Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Red Rising Trilogy, #1). | My copy: Hardcover, 382 pages, Del Rey Books, Penguin Random House, January 2014. | Source: Library. | View on Goodreads here.
Red Rising was not quite the book for me. It was fascinating and original at times, but took me about halfway to get into. And by the second half, I really wasn’t that keen on all the violence and endless battle tactics. I know a ton of people love this book, and, while I didn’t, I did appreciate it and am glad I read it.
This is an Adult book about teenagers, a sort of YA/Adult hybrid that does have a few similarities to The Hunger Games, which it has been compared to a lot. The “games” are the similar part, but Red Rising is more about Darrow’s journey to infiltrate the inner/highest circle of civilization–the Golds–and take down the ruling class from the inside.
Darrow became a less appealing character once he was thrown into the command Institute. He started out as a really tough, savvy, but still soft-sided Red (the lowest class in this dystopia), but by the book’s end he was angry, desperate, and dangerous. His double-agent task, which initially he tried to refuse and then took upon reluctantly, became his only focus by the end–he would do anything he had to in order to seek justice. I didn’t like how he changed and lost the spunk he started with. I didn’t like how he sold his soul so easily.
In terms of other characters, I liked Mustang and Servo a lot, Cassius to a degree, and I wish there’d been more of Harmony. And while the supporting cast in command school was prominent and a few of them very important, I found there were too many I had no attachments to. They were faceless names. The Jackal was also barely a threat until he needed to be, and while I thought his stint toward the end of the book was definitely memorable, I wish he’d done more damage earlier on. Also, Darrow’s family from back home became forgettable once the story moved on. I even forgot about Eo until Darrow would once in a blue moon think about her. And the series’ main plot basically got its start because of Eo. So it was a little disappointing that the book lost its focus.
Red Rising is also unique in its vocabulary. From the get-go we’re thrown all these futuristic terms: Helldiver, clawDrill, holoCan, Tinpots, etc… and we have to guess what they mean and describe. In a way I liked that about this world, that we didn’t have exposition exposition exposition, but it was a lot of guesswork to do in the beginning. Which certainly didn’t help the fact that the whole portion before Darrow got pulled into the grand plan about taking down the oppressors was slow anyway.
I think my favorite part of the book was when Darrow was being “carved” from a Red into a Gold. He was literally broken and cut apart and reconfigured into the likeness of a flawless Gold. It took him months to heal and recover, but by the end of the ordeal he perfectly resembled a member of the ruling class. It was fascinating to read about how he was so shockingly altered. Probably this chapter and the chapter featuring the Jackal are the best ones in the book. By far.
I wanted to love Red Rising after all the things I’d heard about it. And I do think it is a very good book–fit for some readers (a lot of them, it seems) but not for me particularly. ♦