I finished Pierce Brown’s Red Rising last night and then proceeded to mourn its absence in my life. I had to lie there for a few minutes, assembling my thoughts and opinions and, after seeing a pained expression on my face, the spousal unit asked what was wrong. I pitifully responded that I missed my character friends. I got so invested and then it just ended. This book has me all befuddled; I tried to immediately start another book (The Maze Runner is short…), but my mind kept returning to Red Rising, the [no doubt intentionally] unsatisfying ending, the characters lost, the characters redeemed. I’m bewitched by this book, for all too many reasons. More on that shortly, but first:
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.
I’d like to say that I loved every minute of it, but I didn’t, and I feel as though I should warn you, since no one warned me. The first 50ish pages are a total snooze-fest. I was bored senseless and avoided the book, which is why it took 2 days more than it should have taken to read it. The beginning of the book is wasted on the main character, Darrow’s, unfortunate life. Misfortune strikes, and it feels like I will never compel myself to pick up this book again, and then WHAM BAM BOOM, things go from 0 to 60, boring to “I think my eyes are bleeding but I refuse to put down this book.”
However, if you manage to muck through the boring bits, you’ll be well rewarded. The writing is effortless. It felt as though I stepped out of my life and into the life of Darrow. His character’s progression, in both experience and perspective, is tremendous and deeply meaningful. Darrow endures tragedy and relishes in triumph in ways that challenge him, and challenge readers, to ask what motivates us. What makes an enemy an enemy? Can an enemy also be a friend? Does social status truly define us? The relationships are profound and thought-provoking. I constantly forgot that this was technically a Young Adult work, and that the majority of characters were teenagers. The language, attitudes, events, actions, and topics addressed in Red Rising are mature beyond the typical realistic lifestyle of today’s teens, but it is not beyond their comprehension and it is not so mature that they shouldn’t read it. Important issues are addressed, issues like social class & hierarchy, morality, slavery, life vs death, friendship, love, family, etc. Although I hope that none of my students ever experience a life like Darrow’s, I see a lot of parallels that can be drawn to real life, and thereby lessons that can be learned.
This novel was amazing. It is appealing for adults, teens, men, women, everyone! It is often compared to The Hunger Games and I totally see that now. I also picked up hints of A Song of Ice and Fire. I reduced it to 4 stars only because the beginning was painful, and because the ending wasn’t what I wanted to happen. But again, I understand that that was probably Brown’s intention. He’s got to pull me in to the second book, right? As if there was any question as to whether I’d be continuing this series. I am DYING to talk to someone about this book, so PLEASE go read it & then let’s chat. Also, I can’t wait for it to be made into a movie, as is inevitable. It is fantastic. Read it!!