Book Review | Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Well, heck. If this isn’t how you open a series, then I don’t know how you do.

Red Rising starts deep below the Martian surface, where Darrow, a “Red,” lives and works the mines as a helldiver retrieving helium-3 which will fuel the terraforming of Mars. Reds are on the bottom of the class system, ruled by the Society. They are promised a better future, if they will but sacrifice for the greater good, today. Darrow grumbles, but he is happy to have his beloved Eo, the love of his life and his bride. Together they will sacrifice so that someday humanity will be able to escape Earth and colonize Mars.

It is all a lie. Reds are slaves to the decadent Golds, and when Eo commits act of rebellion, she will set Darrow on a path that will send him to the heart of the Society’s empire.

With Red Rising, Pierce Brown has raised the bar for Young Adult science fiction and set a new standard by which I’ll judge genre novels. From the opening scene to the closing, Red Rising rips along at a break neck pace, pausing only to let you catch your breath, fill in a few pertinent details, and then pick back up again. Brown writes in a first person style that is both peculiar and gripping, giving the narrative an urgent quality. It took only a couple of paragraphs to fall into it, and I was soon swept away.

In addition to an exciting plot, Brown’s characters are full and three-dimensional, alive and vibrant on the page. With events, narration, and dialogue, they grow, develop, and change with an alacrity that is exciting. Every single character feels unique, alive and distinct. They interact with their world with a colorful alacrity, often violently and dramatically. Truly, characters don’t act this way in the real world–and that’s what makes Red Rising‘s cast so interesting. They are types, exaggerated beyond reality, that show the characteristics and nature of each of us. Brown’s eye towards building those characters is alert for not only details, but the right details. It’s brilliant, and the way the characters play off one another is one of my favorite aspects of the book.

When I was younger, and I could afford the opera–because I was a student and they let students in for just a few bucks up from free–I would attend every chance I had. It was music, mayhem, and revenge…a thrilling combination. Though lacking music, Red Rising has all of that. It is, at root, a story of revenge, cold revenge, redemption, and the yearning for freedom from repression. And, like the opera, it is poetic, dramatic, and, of course, thrilling.


Originally published at www.attackofthebooks.com on January 14, 2016.

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