Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising

Author: Pierce Brown
Publisher: Del Rey (Random House)
Series: Red Rising Trilogy #1
Pages: Hardcover, 382 pages
Genre: YA, Dystopia
Release Date:  January 28, 2014


The war begins...

Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.

Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable - and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow 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..


Red Rising was supposed to be a dystopian novel set in Mars where a colony of Reds were supposed to begin a usurping. What it actually turned out to be was a guy infiltrating the society he wants to topple by participating in a ruthless game which starts off by killing someone and ends with the story being left off from right where it started. You can see why I would feel misled and a tad bit annoyed.

To give you a little background on the story, we have Darrow, a 16 year old guy and the best helldiver in Mars. Helldivers drill Helium3 out of the bowels of the planet since this element (liquid?) is the building block for life in a planet. I think the book is set about a 1000 years from now and most of the planets in the solar system have been colonized, along with the moons of the gas giants. The existing world has taken racism to a whole new level, by segregating the society by Colors namely Red, Purple, Grey, Pink, Green and Gold (I might have missed a few). Reds are the slaves, mining Helium3 from Mars for ages in the hopes of building a habitable planet in Mars. The other Colors have a place higher than a footstool in the society but Golds are the ones that rule. They are not exactly humans. Their bone structure, muscles, brain, everything has been modified and excelled to make them superior. To be honest, it doesn’t really make sense.

Anyway, so there is Darrow with his ambitions of winning a Laurel for his community Lambda. He resents the society like every other Red but he accepts his place. His wife on the other hand, Eo, is a girl of dreams. She wants Reds to break free of the shackles and be given a rightful place in the society. Darrow doesn’t share her dream till one day she is murdered by the Golds for a little act of defiance. After losing his wife, Darrow finally gives in to the rage and promises to bring down the Golds. He is taken in by Sons of Aero, a sort-of terrorist like organization that fancies itself as the rebellion. With their help, he comes to realize how his entire life has been a lie, how all his fellow Reds are nothing but slaves dying for Golds to rule the world and how badly he wants to make them pay.

The writing style of the author for me was the weakest point. The narrative left me emotionless and I couldn’t bother to feel rage for what the Golds did, couldn’t feel sorry for all the deaths caused, couldn’t even let myself be enthusiastic about Darrow winning or feel anything for his loss other than a heavy sigh. The unpredictability of the book and the surprise quotient are real high. As the story progresses, there are months passed in turning Darrow to a Gold and then when he is an extraordinary Gold, he is thrown into a game led by the Institute where he has to win to secure a high post in the future. This game covers the majority of the book and I feel so cheated with the blurb, you know? I guess it was necessary for Darrow to fit in with the rest of the Golds but having to read about him take down kingdoms and castles, be ruthless and cunning, rise only to lose and then rise again; it was engrossing but not what I had expected.

I commend Brown for building a game that is rich and diverse in its intricacies. There seemed to be no direction in the beginning, but you watch the characters grow and turn into shrewd leaders, shamed servants, detested enemies or loyal friends. Darrow’s perfections in everything he shouldn’t know are kind of annoying but still he isn’t a perfect character and so aren’t the rest. Everyone has a secret and everyone has an agenda. The moment you think that Darrow is bloody and beaten and close to giving up, you see him rising again. The relationship he develops with the other Golds is written very well. By the end of the book, there are losses, mistakes, grudges and greed. We are reminded how the real story hasn’t even begun and that’s when you know you’re hooked.

I feel tricked but I don’t mind a lot because this book had a lot to deliver. The infiltration is done, the oppressors are fooled, and the war has just begun.


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