Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)
by Pierce Brown
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
2014 Del Rey
Ebook Edition; 382 Pages
ISBN: 978-0345539786
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction / Dystopian
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, 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.

My Thoughts
Red Rising is one of those books that is very difficult to explain to someone who has not read it.  In fact, it has taken me several days to write this review simply because I have been trying to think about how I want to go ahead and explain the events and the characters clearly to someone who might be thinking about reading it.  Basically, I think you just have to experience it for yourself and decide for yourself what you think.

When I first met Darrow, I knew right away that I would love this character.  He is a Red, living on Mars, the youngest Helldiver in memory, belonging to a caste of people who work and suffer every day for everything they possess, with food and other rewards given through the efforts of those who toil underground, creating a very competitive and deadly environment between Helldiver factions.  Right from the beginning you get a sense of the underlying danger and tension that exists amongst these people, and the difficulty and restlessness of their lives; conversations that abruptly break off, whispered comments, people's lack of satisfaction with their lives, etc... And then there is the visit by the Golds, the most powerful faction in this universe, men whom I could have happily have done away with right then and there.  This is the event that changes the course of Darrow's life, that puts him on a path to a more dangerous one than he would have ever known, for revenge and for justice, and believe me, I was right there with him along that path. Married at sixteen, Darrow's life come to an end when his wife his killed, and he finally begins to see what she has been expounding all this time; his world has been filled with lies, lies to keep him tied to his job and content with his life.  With his eyes finally opening to what is actually around him, Darrow decides to do something about it, and this is where the story really begins.  And although he has good intentions, throughout the novel, I kept wondering how far his hatred and quest for revenge would get him, and what would be the consequences when he is caught, as there was no doubt in my mind that he would, at one point, get caught. And with the brutality already seen so far, this thought sort of scared me.  Darrow is not a perfect character as he makes choices and decisions that do not go so well for him, and I like that he is flawed and imperfect.  He definitely knows his strengths however, especially his capacity to plan and strategize, and uses that to the utmost, to the point where I missed a couple of things, and got caught off guard.  That was fun, and totally unexpected, and I loved the twists. 

I thought the characters were quite well developed; I have to give credit to the author for his writing skills because it would be very difficult to create sympathetic characters amongst the brutality of some of the scenes in this novel, and this is exactly what the author managed to do.  I found myself liking the Golds, Mustang, Sevro (possibly my favourite character), Pax, etc..., and found myself thinking, "Whoa, what was I thinking? Am I not supposed to hate these people?"  But I couldn't; many were quite complex, and I found myself both liking and disliking them and their actions.  And a lot of what happened was extremely brutal, although a lot of the brutality was explained through conversational terms, not necessarily through descriptive scenes, for which I was rather grateful.  However, having an imagination certainly does not help as it took a while for some of the scenes to get themselves out of my head, described or not.  

I really enjoyed the plot to this book; I liked the twists and turns, the complexity of the characters, even the brutality as it made the world that much more real, the world-building, the creativity, and the questions it raises about morality, ethics, and personal strength.  First of all, the world-building was great; I had no problem understanding how things worked and the caste system was very understandable. There were so many themes running through this novel that I had to stop every now and again to think about them: revenge, rage, control, loyalty, friendship, oppression, love, and so on.  It really makes you think about humanity and how one group of people can horribly suppress other groups of people, and make you believe that this is okay, and something good will come out of it. Darrow is one of those people who felt that if you just did your job, got your hands dirty, then something good will come to you at the end; his wife was far more jaded and had her eyes a bit more open to the reality of the situation, and it got her killed. Personally, I think something would have happened to her anyways as she was too outspoken, and forced her revolutionary ideas on Darrow, a man who just wanted to live his life out peacefully and quietly; and did she do it to force Darrow onto a path he didn't want in the first place?  Questions, questions!!

I loved Red Rising.  I really enjoyed how Darrow evolved throughout the book from lovesick husband, to man out for revenge, to tyrant, to an actual leader.  He made a lot of mistakes along the way, but managed to develop some interesting friendships, and I can't way to see how this all pans out in the sequel.  I am definitely looking forward to reading Golden Son in just a few days.