Red Rising by Pierce Brown. How to write a review for this one? Well, just to start, I will say it was fantastic. This is a fast paced book that is very hard to put down. It is a story of life, of love, of society, of justice, of evil and of vengeance. It is also dark. Yes, there are similarities, parallels to other books out there, but I did not feel like I was reading the same story or reading it in quite the same way. Hunger Games, Ender’s Game (there is even a reference to Ender’s Game) are the first two books I think people will compare it to. But you can find similarities to even Kingkiller Chronicles, Blood Song and Harry Potter (it’s like a ‘roided out cut throat Hogwarts). But, just because Red Rising may be reminiscent of parts of other novels does not mean that it tells an unoriginal story. It has it’s own story to tell with Darrow in the center.
In a universe (because this goes beyond just one world), Darrow is born to the lowest of low of the castes. Castes are so separated here, they you can tell what caste a member is from by their coloring. Darrow is born to work in the dangerous mines of Mars, slaving for barely enough to eat. He lives the very hard life of a Red, where the repercussions for not following the rules are very harsh and brutal. A hard life with a harsh punishments, ruled over by pretty much every other level of society. The reds work underground, never seeing the sky or stars and breaking their backs in hopes of creating a refuge for people from a dying earth.
Or so they think. Darrow comes to find that civilization has come to the surface of the planet generations earlier. The refuge has already been built and the Reds have been left in darkness as unknowing slaves to the system. Now throw in a heartbreaking personal tragedy caused by the highest of society and we find our protagonist joining with resistance group on the road to vengeance.
I like Darrow quite a bit. Yes, a good number of things come very easy for him. He excels in his life as a Red, and proves to be highly adaptable. But, he is also not perfect, he makes mistakes, he has weaknesses. He appears to be a fallible character who just happens to greatly excel in some areas. So, the question becomes, will this fallible, yet highly skilled person from the lowest caste of society be able to penetrate the Gold class and help the resistance group take them down from within? According to the doctrine, absolutely not. He should not be able to physically or intellectually come even close to being able to compete with Golds. He is after all, just a lowly, dimwitted Red. But if he does, how will he react to living the life of a Gold? Do they have it so much easier than the Reds? Are they born evil because of their place in society? Or will he face a dilemma as he gets to know some of these people he hates. The people born to the Gold caste who he blames for all that was taken from him.
To find the answers to some of these questions, you’ll just have to read the book. For others, you’ll have to read the series (because they are still not answered). I absolutely recommend reading this one, it is dark, it is fast and it is exciting. And the second one is on my must read list as soon as it becomes available.
Red Rising will be released January 28th 2014 by Del Rey (Random House). Many thanks to Del Rey (Random House) and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.