, amongst others. They are all rolled into a story set in a bizarre future where the United States as we know it is no more and our current culture has been taken to absurd, and often entertaining, extremes. The US has become best known for its ability to deliver pizzas efficiently, the federal government has ceded much of the land to corporations/franchises, and couriers ride futuristic skateboards using magnetic harpoons to attach to vehicles on the freeway for a free lift.