Originally posted 2015-10-24 12:00:39.
Title: Red Rising
Series: Red Rising Trilogy
Author: Pierce Brown
Published: January 28, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller
Kid Friendly Rating: 13+ This book can be downright grisly at times. Extreme violence is accepted, and even encouraged behavior in this society. The author often paints this violence negatively, but it is impossible to ignore.
Synopsis: Darrow is a helldiver; born to the lowest class of society (the Reds), whose sole purpose in the universe is to drill on Mars for helium-3, a vital substance necessary for the terraforming of planets. After a tragedy inflicted by the upper tiers of society tears apart his life, Darrow is recruited by a group of insurgents set on upending the social order.
Darrow’s mission becomes to infiltrate the ruling social stratum, known as the Golds, gain a position of power, and destroy the class system from the inside out. But to do this, Darrow must first enter the Academy, a brutal proving ground used by recruiters to find young candidates for various desirable jobs among the society’s ruling class.
I’ll be the first to tell you I suffer from dystopian-young-adult-novel malaise. They are EVERYWHERE. And Hollywood is halfway to blame for the overload, as every studio seems desperate to find their next Edward Cullen/Bella Swan or Katniss Everdeen cash cow. Now, by-and-large, I believe the novels are superior to the movies. I thoroughly enjoyed Percy Jackson and the Maze Runner series in their own right, and I even worked my way through two books of Divergent before reviews turned me off from the third. But seriously, enough, right? How many different ways can the kids stop the overlords and save the world for all the little guys?
If Red Rising has escaped your notice to this point, I completely understand. It falls victim to easy characterization. Relatively young (18 years old) protagonist, terrifying vision of the future, class warfare, all that. And I’d be lying if I said Pierce Brown didn’t draw inspiration from all kinds of recognizable sources. The rigors of the Academy contain obvious parallels to Lord of the Flies, and the class warfare trope seems to be an overused one among young adult novels.
However, I believe that once past the dystopian young adult fiction dressing, the story more closely resembles an epic revenge tale, along the lines of Gladiator, than the typical story of an overwhelmed youngster under duress. To draw another comparison from pseudo-Greco-Roman culture, Darrow’s rage and intensity of purpose sometimes resembles that of Kratos, from the popular God of War video games, except that Darrow has a brain and some sensitivity to match. Darrow’s struggle against the ruling class’s superiority by divine right is also echoed in Greek and Roman mythology, a fact that is not lost on Brown, who infuses this nomenclature at every turn.
This is what I want to call a rock-and-roll novel. Once the necessary world-building is in place, this is a heart-pounding adventure with intense fighting, hard left turns, and big action sequences, one right after another. One word of caution, here! This sentence describes something I LOVED about this book, as a reader. My wife is an audiobook listener, and she said she found the story sometimes too fast-paced to easily take it in while doing other things. To each his/her own.
I will also say that in retrospect, Darrow can sometimes veer a little too closely toward the larger-than-life movie star action hero role. Like Schwarzenegger with a Gatling gun, Darrow can feel like an unstoppable force when things are going his way. And, although this is balanced by his frequent and sometimes painful-to-watch missteps, he comes across as extraordinarily lucky. That said, to this reader, all of this was part of the fun of the book.
Nothing especially deep here, but this was incredibly entertaining to me. If you love your books fast-paced and action-packed, this is a great one! I give it 4/5 stars.
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