[REVIEW] Red Rising

Series: Red Rising #1
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: young adult, science fiction, dystopia, survival, mythology, war
Published: February 18, 2014 (first published January 28, 2014)
Del Rey
Red Rising

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 surface of Mars livable for the 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.

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“Death isn’t empty like you say it is. Emptiness is life without freedom, Darrow. Emptiness is living chained by fear, fear of loss, of death. I say we break those chains. Break the chains of fear and you break the chains that bind us to the Golds, to the Society.”

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When I picked up Red Rising, I wasn’t exactly sure if I’ll love it but I was quite excited to read it nonetheless. I’m not a big sci-fi fan or even something that involves straight up war but Red Rising really pushed me to love both.

There’re certainly a lot of things to love about Red Rising from the world to its characters to its unique and catchy vocabulary.

I really love Red Rising’s world – people living outside of earth, planets and moons being conquered and owned, a caste system decided by colors. I’ve only encountered the idea of living outside of earth in watching anime and Red Rising certainly took it in a bookish-style in a really good way although I believe that we’ve yet to see more of this because this first book in the Red Rising Trilogy mainly focus on  Darrow’s time in the Institute.

What is very prominent here is the division of colors – the caste system – and Brown’s take on the political side of this caste system. The Reds, the color Darrow belongs to, is at the bottom of the color-coded system. The first part of the book shows how the Reds were kept ignorant of the Society’s real condition – that there is already a city on the surface of Mars. Why the Reds were being fed by this lie – the Society has yet to live in the surface of Mars – is one of the most interesting things that stirs Red Rising’s story. I mean Brown could have written something stereotypical that involves a society with straight up oppression but he didn’t. Instead he wrote a very interesting twist where a group of people believed that they were working something big for the future when in reality, this future they are imagining has already been laid down behind their backs. They were simply set aside and fed with lots of lies.

The Golds which Darrow tries his bloodydamn best to become is very well developed. They are meant to be the ones who’ll govern everything – their families own fleets and are part of the government. Darrow’s time in the Institute shows that the Golds are egoistic, violent, and ready to kill for power and dominance. Yet as the story progresses, a more sensible and leader-like Golds were introduced. They were shown as those who must not be so focused on violence and killing, they must have strategic and strong minds in order to lead their army into battle. I believe that this development on the Golds goes along Darrow’s development as a character.

The Institute is a very engaging battleground. Its setup makes me think of how the Greek gods interfere with the humans in Greek mythology. The proctors watch the students beat the hell out of each other while watching in some floating island or mountain (or something like that). They favor some students, even lend their help and in worst cases, try to kill those they do not favor.

There certainly is a good amount of political involvement here, as I mentioned earlier – the corruption, bribery, and all were just very well laid down.

Aside from Red Rising’s world, the characters are well written. I find it quite easy to love them, to be absorbed by them. I really like Darrow as a character and how he was slowly developed throughout the novel. Each part of the novel, Darrow grows into a better person and more worthy of achieving Eo’s dream. I think the development that Darrow went through is like a very human development as it doesn’t go quickly. In fact, Darrow’s development didn’t just stop with the death of Eo, it goes beyond it as he encounters a lot of tests throughout his time in the Institute.

What I didn’t like here is how slow the second part was. I mean there’s all the preparation for Darrow to finally be Gold and they were all going about how he should do this instead of that and such. It was quite a lengthy part I that couldn’t wait for it to end and finally get on with all the thrilling things once Darrow finally enters the Institute.

Aside from the drag the second part gave me, I was also quite bothered by how a bit complicated the first part seemed to me (well maybe that’s just me). I hate complicated talks but I know that they’re unavoidable when dealing with sci-fi novels but maybe there’s some way they can be presented in a not-so-complicated style of writing. But reading pass them and just continuing with the story, they become clearer – my vision of the world becoming clearer and I ended up being absorbed nonetheless.

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Red Rising is a very well written fast-pace thriller survival novel. It has a very engaging battleground, a well written world, excellent hero, and a beautiful ending that will leave you wanting for more.

thrilling. great hero. brilliantly written world.

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