Red Rising by Pierce Brown
I picked up this book by accident one day while perusing Barnes & Noble. I’d gone in to pick up The Circle by Dave Eggers, which was Buy 2, Get One Free, and since I can never give up that deal, I circled the table over and over, trying to pick out another two books. Red Rising was one of them.
The cover didn’t really strike me at first. It looked like yet another Hunger Games type story, and the description wasn’t really doing it for me:
His wife taken. His people enslaved. Driven by a longing for justice and the memory of lost love, Darrow will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if he must become one of them to do so.
I mean, it’s just kind of… meh. The review blurbs praising the novel are what actually caught my attention. And yes, I realize that most of these are BS, that pretty much every book has these, and they’re meant to do exactly what they did in this case: convince me to buy the book. Seeing nothing else worth picking up, and intrigued by the Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones comment, I added it to the stack.
Am I glad I did so.
Red Rising ended up being a sci-fi Game of Thrones meets teenage battles a la Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies meets strategy and war games of Ender’s Game. I loved it.
Since the description doesn’t really tell you much, here’s what the book is actually about (MINOR SPOILERS): Darrow is a talented boy who lives in the mines of Mars in a future world where the people of Earth need to colonize and terraform other planets. People are sorted into classes named after colors: Gold is the highest, Red is the lowest. Darrow is a Red. What he doesn’t know, is that the Golds (and everyone else) have been lying to the Reds, that the worlds have already been terraformed, that the Reds are slaves. When he finds out, he is pissed. Like, full of rage. To avenge his wife’s death and achieve her dream of equality and freedom, Darrow becomes a Gold and enters into a school of literal hard knocks. Like fight-to-the-death-the-first-night hard knocks. The students are then put in a giant battlefield similar to what I imagine as Medieval times, with castles and swords, etc, only more advanced, and are told to conquer the lands. The one who wins will achieve superior apprenticeships and opportunities afterwards. The ones who lose, and don’t die, will most likely be shamed and disowned. Tough school.
This was not at all what I was expecting. I, like Darrow, was expecting a Harry Potter-esque school experience, but the battles and the deceptions and the conquering of lands and armies was actually really fun to read (then again, I do like Game of Thrones).
At times Darrow’s rage-addled mind grew tiresome, and some of his antics made me cringe and go “really?”, but they work with his character, even if they are somewhat to the extreme at times. I liked Darrow as a character, even when he was unlikeable, but his band of brothers were the standouts, particularly Sevro and his Howlers, Mustang, and Pax. I liked reading how he won and lost loyalties, and how he struggled to remain a Red in his new Gold body.
It also doesn’t hurt that Red and Gold are my favorite colors (Gryffindor, anyone?)
I already bought Golden Son, the second in the series (trilogy?), and can’t wait to start reading it.