Red Rising is the first book in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy and I loved it so much. In my review here, I am going to start with things that will not ruin the book for people who might want to read the books ahead of time. It was described to me in a few ways, which I would like to share. The and most consistent description was that it was sort of like The Hunger Games but for adults and this is a claim that I was dubious about. People said similar things about the King Killer Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss as a comparison to an adult Harry Potter – while an amazing series, it doesn’t really resonate as remotely Harry Potter-esqued to me. So for those of you who have heard similar comparisons about Red Rising, rest assured that I feel like the comparisons of Red Rising to The Hunger Games hold up much better. They’re really different series, but if you’re looking for something with the same feel of The Hunger Games then this is a really good series to turn to, based on the first book at least.
On that note, let’s briefly let me talk about the plot. Going in, all I knew about it was that Red Rising was about these people who were basically enslaved on Mars (the planet! So futuristic – this is why it is like the Hunger Games #DystopianFuture). I knew that some how the main character found out they’d been lied to and that all these people were living about ground in luxury, while they suffered in these underground mines and were lied too and manipulated by propaganda. There are so many parallel’s to The Hunger Games. Any ways, I had totally forgotten that someone told me about the book well over a year ago and was reading it and remembered this bit about the mines and what was basically slavery (without the slaves knowing they were slaves, talk about a major manipulation!) I was surprised by how little time the book spent in the mines; it was only the first quarter or so, but it was really essential to establishing the social problems, as well as the motivations of the main character, Darrow.
Also, you should stop reading now if you don’t want to have things spoiled.
Darrow is a 16 old Red (the name of a social class)… and married? Weird? Ok, sure, but marriage this young is justified by the author and it makes sense that culturally this could happen (it was totally normal to do so “back in the day”. It turns out that Darrow’s wife, Eo (which I keep pronouncing as “Oh” because how else do you say this name?) will be his symbol for the revolution. Eo shows him that there is life outside of the mines (e.g. a forest) and when they are arrested and whipped, she sings a song that gets her put to death. She is seen as a peace disturber by the social elites (the social elite are the Golds). It took me a while to get used to the book talking about different colours in terms of social classes, which is very strictly stratified, but you get used to it.
One of the interesting things is that I feel like Darrow is very much presented a lot like Katniss in The Hunger Games. The people who are close to him like Darrow but those not close to him might think that he is distant, as even his friends have trouble getting to know him well and understand his emotions, a lot of what he does is in his head. But people like Eo know that there is a special something about Darrow that inspires people to follow him and trust him as a leader. This is so much like Katniss; she is very introverted, at least emotionally, very loyal to those she loves, and even though people have trouble getting to know her personally, she does things that inspire people to follow her lead in a revolution. The main difference is that Darrow didn’t intend to become a revolutionary. He was grabbed from the mines and told he was going to change things and genetically modified to look like one of the Golds instead of the people of his origin, the Reds. He is then placed in a position where he is basically in an elite school.
The people at this elite school are intense. Some of the kids are obviously decent kids, but it’s like being kind or sensitive means you’ll die. This sounds a lot like Peeta from The Hunger Games; he was really kind and sensitive and that made him a target as a weaker person, but those qualities were valued outside of the game. A lot of the kids were totally sadistic, probably because they were encouraged to be this way by their families and abandoning all empathy was totally ok. Definitely super sad.
It is also interesting how people in power were totally manipulating the game/school these kids were at. It becomes clear really quickly that things aren’t fair, even in the Gold society; some people get things more than others and the “lesser” Gold people were still expected to bow down to the “higher” Gold people. I was actually surprised how little Darrow seemed to ruminate about how he might have been happier with his people, the Reds, because at least it wasn’t a crazy mind game / political game where people would legit murder you for not coming to heel. But, oh yeah, life as a Red also sucked; starvation and sickness was rampant. Each part of society has their own distinct problems and it is pretty clear that Darrow will probably end up inspiring a grand trans-Colour-wide revolution where everyone, regardless of colour, are inspired to do better.
I feel like I have so much else to say about Red Rising because I love dystopian future books and how different authors, like Pierce Brown, draw parallels in things that happen in the real world. I am definitely super stoked to read the next book, Golden Son.
Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown