Red Rising by Pierce Brown
"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.
Series: Red Rising, #1
Published by Del Rey (Random House) on January 28th 2014
Where to Find It: Amazon|B&N|Shop Indie|Goodreads
Genres: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult
Source: Advance Reader Copy
FTC Disclosure: I received access to this book early through Advance Reader Copy (for free) in exchange for a review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Now, I’m a bit particular (blame Frank Herbert and Aldous Huxley) about my dystopian novels so Red Rising had a high bar to jump from the outset. Many of the chosen scenarios just don’t hold form after a few chapters and it makes the world unbelievable and reading tortuous. A dystopian setting for a story is the one most likely to cause me to throw a book against the wall with bitter disgust and never give it another shot on my reading list if poorly done. Paradoxically, a dystopian world done right equals a guaranteed always-in-my-house-on-a-shelf-in-hard copy favorite book. I’m strangely enamored with glimpses into someone else’s dreamscape of what or how man will survive once we’ve done ourselves (and the planet) in but good…
I was hooked on Brown’s writing from the very first line: “I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.” After that I don’t remember moving until I closed the back cover. Pierce Brown took some of my most favorite of themes (love lost, revenge, justice, honor, world domination) and gave them new life, names and faces. The characters in Red Rising are rich and three-dimensional, the world full, vibrant, easily visualized and engaging. I won’t spoil the book — because I absolutely HATE that — but if you like your hero’s savvy and a little conflicted then Darrow’s your man and his mission for revenge is your kind of journey. Just ask yourself, what would you do if you lost the only woman you ever loved and found out your entire society was based on a lie? How far would you go to see those who’ve harmed you and yours fall?
Red Rising is a brilliant beginning to a world and society I can’t wait to further explore in book two: Golden Son and the final book three. Darrow is a protagonist worthy to carry the Dantes-mantle as seeker of revenge turned just warrior far beyond the atmosphere of earth all the way to Mars.
Updated Review Comments:
I re-read Red Rising before diving into both Golden Son and the final book Morningstar. Since first release, there’d been a lot of comparisons to Hunger Games and Ender’s Game allusions among the hype and I started running into people who just weren’t finding a connection to the book enough to read it.
Since I jumped on board this bandwagon before it even had wheels, I wanted to see if there was an element missing that would reach people who weren’t “buying the hype.” I should say I have a subset of people who asks me for book recommendations specifically because they don’t want to read the “it” book of the moment. I will also say these people are responsible for a large section of the grey hair I’ve had since my early twenties and I blame them for every-single-bloodydam-“ma’am” I’ve ever received from someone OLDER than me. Anyway I digress….
After a fresh read I realized I’d been describing this book to people who don’t look to fiction for their reading motivation. I’d been describing it to them all wrong. But History lessons taught me that there’s always a figure who comes to mind when you think of a particular set of facts. My mom, being a member of the maddening subset wouldn’t read Red Rising until after I told her, “It’s who Nat Turner would’ve become if he’d had backers, a budget and been launched in space before discovering he could no longer accept his lot in life….” in frustration. I was being flippant (because she was being arbitrary as hell) but ironically enough I’m not wrong.
Nat Turner* is one of those figures haunting history with an uncomfortable truth. When pushed beyond all endurance, painfully removed from agency, used against your own, and once all the illusions that bind far more effectively than any physical restraints have been stripped away, man will rebel. If when his moment of rebellion arose there’d been a a group of people willing to throw the full weight of its power and focus that rebelliousness to a purpose and set it on a path, Nat Turner would’ve been Darrow. And after his metamorphosis, all would’ve been bathed clean an Iron Rain the likes of which the none had ever seen.
Needless to say, my mom (and quite a few others) picked up Red Rising and enjoyed the hell out it.
No book is inaccessible you just have to know what motivates your audience to want to pick up a book.
*if you don’t know who Nat Turner is consider this a broad hint to have at it and go, learn some new things…because history.