Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown (2014)
Fiction | Sci-Fi | Dystopia
“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 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.”
pooled ink Review:
Freedom costs too much.
But Eo disagreed.
If you’re a fan of war games and strategy then this is the book for you. Absolutely.
I was slow to start this series and skeptical of the hype but it kept popping up and I had a feeling it would be good and oh my word it was so good.
Red Rising dances on a line between Young Adult fiction and Adult fiction with its themes and tone digging deeper and harsher than any tale full of teens ought. Darrow may be 16 but he was born beneath the surface of luxury and there he was old enough to wed, old enough to dig, and old enough to understand the brevity and burdens of life. It’s definitely a mature book and I would not hesitate to recommend this book to both young adults and full-grown adults alike.
But who cares about age labels anyway? Onto the important stuff!
Society has three stages: Savagery, Ascendance, Decadence. The great rise because of Savagery. They rule in Ascendance. They fall because of their own Decadence.
This series revolves around such a cool concept and the world-building is simply spectacular. It truly is. Brown delivers enough detail spread throughout the story to fully immerse you in its setting without overwhelming or distracting from the action. And likewise he does not rely on action to produce a good story. There is depth and interest to be found in every scene, every choice, and every character thrust upon the page.
The plot’s pacing is also rather excellent I thought. It’s slow enough for you to form an attachment with and an understanding of Darrow, but it is also quick enough to keep you constantly awake and wide-eyed for more. You’ll find your eyes straining to keep reading until your mind is finally forced from the story long enough to realize that it’s all but pitch-dark in your room for time has passed by that quickly.
Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.
Honestly the blend of science and mythology, of great human history, of planetary dominance, of space travel, and of the human race’s future is fantastic. And I really loved all of the references, themes, and symbols (both bold or alluded) of the Roman Empire. Brown manages to craft this world that is so foreign and far in the future of possibility and yet simultaneously feels disturbingly tangible and familiar.
I must also point out the writing which I thought was very good, balancing a not-quite poetic prose with a brutal setting and creating a story told somewhere between a raspy croon and an orchestral battle cry. I have never met the author but he must be a person who understands the world, at least in part, and who is clever enough to transfer that knowledge into a story that entertains, horrifies, sympathizes, and even subtly educates.
Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.
Overall it wasn’t the fastest read for me (at least until the games really begin) but that’s not because it was heavy-handed or dull. Perhaps I was just particularly tired this week or perhaps this book requires you to pay attention or perhaps I just didn’t really care until I’d connected enough with Darrow. Actually, by the end of this book I was excited to witness more of Darrow’s fate but didn’t particularly care about the Red rebellion. That is one thing this book missed: forging a connection between me and the Reds. Despite all I witnessed at the start of the book, I sort of don’t care. I think what I liked about this book was, well, the war games. (Then again that’s how I feel for most, if not all, rebellion books I read. I become attached to the main character and select secondary characters but have few strong feelings for their people…Judge me not?)
And what was that about blood brothers? That means absolutely nothing. You might as well have said you were pinecone cousins.
But I will add that although I read more slowly in the beginning, the idea had hooked me immediately and with every chapter I became more and more lost in time. The story picks up momentum with every crack and shatter in Darrow’s once-simple life and when Darrow enters the Institute and takes aim at House Mars is when I really couldn’t put it down! In fact sometimes it was easy to forget that the world is so much bigger than this game, that there is a purpose much greater. It was so easy to get caught up in the tactics and survival of it all!
I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.
This book definitely gave me some serious Hunger Games – Nevernight vibes. And the integral use of slang throughout the story reminded me of The Maze Runner. Oh and actually this book also explores certain themes, characters, and theories pondered in Lord of the Flies, just on a much grander scale. It is interesting the factors and circumstances that can form allies and enemies of many kinds…
As far as characters go I’m a definite fan of Brown’s work. Each and every character presented felt unique, felt multi-dimensional, and felt real. As an actor I got more than enough information to write character sheets on most of those named (which is more than one tends to scavenge in most books these days it seems).
I’m a sheep wearing wolves’ clothing in a pack of wolves.
Darrow is a main character who is understandable, realistic, and likeable enough to stand behind. He is not perfect, but he is learning. He makes mistakes, but he isn’t annoying or stupid. He is a hero, but his hands are stained by blood and betrayal both by and against him. He is not some perfect golden god and he of all people knows this truth.
As far as secondary characters go can I just give a shout out to Sevro?? Oh I just knew he was going to be an intriguing character to keep an eye on. I could just sense it and I was not disappointed. I truly look forward to his part in the sequel. And I’d also like to give a shout out to Pax. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean PAX AU TELEMANUS! Oh-ho-ho anyone like that was sure to either die quick and forgotten or surpass that initial cloak of vague horribleness, annoyance, and well the simple fact that he is of an enemy House, to become loved and worth remembering.
The world is soundless. We cannot hear, but a pack of wolves does not need words to know that it is time to hunt.
But yeah, fantastic world-building, prime characters, excellent writing, and a bestselling idea. Just my opinion, but that’s what this blog is for. 😉 I wait with cold delight for more.
Red Rising is a book of war games – cold logic, clever schemes, and unrelenting brutality in the name of power and passed down beliefs – from start to finish. Running with a tide of red that fills its harshness with love, freedom, and a dream worth everything, keep your eyes wary and your fears hidden as you witness just the first crack in an empire’s reign. All it takes is one well-placed blow.
And when you hear the wolves howl, smile and know you are not alone.
Purchase here: Red Rising
Check out the rest of the series: Golden Son (book 2), Morning Star (book 3)
Similar Recommended Reads: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, The Knife if Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Meet Pierce Brown!
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.