Review: Iron Gold, by Pierce Brown

The fact that I finished this book a week ago and have still been unpacking my thoughts on it should be sufficient indication how much I enjoyed it.

I’m a die-hard fan of the first Red Rising trilogy, so I knew what to expect when diving into Pierce Brown’s latest, 600-page offering. I just wasn’t expecting Iron Gold to so wildly depart from the structure of the previous books, while still maintaining so much of the series’ identity, jacked up on Sevro’s steroids.

Never before has the world felt so alive and rich and full of wonders and danger. The world-building is a lot smarter this time; there’s no lengthy info-dumps; there’s droplets of exposition and hints of how this world and it’s microsocieties function, from the scarcity-minded people on the Rim who’s decorative tastes and methods of torture match their lifestyle aesthetics, to the political arenas on Luna taken directly from democratic councils in ancient Greece, to the cyberpunk-esque superstructures and the people that inhabit them. The world(s) slowly build in your mind until there’s a very vivid and very personal universe coming alive on page. It commands attention, and it deserves it.9780425285916

And just of commanding of attention are the characters. Going for four PoVs was the correct choice, although some were much more interesting than others. Ephraim’s guff, raw attitude could have been pulled straight from Blade Runner, Lysander’s complex and nuanced storyline and characterization made me hate how much I loved him, Darrow is as delightfully rash and stubborn as ever, and Lyria’s cocky attitude brings a new set of eyes to the world. Lyria’s PoV was decidedly the weakest, and her character arc felt a little too sudden. And if there’s any fault I can find in this book, it’s that Darrow is more absent from the on-screen narrative than he should be. Darrow’s the heart and soul of this world, after all, so it was disappointing not to see him and the Howlers (and Sevro, the little devil) taking a more on-screen role. I’d have gladly swapped a good chunk of Lyria’s PoV for his.

But in saying that, each of the characters are phenomenally sketched, their emotions and feelings so sharply detailed that it’s impossible not to care about them ever so much. The events of any given narrative cannot emotionally support itself unless it has the central characters and their feelings, reactions and social views providing the backbone. And in Iron Gold’s case, each of these characters’ reactions to the unfolding events is a quiet revelation. Their feelings are messy and rash and motivated by spur of the moment decisions (which they may or may not soon regret), filled with heart-break and rage, and it’s wonderful to embroil yourself in the middle of this chaos. I felt like I was with them every bloody step of the way, right until the bitter end that felt me hating how much I love Pierce Brown, but also want to scream at him.

This book is nothing less than a phantasmagorical mash-up of science-fictional exuberance jacked-up to the hilt. There’s so much richness and goodness bursting out of the seams of the characters, technologies, planets and cities of the world it threatens to spill over. Science-fiction is said to be the genre of ideas, and never has it been more true here. The action is as bloody and brutal as ever, the suits of armor and weapons lovingly detailed and described, the politics as cuthroat as ever, the world several shades darker and more messed up than it’s ever been, and the almost endless cast of characters play their roles as productions of their culture and upbringing to levels so theatrical it’s almost Shakespearean. Brown’s velvety prose is so rich and jam-packed with detail and tiny literary gems it’s like he didn’t think he’d get the chance to ever write another book. Even on its own, every page is a delightful morsel. As a whole, this book is a dessert masterpiece.

Pierce Brown has absolutely out-done himself in almost every way and should be given a round of applause for producing something so stellar it reaches meteorological greatness. It might be too early to call it book of the year, but I’m going to do it anyway.

The wait for Dark Age will be unbearable.


The Novel is DONE

It’s done. 123,566 words and I typed THE END on my space opera noir novel.

After 91 days, it’s finally, finally done.

It was done last Thursday, but I’d written 6,000 words that night and I didn’t want to see another keyboard for a weekend at least. But now I’m happy to announce that it’s done and finished.

The first draft, that is. It’s going to take a mountain of effort to unscramble that mess and knock it into something resembling a coherent narrative.

But it’s done.

I feel like Uma Thurman from Kill Bill, standing above the restaurant dojo of Crippling Self Doubt and seeing all the defeated brain weasels on the bloody floor and saying, “All your words are belong to me”.

I wrote everyday for over three months. Every single day. Even the day where I had a ten-hour shift and went out in the evening, even if it was 100 words before collapsing asleep. I kept chiseling away to get the end result.

I absolutely love this novel. After my last project burned me out I had to write exactly what I wanted to write. Genre tends or hot-off-the-press type work be damned. I wanted to take a shot at writing a murder mystery in the deepest reaches of space, with a strong sense of space opera exuberance, and I did.

My plan is to write up a sketchy synopsis of the novel, as well as a detailed list of things that need to be fixed. But I’ll be taking a bit of a break. After a few weeks I’ll try my hand at a short or two, polish up an ugly draft that I’ve got sitting around, maybe do some nonfiction, and then it’s time for revision. A lot of revision.

But for now, I need to clear my mind and take a mini-holiday. After writing almost 125k in 91 days, I think I’ve earned it.

And I’m going to try my best not to think about just how much it sucks and needs work. Wish me luck!


Translations Destroy Podcasts on StarShipSofa! (Not really)

So. Something’s been brewing behind the scenes at StarShipSofa. Something we’re sure you’ll all be excited about.

But some backstory first.

It goes without saying that all of us at the District of Wonders welcome stories from all over the globe. We’re an international podcast, and naturally interested in finding stories published in another language. With English-speaking (particularly American) stories dominating the market – and understandably so – it can be quite difficult to get work translated from another language into English to reach a wider audience, and even harder to find them once they have. We have authors such as Andrzej Sapkowski and Cixin Liu rising to popularity, but for the vast majority of non-English authors it’s maddeningly hard to shatter that language barrier and find an audience they deserve.

So I’m doing something about that.

Starting soon, StarShipSofa will be playing one whole month’s worth of stories translated from other languages as part of our Translations Month Special. These four stories are diverse in content and sub-genre as they are in country of origin. Ranging from cyberpunk to time travel to transgressive dystopian, our stories come from France, Japan, Russia, and China. The table of contents are below:


  • “The Smog Society” by Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu and Carmen Yiling Yan (translated from Chinese).
  • “Sense of Wonder 2.0” by Laurent Queyssi‏, translated by Edward Gauvin (translated from French).
  • “White Curtain” by Pavel Amnuel, translated by Anatoly Belilovsky (translated from Russian).
  • “Violation of the TrueNet Security Act” by Taiyo Fuji, translated by Jim Hubbert (translated from Japanese).


Half of these were picked up directly from slush, the other half were procured with assistance from John Joseph Adams and the team at Skyboat Media. A big thank you to them.

This project has been a long time in the making. We’re looking very much to bringing these incredible stories to you, showcasing the international diversity of science-fiction and the different favours that each country specializes in. And of course, we’re always open to broadening our horizons and welcome both more translated stories, and authors and narrators from all territories. But for now, I hope you enjoy what’s on tap this month and all the stories to come.

If you like our stories and the work we’re doing, please consider making a donation on Patreon. Every bit helps to cover our server costs and work towards becoming a paying market. The District of Wonders has adapted and published over a thousand stories over a decade-long period, and with your help we’ll go for another decade yet.  The link is here:

As always, let us know what you think of this project and the stories on Facebook, Twitter or email. And please, enjoy this special Translations Month, coming soon to your earholes in a podcast near you.