Review: Red Rising

Red Rising
Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Red Rising came highly recommended to me. It draws comparisons to a number of works that I've really enjoyed: [b:The Name of the Wind|186074|The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)|Patrick Rothfuss||2502879], [b:Ender's Game|375802|Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet, #1)|Orson Scott Card||2422333], and [b:The Hunger Games|2767052|The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)|Suzanne Collins||2792775] to name a few. The story is set on a future Mars where society has been divided into castes identified by color. The golds are the elite of society. They are superior in every way to the remainder of society, and they maintain a firm grip on their leadership. Conversely, the reds are the base of society. The reds work in mines, harvesting Helium 3 as party of the effort to terraform the surface of the planet so that it may later be colonized. The protagonist, Darrow, is a red. He is quicker than most reds, and his quickness allows him to pilot the drills that require deft operation to avoid killing the operator (and his crew) deep in the mines of the planet. Darrow has been told a lie, and we read of his transformation to something more so that he can challenge the lie.

I love dystopian novels, and that naturally leads me to enjoy this story. There are a number of things I really enjoyed here, but also some minor gripes that I feel prevented me from giving this book 5 stars.

The action sequences are many and gripping. This book is a great thrill ride.

I love the intrigue and subterfuge. Who can Darrow trust, and for how long?

Darrow is plunged into a future combat school. They are divided into teams and given the task of capturing the banner of their opponents. Their weapons are pikes, swords, bows, and arrows. Even our current army doesn't train with these weapons. I understand that this is a style choice meant to evoke the nobility of the knights of the round table, but it provides a bit of cognitive dissonance to me. Where are the guns?

Darrow is superman. Yes, he has some trials and tribulations. He suffers and fails at times. However, it is very difficult for me to believe that with just a few months training and massive modifications to his body that he becomes a master at disguising his own past as well as both physically and mentally superior to his peers. It seems that there would have been some very easy times to discover his red roots, such as when he sings the full verse of Eo's death song to Mustang. Presumably his ring was on at this time. Yet this is of no concern. Instead, his use of the single word bloodydamn to Apollo as he kills him is the big threat.

A lack of noble challengers. Everyone who opposes Darrow at the university is clearly a bad person, or else they quickly fall to him and join his band. Titus the mad tyrant abuses his enemies as well as his own tribe. The Jackal is certifiably mad in addition to being assisted by the proctors. Not one challenger of merit who seriously vies against him. I think it would have been very interesting to see how Darrow dealt with a noble opponent rather than the stark contrast we saw.

I would definitely recommend this book. Even though I spent more words on my gripes than my likes, those gripes are really rather minor. This book feels as though it continuously accelerates, building momentum from a slow start to screaming across the finish line, ragged and tattered from the race.

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Jade Mason