Published January 2014
Red Rising #1
So, some of my bookstagram followers may already know this story, but for the sake of this post I am going to tell it again.
My wonderful father listens to a lot of audio books. Out of the 60 books that I read a year, he listens to 60. It is absolutely insane how he finds the time to listen to so many books, but I love it. It has taught me that readers come in all forms: there are no specifications or qualifications to be an avid reader, only the love of books in general.
Recently, he listened to the entire Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown, and told me that it was one of his favorite series ever. I thought that this statement spoke volumes: I mean, damn, on his audible account alone there has got to be at least 30 different series. He was actually so excited about it and wanted to share the experience with me, that he bought me the hardback of Red Rising, shipped it to me via Amazon Prime so I received it in two days, then promptly began to accost me with text messages and snap chats wondering if I had started and where I was in the story.
I’m not lying. Accost. Anyways, I finished Red Rising in two and a half days and loved it. Commence the *mostly spoiler free* review!
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
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.
Even though the ‘twist’ of the story is revealed in the summary of the novel, it is still semi surprising when our main character, Darrow, discovers the complete and utter betrayal of his people. While the scope of the plot is enormous, spanning through three books and a solar system, what I liked the most about starting this new series is that the end game is clearly defined. Darrow and the Sons of Ares want to free the lower classes from the tyrannical rule of the upper classes, the ones that see themselves as Gods.
But nothing is ever black and white. Darrow starts to realize this as he embarks on his mission to become a member of the Gold society, to infiltrate their ranks, and to topple the hierarchy from within. But how could he not enjoy living as a gold when all of his life has been spent living as a slave? He guiltily enjoys the pleasures and opportunities provided to him by his new status, and he is conflicted. Especially so when he starts to form relationships with other Golds who view him as a brother in arms, a leader, a friend, and a lover. As a character, I think I am going to really enjoy watching Darrow evolve and grow.
“You do not follow me because I am the strongest. Pax is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. Mustang is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do.”
He is extremely smart, but not in an unbelievable way, and he is one of the more relatable protagonists I have read recently. All of his decisions seemed justified, and i was never yelling at my book because of any action he took or didn’t, or any stupid thing he said. Quite the contrary in fact; when he spoke, not only did the other characters listen, I listened.
For those of you that do not know, I have relatively bad anxiety. This means, that generally I have heart palpitations the entire time I read any books involving subterfuge and secret identities. Combine all of the underground elements with an extremely fast moving plot, and this book was one of the quicker reads I have picked up all year. I had to get to the end. I had to know what Darrow’s overall plan was, how everything turns out. This plot is addicting. And while Red Rising does give off some Hunger Games vibes, I found that overall that analogy can only be used if you are trying to convince someone to pick up this series you just don’t know how else to explain it.
Red Rising is so much more politick-y than The Hunger Games. I found it to be more adult, more barbaric, and honestly, more complicated. There are wheels in motion at all times that make this fast moving book machine hard to keep up with at times. The politics at play here are mesmerizing and expansive. We are not just talking about a country; this series involves the politics and happenings of an entire solar system. While killing is prevalent in both series, and is always a ‘dark theme’, the contrast between The Hunger Games and Red Rising lies within the “game” itself. The goal of ‘last to survive’ (HG) versus ‘conquer them all’ (RR) is what really separates the two stories.
In my personal opinion, the only thing I can find to complain about in this book is the extremely wide cast of characters. There are so many different families and castes all thrown into this enormous mixing bowl within a relatively short amount of time. The integration of Roman mythology was fun, but again, slightly confusing at times if you are not familiar with it. (Guys, it has been a long time since high school…) Like most new series any reader starts, it just takes a little bit of time to figure out where all of the characters and places fit in.
“I am the Reaper and death is my shadow.”
Needless to say, I have already started reading Golden Son. See you on the other side.