Red Rising by Pierce Brown – REVIEW
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the colour-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 generations 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 would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
I’ve had this book on my radar for quite a few months now thanks to Twitter and I finally purchased a copy last month. I’m hoping to read the series before my copy of Iron Gold arrives from Waterstones but I’m still waiting for books 2 and 3 to be delivered and it’s killing me. I’ve managed to avoid spoilers for this series so I went into this without any idea what to expect. The first paragraph hooked me immediately and I even text my friend to say that I knew straight away I would love this book. My prediction turned out to be (thankfully!) correct and I’m now a fully-fledged Howler. Red Rising is dystopian science-fiction set on Mars, where society is organised according to colour. There are obvious similarities to The Hunger Games, especially once the action moves to the Institute, but it was sufficiently different to remain compelling. I’m hoping Golden Son is able to shake off these comparisons completely though.
“I am the Reaper and death is my shadow.”
The characters were memorably portrayed and well-developed. Darrow undergoes both physical and mental changes and his growing maturity is plausible and welcome. Some of my favourite characters were Roque, Sevro, Mustang, and Pax. Sevro especially stood apart as cunning, loyal, and clever. Mustang was honourable, very intelligent and represented House Minerva perfectly. I found Titus an interesting character once his backstory was revealed, and he highlighted the morally grey world the characters inhabit. The building threat of the Jackal was skilfully handled but I found the ending a bit anticlimactic as a bigger fight seemed promised. The battle scenes at the Institute were brilliantly written, visceral and exciting. There is great potential for the next book and Red Rising built a detailed world with a strong foundation.
“Steel is power. Money is power. But of all the things in all the worlds, words are power.”
One niggle I did have was with the problematic attitude to women. The insult ‘like a girl’ was used frequently enough that it stood out for me, and the damaging ‘women in refrigerators’ trope was used a couple of times. A female dies near the beginning with the sole intent of catalysing Darrow to action, and a number of females are raped at the Institute for reasons of vengeance and warfare. The book would have been stronger without these negative portrayals which contribute to the normalisation of violence against women and the damaging attitude of treating women as disposable plot enhancers with little or no agency. Without Mustang, the depiction of women in this book would have been abysmal. It would certainly fail the Mako Mori test which simply requires one female character to have her own narrative arc that is not about supporting a man’s story. Despite recognising these gender issues, Red Rising was still a well-written book with a solid plot and great characters, and I’m eager to read Golden Son as soon as it’s delivered.
Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games.
|About the Author
Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.