Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generation ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow – and Reds like him – are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
I’ve come across this title time and time again, but I never had any incentive to pick it up and see what the hype was all about. It’s moments like this that make me incredibly aware of how dumb I am. Before anything else, let me virtually shout this truth from the rooftops: Red Rising is not a book anyone should be missing out on!!! If my incoherent Twitter babbling isn’t obvious enough, I had so much fun and feelings with this book.
I can say so many things about Red Rising that, I’m vaguely sure, other people, readers, and reviewers have already pointed out. Still, I cannot help but greatly commend Pierce Brown for creating, developing, and masterfully fleshing out what is perhaps the most wonderfully detailed, thrillingly complex, and interestingly nuanced world-building I’ve ever encountered as an avid devourer of dystopian novels. When I first read the synopsis, I naively assumed that I was getting another The Hunger Games or Maze Runner. I was wrong. I was embarrassingly unprepared for this book to shatter my standards and largely incorrect assumptions like a thin glass ceiling.
As expected, Darrow does get involved with an admittedly unimpressive group of rebels whose sole vision is to eventually execute a revolution that will overthrow the dominating Gold elite. In that regard, the objective of these characters is pretty straightforward. What’s not straightforward, however, are the lengths required of Darrow in order to be able to fulfill his role in this uprising revolution – and these astronomically high stakes are exactly why and how Red Rising kept me on my toes and on the edge of my seat simultaneously.
Don’t get me wrong. Red Rising is not full of highs and constantly rising action. In fact, the first portion of the novel felt like it would drag on forever. It took a lot of patience for me to keep going, if I’m being completely honest. Plus, as the story’s main character, Darrow failed to make a good first impression on me because right off the bat, he comes off as way too arrogant and self-righteous for his own good.
My slight irritation with him never fully faded away as I kept reading. Darrow exuded the stereotypical masculine archetype – all bravado, brute strength, pride, stubbornness, and machismo with a mindset to dominate and a truckload of anger management issues. He was also occasionally brooding, which is eww. Even the writing style held the same stereotypically masculine aura, which resulted in a narrative voice that was so distinctly Darrow. Reading the story from Darrow’s perspective was not an entirely pleasant experience either. Even in his thoughts, he was a self-glorifying buttwipe. Sometimes, I had to take a break from reading, regardless of the excitement, simply because he got on my last nerve.
Despite these things, I admit that there are intriguing nuances to Darrow’s character that make it possible to still somewhat connect with him. His character development, albeit gradual and arguably inconsistent, was ultimately worth sticking around for. No matter how badly he annoyed me, I would always end up rooting for him, regardless. However, to be clear, he’s definitely not my favorite character in this saga. Right now, Sevro and Mustang are closest to my heart, and I can’t wait to see them both in action in the succeeding installments! But I digress.
I have other reservations with Red Rising, particularly with how women are portrayed and represented as well as how they contribute to Darrow’s narrative and the plot itself. For the time being, I won’t elaborate. Maybe I will discuss this issue further in a separate blog post. Still, I do genuinely hope that female representation in the succeeding books will drastically improve.
Other than what I’ve already mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience with Red Rising. Once the story picked up the right momentum, I just flew through the rest of the pages! It’s pretty evident that Pierce Brown is capable of writing the most gruesome yet oddly compelling action scenes.
I more or less loved how a variety of themes were cleverly incorporated into the plot. The messages regarding socioeconomic inequalities, class discrimination, systemic oppression, power struggles, and political warfare, as exemplified by the color-based caste system, rang loud and clear throughout the book. I also appreciated the thinly veiled references to philosophers, mythology, and the Roman Empire. I did not see any of them coming.
Honestly, this is not a perfect book; however, because of the many flaws both in its characters and in its delivery, Red Rising succeeds in making its audience really think about whether or not we are what we are born into, among other serious matters such as color-based discrimination, morally gray areas, and the lengths we are willing to endure for the sake of justice. Certainly, this book should be taken with a grain of salt and an open mind. In my opinion, the best way to appreciate Red Rising is not by blindly loving its story and action-packed sequences but by analyzing its content over and over again. Gorydamn, I can’t wait to read the next one.
Excerpt from the book:
“Right now, the Colors who mine this planet are harder than you. They are born with calluses. Born with scars and hatred. They are tough as nanosteel. Fortunately, they are also very stupid. For instance, this Persephone you have no doubt heard of is nothing more than a dim girl who thought singing a song was worth a hanging.”
I bite a bloody hole in my cheek. My skin shivers from the emotion that seems to shoot over my body as I find out that my wife is part of this bastard’s speech.
“The girl did not even know the video would be leaked. Yet it is her willingness to suffer hardship that gave her power. Martyrs, you see, are like bees. Their only power comes in death. How many of you would sacrifice yourself to not kill, but merely hurt your enemy? Not one of you, I wager.”
I taste blood in my mouth. I have the knifeRing Dancer gave me. But I breathe the fury down. I am no martyr. I am not vengeance. I am Eo’s dream. Still, doing nothing while her murderer gloats feels like a betrayal.
“In time you will receive your Scars from my sword,” Augustus closes. “But first you must earn them.”
Lauren’s Page Turners // Pooled Ink // The Critiquing Chemist // The Royal Polar Bear