Are you a fan of Ender’s Game, Divergent or the Hunger Games? Lover of Dystopian fiction with a strong stomach for violence? Looking for your next great hero after Katniss, Tris, or Ender? If you answered yes to at least two of those questions then you’ll be wanting to pick up Red Rising by Pierce Brown.
Red Rising, the first in the Red Rising Trilogy, is perfect for today’s literary scene. What do I mean? Well besides the fact that it’s part of a trilogy (and these days what isn’t) it’s not really categorizable. And we readers? We love not being pigeon-holed. Sure, this novel has got the boxes ticked for Dystopian/sci-fi fiction, but beyond that, it seems to cross barriers. It could easily be shelved as either YA (young adult) or adult, and with it’s intellectual elements, fast-paced action and love story is has appeal for both men and women. In short, it’s just a fantastic dive-in-and-stay story, eminently readable and completely entertaining.
In Red Rising we’re introduced to the next group of strong teenage heroes. Darrow, our main protagonist, is multi-layered, conflicted, and driven. He’s interesting and we want to know him. We root for him even when he’s at his worst. The supporting characters, children and adult, friend and foe are as well-developed as our hero. Brown does a stellar job with creating an entirely new world and casting it with human beings who are deep and complicated. They could be real They might exist somewhere.
If it were just a tale of class struggle Red Rising would be good. When Brown skillfully piles on all of the layers- literary elements, roman mythology, plot drivers of friendship, love, jealousy, revenge, and redemption, it become completely great. In my opinion it has much more depth and complexity than The Hunger Games. This book reads like a movie, albeit a very, very good one.
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.
Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable – and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.
But the command school is a battlefield. And Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
There are a few things that are really great about Red Rising, and the first is the author. From his photo, Pierce Brown appears to be a handsome young man too youthful and innocent to have penned a story so intuitive to human nature and the base instincts of people. From his bio, however, one gains a little bit more understanding:
Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for his cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 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 in Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.
(Bold my own. GRADUATED in 2010!? What did they put in his baby formula? Ok.. moving on.)
The next thing that is really fantastic about Red Rising is everything else. The writing is electric. Pierce Brown has taken care to create a robust and believable world, including interesting idiomatic language. The book is extraordinarily violent, but without it, the story would would hold much less impact.
Rife with sociological commentary, Red Rising explores of human nature and how far we will push beyond our natural instincts to achieve our purpose. It takes us through a journey of change, growth, sadness and emotional intelligence. How you read Red Rising is up to you. Enjoy it on the surface for it’s amazing story and colourful characters. Or, dive deeper and join it’s deeper conversation conversation. Regardless, you won’t put it down, and you won’t want to wait for the next installment.
Unputdownable Factor: 8/10 (sometimes a girl needs a break from all the killing)
Recommend Factor: 9/10
So, do you think you’ll read it?