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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you took a little Lord of the Flies, a little Hunger Games, and a little Hogwarts Academy, then mixed it up with some Roman history and set it hundreds of years in the future you might come up with this book. With all the "borrowed" elements one might think it would feel a little "been there, read that" but that would be wrong. It took a little while at the beginning for me to get into the story, but once it kicked into gear, I could barely put it down.

The story is set on the planet Mars in a caste-driven society where your entire role in life is determined by the caste (denominated by color) into which you are born. Children are often genetically (or otherwise) modified to suit their caste status and be easily identifiable by color. The Reds are at the bottom, slaves forced to live and mine deep beneath the surface for a necessary substance. They live short lives of hardship and oppression (certain songs and dances carry a death sentence), but are unaware of the lies they've been told.

Darrow is a young Red miner, married to Eo until she is killed by the government for a small act of rebellion. Then everything in his life changes and the story really starts when Darrow is recruited by a revolutionary group to infiltrate the ruling Gold society. The first step is to be accepted at the Institute where the elite Gold young people are trained for leadership.

I don't want to give away any more of the story because it is so much better to read it without knowing what is going to happen next. I have to warn you that there is a lot of violence in the book. The level of brutality makes it often hard to remember that most of the characters are only teens/young adults.

This book is not in the Young Adult category, but I could see teens wanting to read it, especially guys, because most of the characters are teens. Parents who monitor their teens reading, especially younger teens, need to be mindful of the violence, though it is likely no worse than they see in video games and television. Even so, I wouldn't recommend it for younger teens. The swear words are mostly made up for the book, being things like "bloodydamn," and "piss." There are some "off stage" rapes but no sex scenes.

As I said above, once the book got moving, I could barely put it down. This is the first part of a trilogy and I cannot wait for the next book.
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on March 21, 2014
What I first liked about this was the original Hell Diver world. It was a little difficult to keep up with who uncles and brothers and cousins were at first, but by the middle, you got the hang of it. The anti-gravity notes were my favorite when it came to how to properly hang someone on Mars; I'm a sucker for brutality.

Basically I broke this story up into quarters.
The first quarter was Darrow's life, interesting and new. Liked alot
The second quarter was where I became confused. I feel this was the first book that I wasn't entirely sure of the whole plot because there are subplots that push their way first that you wouldn't expect to have anything to do with the story. So none the less, the second quarter felt a little awkward for me because, though we know they have grav boots and all these great advances, it just kind of jumped out at you that you there was a cosmetology department in this world that could basically replace your bones and eyes. I still enjoyed it; it was brutal, but it just was a turn I wasn't expecting all the way up to the first couple months of the institute. It turned fantasy very quickly; but again. I liked it!

And the third and fourth quarter- no spoilers- is what put one or two more stars onto this rating to make it a five, because, though I could put the first half of the book down and still eventually want to keep reading it, the second half was painful to put down because I was hooked. It turned great; the ending- though slightly fluffy- gave way for you to imagine the second book.

I highly recommend (and I usually have quite a lot to complain about a book, no that you would know that) that you give this a full chance; read to the end- don't give up half way through.
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on July 18, 2014
Just the other day, I was telling my daughter that I don’t like trilogies, but they seem to find me. Red Rising found me.

A debut novel and the first book in a trilogy, Red Rising by Pierce Brown is a science fiction dystopian novel set on terraformed Mars. Dystopian novels abound and some people are getting tired of them, but I love them.

Brown’s book has been compared to Hunger Games, The Lord of the Flies, and Ender’s Game. I agree with the comparisons. As you might have guessed, the novel isn’t wildly unique—it borrows from everywhere, including Roman mythology. However, I did enjoy the book and put aside another book I was having trouble finishing to read it. The borrowing doesn’t bother me; after all, Shakespeare borrowed extensively.

It’s also been called dazzling, which I don’t agree with. The book is violent, brutal, graphic, and needs a shot of feminist sensibility. It also reflects our world in disturbing ways while reflecting on the complexity of individuals within society.

Brief Summary:

Mars is divided into classes with color designations: Golds are the rich, powerful rulers, above everyone, and Reds are the lowest dregs in this cast system, lower than the Grays, Coppers, and Pinks.

Darrow, the sixteen-year-old protagonist, is a red “Helldiver,” living underground. He discovers Reds have been lied to and that Mars is inhabitable and has been for generations. After his wife is killed by a Gold, he joins a group of revolutionaries and is transformed, like Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, into a Gold. He infiltrates a prestigious school for the elite. His goal is to take down the unequal society and overthrow the Golds.


Okay for some honesty, I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I cannot recommend it without some caveats. Before I get to the negatives and positives. Here are some general observations:

•It starts slow, which I didn’t mind too much, but the story didn’t grab me right away.

•Once Darrow leaves the underground, things get interesting fast and the pace never slows; it becomes a hard to put down book.

•Mars’ society reflect our world so much that it’s impossible not to make comparisons. There is a complexity in the novel that makes this an interesting aspect and invites introspection. The complexity begins to breakdown the pure good vs pure evil dichotomy in Darrow’s mind and that might have dominated the novel.

Things I Like:

1.Writing: The writing is excellent. I expect good things from future books by Brown.

2.Mars: The world building and the plotting were shiny—it’s a tightly woven, gritty story with an easy to understand world system.

3.Vendetta: There’s lots of revenge. Since I feel rather powerless to right the wrongs of the world, I like stories with revenge and a hero who plunges forward to make things right.

4.Multifaceted: Once Darrow enters into the world of the Golds, things become more complicated. He likes and understands some of his fellow students, yet knows he may have to kill them.

5.Point of View: His first person narrative is honest and pulls me into his story and makes me care about him, but there are some problems with his character (see below).

6.World: Brown creates a brutal Machiavellian world that is detailed, from the variances in life, language, education, and power. By the end of the story, you know that one language slip on Darrow’s part may be his future downfall because at least one person heard.

Don’t let the comparison to Hunger Games fool you. This is a fast paced, extraordinarily violent book, and makes Hunger Games seem like kindergarten violence.

I liked the story and was caught up in the fast, tightly pace story, but . . . I have some concerns.

Things I Didn’t Like:

1.Less Than Complex: Several reviews claim that the characterization in Red Rising is more complex and developed than the characterization in Hunger Games. I disagree. Katiness is a reluctant hero and the complexity of her character is at once subtle and nuanced. Other Hunger Games characters are well developed and multifaceted. Our hero Darrow is about revenge, with an occasional insight. He gives himself over to violence, revenge, and hatred with little subtlety and passing insights.

2.Perfect Hero: He is also maddeningly perfect. He, a Red the lowest of the low and not educated in Gold culture, has the top scores on his test and bests all the Golds; he immediately becomes a leader; he steps into his role as a Golds with few slip ups; he’s physically strong and out fights everyone; he outwits everyone; he’s the only one who protects the helpless. He’s the old fashion Dudley Do-Right turned Spartan-Rambo, a bigger than life, perfect hero, who rescues everyone. Really?

3.Supporting Roles: The other characters, with a few exceptions, are cardboard figures with little distinguishing features to set them apart. They are secondary to and play supporting roles to Darrow. Throughout the story these “future leaders” of society acquiesce to Darrow’s leadership.

4.Sexual Violence and Rape: This is the area I find most revolting. My problem is not that there is sexual violence and rape in the story, but that everyone except Darrow accepts and ignores it. I find it unbelievable that female characters and male characters would stand for this. With all the violence and fighting, other students would fight back. After all, they are Golds and see themselves as above all others and privileged. Would they allow other Golds to be raped with impunity? Even the adult proctors don’t do a damn thing and some of the students are their sons and daughters. Only our hero has the moral fiber to take action. Really?

5.Female characters: Even Mustang, who says she hates weak females who have to be rescued, willingly gives up being a leader to follow Darrow. In the beginning of the novel, his young wife sacrifices herself so he will become a hero. I found this particularly difficult to swallow—almost a deal breaker. Although there are female proctors, none of the student leaders are female. Yet they are supposedly given an equal place among the men, yet all the females are easily overcome.

6.Violence: The violence is sometimes excessive. As an adult, I shrugged this off; however, I would recommend this book to older young adult readers. Parents should read it first to see what they are handing their teenager.

Although I have some major issues with the book, I liked it. I got caught up in the story and finished rather quickly, which probably reflects that I too am susceptible to and influenced by societal attitude that violence, sexual violence, rape, and second-class treatment of women is normal.

I think that the love/hate problems I have with this book reflect the deep seeded influence of my culture. I want things to be better in fiction. I harbor a hope that future societies will be more advanced.

When it comes to plot, quality of the writing, world building, conflict and action, I’d give Red Rising a 4; however, when it come to character development, the portrayal of women, and sexual violence, I’d give the book a 2. So my 3 star rating reflects the love/hate relationship I have with the book.
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VINE VOICEon December 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Near as I can tell, this is Pierce Brown's first novel. Sometimes first novels are rife with issues. Pacing issues. character development problems. Not so here. I'm quite impressed. I really enjoyed this book.

The story of Red Rising is the tale of Darrow who is a mine worker in a colony below the surface of Mars. What Darrow and his entire community do not know is that the Mars that they believe that they are striving to terraform has already been terraformed. The people on the surface live in a very structured caste society. The people below the surface work as slaves and have no idea of the world beyond and are kept that way.

The books has almost 3 acts. The story of Darrow living in the mines. The story of Darrow being enlisted as an enemy of the state and his indoctrination. And the story of Darrow going off to play with the higher ranked society "Golds" in school. It is this third act that plays out the longest and is pretty much the focus of the book. I'm not going to give away more of the story but it's worth the read.

The academy section of the book reads a little bit like lots of other novels. The Hunger Games. Enders Game. Lord Of The Flies. The mishmash of different ideas and the telling works regardless of the originality of it. Frankly, I just couldn't put it down. There are just enough plot twists including a few that i just never saw coming. Regardless of the fact that you know that Darrow will win in the end, it was the telling that makes this work. The combination of science fiction, society divisions, plotting, strategy and combat was really engrossing.

I'm very happy to have been lucky enough to get an early copy of this one and I can't wait to see what else Pierce Brown does in this series. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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on March 13, 2014
Sometimes an author comes along and writes a book so fascinating that it takes readers by storm. RED RISING is THAT book. Debut Novelist Pierce Brown blends the past, present and future together in a novel that if you haven't read yet, you'll want to soon because it is all you're going to be hearing about.

Darrow is a Red. He is sixteen years old and a slave. He is what is known as a "Helldiver". He drills deep into the miserable bowels of the planet Mars mining for elements that would make the surface of the planet inhabitable as Earth has become overpopulated and dominated. All Reds are slaves. Only, they don't really know it.

Darrow is married to Eo. They grow up much more quickly living under the surface of Mars. Eo is beautiful, and also a Red. She loves Darrow and has dreams that they will escape this life under the surface. Eo knows they are enslaved. And she's willing to go to her grave for freedom. And she does exactly that in an act of rebellion.

Heartbroken and determined to avenge Eo's death, Darrow allows himself to be recruited by a mysterious faction whose plan it is to infiltrate the Golds. The Golds are those who are the elite; those who enslave the Reds; and those who hold the lie that the surface of Mars is uninhabitable when it is already inhabited. To do this, Darrow must become a Gold. He must undergo a complete and painful transformation to make him stronger, taller and more golden.... And only then, will he be accepted into their "Academy" where he will compete against other Golds for prestigious placement in their hierarchy.

The battle in the academy among the "students" who are separated into 12 houses is brilliant writing. Utterly brilliant. Words form the artwork in your mind that creates vivid canvases that come to life as the battle scenes play out. Many of the scenes are gruesome. All of the scenes are vivid, meticulous and smart.

The characters that are created in this whole new world that takes the mystery of the Roman gods and combines it with the sad history of slavery and class warfare and today's societal ills, are built upon, nuance by nuance, until they seem as if they're fighting for you. Not only are we given the gift of Darrow as our main character, but watch for other players in this game, especially Servo, Mustang and Rogue. These are exciting and complex characters.

This is supposed to be a book for young adults. And it is, I suppose. But don't be fooled by the genre, this book has it all~~the dystopian society, science fiction, romance, mystery and it THRILLS. Though comparisons could be made to THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT and THE PARK SERVICE, this book is somehow different, somehow, more evolved. Anxiously awaiting January 2015 to find out what happens in GOLD SON (Red Rising Trilogy #2).


An ecopy of this book was graciously provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The above opinions are my own.
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on March 5, 2014
Reading the reviews of Red Rising on Goodreads saddens me. They are glowing. Rapturous. Of course, I don’t always agree with the consensus, but I usually have some inkling as to why my experience with a book was different from the majority of readers. But in the case of Red Rising, I’m bewildered. What did all these reviewers see and feel that I didn’t?

On its surface, this should have been a 4 or 5 star book for me. It’s a dystopia with shades (many shades) of The Hunger Games. There is a lot of violence. There’s a world that’s revealed to be very different than how it was originally perceived. There are the poor, downtrodden lower-classes fighting for independence against the ruling class. These are some of the elements that usually make a book work for me.

Red Rising started off very promisingly. Darrow lives underground on Mars, working as a miner – a so-called Red. He’s married to the lovely Eo, and he’s fairly content with his lot in life. But Eo isn’t content. She pushes Darrow to understand that they are slaves to the ruling class, the Golds, and a simple act of rebellion leads to her execution. Darrow craves vengeance, and he agrees to undergo an extreme form of plastic surgery, which will transform him into the genetically superior physical appearance of a Gold. He will then attempt to infiltrate the Golds after gaining acceptance into their prestigious Academy.

So far, so good. The preceding events occur during the first 30% of the book. I expected the remainder of the story to consist of a spy drama, with Darrow struggling to maintain his cover as he seeks out Golds who may be sympathetic to his fight. I thought he’d learn the weaknesses of the Golds and how to exploit them during the coming rebellion. Instead, he was assimilated into their society immediately, and there was as very little mention or thought given to the events that led him there. This is when I had my first “Huh?” moment. So much time was spent on transforming Darrow’s body into the perfect Gold, so I assumed that the need for such fastidiousness indicated that there was great danger of being exposed. Nope. There was also much talk of the need to eliminate Darrow’s accent which would peg him as a Red. Darrow also had to erase certain words from his vocabulary and learn to use new ones. Now, this must be trickier than his appearance, because speech involves conscious and constant thought. But he accomplishes this instantaneously. I wondered why so much focus was placed on the various ways Darrow needs to disguise himself, only to have them barely factor into the story again.

At this point, my expectations went out the window, and I was curious to see which path the story will take. It turns out that Darrow takes the path to become a leader of his group at the Academy, tasked with eliminating (or possibly murdering) the competing students in a military-style competition. I’m still not sure how Darrow managed to be accepted as a leader among these bloodthirsty people. He didn’t seem particularly charismatic or more strategic than anyone else. But no matter, because Darrow has seemed to forgotten that he’s not REALLY a Gold, and I pretty much stopped caring when my hopes for an espionage element were dashed and we were left with endless, uninteresting discussions about slaves, discussions of strategic warfare, and the drawbacks of nepotism. These points were repeated over and over, and I checked out.

Despite my misgivings about the book, the number of great reviews makes me think that most readers will enjoy it.

Note I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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on February 27, 2016
Words I would use to describe this book; action packed, great storytelling, best dystopian ever, and bloodydamn brilliant, come to mind. This book was amazing! I am so mad at myself for not reading it sooner, but I am delighted that I bought the follow up book early. And because the third and final book is out in this series, I can read the whole trilogy without having to wait for it.

Darrow is a helldiver. He works the mines of Mars, along with his whole family and everyone he has ever known. Darrow is a Red and he and other Reds work so that one day the planet will be ready for other earthens. Earth is being destroyed and everyone wants out. He is part of the team of people getting the planet ready. Their toil and sacrifice has purpose. Only, everything he has been told is lie. People of every other color are already inhabiting Mars and him and his family of Reds were left to mine and tunnel beneath the surface until they die. Once he learns the truth he joins the rebels to infiltrate the Mars elite Golds to free his enslaved people. This requires more than Darrow could imagine and it might mean he must turn himself into one of them.

Darrow’s life is hard. All the Reds struggle and toil in the mines for this ideal life one day on the surface. Darrow’s whole world is his dangerous job and the love he has for his wife. He is only 16, but well into his prime in this society. The gloves come off when we follow Darrow above the surface to see the truth. Darrow undergoes so much change in this book, both mentally and physically. The story shifts from the beginning of a revolution, to one boy’s fight to keep himself alive.

This book is unlike anything I have ever read. It has fantastic world building. In the first few chapters we get a good look at how the Reds live. The we see other parts of Mars and get a breakdown of the colors. This world uses literal colors to keep people apart and it creates this clamoring for power within the colors. Everyone wishes they were Gold, but you can’t change how you were born, or can you? I loved learning the slang of each color and the even the clothing of each color is well described. All of this is done brilliantly and without boring info dumps. I can’t imagine the author trying to break this world/societies down for the reader. I won’t even try to sum it up in my little review. Just know that this book is something not to be missed if you enjoy great world building.

Something else about this story that blew me away is that it takes several turns I didn’t see coming. Not twists per se, but for Darrow the rules, and even the game itself, is ever evolving. There is a lot of heartbreak and carnage in this story but it is beautifully done. I loved all the courage in these characters and the friendships tore my heart out. This is a fantastic YA dystopian. I can’t wait to read the next book!
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on April 17, 2015
What an amazing read! This is the best book I have read in several months. Pierce Brown has done an amazing job with the world-building for this series and Red Rising here is packed with well-drafted characters, situations and caste system.

Darrow loses his family and identity as he learns his entire life has been based on lies. Filled with anger he is determined to take down the Golds that ruined his life while they live a life of luxury. So he is set to infiltrate them and destroy their caste from the inside.

Darrow is wonderfully written and I enjoyed every moment spent reading his story. His sorrows and his victories. He is one angry guy but he has every right to be. Yet he also learns not everything is black and white (or red and gold as the case may be).

When I first started this I was confused by the comparison's to the Hunger Games. Yet once we get to the Elite Game Darrow must play to make his mark in society, I see why. And while I enjoyed the Hunger Games immensely, this is so much better. More detailed, richer characters. The world is more complex and the whole story brings on a higher maturity.

While Darrow is technically just a teenager, this is not a young adult novel. He is married and planning kids at this point. It you live until 30, you are considered old. So he is mature beyond his years for our standards of expectation. The situations and violence has a older mindset. While most teens can read this, it does feel more geared to adults than most Y.A. novels. Very violent and mentions of rape.

Lots of strategy, violence, and references to Greek gods, this book has so many aspects of what I love in a book. This book has earned a permanent home on my shelf and I eagerly look forward to devouring the next book in the series. Plus I will surely keep an eye out for other books by this author in the future.
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on January 21, 2015
Pierce Brown has written the first book of a series on a science fiction dystopian future. (One of what unfortunately seems like a flood of them...) Brown is undeniably a good writer, and has many elements of a very good yarn in this one. A master race, down-trodden masses, a talented young champion is terribly wronged and seeks to rise up and right the wrongs. The author sets up a war (a training 'Institute' during which future leaders of the solar system prove themselves.) There are wonderful villains and heroes, love and camaraderie, treachery, betrayal, and triumph. And best of all, the story leaves you hanging on for the second installment. Many readers have and will love this book.
I looked forward to reading this book due to the hype and accolades. Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed. Overall, this was a mildly enjoyable read (2.5 stars). As science fiction, I give it 2 stars, as a fantasy story, I give it 3 stars. Another reviewer termed the book as 'overdone'. I think that sums up my feelings perfectly. This will remind you a lot of 'Hunger Games', 'Divergent', and 'Ender's Game' (among others). I just don't see anything startlingly new here. Brown has an annoying habit of droning on and on about the hero's conflicted feelings. It bogs down the story needlessly. And I found it hard to see how a barely literate seventeen-year-old hero could continuously come up with winning strategies in the very complicated war games that were being manipulated by unseen 'proctors'. Too much 'reader faith' is required by the author at times.
I may end up reading the sequels, but I'm not waiting with 'bated breath'. Brown is young and talented and I tend to think his story telling will get better and better as he keeps honing his craft.
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on January 1, 2015
5 Stars!

This book was amazing! I am a bit disappointed in myself right now for not reading this book sooner. This book came onto my radar shortly after it was released. I spend a lot of time on Goodreads so I saw how much my friends were loving it but I didn't bother to pick it up. I actually bought a copy of this book back in April but I didn't bother to actually read it. Only after I was approved for the sequel, Golden Son, did I actually take the time to read this book....and I was completely blown away. When I think of all the mediocre books that I picked up to read instead of this book while it sat on my kindle, I realize how much of an idiot I can sometimes be. At least now I know the awesomeness that is this book.

Even though I had this book on my radar, I didn't read too much about it. I like to go into a book without a lot of prior knowledge. I did see that a lot of my friends were giving it 5 stars and encouraging other to read it but that it really about all I knew. I saw that this book was being classified as a dystopian book with a lot of comparisons to The Hunger Games. I loved The Hunger Games but to be honest the comparisons scared me a little bit because all too often when something becomes wildly popular and makes someone a ton a money everything else starts being compared to it. I have fallen for this type of comparison before and I have been very disappointed in most cases. With this book, I completely understand and actually agree with that comparison even though this book is a very different book.

Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.

I loved this book for so many reasons. The world building was phenomenal. I don't read a lot of science fiction and can't remember reading a book that was set in space. I could feel the world taking shape a little more clearly with every page I turned. The social structure of this world impacted the life of everyone at every level.

The characters in the book are wonderful. The changes that Darrow goes through during the course of this book are astounding. He is a leader. Eo saw that in Darrow. Darrow finds it in himself as the book moves forward but never loses sight of where he came from and the love he hold in his heart for Eo. Servo is just awesome. He is the kind of friend that everyone wants to have around and he is fiercely loyal to Darrow. All of the characters were just so completely vivid.

Another thing that I loved about this book was that I never seemed to be able to guess where it was going. I was constantly surprised because just when I thought I knew what was going on, I found out how clueless I really was. Any book that keeps me guessing is a book that I want to read and this book was filled with jaw dropping moments for me.

I have a feeling that I will become one of the people pushing this book like I saw last year. I tweeted about this book and the author, Pierce Brown, actually took the time to favorite my tweet. Such a little thing, but I still squealed like a teenager when it happened. Pierce Brown is definitely an author to watch. After writing such an amazing debut, his follow up to this book, Golden Son is actually equally impressive based on the first third of the book which I have already devoured. I highly recommend this book to others.
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