Red Rising Book Review — Familiar, but entertaining dystopian novel

Red Rising is a familiar, but entertaining trip into the young adult dystopian genre

Pierce Brown’s novel Red Rising is the first novel of his Red Rising Trilogy, which is comprised of Golden Son and Morning Star, chronologically. We are presented with the protagonist Darrow, a lowly red tasked with fellow reds to mine the depths of Mars in order to make the surface habitable for all of society. Believing he is living an unpleasant but fair life, Darrow toils long days in dangerous conditions in hopes that he is creating a future for the children he wants to one day have with his beloved wife Eo. As Eo shows Darrow that the surface of Mars has long been inhabitable, Darrow realizes that they are, more or less, slaves for the hierarchies of the planets. Eo prods Darrow in hopes that he will realize that their people can rise above their oppressors, but Darrow just wants to live a quiet and honest life. That is until Eo takes the matter of oppression into her own hands when the illegal song of her people escapes from her lips in front of the ArchGovernor Augustus, sealing her fate as a defenseless martyr only armed with a melody.

Reeling from the sudden loss of his wife, Darrow is presented with a game of risk. He is enabled to infiltrate the life of the golds, becoming one himself. Darrow must enter the academy, which is where the highest of the gold’s society go to earn their place in the world, in order reach the regal and renowned station of a peerless scarred and initiate a rebellion of the oppressed colors of Mars. Universal is set to produce the film adaption of this novel with filmmaker Marc Forster.

Honestly, Brown brings very little creativity to the table with this novel. It is basically The Hunger Games vaguely distorted to fend off litigation. Instead of districts like those in The Hunger GamesRed Rising has colors. We are presented with the poor, oppressed underdogs who are tasked with initiating a rebellion. Instead of the capital, we have the golds who luxuriate in the lap of self-entitlement. Instead of Rue, we have Eo. Instead of the hunger games themselves, we have the academy, where students go to compete against one another in hopes to conquer one another. It is basically a fight to the death or enslavement. I could not help but be reminded of Collins’ novel when reading Browns’ novel. It was like reading  The Hunger Games, but this time it was on Mars.

Lack of originality aside, I will say I enjoyed the book to a degree. I think the novel started out quite slow, with no real action happening for about 1/3 of the book. Also, the characters seem far too juvenile to be society’s cream of the crop warriors. The novel was interesting, though. It did have its moments of originality, to some degree. If you are not looking for literary prowess, this book very well may be perfect for you. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a Young Adult, Dystopian novel. If you are adverse to reading about any degree of violence, rape, murder, or you are simply opposed to the word “slagging” being repeated every page, then this is not the right novel for you.

If you are a casual reader looking for a book more for entertainment than substance, this book may be right for you. I can see why this book is doing well with readers, as well. It is a decently well-written book that has the right juxtaposition of action with a modicum of romance to keep the book from being all macabre.

In the end, will I be reading the second novel in this series Golden Son? Yes. I will read this novel when I feel as though I would enjoy a book more for pure entertainment, not for profound literature. Brown does a decent job at creating an engaging story with a few twists and turns that were not woven in to the cookie cutter mold that Collins’ had stamped out with The Hunger Games, but it is pretty damn close. I am intrigued enough of what becomes of Darrow and his mission to warrant spending eight dollars on the next paperback. I am hoping that Brown can steer his trilogy in a more endearing direction because few have succeeded in doing so. Collins’ Hunger Game series fell flat after the first book, with a strong start, a tepid second installment, and a boring finale. (Although I do admit the trilogy makes a phenomenal movie adaption, which I cannot say about the following.) Veronica Roth reached the same crossroads when her Divergent Trilogy became less enthralling with each installment. It seems trilogies are the hot new thing to do, but why bother if you do not have a story with enough juice? I do not believe Browns’ trilogy will be a revelation, but I do hope he puts his decent writing skills to good use and cranks out a trilogy that does not fall flat. 6/10

Get Red Rising in paperback, hardcover, or e-book on Amazon!