Red Rising starts of strong with a very prozaic prologue and a strong opening scene. This is one book that you should not judge by its cover.
I’m ashamed to admit that that was exactly what I did though. I’ve seen this book passing by regularly and even though the high ratings intrigued me, the boring cover and the “summary” always kind of threw me off.
This was described to me as something a Hunger Games fan would love, with plenty of Young Adult and Dystopian tags thrown in. I don’t really look back fondly at the Hunger Games. It’s a series that should exist, but it lacks depth, like, a lot of depth. Red Rising makes good on that pitfall though, with a rich world, a clever concept and plenty of details to round things off.
First off, Pierce Brown starts off much better with his world-building. It starts small, focused on our protagonist, expands to his world and his world view and then throws us all a nice twist by virtually kicking the window shutters wide open. Even throughout the story, the world is continuously expanded, with a rich history and some philosophy thrown around for good measure.
The basic premise of the “dystopian” world is this:
“All men are not created equal,” he declares. Tall, imperious, an eagle of a man. “The weak have deceived you. They would say the meek should inherit the Earth. That the strong should nurture the gentle. This is the Noble Lie of Demokracy. The cancer that poisoned mankind.”
“Power must be claimed. Wealth won. Rule, dominion, empire purchased with blood. You scarless children deserve nothing. You do not know pain. You do not know what your forefathers sacrificed to place you on these heights. But soon, you will. Soon, we will teach you why Gold rules mankind. And I promise, of those among you, only those fit for power will survive.”
It’s a simple concept, but it holds the whole world together. This, combined with the fact that people are of a certain color (by birth and bloodline), which is not the color of their skin, but rather their eyes and hair, and you have a nice parallel to white supremacy and slavery. Simple, but effective.
There’s only one character worth talking about, Darrow, our angry MC. A simple character right off the bat, but who goes through experiences no 16 year-old should have to go through. I saw him change when he lost his wife and I’ve been rooting for him every step of the way. His motive is a simple one: Revenge. But as his world died in front of him, so does he wish upon those that inflicted it on him. This line from the book chilled me to the bone:
“On Mars there is not much gravity, so you have to pull the feet to break the neck. They let the loved ones do it.”
It’s so real. It’s something that you wouldn’t normally think about, but it hits you like a punch in the gut. That line got me hooked.
The story itself is a simple one, it can be summarised quite easy and most things can be found in the blurb. But as with so many things, the joy is in the experience, the journey. I’ve loved my journey with Darrow. Lived through every twist, cheered when he did well, and felt sorrow when things didn’t go his way. There’s plenty of twists and turns to be had. Most of them are fairly predictable, but that didn’t make them any less enjoyable.
I liked that the
I did not care for the made-up words using pascal-case like headTalk, horizonTram and holoCast, to name a few. That said, I loved the writing. There’s so so many passages that I highlighted that were just beautiful. There’s a certain rawness in the writing that reminded me of Mark Lawrence in Prince of Thorns and which I really appreciated.
“Mickey the Carver is a scalpel of a man with a crooked smile and black hair that hangs like a puddle of oil down one side of his head. “
Despite not using overly flourishy prose, Pierce Brown sets the scene with bold, simple brush strokes and manages to perfectly convey the setting and feeling.
“No matter his confidence, I am right. He is wrong. I am the spark that will set the worlds afire. I am the hammer that cracks the chains.”
He manages to effortlessy convey the epic-ness of any scene and act with such simple words. Good stuff.
I was afraid I was going to get drab writing about whiny teenagers that make the dumbest decisions. Luckily Red Rising started off strong and never really let go. Even though most twists are foreseeable on the horizon, they still arrive with impact and meaning. I loved every minute of Darrows story, I’ve lived them with him and I can’t wait to see him burn their world to a crisp.