Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Synopsis: Darrow spends his days on Mars mining the minerals needed to terraform the planet’s surface. He could care less about the fact that he is a member of the lowest “caste”, oppressed by the Society. Darrow is too busy trying to provide for his wife and extended family. Darrow knows the price of rebellion. He attended his father’s execution at five years old.
Darrow’s outlook on rebellion changes when another of Darrow’s loved one is killed by the society. Her dying wish: break the chains. Now Darrow will stop at nothing to make her dream a reality. Even if it means infiltrating the Gold, upper-class, society and pretending to be one of his enemies.
Review: Mars is one of my favorite settings. It’s where I set the first novel length manuscript I completed, and I’ve always had a fascination with the planet. So of course, when I saw a book set on Mars with generally good reviews I wanted to read it.
The first fourth or so of this book is very different from the latter three fourths. Based on reading many reviews, what seems to make or break the reading experience is whether the reader likes the path the story takes in the later portion. For me both portions worked. Although the “teenagers in an arena fighting for their lives” and “boarding school” tropes that showed up in the second half have been overdone in fiction as of late Brown did a decent job in portraying it in an exciting way.
This book clearly draws inspiration from many others. Sometimes this bothers me about books, but for some reason it didn’t in this case. It likely has something to do with the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever before read ideas put together in this particular way before.
The ideas are drawn from so many vastly different places I have trouble categorizing it. The book is set on Mars, but has a very dystopian feel at times. At others it has a mythological fantasy feel with all because the houses at the school Darrow attends are named after Roman gods or even Lord of the Flies.
There is also the question of whether or not it is young adult, new adult, or adult. Darrow starts the book at 16, but within it two years pass, and I know for a fact the next book has a time jump in between and the story restarts with Darrow at age 20. This book is also very realistic in the horrors of the totalitarian regime and the actions of the characters who live within it. Many characters bring out the worst in themselves in this novel.
While I wanted to see more of some world-building aspects others felt overly simplified. I can think of other books off the top of my head that use a color classification system to differentiate between classes of people. Then again, I’ve been reading an excessive number of Brandon Sanderson books lately and have come to expect excellent world-building.
Something I would have liked to see more of is the world building, specifically how living on Mars affected the characters. We’re not shown much of the Martian Civilization, and the rebels themselves. The rebel organization was interesting, but like so many other dystopian novels I’ve read it was skimmed over in this novel, but I’m hopeful more of the rebels will be seen in future books as the story expands in scale.
What readers should know: This book features a significant amount of swearing, mentions of cannibalism, mentions of sex, prostitution murders, executions, and some side characters are raped. The cannibalism, prostitution, and rape do not occur while the main character is present, but it’s clear what is happening. Darrow is present for and sometimes even participates in murders and executions. The sex scenes are not detailed, and the book puts little emphasis on romance.
Rating: I flew through this book and really enjoyed it overall, but would have liked the later portion to be more in depth details about the rebels and the world so I’ve given it a four out of five.