Title: Red Rising
Series: Red Rising Trilogy (#1)
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: sci-fi, dystopian
In short: if you’re tired of YA dystopians and you want quality, goshdarnit, read this. The story is insane, the characters are great, and the setting is amazingly developed.
Goodreads: The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
This is one of those books that starts out good, gets better, and then somewhere in the middle it becomes oh-my-god-what-am-I-reading-I-love-it. I’m not going to go into the plot because I had just skimmed through the blurb before starting and I think that was what made the shocking revelations in the middle all the more shocking. But let me tell you, I had skyscraper-high expectations for Red Rising. All over my GR feed, there were reviewers raving about it and the soon-to-be-released sequel. So I was all, let’s see how this is. I wanted to dislike it. I started it fully prepared to nitpick and hate. And then I was blown away.
Let me summarise in a paragraph what I loved so we can talk about why I rated it 4.5 rather than 5.
I loved the setting. The whole caste thing feels very eh at first, and the slang is a bit annoying à la The Bone Season, but thankfully it’s not so dense and fairly easy to catch onto. One thing I did like about the caste system were the physical attributes and differences between them—I’m pretty sure that once we get to that kind of technology, we’ll be lining up to augment our bodies depending on our skills and professions. I loved the supporting characters (more on Darrow later) although Mustang also made me feel a bit iffy (more on that later too). And I really loved all the classical allusions. I also liked that the academic setting is far from what you’d expect—and I shall say no more than that ;)—because I was afraid I’d be turned off the way I was by How To Lead A Life of Crime. Red Rising is fast-paced and well-written too.
Now onto the not-so-good.
For anyone concerned about Darrow being a Gary Stu (a male Mary Sue), I guess I could agree. He’s special, he’s skilled, you know nothing really bad will ever happen to him. But I enjoyed the story too much to even stop and think about that.
Also, I felt really cheated by Titus’s storyline—it felt too abrupt, maybe explained too late. And the main question it raised better be answered.
What I really didn’t like? For one, Mustang’s frequent misogynistic remarks. She constantly calls Darrow a ‘girl’, which was annoying, for one, and felt out of character too. Mustang was a badass; why she would consider being a girl inadequate or insulting is not for me to understand, apparently. On the other hand, I considered that her attitude could be an allusion to Athena—the Greek goddess of wisdom and battle considered herself better than any woman and in that sense, ‘on par’ with men. I guess it would also make sense considering Mustang’s House. But those bits still irked me. For another spoilery problem I had, scroll to the end. *
But overall, I’d definitely recommend Red Rising to anyone who wants a good YA sci-fi that’s different and well-written. And I’m going to have my eye on the next one!
The usage of rape felt overdone to an unnecessary extent. The stuff going on was horrifying enough. It also felt a little like a plot device for Darrow’s heroic Gary Stuism.