Thursday, May 14, 2015

Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Do you ever read a book and you aren't emotionally ready to talk about it for a while? The feelings, confusion, plot, characters, and twists all roll around in your head for days and you just can't figure out how to explain yourself without just going down the route of "Just go read this book. You won't regret it at all." I've been lingering over this book. Parts of it have me thoroughly confused and I am not quite sure how to attack it but I'm going to do my best.

Me during this entire book

Let's start with one part Science Fiction (since the book opens in Mars) and add a healthy dose of The Hunger Games and then blend on high, slowly adding a bit of The Way of Kings for military strategy and end with a dollop of dead puppy book and you have Red Rising.

I usually cannot stand science fiction books, especially the ones that are set in space. I never liked Star Wars or Star Trek. The only space movie I've ever liked it Spaceballs and that's because it made fun of everything. 
Ludicrous speed! GO!
So when I got into the first third of the book and they were talking about digging for Helium3 on Mars, I was skeptical and nearly DNF-ed it a few times. 

The first 35% is about rebellion. It's about sticking it to the man and pushing back. Darrow is a young man, only 16, who works as a Helldiver in the underground caves of Mars. It's the most dangerous job on the planet and you have to be quick, brave, strong, and a little bit cocky to do it. Darrow is all of these things and he makes it home every night so he can be with his equally young wife, Eo.  The Helium3 they are mining for is to restore the surface of Mars so that it is able to be inhabited by others. 
“Things are set in stone. Things are well ordered. Reds at the bottom, everyone else standing on our backs. Now you're looking at me and you're realizing that we don't bloodydamn like it down there. Red is rising, Mickey.”
Darrow is a Red, the lowest on the totem pole and is told that he is doing a great service for future generations. But there is more happening on Mars than just digging and when Darrow finds out, he is thrust into the world of Golds in the hopes of being able to usurp power and start a rebellion.
“Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.”
That's when things change in the book.

As I said, the first third is one book. The other two thirds are something completely different.
“We come as princes and this school is supposed to teach us to become beasts. But you came a beast."
Darrow sets out to infiltrate the commander training school of the Golds and establish himself in a position of power. This school is a huge battle simulation that is controlled by aristocrats where other kids his age are all set against each other in a fight to control the entire arena. It's huge. It's terrifying. There are dozens of other students and while it is meant to be a largely non-lethal affair, it doesn't turn out that way. There are pitched battles, back room plots, betrayals, starving students, and lessons of war.

See what I mean? If it was two separate books, I'd throw out the first bit and go with the second. It was too sharp of a turn for me to follow and I'm still confused about the differences of class and the distinctions between them. Does Darrow actually have wings and do they work? Is the biggest difference size or intellect? What happens if a Gold were to marry someone lower than them?

It's like two different worlds were constructed in this book and I understand the point of it, I just wish there was a better transition between them.

Darrow is a great character though. He clearly grows in more ways than one and fights the dark side of the Force his own demons in order to achieve his goals. Darrow takes some time to recognize his shortcomings which was an important step for his character. He was the top of the top on Mars and he was thrown into this completely different society where he is remarkably average as far as skills, size, and wits go. But Darrow has his history and that makes him stronger and he has a goal and that makes him dangerous.
“You do not follow me because I am the strongest. Pax is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. Mustang is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do.”
 The supporting characters play just as big of a role as Darrow does. Mustang and Sevro are wonderfully written and are made believable. I love that it isn't all about Darrow and the other characters show him up on a regular basis. He isn't the smartest one there and he isn't the strongest but his alliances with others give him an advantage. They aren't out for glory either and they understand the point of the game and don't let it get to their heads. I love it when a character has good friends.

Good gravy this book is hard to rate. It has awesome elements and is a great story line but it also has some flaws that hold it back. There is too big of a jump from the first third of the book to the last part and it felt like it was trying to do what The Hunger Games accomplished but simply didn't make it. The transition from oppression to fighting for your life was too rapid and it needed more development. A few more chapters in the middle would have bumped it up to a 5 star but it didn't quite reach for me.

It's about survival and tenacity. It's about knowing who your friends are. This book rewards the bold but punishes everybody. Nobody comes out of this book unscathed and that's awesome. It's terrifying and disjointed. 

Just go read it. You will either love it or hate it but it's definitely worth the experience.

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