Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Published by Del Rey on January 28, 2014
Series: Red Rising, #1
Genre(s): fiction, action, adventure, fantasy, science fiction
Format & Length: hardcover, 382
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“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
Red Rising has been on my list of books to read since March 2016. Then over the summer, a good friend (hi, Kyle!) asked if I had read it, and upon learning I hadn’t, insistently demanded that I MUST read it. So I finally picked it up from the library with plans to read on vacation this October. I wound up being so entertained, I read from about the 1/4 way mark through the end of the book on a 3 1/2 hour flight.
“Few men truly like seeing beauty burn.”
Let’s just get this out of the way now – this had A LOT of similarity to some hugely popular young adult dystopian novels (I’m looking at you, The Hunger Games and Divergent; and the Atlantis Grail series, which I also highly recommend). I suppose it’s to be expected that there are certain formulaic traits among books that fall under this category, from a class system (here separated by color) to a testing phase designed to “weed out the weak,” and a sorting system loosely based on personality traits.
“The Institute is not a school, it is a culling ground where the Golds go to hack and one another till the strongest in mind and body is found. You. Will. Die.”
What I liked about Red Rising was that it seemed to take everything just one step further. From violent to downright gory. From the main character being a rebel to actually becoming one of those he plans to overthrow. And the commentary Brown manages to make on our current culture was perfectly wedged in there and yet highly insightful.
“HC videos run like liquid streams along parts of the avenue in this hi-tech sector of the city, so most walk upon the moving pathways or ride in public transportation with their heads crooked down like cane handles.”
A good portion of this book takes place during the Institute testing phase (aka, war between teenagers). Surprisingly, I wasn’t bored reading it. Sure, there was a lot of violence, but there was also character development, relationship development, politics, and intrigue. The atmosphere and world building throughout is intense. I love the way Brown incorporates some actual history from Earth, and skews it as needed for the story. And the political climate is fascinating.
“Society has three stages: Savagery, Ascendance, Decadence. The great rise because of Savagery. They rule in Ascendance. They fall because of their own Decadence.”
The final action scene had me mesmerized. And then the ending happened. And I was like, “WHAT?! Get me the second book, ASAP!” But of course, being on a plane at the time, this was not possible. With all the graphic violence and mature themes, and despite the fact that Darrow is 16 at the start of this book, I would classify this more in the adult genre than young adult. Recommended for older teens and adults.