Book review: Red Rising

Under the surface of Mars, a young Red, Darrow works in the mines. The lowest cast, the Reds are mining helium-3, as they believe they are making the surface of Mars habitable. The world of men is divided in a strict hierarchy that has placed Darrow and his fellow Reds at the bottom. At the other end, are the Golds – almost godlike figures that make the stronger and better cast, they rule society through fear and intimidation.

Darrow’s wife Eo, carries a dream – a dream of a better world, a dream she tries to share with him. However, Darrow is not a rebel; he is content with his place in the world. One day, Eo and Darrow are caught in a forbidden place and arrested.  As they are publicly whipped for their trespassing, Eo decides to sing a forbidden song. Her decision changes Darrow’s life forever.

A close friend (@thelibrocubicularist) recommended me this book as she really enjoyed the series. As I started the book I did struggle, I do love my fair share of science fiction books – but this one I found myself battling to continue. The only thing that made me keep on reading was the fact that I was curious on what had made her love this one so much.

The main reason for me struggling with the first chapters was the scientific language and the technical descriptions. It just became too much for me really, but I tried to get past it and focus on the plot. The start of the novel reminded me of other books I have read; the protagonist is comfortable in their surroundings, while someone they love wants more. Events that neither can control happens and the protagonist is forced to make a choice. I had read some reviews comparing it to The Hunger Games, and as I read on, I did see the similarities.

What really changed it up for me was when Red Rising suddenly became The Hunger Games on steroids. Suddenly everything did change, it became so much more brutal, twisted and dark – that I could not put it down. I needed to know that Darrow was going to be ok in the end. The battle between the casts became so much more important during Darrows time at the institute. Of course, I knew that not all Golds would be this cruel and brutal, but seeing how they all of them were forced into this wicked game made my perspective change.

The characters are interesting and sometimes impossible to read. I had a good idea of Darrow, he is torn between being the hero Eo wanted him to be, and the Gold he needs to be to be able to survive that hellhole he has been placed in. The Jackal, is in my mind a manipulative crazy Gold who just enjoys seeing others suffer, while Sevro. Well Sevro, is just weird – but still likeable. Since the Golds all are living by the ancient civilizations code, I know that you cannot trust a single character. (For once my history background made me realize this early).

Even though I still struggled with the technical and scientific language, the novel worked for me as the story got me engaged in the drama, the tension between the characters and of course, all the nastiness and horrifying reality they endure. I got caught up in the atmosphere and enjoyed it too much to not finish the novel. I have noticed that others have commented on the language, on how melodramatic it seems, and that it is not a natural way of speaking. For me it made sense, as the Golds keep comparing themselves to romans and all the great thinkers of our time. Speaking and behaving as if they are the best of humankind is a natural step as it validates their position over the other casts.

I am already halfway through Morning Star, and I can tell you that Pierce Brown is the kind of author that does not have a problem with making me love characters, then ripping my heart out and then feel so lost – just to do it all over again.


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