Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown is the first book in a new sci-fi trilogy that seems to be taking the world by storm. I had been avoiding it because of the hype, and because friends were pressuring me to read it, but I’m glad I relented and gave this book a try. Red Rising is one of the most gripping stories I have read in recent memory, and Pierce Brown is a sadist who is unafraid to kill the characters you fall in love with. If you are looking for a comparison, I would say that this book is like Ender’s Game meets Game of Thrones meets Final Fantasy 7.
The story is set in the far future, where a space faring society have thrown away democracy and separated people into colour coded castes based on the roles they are required to fulfil. There are many different colours, from the Golds who are rulers of all, to the Greys who provide security services, to the Pinks who provide comfort and pleasure services, and more. The story follows Darrow, a Red, who lives under the Martian surface mining for ores that can be used to terraform planets and moons. The Reds are the pioneers and have been promised that once the terraforming has been completed, they will be greatly rewards for their services, but they have been mining for a long time now, and the work is extremely dangerous. After a great tragedy befalls Darrow he is brought to the surface where he learns that the Reds are not pioneers, they are slaves, and he is given an opportunity to fight for their freedom.
Red Rising is a story that is slow to start but fast to finish, as Brown spends the early chapters setting the stage for what is to come. It is hard to talk about this book without spoiling many of the early suprises, which I think speaks to size of the journey that the main character Darrow embarks upon. While Darrow begins as the Helldiver for an underground Martian colony, he spends the majority of the book fighting for survival at a cutthroat academy, looking for opportunities to demonstrate his talents, and boy are those talents considerable. This is not a survival of the fittest story, as many of the fittest characters never make it to the end; this is a survival of the ruthless, survival of the deceptive, and survival of the resourceful story. It is likely that at least one of your favourite characters will die, and it looks like Brown has continued the trail of death and destruction in the second book.
Darrow is a brilliant young man, demonstrating capacity beyond what a Red is supposed to demonstrate. Many reviewers have taken issue with Darrow and are quick to label him as a Mary Sue / Gary Stu type of character who is brilliant at everything and almost unstoppable. I don’t see Darrow this way, and I think Brown clearly establishes that while Darrow may be a skilful man, he has many issues and weaknesses that undermine his skills. I also think that Brown has significantly stacked the odds against Darrow to the point where any slip-up has severe consequences, and Darrow seems to slip-up all the time. I enjoyed Darrow’s transition from underdog to dangerous predator, and I appreciate how precarious Darrow’s position is, because Brown clearly demonstrates throughout the book how easy it is for the mighty to fall.
One last point I want to touch on is that I was rarely able to predict any outcomes throughout the story, with Brown keeping me on my toes for the entire duration. Brown manages to put Darrow into situations where there are multiple decisions available, with each decision having a different but equally appealing outcome, with a different but equally unwanted set of consequences attached. I was rarely able to determine with any certainty which option Darrow would make because you could easily justify why each option would be the appropriate one. I liked that there was no safe option, that there was no clearly advantageous option, and that a positive outcome relied on Darrow and team being able to effectively respond to any complication brought about by his decision making. This continues all the way up to the final page, and I can only applaud Brown for being able to pull it all together in such a coherent and impactful way.
Red Rising is a book that deserves all the hype it has been receiving. It is not a perfect book, the start can be hard to get into, and parts of the final act seem to be unnecessary at best, but there is so much awesome in this book that I find it easy to look past the faults. Red Rising is a book that has stayed with me for days after I finished reading it, and it has been a long time since a book had such an impact on me.
Buy it here:
Kindle Edition: amazon.co.uk