The Lost Lenore (Mild Spoilers Ahead)  

Lost Lenore

Post by Tessy W. 

Mild Spoilers Ahead  

Stumbling across the dramatic cover, a scarlet wing on a field of black, the title embolden on the side, I was intrigued.

"Why haven't I heard of this series before?" I asked myself, excited by the possibility of an undiscovered story.

A dystopian sci-fi, "Red Rising" by Pierce Brown has an interesting plot summary. In a socially stratified society based on colors, the main character, Darrow, is a Red. Tolling under the surface of Mars in the hope that one day their decedents will gain a habitable planet, the Red's are subservient to an upper class of Golds. When Darrow finds out otherwise, that Mars has been habitable for generations, he seeks bloody vengeance as he aims to infiltrate the golden upper class to eliminate his enemies. 

With the promise of complex politics and societal upheaval with a brooding hero who would risk becoming the very thing he hated to reach his goal, I downloaded the eBook via Overdrive immediately.

For a purported young adult series edging into adult fiction, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that Darrow was married at the beginning of the novel.

I should have been suspicious.

But I was too fascinated by the idea of a main character already taken, side-stepping the standard young adult love plot. With his clever red-headed wife, Eo, who was as political as Darrow was tenacious, I was flipping pages at light speed at the prospect of a power couple waging guerilla warfare against an unscrupulous upper class.  As Darrow's character became fleshed out, theRed Rising worldbuilding of the cramped subterranean caverns beneath the Martian surface expanded. Lit by flickering holoCan screens full of propaganda espousing brave pioneers, dusted, desperate people toiling in the mines to free the helium-3 that would terraform the planet, and the heavy pulse of the drills vibrating through my imagination, built itself into a fascinating world. Then, I started to notice that Eo's character wasn't keeping pace.

"Oh no," I whispered, hands stilling.

Eo is murdered on page forty-five. Thus spurring Darrow's long (four books with the fifth coming later this year) and bloody vengeance.

There are various names for this overarching phenomenon: "The Lost Lenore", "Stuffed in the Fridge", "I Let Gwen Stacy Die", or "Disposable Women".  As storytelling patterns, these tropes center around the death of a character in the name of moving the plot forward for the main character, with the variations centering on the manner of death and how relevant the killed-off character was to the protagonist.

Eo is a Lost Lenore. To be a Lost Lenore, you must do more for the story dead, then alive. Your memory spurs the hero to greater adventures, to deeper emotional depths, but you however, will always be a ghost, reduced to whatever characteristics the main character chooses to remember. 2

The trouble with these plot devices are their frequency, and their targets. 

It only took a few descriptions of Eo's beauty and her fragility, her descriptor as "the spirit of her people",3 coupled with the overarching revenge plot-line to make me suspicious enough to search for spoilers. Because inevitably, in a world where female protagonists are still an exciting novelty, we have male heroes with female supporting characters, and they will die first.

I only had to flip a few chapters forward before my foresight was rewarded. Darrow is devastated, and then swiftly ensnared by the machinations of the main plot line, haunted by his dead wife and spurred by the injustice of her death.

The Red Rising Saga is a popular series. Reviewers and Goodreads alike are exultant with their praise for Darrow's characterization and the fast-paced action of "Man vs. Society".

But I put the book down.

The media we consume has been improving in its representation of diverse characters. I can find books with interesting female protagonists of color or movies featuring complex LGBTQ characters. They aren't always easy to find, but I no longer have to resist the urge to edit all of the pronouns in a five hundred page novel or dismiss an author's character description in favor of my own.

So when I'm faced with a book that is taking a few steps backward in our cultural evolvement of storytelling, I don't have to read it.

 

Looking for sci-fi/fantasy? Try a few from my bookshelf (in no particular order)!

 

References
Brown, P. (2014). Red Rising. New York: Del Rey.
TV Tropes. (2018). The Lost Lenore - TV Tropes. [online] Available at: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheLostLenore [Accessed 14 Feb. 2018].
Brown, P. (2014). Red Rising. New York: Del Rey, p.15.

Posted by behrhart@auroragov.org On 20 March, 2018 at 10:34 AM  

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