Book Review - The Grapes of Wrath

It’s always an amazing feeling when you crack open a new book with no expectations and by the end it becomes one of your favorite novels. That’s precisely what happened with me upon reading “The Grapes of Wrath.” Steinbeck’s opus about the Joad family and the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930’s is haunting and eye-opening. It’s a window into a very specific time in American history where what we were converged upon what we would become.

“The Grapes of Wrath” is a lot of things. It’s a road narrative and a farmers gospel and a manifesto of the disenfranchised working class of the 1930’s. But these descriptions don’t do it justice. It’s about families being forced off their land, land settled by their ancestors, and pushed toward California with the promise of work. It’s about the dehumanization of a people suddenly thrust into the realm of not knowing where their next meal is coming from, or if it’s coming at all. It’s about men who just want to work for a living wage, but find themselves needing permission to do so.

Steinbeck is an amazing writer. According to the introduction he spent more time researching than actually writing, knocking out the narrative in 100 days. Clocking in at over 600 pages that is indeed impressive and inspired. Maybe even a little crazy. The dialogue feels incredibly authentic, meaning it would be a nightmare of red and green in a word processor. And the ending will have you feeling some sort of way, especially the final paragraph. For me it fit within the nature of the story and how it was told.

I’ve seen some buzz online about how “The Grapes of Wrath” is an allegory on the destructive power of capitalism and how it’s relatable today. That’s not a sentiment I buy into. The current issues of immigration and wage gaps facing America are, in my opinion, not even close to what Oklahoma farmers went through during the Dust Bowl. It actually feels insulting to compare the two. Nevertheless, people are entitled to their opinions. I just wish more research and thought went into it. But this is the internet! Receptacle for word vomit!

Anyway. Read “The Grapes of Wrath.” It’s amazing and might just change your perspective.

Book Review - Morning Star

The Red Rising Trilogy was a Christmas gift from my brother last year. He thought it would be something I’d enjoy reading. The first two were alright, not really my cup of tea. I already hated the main protagonist, Darrow, about fifty pages in. I didn’t care for the premise of an entire class system separated by color. Not color as in race, color as in crayons. It seemed a bit hokey. And there seemed to be a lot of pointless details and funny names and inconsistent world-building.

But I’ll read anything, even if it’s just for research. Then I got to the third book, Morning Star, and I’ve never been so happy to be finished with a trilogy. It was a bloated, overwritten mess. Darrow still sucks as a character. Every time he launched into one of his speeches I immediately began skimming as he shouted out the same self-righteous word-vomit as before. All of his crazy plans come spontaneously off the top of his head and they all work, which is frustratingly shallow story-telling.

By the end he’s basically test-tube Hitler. He’s an abomination created in a lab that succeeds in rallying millions behind his cause only to have most of them die. He’s also entirely too emotional and needy to lead any kind of resistance with any kind of success. He constantly laments death and the human cost of war, then has a chance to be a martyr to save millions. He chooses the opposite, which goes against everything he’s been characterized at since the first chapter of the first book.

I was behind Pierce Brown, the author, for the first two. He seemed like a good, talented writer. I just didn’t care for the subject matter. After Morning Star I’m convinced he’s a total hack. There is a scene lifted straight out of Good Will Hunting that is so egregious it’s practically plagiarism. He slips in the term “Bye, Felicia” somewhere in the middle of the story. Remember when that was popular for five minutes? He crams in so many pointless details and ridiculous naming conventions it’s like he trying to prove how creative he can be, how good of a writer he is.

But, C. M., isn’t that how you write a good book? No. You write a good book by telling a story.

If Brown had any balls as a writer he would have killed off Darrow at the end of the second book, Golden Son. He had a perfect opportunity. That would have allowed the third book to be told from the point of view of Sevro, Darrow’s best friend and the best character in the series by far. Darrow could have acted as the martyr he should have been as Sevro took up the resistance and finished what test-tube Hitler started. Sevro had more of a claim anyway as he was torn between two colors, two worlds, whereas Darrow knew nothing of a higher society until he was ripped out of his lower one.

Just my thoughts. I could go deeper but I’m ready to move on. Time to cleanse my palate with a classic read.