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Red Rising Paperback – January 1, 2014
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“[A] top-notch debut novel . . . Red Rising ascends above a crowded dystopian field.”—USA Today
“Red Rising is a sophisticated vision. . . . Brown will find a devoted audience.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power . . . reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Fast-paced, gripping, well-written—the sort of book you cannot put down. I am already on the lookout for the next one.”—Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of The Sword of Shannara
“Pierce Brown has done an astounding job at delivering a powerful piece of literature that will definitely make a mark in the minds of readers.”—The Huffington Post
“Compulsively readable and exceedingly entertaining . . . a must for both fans of classic sci-fi and fervent followers of new school dystopian epics.”—Examiner
“[A] great debut . . . The author gathers a spread of elements together in much the same way George R. R. Martin does.”—Tordotcom
“Very ambitious . . . a natural for Hunger Games fans of all ages.”—Booklist
“Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow: Pierce Brown’s empire-crushing debut is a sprawling vision.”—Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of Pandemic
“A Hollywood-ready story with plenty of action and thrills.”—Publishers Weekly
“Reminiscent of . . . Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games . . . [Red Rising] will captivate readers and leave them wanting more.”—Library Journal (starred review)
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And yet one day, four days ago to be exact, a copy happened to fall into my lap and upon reading the first page I was instantly, irrevocably HOOKED. I write this now having ripped through the entire trilogy in THREE DAYS.
Did I surreptitiously read it on my phone at work? YES. Did I battle exhaustion trying to read one more chapter into the late, late night despite loving sleep almost as much as chocolate? YES. Did I pounce on every vaguely bookish person I know and blather with the crazed look and incoherence of a fanatic about this novel, despite not even being a sci-fi reader? YES.
Don't be put off by the proliferation of all caps in my review. I haven't been this excited about a book in such a long time, plus I was in a bit of a reading slump, having been adrift in a sea of discarded books. So you must forgive me.
Okay, I will concede that the comparisons to Hunger Games and the Lord of the Flies have merit. Not only that, there are heavy Greek and Roman allusions. There are recognizable, familiar elements. This is after all a classic Hero's Journey. The lowly Darrow, motivated by grief and revenge manages to rise to the highest strata - to even the realm of the gods.
It is not original and yet it is. Like Sevro and the Howlers and the rest of the House of Mars, I want to follow Darrow and see what next audacious step he takes. I was constantly surprised, on the edge of my seat trying to see how he would win or recover from a failure.
I'll admit there are problems. The female characters do not seem fully realized. There's a helluva lot of rape going on. But even with its flaws, Red Rising slayed me. I was all in from the first line to the last. I got the next book after a hundred pages in.
One thing I am thankful for, having come into this series rather late is that I had the entire trilogy at my disposal, reading one right after the other, without that agonizing long wait in between.
So far, Red Rising is probably #6 (out of 35) in my top reads of 2017.
"Red Rising" struck me overly lofty, sanctimonious, and obsessively violent. The main character seemed to just kind of morph into whatever he needed to be for the plot to continue without a real feeling of growth. Phrases like "I screamed like a rage god" made me cringe. Everything before all of the teenagers were thrown into their death camp felt like a preamble, with occasional interesting world building elements thrown in. There were definitely times where it felt like the book was relishing in the deaths of characters, trying a little too hard to make the reader feel loss for someone we didn't have enough time to get attached to.
Overall, not the book for me.
Society in Red Rising is a caste system (based upon birth), where the inhabitants fall into a hierarchy of 14 “colors” representing their ranking within society. At the top of the hierarchy are the Golds, who through genetic and surgical manipulation have evolved as superior human beings. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the Reds, who are unskilled manual laborers, conditioned to a brutal environment. The remainder of society falls into one of the other “colors” that fill a specific need within society.
Red Rising focuses on the Golds and Reds: the Golds rule society with an iron fist and no compassion; the Reds toil all day in their underground city where they remain miners from generation to generation. These Reds have no actual knowledge of the rest of society; they have been deceived into believing that by mining helium-3 they are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. In reality, Mars and the rest of the solar system had been successfully colonized centuries earlier. The Golds control not only what and where the Reds live and work, but what they know. Our hero, Darrow, is a Red. He and the Reds like him are essentially slaves to a decadent ruling class, enslaved for generation after generation with no voice and no hope.
But there are those who have learned the truth and want change. The story takes shape as Darrow is rescued by a group of rebels known as The Sons of Ares; Darrow has been selected to infiltrate the Golds at its highest levels.
The book is fast paced and exciting, although it takes roughly two thirds of the book to establish the backstory. This is both a positive and a negative: it takes a long time to get to the exciting part, but one of the things I liked about this book is the in-depth character development and backstory. I gave this book a rating of four out of five due to the excellent character development and backstory, and the quick pace once it reached its stride.
Top international reviews
Set in the distant future, where the human race is divided by a rigid class system of colours, colonies of Red miners toil under the surface of Mars, harvesting natural elements that will terraform its surface and make it an inhabitable environment in the future. Sixteen year old Darrow is one of these Reds, born underground and raised to risk his life on a daily basis. Food is scarce and life expectancy is short. The rules are enforced by a strict hierarchical class system that’s preceded over by the Gold’s – supposedly superior to all other colours both physically and mentally. When Darrow discovers that his life is built on a lie, he’s given a dangerous mission to integrate himself into the very heart of Gold society.
Darrow is sent to the Institute, where young Gold’s play deadly games to win power. It’s a trial by fire that is designed to push them to the limits and teach them how to wage war and become the leaders of tomorrow. Weakness isn’t tolerated and not everyone will make it through. Parallels could be drawn to the Hunger Games, but it’s a very different type of competition. The aim here is for power and ultimate victory – achieved through intellect and strategy and the ability to command their peers.
Darrow is a great character. He’s definitely not perfect – he’s reckless, angry and overly bold. He’s smart but he also shows that he can be ruthless and brutal. This means that he’s not always a particularly likeable character, but you still end up rooting for him all the same. Throughout the book he goes through some intense challenges, questioning his own identity, who to trust and what actions can be justified for the greater good.
There are inevitably a lot of the generic running themes that seem to pop up in every dystopian YA – a challenging and brutal landscape, segregated society and a deadly competition, as well as an angry and repressed protagonist rising up against the ruling classes. That said, I think the author does enough to make Red Rising stand apart from the masses.
There are plenty of action scenes and the tension remains ramped up all the way through. There are also ongoing political undercurrents as Darrow struggles to keep his ultimate goal of infiltrating the highest level of society within his grasp. Immediately after finishing this book I downloaded and binge-read the next two in the series – and as much as I liked this book, I think they get even better as they goes on.
At first, when I first read about this, I was unimpressed. It seemed like every other YA, dystopian novel out there. How many books have the classes separated by something? Whether that be numbers, colours, looks or something else? It’s now a new concept. This was a breath of fresh air for this genre for me.
I was more invested in the characters than I’d care to admit. Darrow, Mustang and Servo were just great characters. If you don’t like Servo, then I think there’s probably something wrong with you. He was my favourite character because he wasn’t perfect like the other golds. He wasn’t traditionally handsome and tall, but boy was he smart.
To be honest, most of it isn't YA. This is a quote from the first few chapters, and when I really started paying attention to this novel:
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.
Like, bloodydamn, that’s terrible. Why have hanging as a method of death, if the act of hanging doesn’t even work? This was the first hint that this form of society had big problems, and the problems only grew more severe from there.
I definitely want to read on. Perhaps I won’t start the book at 10pm at night, so that I get some sleep the day I read it.
This book grabbed me from the first page and wouldn't let me go. The characters are all richly detailed without extraneous detail used on those who are only in the story for a page or two. I felt like I was with Darrow every step of his journey, felt every emotion he felt and wanted the same goals as he did because I could understand why they were so important to him.
The locations, while not obviously places we are familiar with, felt alive to me, the descriptions were so clear and well-written. I read this story on my kindle and have since bought the paperback and therefore seen the map that is in it, something I didn't have in my ebook. The descriptions were so clear throughout the story that my imagined layout that I had in my mind was almost identical to the map in the book, that's how good the writing is.
This isn't a non-violent book but I felt the violence there was fitted with the story. It's also not a book with a complete ending as it is the first in the series, however, the ending does tie things up to an extent so there is a feeling of an ending of sorts which I liked and don't always get with books that are part of a series.
If you're one of the few people on the planet who have not yet read this book then I would urge you to give it a go. It might not be your usual genre but why not step outside of it and try something different. Life can be boring if we never try new things, at least occasionally.
For anyone who wants a fast paced, well-written read that will keep them glued to the book for hours then I highly recommend this one. The only regret I have in reading this book is that I didn't do it sooner.
The characters in the Sons of Ares didn't much interest me either. They felt like cardboard cutouts and there was never any warmth from them, especially with what they wanted Darrow to do and I read very mixed reviews about the people he meets later. As much as I wanted to see the games (I was a big Hunger Games fan), I just couldn't persuade myself to plough on through the detailed descriptions and slow plot to actually get there. I found his initial lifestyle and that transformation section way too slow for my personal tastes. I just didn't feel enthused with it. If I had cared more for Darrow and the other characters, maybe I could have ploughed through but I wasn't really interested enough to try. I know a lot of people loved this series and I can see why they did but sadly it didn't work for me.
About the book, I really liked it! I would say I was a bit underwhelmed at the start, I didn't know what was happening with all the new words (for example: clawdrills) and all the drama and injustice got me a bit depressed but then it started to take pace and a lot happens... Some of the things I saw them coming, others not at all...When I reached three quarters I couldn't put it down, I had to know.
About the plot, I really don't want to say much to avoid spoilers but I would say it is a dystopian with a lot of action and mythology that keeps you guessing all the time, it is very well done.
I agree with other reviews that there are some ideas that had been used in other books but to me, that is not necessarily a bad thing because it is the way those ideas are combined and the new ideas added that makes this book so great and enjoyable. Also, it treats well a lot of tough themes and has good morals.
About the characters, they felt real to me and they matured through the book through the experiences which I appreciate. Moreover, they didn't feel childish though they are relatively young. I really loved the main characters and I despised their enemies during all book, it was a rollercoaster of emotion. Especially, I liked that Darrow is smart and doesn't do silly things even though it hurts him sometimes. Also, I like that the situations where he gets involved don't have a clear right choice. It makes you think, what I would do in his skin?
Overall, it is a very good book and I didn't have any issues with the delivery!
“Funny how a single word can change everything in your life."
"It is not funny at all. Steel is power. Money is power. But of all the things in all the worlds, words are power.”
Tim Gerard Reynolds made this book for me. I read it myself last year, and I couldn’t quite grasp the brilliance of this story. I found the change in Darrow too much, but when you get to hear his inner thoughts as himself, it makes it different. You get to hear the divide between Red and Gold. Not only that but Tim read with emotion, something that I’m so glad of because he made me feel Darrow's sorrow, his fear and his rage.
There was a scene towards the end where he spoke of being the hope of his people and it actually gave me chills. The song at the end of the audio broke me and I cried my damn heart out.
If you like audios, I highly recommend this one. Be prepared for the feels.
The story itself is honest, and brutal. It’s a story of a world divided into colour based on your worth. Gold, Pink, Red… The high colours rule and live in luxury while the rest make the world liveable for them. Like Darrow I feel a deep rage towards the Golds but then, not all Golds are the same.. Sevro.. Roque.. That makes Darrow’s mission even harder.
I love that it wasn’t just about his mission, or about learning the lessons or war but also about trust, hope, love and what a people are capable of with power.
I cannot wait to see where this series goes, if it’s anything like this I know my heart is going to be hurting.
“Personally, I do not want to make you a man. Men are so very frail. Men break. Men die. No, I’ve always wished to make a god.”
Darrow is complex enough and the story is well enough written to allow you to forget that there is nothing original about any of it, and I enjoyed it enough to buy the sequel. However, without dwelling on plot holes, if I have a criticism, it is that it is so unrelentingly dour and the body count is so unnecessarily high. Nobody has a good time and humour is in short supply. It's like The Hunger Games was rewritten for the boys who found Katniss just too darned soppy.
So whilst it is not particularly unique, it is still a fun read. I loved the dark elements of this book, there is plenty of violence and you're always kept in anticipation as none of the characters are safe from death.
Having said that I did struggle with the secondary portion of the book, where characters were barely introduced before a significant relationship develops with the protagonist. Because of this it became a little difficult to keep up with the constantly changing and evolving group of characters and I was not particularly invested in many of the characters.
Having said that I will probably continue on with the next book in the trilogy as I do want to know what happens next.
When I first started reading Red Rising I thought that it might be a bit of a slog, and in some ways it was. There are faster moving action scenes but also some slower descriptive or pondering scenes, although nothing that doesn't fit the theme of the book. The opening section gives a good insight into Darrow's background, before circumstances give him an opportunity to fight back against the ruling classes (do it!) by infiltrating their caste.
Once Darrow has taken this step, the dystopian side takes a back seat and the novel moves firmly into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy realm. Knowing nothing about the book before I read it (usually the best way), I didn't expect it to become what it did. As I don't want to spoil anything, I won't go into any detail, but over the course of the story Darrow changes into someone else and makes allies of his enemies. Although it's all completely over the top, I found it almost impossible not to get carried along on the wave and found myself enjoying something that I originally expected to find a struggle.
Among the vast majority of positive reviews there is a sprinkling of negative reviews, and to be honest these are the ones I tend to read as I find them more useful than the glowing ones. I'm not sure a novel can be criticised for being what it's intended to be, but there you are. Red Rising has dystopian roots before turning Sci-Fi/Fantasy and is very well-written if a little wordy in places. With another 5 books (so far) in the series, I'm not sure where this can go or if Pierce Brown will be able to hold my interest but I'll give the next one a try and take it from there.
The story line isn’t that unique...... Down-trodden hero, traum, rises to take on the oppressors...... blah blah blah...... BUT the interpretation is! It’s just SO immersive, the characters rounded, the worlds so well portrayed. There are whole cultures developed, worlds remaid. Very very well written and a very complete plot.
Unlike allot of kindle books there are very few typos, and few negatives for me. He kills off a few favourite characters...... as most seem to feel the need to post Game of Thrones. But he does catch you out quite allot with plot twists. I’m convinced it’s going one way...... only to find I totally misunderstood. Not something that happens too often!
Genuinely a must read, I eagerly await the next book in the series and would recommend to all...... A series that really SHOULD be made into a TV series or film. Are you listening Netflix! SKY etc......
Granted, there are elements of this opening to a series that feel derivative, in that it reads like an adult version of The Hunger Games. None of which keeps me from giving this an admiring 5⭐. I absolutely loved it and fully intend to read the rest of the series, which is a rare feeling. Relying on intrigue, twists, politics, friendship and betrayal, rather than romantic subplot, this is my kind of book.
Starts off very interesting then turns into a tedious game of capture the flag to see who amongst our gang of characterless teens should ascend in a society that frankly feels too ridiculous to exist.
The writing is hugely matter of fact and emotionless. For example our main character works in the mines on Mars working to help terraform the planet so one day he can crawl out of the tunnels they’ve been mining for hundreds of years and live with honour on the surface. Except shocker, the planet is already terraformed with thousands of major cities. So as part of a trite revenge story he’s soon out and about in these cities. Culture shock ? Not a bit of it, it’s like he’s lived there all his life. Shockingly poor writing.
I was divided on the book as a whole, but especially in the opening. On the one hand it is very good at establishing the grim and awful world Darrow lives in:
‘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.’
‘I’m looking for the pitvipers that curl through the darkness seeking the warmth of my drill. They’ll eat into your suit too, bit through the shell and then try to burrow into the warmest place they find, usually your belly, so they can lay their eggs.’
Brown establishes the dystopian nature of the world very quickly. However, at times in the opening I wanted to shout at the book, ‘Show, don’t tell!’ Some of the information is left for the reader to discover – about how the caste system actually works and about the Golds – but some information about Darrow, his life and his relationships is just plonked down. The vital information we are left to discover actually makes the novel confusing. I also found it irritating how there are lots of terms in Darrow’s world that have a capital letter midword. This is a common trait in dystopian novels that is sometimes unnecessary.
Additionally, while there is action and tension in the beginning – Darrow is drilling and it is dangerous – it didn’t come across particularly vividly for me and didn’t capture my imagination. I wasn’t picturing what was happening the way I do with most other books. There wasn’t dialogue for a while; it was more reflective and I found the first person present narration dragged slightly. It’s definitely not one of the best openings I have read. I felt it could have been punchier and it did not really grab me or make me want to read on.
However, I did read on and from 6 percent the book really picked up for me. I thought the section from 6 to 13 percent was fantastic: it was dramatic, tense, moving, and I loved Eo. She had such vitality and passion when she made her speech to Darrow:
‘Death isn’t empty like you say it is. Emptiness is life without freedom, Darrow. Emptiness is living chained by fear, fear of loss, of death. I say we break those chains. Break the chains of fear and you break the chains that bind us to the Golds, to the Society.’
I also really enjoyed the detail in Darrow’s transformation and that bit did really capture my imagination and it interested and intrigued me. Darrow as a character, however, wasn’t actually that great for me. I didn’t root for him in the way I have rooted for other characters recently. He was okay, but he didn’t have any obvious flaws or defining characteristics, so he wasn’t especially memorable or vivid. In fact, none of the characters aside from Eo actually stood out for me, apart from Mustang and Sevro who did at select times.
As well as enjoying the description of Darrow’s transformation, I liked the twists concerning Titus at the end of chapter 28 and the one concerning Mustang at the end, as well as the fact that Darrow and Mustang’s budding relationship was described subtly and developed slowly (none of the dreaded ‘instalove’!) Darrow’s stand off with Jackal was very tense and dramatic, as was the trap where someone pretended to be Mustang to fool Darrow.
In my opinion, overall, ‘Red Rising’ was a mix of very good sections and less good sections. I won’t be rushing to read the sequel, but if I have time I will probably check it out because I think that it might be one of those series that gets better as it goes along.
Oh my word. Now THAT was a book!
I just ... I can’t even.
Red Rising is the story of Darrow, a low-caste Red who lives below the surface of Mars. He spends his day in abject poverty, mining the necessary ore that will be used to terraform the surface of Mars for future generations to inhabit. It’s a grim life, but he and his fellow Reds have been sold the idea that they are pioneers, so by and large Darrow (rhymes with ...) is okay with his lot in life. That is, until tragedy strikes and he is offered the chance to infiltrate the upper-caste Golds and change things from within, with plenty of betrayals and intrigue along the way.
Sound familiar? Don’t let that put you off. This book is amazing.
You know when people say YA/crossover? I don’t think I truly comprehended the meaning of that saying until now. Yes, I guess this is YA in that the protagonist is seventeen, but some of the situations (hell, most of them) are so adult that I think this is best suited for older YA really.
The characters jump off the page and probably, like, wrestle you to the floor and stick you with a pulseBlade or whatever. I didn’t particularly like Darrow, but I don’t think I was supposed to. I empathised with his plight, but he was such a mardy little git that at times I just wanted to slap him. Suffice to say, he grows as the story progresses.
For me, the thing that rocketed this book right up in my estimation was the worldbuilding. It is, without a doubt, the best worldbuilding I have ever read. And I’ve read a bunch of books. The world Pierce Brown describes is pretty bloody awful,
Plus, he’s amaster of ‘show, don’t tell’, which always wins in my book. It’s just ... God, I’m finding it so hard to find adjectives. Okay, so there’s this part of the plot where Darrow is in this massive Hunger-Games-style arena with a bunch of Golds essentially playing an evil version of Capture The Flag. Every time someone gets injured, a medBot flies down to heal them.
So what’s a medBot? Brown never actually tells us. Not properly. And yet I know exactly what they are. Hell, I can even picture them in my head (kind of like the tiny, scuttling, insectoid robots that all the household appliances get turned into in that god-awful Michael Bay dick-fest, Transformers 2). Pierce Brown gives us a made-up noun and the briefest of descriptions, and leaves you to fill in the blanks. And it totally works.
And medBots are only one of the awesome things Brown has created in this world.
So I felt the weakest element of the book was the plot. Not the scene-by-scene action, which was amazing, but the over-arching plotline. The whole ‘down-trodden hero from the lowest caste of society gets plucked from their lame life by fate and put into a fight-to-the-death situation in order to overthrow the evil hierarchy’ has been done a bunch of times now and while this was a refreshing version of it, this theme is so prevalent that it’s now a trope.
But the thing about tropes is that they’re tropes for a reason. They’re popular. People like reading them. There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just not terribly original. And actually this book did the down-trodden hero trope really well, so it was fine. And when the least-best aspect of a book is merely ‘fine’, I think you’re onto a bit of a winner.
I’m currently reading How To Be Bad - a contemporary YA story - simply because I need something to reset my mind and calm me down a bit before I launch into the second episode of this trilogy.