Matt Forney
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The Red Pill by R.J. Patton

A few weeks back, I nearly sliced my finger off.

I was cutting open a package of kielbasas and pushed the knife in too hard, plunging it straight through the plastic and into the tip of my left hand’s middle finger. I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran over to the sink to wash up, but the blood was flowing too fast and the bandages I put on kept slipping off. I eventually gave up and went upstairs to the bathroom, sucking on my finger to keep from leaking arterial blood all over my house. I poured some hydrogen peroxide on my finger, then wound a gigantic gauze pad around the tip, holding it in place with some surgical tape for good measure. It took at least an hour for the wound to close up, and I was in enough pain that I couldn’t use my left hand to type or lift anything for the next couple of days.

That experience was far less painful than reading The Red Pill.

This isn’t just the worst book in the manosphere, it’s easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And as much as it pains me to write this review, seeing as R.J. Patton is one of us—he posts as “painter” over at Roosh’s forum—I can’t sugarcoat the truth. The Red Pill is so bad that reading it felt like having one of those ancient Egyptian brain removal hooks shoved up my nose. Everything about it is flat, cliched and excruciating.

The Red Pill is a novella about taking the red pill, as it were, focusing on a guy named Andrew who decides to take charge of his health, career and love life. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same plot as A Generation of Men, with one main character as opposed to three. But compared to The Red Pill, Frost is practically the next Houellebecq, because this book reads like an Horatio Alger movie adaptation by the autistic progeny of Ayn Rand and Judd Apatow. Just sample the first paragraph of the first fucking chapter:

He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, and he couldn’t go more than thirty seconds without thinking about Natalie and how much he loved her. She meant everything. She was the sun, the moon, the stars, and the air he breathed. But Natalie didn’t love him anymore and Andrew just wanted to roll over and die. He didn’t realize until she dumped him how much his world revolved around her and now that she was gone his suffering seemed immeasurable.

Now imagine a hundred pages of this. The neverending run-on sentences. The repetitive, brain-dead cliches. The bland fourth-grade vocabulary.

And worst of all, the awful characterization.

The characters in The Red Pill aren’t one-dimensional, they’re no-dimensional. There’s not a single bit of nuance or meaningful development among them. The good guys, like Andrew and his magical alpha mentor Adam, are saintly and heroic; the villains, such as Andrew’s roommate Joe and his sister Tracy, are stupid, snotty, lazy and entitled. They don’t even rise to the level of archetypes; they’re fucking manosphere mad libs:

Tracy looked up calmly, relishing how easily it was to push his buttons and moved in for the kill. “Aw, poor baby. Can’t keep his girlfriend and now it’s my fault? I don’t think so. Fine, you want the truth, Mom and Dad? Natalie told us she broke up with him because he got violent with her. She was terrified Andrew was going to hurt her! I don’t blame her for one second. You need to learn to control your anger or no woman will ever come near you!”

Andrew stood there shocked, unable to even move. Natalie was telling everyone he hit her? He started shaking, tears springing to his eyes. He had to get out of there before he exploded and stalked out of the dining room.

“See what I mean?” he heard Tracy saying behind him, “I told you he’s a psycho.”

Our story begins with our intrepid hero reeling from a bad breakup. Having discovered his girlfriend Natalie moonlighting as the town bicycle, Andrew decides to kill himself out of grief. And despite having only known him for a few pages, I was praying for him to go through with it. “She was sucking every dick within a five-mile radius, you dipshit! Why do you want her back?” Like I said, the characterization is so flat and Manichean it’s unbelievable; even after Natalie and her father steal half his things when they get her stuff from their apartment (which comes after he threatens to kill Andrew if he goes near her again), he still begs her to come back to him.

PROTIP to aspiring novelists: if I’m rooting for your protagonist to huff some carbon monoxide before the first chapter is over, you have failed as a storyteller.

But alas, God and gravity intervene to keep Andrew from hanging himself, and he moves into a new apartment with his best buddy Joe. By sheer random chance, his new next-door neighbor is Emily, an old crush of his from high school, and he predictably tries to Compliment & Cuddle his way into her vagina. It works as well as you’d expect, but Andrew manages to parlay his friendzone status into a date at a bar on State Street (presumably, The Red Pill takes place in Madison, Wisconsin), where they meet Adam, the guy who changes Andrew’s life forever.

Adam is the lead singer in a Doors tribute band, which drives Emily wild. A few days later, after they start hooking up, Andrew runs into Adam outside and inexplicably starts monologuing to him about his 99 problems. Adam decides that this is a perfect opportunity to monologue back at him:

“I was the biggest loser. I couldn’t get a date, I couldn’t play sports besides tennis, which everybody laughed at. My parents were crazy, my Dad was a drunk and my Mom ran off with some drug addict biker when I was nine years old. I didn’t fit in anywhere no matter how hard I tried. Hell, even my teachers hated me. I tried everything to fit in and nothing worked until I was so far down I finally realized I already had something to hold on to. The one thing that wouldn’t make fun of me, that didn’t give a shit about what I looked like or where I came from or where I was going. You know what that was?”

After this stilted heart-to-heart, Adam decides to take Andrew under his wing and teach him the ways of the red pill. Thanks to the book’s godawful dialogue and characterization, Adam comes off more like a male Manic Pixie Dream Girl than the zero-turned-hero cool guy that he’s supposed to be, and violently homoerotic passages like this don’t help:

Finally, they were done and Andrew’s entire body was sore, limbs burning, but he also felt pumped up at the same time. They went to the mens’ locker room and Adam tossed him a white towel from a neat pile by the door. “You can leave your stuff right here,” he pointed to the bench running along the row of lockers, “Don’t worry, this place is safe and secure, you won’t get ripped off like a regular gym.” With that he opened his locker and stripped all his clothes off. Andrew hesitated for a moment, self conscious. Compared to Adam he was thin and small and scrawny, but he took off his sweaty clothes, wrapped the towel around himself and followed a naked Adam to the adjacent white tiled room with a row of four open showers. He was impressed at how clean everything was and his self consciousness went away as he washed up under the hot water.

I half-expected a surprise twist where Andrew and Adam confessed their love for each other, then run off to get gay married.

From here, The Red Pill devolves into montage territory, with Andrew slowly getting cut, starting his own small business, and learning how to behave with a sack around girls, puffed up with horrifying segments where he and Adam monologue at each other. Even John Galt would tell these guys to give it a fucking rest. And naturally, Andrew’s fat feminist sister, once the pride of the family, is forced to move out and get a real job. Every time you think things can’t get worse, the book somehow manages to yank another clump of brain out through your nostrils.

But the real scorn is reserved for Joe. Jealous of Andrew’s success, angry at his fat Asian girlfriend (there’s a segment where he flips out and punches her), and unwilling to make the effort to improve his life, Joe succumbs to omega rage and decides to murder him, Adam and Emily in the final chapter. Again, if this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same plot twist that A Generation of Men had, and it’s just as fake, manipulative and cheap here as it was there:

The look in Joe’s bloodshot eyes was pure hate and evil and Andrew would never forget it. His friend dropped down onto him, knees crushing him like boulders, knocking the wind out of him. Andrew gasped for air, saw one large fist come angling down from high above, smashing hard into his face, and then another and another. “You think you’re so much better than me, huh?” Joe roared. “Not so fucking tough now, are you? You or you’re fucking new best friend!”

Another tip for aspiring novelists: pouring blood and dismembered body parts all over your draft does not make it good. Stop ripping off Bret Easton Ellis. He wasn’t that good to begin with, and your tenth-generation Xeroxes of his phony secular Augustinian shtick don’t even have the few things that make it bearable: his believable characters and sense of humor.

I expect this sentimental garbage from the likes of Oprah, not from the manosphere.

The closest thing I can muster in defense of The Red Pill is that it’s not intended for the manosphere; Patton wrote it for the purpose of bringing unconverted guys around to our way of doing things. But the book is so shoddy that it almost made me want to send a big check to David Futrelle. At best, The Red Pill comes off as a pitiful nerd’s revenge fantasy, with all the storytelling quality of a high schooler’s fan fiction. Again, it doesn’t make me feel good panning a fellow manospherian’s book—and I don’t know Patton that well, I assume he’s a nice guy—but I can’t simply ignore a book that put me in physical pain while I was reading it.

If this is The Red Pill, I wish I had taken the blue pill.

Click here to buy The Red Pill.

Read Next: Journey of a Red Pill Princess