If you haven’t picked up a copy of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, you may want to do so before you miss the “read it before it was cool” boat. That window is vanishing quickly. In fact, it may have already passed. I may not be as cool as I think…
Many hail this book to be a more mature version of The Hunger Games– ah yes, that wonderful little book series that burned so many out on the dystopian genre. A friend of mine recommended Red Rising to me, explaining the book stuck with her like some of the other series she considered formative in her life.
Bold praise. Did the book live up to the hype? Personally, I’m not entirely sure yet, but I ripped through the pages ravenously all the same.
Red Rising takes place on Mars, where humanity has developed into a social caste system based on colors. Reds, the lowest caste, do all the terrible grunt labor, while Gold, the top of the social ladder do… well, whatever it is they do. Lead the other colors, I guess.
Darrow, the book’s main character, is a Red (I’m just now realizing how 1960s that sentence sounds). The story chronicles his rise. I don’t want to dive too deeply into the plot, because I don’t want to disturb your reading experience, but I will say the beginning chapters reminded me of Dune, but it quickly transitioned into exactly what people told me about the book: a more mature version of the Hunger Games.
More mature! The Hunger Games threw children into a last-person-standing death arena. What could be more mature than that? Well, Pierce Brown rises (excuse the pun) to the task. He does so by going places Suzanne Collins dared not go and embracing philosophical questions that have lasted through the ages, questions that come from Greek and Roman philosophers of old. Brown doesn’t hide this either, incorporating Roman ideologies and straight-up latin into the world he’s created.
As dystopian novels go, Red Rising is a refreshing new take on something that’s been done to death. Are characters sorted into categories? Yes– but, not in a way that feels like a marketing strategy. (If you miss the marketing strategy feel, though, you can get sorted into a house on his website). Does the author make up new names for things that don’t really need new names? Yes– but the awkward nomenclature fades quickly as he settles into his story world, and, not deep into the book, unique names have purpose and necessity.
Finally, I find Brown’s use of Point of View in his writing particularly interesting. Like his main character, he sometimes spits in the face of convention for, perhaps, strategic purposes. Though the book is written in first person present, for example, and the majority of the narrative is revealed to the reader as it is revealed to the main character, occasionally Brown withholds a detail, seemingly just for the sake of suspense. My jury is still out on whether this is lazy writing or smart chapter crafting, but it did occasionally pull me out of the story to ask, why isn’t the protagonist telling me such and such?
In the end, I think the Red Rising train has already picked up significant steam, and my critiques will mean very little. Go ahead and grab a copy from a bookstore or a library. If nothing else, the book is immensely enjoyable in an eery, dark, and disturbing kind of way. What are you waiting for, goodman?