Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Series: Red Rising Trilogy #1
Publisher: Random House (January 2014)
Author Info: www.pierce-brown.com
Wendy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Darrow is a helldiver, one of the most skilled and daring miners among the Reds who work themselves to death to prepare Mars for the “softer colours” of a dying Earth. The thing is, Mars has been terraformed for centuries, but the Golds who rule above all colours are already there, lolling about on the unknowing backs of the lesser colours.
Darrow learns this the hard way when he becomes involved with the Sons of Aries, a rebel group determined to bring down the ruling Golds — by turning Darrow into one of them.
I avoided the hype on this book, though I did know about The Hunger Games comparison. Initially, I didn’t quite grasp the comparison, but it becomes clear soon enough. Darrow, in his new Gold body, becomes a part of a deadly game of survival against the other Gold hopefuls. But unlike the Hunger Games, these young adults are fighting for a place high in society. The goal isn’t simply to kill the competition, but to conquer, just as the Golds have done for centuries.
One of the things I really liked about this book was the idea that the people at the top of the pyramid live in luxury, but they are far from soft. The society is modeled after Greco-Roman domination, and their tctics are no less ruthless. There most certainly is death within the arena, but there is also political intrigue and a lot of scheming. The Sons of Aries have taught Darrow much, but it his own skills and smarts as a Red and as a Helldiver that really come in handy. Of course.
Of course Darrow ends up more or less on top throughout, though there is ample struggle and betrayal along the way. In fact, there are a lot of things that go on that, after a while, become quite tedious. They all make sense, well enough, but I had so little connection to the characters, including Darrow, that I simply didn’t care. Brown tried to make them real enough, but in actuality, Mustang, Pax, Cassius — they are all fairly two-dimensional, as is Darrow himself, despite the level of depth Brown tries to give through Darrow’s initial tragedies. I got tired of Darrow telling me about his rage.
Also, Darrow is only 16 years old, but I found the characters didn’t often act their age. I initially chalked up Darrow’s more adult actions as due to a life of hardship that forced him to become an adult early in life, but this too was part of the disconnect I felt with the characters. I am not a fan of YA books that feature petulant, idiot teenagers, but this book simply didn’t give me characters with enough depth to classify them as anything more than archetypes.
With YA battle dystopias being all the rage these days, I expect to see REd Rising in the theatres soon enough. While I didn’t enjoy the read, I suspect a movie could potentially give me more of the depth I was looking for.