Book review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown


Pierce Brown’s relentlessly entertaining debut channels the excitement of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

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 reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds 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.

(Note: I wrote this review on March 23, 2014. After I reread it I’ll post a new review with more thoughts.)

I first heard about and became interested in Red Rising after reading a review in Entertainment Weekly.
This is the review printed in EW:

At different points in the narrative, Pierce Brown’s dizzyingly good debut novel evokes The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Ender’s Game, but to write it off as merely derivative would be lazy. Sure, Brown has culled familiar elements — dystopian rituals, personality-based stratification, rebellious unrest, and plenty of flashy tech — but he’s woven the worn threads into a wholly fresh revenge tale that will send your imagination into hyperdrive.
Sixteen-year-old Darrow is a Red, the lowest of a color-coded caste hierarchy, and he toils deep within a colony on Mars. After the highborn Golds execute his idealistic wife, Darrow joins a group of revolutionaries — ”empire-breakers, not terrorists” — who want to use him to infiltrate the Golds by enlisting him in the Institute, a prestigious school for society’s elite.

Though the novel gets off to a clunky start, the pages begin to fly as soon as Darrow undergoes his class-hopping transformation. Brown writes with cinematic grandeur, cleverly fusing Roman mythology with science fiction and pacing his action scenes for a slow-burn build to a hold-your-breath final act. Darrow, edgy but immensely likable, is an easy guy to root for, and there’s a certain thrill in guessing the loyalties of the strikingly rendered heroes and villains who parade through his mission. Brown’s best move is eschewing some of the more tired tropes of dystopian YA (read: no horrific love triangle), instead creating disarmingly real friendships and high-stakes rivalries. Red Rising is the first in a trilogy, luckily for us. In the galaxy of YA phenomena, it has everything it needs to become meteoric. A-

After reading Red Rising myself I pretty much agree with EW. I really enjoyed it. I am so glad there is no love triangle in this story, however I don’t think it is YA. As far as I know it is sold in the Sci-Fi section. It also has more violence than a YA novel (more on that below), and there are curse words.

I do see the similarities to the other books it’s been compared to; i.e. Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Lord of the Flies, and Game of Thrones. While it has a lot of those elements I think it has become its own story and has a rich universe. The colorful characters (no pun) and settings are well thought out. It’s well paced with a mix of suspense, action, heartbreak, tactical planing, political manipulation, romance, psychological mind games, etc.

I loved the development of the relationships. When I think about it it is what I loved most about the book. I love Mustang. She is my favorite. (I do admit I guessed her relationship with the Jackal when the Jackal said, “Cheat or be cheated.”

It does get really violent. While some of it happens off the page (some girls are rapped) and people lose body parts, it is none the less heartbreaking to read about.

I had borrowed a copy from the library but now would like to go out and get a hardcover copy. There were so many good parts I wanted to bookmark with post-its. Also, I will want to reread it before the sequel, Golden Son, (scheduled to be published January 2015) comes out.

4 out 5 bloodydamn scythes.


3 thoughts on “Book review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday August 15: Five book recommendations for Hufflepuffs | Stephanie

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